A Salute To Diane Coffey

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The New York Sun

Distinguished guests attended the second annual Alliance for the Arts prize at the Rainbow Room Tuesday evening. The honoree was Diane Mulcahy Coffey, who served as Mayor Koch’s chief of staff and cultural liaison. Currently, she is vice chairman of Jazz at Lincoln Center and serves on the boards of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the Gracie Mansion Conservancy. Ms. Coffey, who is a managing director at the investment banking company, Peter J. Solomon Company, was an integral part of the Department of Cultural Affairs when it was founded.

An Alliance for the Arts chairman, Ashton Hawkins, welcomed the crowd of artists, arts executives, donors, and governmental leaders that included Mayor Bloomberg and two former mayors, Mr. Koch and David Dinkins.

Alliance for the Arts president, Randy Bourscheidt, said that the event raised about $430,000. Mr. Hawkins joked, “Please don’t order any fancy side dishes that are not on the menu.”

Mr. Bloomberg told an anecdote about “how Donald Trump made the mistake of calling Ms. Coffey ‘honey.’ She scolded him and said ‘I’m not your honey.’ And he asked what he could do to make her his honey. She said ‘Finish Wollman Rink on time and on budget.'”

Mayor Bloomberg praised Ms. Coffey, but said, “I’m going to stop saying nice things about her because I’ll get a call tomorrow morning asking me for money. And I only earn a dollar a year and can’t afford much more.”

Mr. Bloomberg quipped, “I was not happy to see Mayor Koch here tonight. I was hoping he would be out there campaigning for me.”

A formidable administrator, Ms. Coffey was described in terms that likened her to a force of nature. Mr. Koch recounted how someone once introduced herself to him, saying she was a deputy commissioner in such and such department, adding, “I work for Diane Coffey.”

“Oh,” said Mr. Koch. “I thought you worked for me. “Then he corrected himself; he realized that she was correct because “We all worked for Diane Coffey.”

Mr. Dinkins said, “Can you imagine what a difference there would be if Diane had headed FEMA?”

Among those in the audience were architect Peter Pennoyer, author of books “The Architecture of Delano & Aldrich” and “The Architecture of Warren & Wetmore”; president of the World Monuments Fund, Bonnie Burnham; philanthropist Jack Rudin; architect Michael Arad, selected to design the World Trade Center Memorial; and president of the Museum of the City of New York, Susan Henshaw Jones.

Ms. Coffey thanked the Alliance for the Arts. She recalled asking Mr. Koch what he thought of the recent Museum of the City of New York exhibition “New York Comes Back: Mayor Koch and the City.”

She said he replied, “What’s not to like? It’s all about me.” The audience roared when a beaming Ms. Coffey quipped,”So, it’s all about me tonight.”

* * *

Jamie Niven, Mr. and Mrs. Sid R. Bass, William Rollnick, and Joseph Volpe hosted a reception at Sotheby’s to debut Nancy Ellison’s new book “In Grand Style: The Glory of the Metropolitan Opera” (Rizzoli). Patricia Duff, Mike and Mary Wallace, Arnold Scaasi, and Parker Ladd were among the guests. Peter Gelb left to return to Lincoln Center, but not to see a production: ” It’s for a union meeting,” he said.

* * *

The magic set turned out to see magic sets at a launch for a new store – Fantasma Magic, a new retail shop opposite Pennsylvania Station. In the shop, the figure of Houdini comes down from a trap door in the ceiling and escapes from a straitjacket. Fantasma CEO Roger Dreyer has adorned his new shop’s interior not only with illusions for sale, but also displayed rarities from his personal collection.

Toy and gadget inventors, thaumaturges, and various prestidigitators came out for the recent launch of the store, whose premises were designed by artist Chris Dimino. He described the design concept as “old world aesthetics of magic and the new world of techno – or Broadway meets MTV.”

Seen were Jennifer Kulaya, who performs juggling as Anne T. Gravity, and the Conjuring Arts Research Center founder William Kalush, who hosted hypnotist Chuck King at the Cutting Room last Friday.


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