Yesterday, I was honored to be a speaker at the 2007 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize Symposium in New York. I'll wrote about it for onPhilanthropy, but I've been mostly offline for more than a day. It was worth it: the Symposium drew a crowd of more than 300 leaders in philanthropy and provided a rare global perspective on the confluence of development work, government policy, and the world economy. The keynote address was delivered by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who saw the need for greater cooperation between philanthropic organizations and the world body - “Civilians continue to bear the intolerable brunt of crises not of their own making….and life-saving assistance cannot wait for the next round of peace talks.”
The Symposium was at the Waldorf. I figure I've spent several weeks of my life in that building over the years, from political dinners in my reporting days to the endless round of fundraising galas. The name comes from William Waldorf Astor, who built the original where the Empire State Building stands. The "new" Waldorf has been on Park Avenue since 1931 and it's as New York as it gets, even though it fairly crawls with tourists. The ballroom is essentially New York's parish hall, where the dances and fundraisers and more upscale, star-studded type of bingo night are held near-nightly.
The Waldorf's been a home for visiting movies stars and Presidents, as any walk down one of the back hallways will tell you in black and white photography, but my favorite Waldorf movie is The Out-Of-Towners with Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis as the Ohio couple who barely survive muggings, various strikes, and some bad 1970 New York attitude on the way to discovering that middle America is more aligned with their true selves. So okay, I hate the stupid ending. But I love the 1970 New York and the collection of character actors that inhabit it.
Would that AMC's Mad Men had gone a similar casting route. (Yes, that was a long way to get to what is essentially a reminder that I'll be live-blogging Mad Men tonight at 10 PM EDT over at newcritics.com). Outside of Robert Morse as Bert Cooper, there's more essential New York in almost any episode of Sesame Street (or any classic Bugs Bunny cartoon, for that matter). Still, last week's was the best episode to date and thanks to the fab MA Peel, well-blogged as well. I'll try to keep up my end tonight. Please show up.