So what if Bill Clinton tied New York traffic in knots just over a
month ago with the Clinton Global Initiative Conference? And who really
cares that his real birthday was more than two months ago?
Ready or not, he’s back.
This weekend, the former President will be dining and drinking to 60
years with some of world’s deepest-pocketed donors at a series of
glamorous events around Manhattan, beginning Friday evening and ending
with a cocktail party on Gramercy Park in the wee hours Sunday night.
The price of entry for the weekend’s festivities is a gaudy reminder
of slushier times in the 1990’s. With money going toward a growing
endowment for the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation, donors will have
to cough up $60,000 if they want to want to see Mick Jagger sing at the
Beacon Theatre and at least $100,000 for poached eggs and mimosas with
Bill and Hillary at Pastis.
The exclusive list of event “hosts” includes the names
of historically top-ranked Democratic donors like longtime Clinton contributor
Ron Burkle and S. Daniel Abraham, the former owner of Slim Fast Foods,
who was ranked in 2000 as the No. 1 donor to the Democratic Party.
Steve Bing, the real-estate heir and film producer who is the father
of Elizabeth Hurley’s son, is listed as a co-host. As is Haim Saban,
the former owner of the Fox Family Network and a former member of Mr.
Clinton’s export council.
Also attending will be Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner; Lebanese
businessman Gilbert Chagoury; Alison Lawton and gold tycoon Frank Giustra;
Gateway founder Ted Waitt; West Coast entertainment executive Casey Wasserman
and his wife, Laura; and longtime Clinton friends Susan and Mark Weiner.
The hefty price tag will have the effect of shutting out some of the
New York political types normally seen at Clinton events.
“There are such big fish in their camp, I don’t really
count for much,” one longtime Democratic and Clinton donor told
Not that all of them are exactly clamoring for entry.
“They’ve overdone things in September and October,”
said another Clinton contributor who was invited to take part in the weekend
of activities. “I think it’s a lot of out-of-towners who are
coming to this, anyway. I don’t play golf and I don’t go to
Rolling Stones concerts, so I’ll just go to one of the dinners.”
Others, citing a planned $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser on Oct. 26 for
Hillary Clinton at Tavern on the Green, are complaining of a form of Clinton
“I’m on Clinton overload,” said one contributor.
“I’m not really wanting to do this. I’ve been tight
with the Clintons for many years, but I’m beginning to feel used.”
All of the weekend’s invitees received letters from either Chelsea
Clinton or Terry McAuliffe, the former chairman of the Democratic National
The wording of the two invitations is largely the same, with small
tweaks. In Chelsea’s version, the party honors a “very special
person” who needs donations to “advance the work he has done
throughout his life—solving problems, empowering people and even
saving lives.” Mr. McAuliffe’s letter says that Mr. Clinton
is a “truly extraordinary person” and that a donation is needed
to “advance the principles he has stood for all his life—solving
problems, saving lives and empowering people.”
Exactly who is taking credit for the weekend?. Mr. McAuliffe says the
weekend-long celebration will be co-hosted by “Chelsea and I”;
Chelsea wrote, “My mother and I are planning” the events.
Chelsea’s invite is heavy on policy and statistics, while Mr.
McAuliffe’s tone is more emotive, writing that the weekend will
celebrate all baby boomers and the two “greatest products of that
generation: Bill Clinton and the legendary Rolling Stones.”
Those coming to the weekend birthday extravaganza will take over reserved
blocs of rooms at both the Gramercy Park Hotel and the St. Regis.
The partying kicks off on Friday evening at the Gramercy Park Hotel
with cocktails and a reception. The hotel’s event planners wouldn’t
confirm where the event on Friday is taking place or which prized chef
will serve dinner (their menu list includes Tom Colicchio of Craft, Mario
Batali of Babbo, Geoffrey Zakarian of Country, Riad Nasr and Lee Hanson
of Balthazar, Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar and Grill, and Nobuyuki Matsuhisa
On Saturday morning, starting at 10 a.m., the Clintons will have brunch
at Pastis, the downtown French eatery. Only donors who offer more than
$100,000 and raise $250,000 will be invited, with four seats reserved
for each at the bistro.
On Saturday night, there will be a reception and dinner from 6:30 to
10:30 p.m. at the Museum of Natural History. All of the donors will be
invited to this—but again, there will be distinctions made between
big donors and really big donors. The $100,000-level supporters will be
given four tickets to the dinner at the museum and “platinum”
seating, as opposed to “gold seats”—the up-market Clinton
version of the nosebleed section at Madison Square Garden.
Sunday morning, there will be a round at the Bayonne Golf Club, a Scottish-style
links course located on a former PSE&G industrial-waste site in New
Jersey, but equipped with a floating dock, a helicopter landing pad and
a winning view of lower Manhattan. Those who contribute $500,000 or raise
$250,000 will be allowed to bring one player.
In the afternoon, the Clintons will head to Central Park for cocktails
and dinner at the far more plebian and very exposed Boathouse restaurant
at East 72nd Street. The menu is a secret. (The catering director,
Peter Bishof, said that at “an event of this variety, these people
deserve their privacy.”)
And then, Sunday night, the biggest party of all: the Rolling Stones
concert at the 2,800-seat Beacon Theater. All donors will be invited to
the concert, but a gift of more than $500,000 includes a “backstage
pass” for dinner and a photograph with Mr. Clinton.
In addition, as advertised in Chelsea’s invitation, donors should
“please note that this performance will be taped for an upcoming
Martin Scorsese film.” The film is reportedly a documentary on the
Rolling Stones, and Mr. Scorsese will be filming the band all weekend.
After the concert, sometime past midnight, the whirlwind weekend will
conclude with an after-party at the Gramercy Park Hotel.
And then it’s over.
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