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When this year’s Library Lions roared at the New York Public Library’s dinner celebrating the Lions’ contribution to the arts, it was a refined and distinguished roar. Because who is more refined and distinguished than the library’s 2003 vastly talented honorees, poet Billy Collins, artist Jim Dine, singer-performer Audra McDonald and historian John Richardson? Not many.
The evening drew the cream of social and influential New York. You know, the ones with the money. The chairmen of the evening tells the tale — Lord and Lady Black, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Princess Firyal of Jordan and financier Lionel Pincus, Veronica Hearst and Liz and Felix Rohatyn, generous contributors all. The honorary chairman, Brooke Astor, could not make it but Astor Hall, named after her famous philanthropic family, which has done so much for the library, was a reminder of her ever-gracious presence.
Let’s just say that the decor almost stole the show — not easy in that gang of notable social showstoppers. David Monn designed the spectacular setting with Gayfryd Steinberg, helping to make it happen. The steps of the Library’s Fifth Avenue entrance guided by the two magnificent stone lions were lighted in dramatic colors of plum and burnt orange. In Astor Hall, Monn built a 20-foot-high arrangement of chrysanthemums and fall pear leaves bursting from a gigantic classical urn. As guests entered the Bartos Forum, where the dinner took place, the floor was bathed in mist. It was like walking on clouds. The entire ceiling and walls of the room were canopied in towering arrangements of brown and burnt orange and gold pear branches. It could have been a forest in there. I mean, the autumn leaves were falling everywhere.
Each table was covered in chocolate brown cloths and centered with huge silver bowls overflowing with purple grapes, chrysanthemums and tiny apples. The lighting was superb. (David Monn has worked with tastemaker Carolyne Roehm for ages, and it was he who helped her achieve the striking effect at her country house square dance last weekend, designing an outsized harvest moon to shine down on her barn, which was piled with bales of hay along the walls. Really rustic à la Roehm.)