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Bill Clinton Headlines Lauder Breast Cancer Luncheon... Narciso Departure...

The former president stayed off the campaign stump at the Breast Cancer Research Foundation annual luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria.

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Evelyn Lauder and President Clinton

Evelyn Lauder and Bill Clinton

Photo By Rob Rich

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PRESIDENTIAL PINK: Former President Clinton, appearing as the headliner at Evelyn Lauder’s Breast Cancer Research Foundation annual luncheon Wednesday, triggered applause in the Waldorf Astoria hotel ballroom Wednesday when he worried about the implications of Tuesday’s midterm congressional elections on the state of health care. No matter how the vote turns out, he said, he hopes that “Congress makes practical improvements in the health care law, rather than repeal it. I don’t want us to go back to the days when women lost their coverage because they had breast cancer.”

But he generally stayed off the campaign stump, opening with the admission that every time he sees a pink ribbon, it reminds him of how his mother died of the disease at 70. Clinton, who works with a group that predicted a target date for curing breast cancer, said, “I think a cure by 2020 is not unachievable. When it happens, a lot of you can take credit, none more so than Evelyn Lauder.”

The focus of the luncheon was handing out research money, totaling more than $33 million, to 172 researchers. A strong ally in the effort is producer Judy Cramer, who created a special T-shirt to be sold in conjunction with performances of her production “Mamma Mia.” She was presented with an award by Pierce Brosnan, who appeared in the film version. “Judy is a beautiful woman who comes into your life and changes it forever,” Brosnan said. “For me, it was putting on Lycra tights and dancing. I haven’t been the same since.”

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NARCISO DEPARTURE: Kathy Kalesti, Narciso Rodriguez’s longtime business partner, is leaving the company effective Friday. “I’m grateful for all of her efforts on behalf of the company and support her decision to pursue other interests,” Rodriguez said.

Kalesti joined the company in 1997, and was senior vice president of sales and marketing until she assumed the president title in December 2009. “Working with Narciso has been a great experience,” she said.

The company will replace Kalesti. Robert J. Wichser, the former principal at The Yucaipa Cos. and president and chief executive officer of Sean John, has been consulting with Rodriguez for several months and will continue to do so until the company names a successor.

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COMING SOON: Forevermark, the diamond brand created and marketed by De Beers and currently sold only in Asia, could be making its way to the U.S. soon. A De Beers spokeswoman confirmed the company has hired a consultant who’s conducting due diligence in the U.S. An industry source said Forevermark could make its debut at the end of 2011, although the spokeswoman did not confirm any dates. Meanwhile, De Beers said earlier this week that the brand, which sells through Forevermark’s retail partners in China, Hong Kong and Japan, generated retail sales of $200 million in the year ended October. Later this year, the brand plans to launch in India, and in 2011 it will push further into China.