“By the way, that feline whitefish on a bagel, shmeared properly, is not so bad,” said Jim Cramer.
It was the night of Thursday, April 23, and the host of CNBC’s Mad Money was standing on a stage at the front of a ballroom in the New York Hilton, talking about what it was like to eat cat food on TV.
In front of him sat hundreds of guests in black-tie, who had gathered at the FDNY Foundation‘s annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner to slurp down cocktails, eat steak and raise money for fire-fighting causes in New York City.
Mr. Cramer was emceeing the event. At a table in the center of the room, not far from the stage, sat Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC’s Nightly News, who was one of the night’s honorees. (Big night for Mr. Williams, apparently: He also had a cameo on NBC’s 30 Rock.)
Mr. Cramer gave a nod to Mr. Williams and noted that he was “the living embodiment of everything I am not in every single way, except that we’re both on TV at 6:30 p.m.”
Mr. Cramer launched into a riff about how the men were different. He noted that Mr. Williams was suave and cool. His tie was always perfectly knotted, and he never seemed to eat cat food or wear a diaper while presenting the news. Mr. Cramer said that recently Mr. Williams had revealed his secret. “He said that he had what’s known as, ‘self-restraint.’” said Mr. Cramer. “Something I instantly had to Google because I’m not in the least bit familiar with the concept.”
The crowd clapped.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Cramer relinquished the floor to NYC Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta. Mr. Scoppetta promptly referenced Mr. Cramer’s recent battles with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart. He joked that earlier in the evening, the fire department had received a call about a fire at a residence. But then en route they had learned that it was Mr. Stewart’s home on fire, and so they turned the trucks around. Mr. Cramer smiled.
An hour or so earlier, the party had kicked off with cocktails and finger foods. Here and there, on the third floor of the New York Hilton, mustachioed men in jackets with FDNY insignia chatted with women in high heels. An ice sculpture bearing the fire-fighting symbols—a pair of flames, a fire hydrant, an axe—sat on a rotating plate, surrounded by pieces of sushi.
Guests mingled. Governor David Paterson shook hands. Potential bidders checked out the goods at a silent auction, which included a mounted fire axe, a silver caviar plate surrounded by shot glasses and framed black-and-white photographs of old fire engines that looked like primitive zambonis.
The wail of bagpipes signaled everyone to take their seats in the ballroom for a three-course dinner. A toy fire truck served as the centerpiece at each table. Dessert eventually arrived in the form of chocolate fire engines stuffed with pink confections.
At around 9 p.m., Mr. Williams took the stage. After thanking the foundation, he began reminiscing about the day he turned 17 in Middletown, New Jersey, and immediately signed up to become a volunteer firefighter. “I served with distinction that has yet to be proven,” joked Mr. Williams.
He gave shout-outs to “all my guys” at the fire house in Middletown, New Jersey, including his first captain. He donned his old fire helmet. And he recalled his captain’s preference for such things as a 1-inch rubber booster line and a high pressure pump, which Mr. Williams described as a “beautiful piece of apparatus.”
“I can’t talk apparatus at most dinner engagements I have in New York,” said Mr. Williams. “But I figured this was the night to whip it out.”
Mr. Williams gave thanks to his wife, Jane Stoddard Williams, who was sitting at a table at the front of the room, and to his colleagues at NBC News, who had turned out to fete their managing editor—a large group, which included NBC News president Steve Capus and Bob Epstein, the executive producer of The Nightly News.
“The first rule when you enter a burning structure, as you know, is look behind you,” said Mr. Williams. “Someone is always supposed to have your back. You’re never supposed to be alone. I never am. This group of people has my back every day.”