As the crush of summer parties in the Hamptons hits its peak in July there are a few coveted soirees that all seem to hit on the same night much to the dismay of the social set. It is at these extravagant affairs that Hamptons party goers will try to find a way to make them all as they are both over-the-top celebrity extravaganzas but truly wonderful endeavor supporting the arts and cancer research to put it simply. Chefs & Champagne, Watermill Center, Super Saturday, and Art For Life, thought it’s known as “Russell’s Party” by those in the know are all this weekend. How is one to manage them all? As someone who’s made the rounds so to speak for years it’s really quite simple, let me explain.
Sleep in but start early, and by early I mean noon, with a VIP ticket to Super Saturday hosted by Kelly Ripa and Donna Karan and attended by a very long list of celebs including Lisa Rinna, Kelly Rutherford, Gayle King, Jill Martin, Joe Zee, Chef Janine Booth, Katie Lee, Beth Stern, Nanette Lepore, Jessica Hart, Star Jones, June Ambrose, Rachel Zoe, Fern Mallis, George Stephanopoulos, Ali Wentworth, Ben Shenkman, Adam Pally, Kim Raver, Cameron Silver, Christa Miller, Kathy Hilton, Nicky Hilton, and Russell Simmons. Shop until you almost drop for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Perhaps pick up something new and fabulous for the evening from Nanette Lepore or Milly before you head home for a quick dip in the pool and a nap, it’ll be a long night.
Next stop on this A-List evening is the James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne gastronomic gala with guest of honor Bobby Flay. Mingle with the likes of B. Smith and Dan Gasby, Martha Stewart, Marcus Samuelson, Geoffery Zakarian, and Marc Murphy. Enjoy a bit of wine tasting with Wolffer Estate Vneyards winemaker Roman Roth. Air kiss friends, take selfies with the chefs, and post #nomnom and #foodporn Instagrams before you hop back in the car after an hour or so and zip over to the Watermill Center.
Performance art is the name of the game at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center. Last year Lady Gaga was in attendance and participated in the evening spooning chocolate syrup over the body of a naked waif as a crowd of hundreds looked on. Alan Cumming, Winona Ryder, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hearst McInerney and Jay McInerney, Nicole Miller, Lisa Perry, Kelly Behun Sugarman and Jay Sugarman, Michael Braverman, Tony Award winning Broadway producers Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane, and Donna Karan are all in the mix for this affair. The cocktail party is a must so raise a glass and then head back to your chariot, one stop to go.
The saying that “everyone who’s anyone” in music attends Russell’s party is completely and utterly true. In the past Jennifer Hudson popped by to serenade the crush, diva Mariah Carey was honored, and just last year actor Anthony Anderson showed off his hidden talent by tickling the ivories to much applause before introducing honoree Tyler Perry. Soledad O’Brien will serve again as emcee, Star Jones is the honorary chair, Carrie Mae Weems is the featured Artist, DJ M.O.S. will spin the night away for guests Michael Strahan, Reverand Al Sharpton, Nicole Murphy, and Russell’s yoga partner Donna Karan to name but a few.
Though the Hamptons lost Russell to charms of Los Angeles in recent years he is very much a party of the East End and the philanthropic and arts community. In this vein he is determined to retain his Art For life Hamptons party that raises funds to keep art in public school.
Having interviewed him over the years, Russell says, “Art For Life is a labor of love.” And, he means it. “We have an amazing team and so many partners that come together to make the event a success. We’ve developed a broad base of friends, collaborators and supporters dedicated to addressing the issue of filling the gap that disenfranchised people face in both accessing the arts and exhibition opportunities.”
For Russell, who grew up in New York with his brothers and parents, both artists, giving back has its rewards. He co-founded the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation back in 1995 with his brothers Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons of Run-DMC and artist Danny Simmons. Art For Life bring the brothers and their families, as well as 1000 of their friends, together for the night to celebrate art, and by celebrate I mean party and dance until you can’t dance anymore.
Now to the honorees, the individuals who have generously donated time and money to the arts over the years, and who will, no doubt, donate even more at Russell’s pointed insistence during the evenings’ various live and silent auctions. First up, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who led the charge during his three terms as mayor to further arts education in the city’s public schools,has taken a table and will be joined by his daughter Georgina Bloomberg, recently honored in her own right for her efforts as an animal activist. Next, financier Valentino D. Carlotti who serves on the leadership boards of Lincoln Center Corporate Fund and is a board member of American Ballet Theatre, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and The Studio Museum in Harlem to name but a few. Third, the music A&R impresario working with Kid Rock, Twisted Sister, Matchbox 20, and most recently Lorde, Jason Flom serves on the boards of The Innocence Project, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, The Legal Action Center and The Drug Policy Alliance. Last, but certainly not least, top model, businesswoman, and philanthropist Kimora Lee Simmons who hosted Art For life together with Russell back in the day.
Musical guests for the evening include Doug E. Fresh, who surprised everyone last year by jumping on stage, as well as Kurtis Blow and Naughty By Nature. With this line-up there is no doubt that every square inch of dance floor space will be packed and that guest will be dancing on tables with their hands in the air waving iPhones like they just don’t care recording every moment. As per the usual, surprise guest will surely make an appearance that’s just how Russell does things, big.
No need to be humble, yet he is, when he talks about his roots and how he worked hard to build an empire. There’s no need for humility when Russell tells me, “Art For Life is the best party in the Hamptons.” It truly is all that and more.
Tickets are still available for Art For Life 2014 at www.rushphilanthropic.org and the silent auction including lunch and meetings with the likes of LL Cool J, Will Smith, Heidi Klum, and Robin Thicke will continue after the event online at www.charitybuzz.com.