Police Formality: Annual Gala Honors NYC’s Boys (and Girls) in Blue

Detective Ivan Marcano, Hilda Miolan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Detective Ivan Marcano, Hilda Miolan and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

In the kind of grand-scale symbolism achievable only in this great city of ours, ordinary folks throughout Manhattan might have surmised from the Empire State Building being gussied up in blue, with red and white on the tippy-top (cop car, siren), that the swells who support the New York City Police Foundation were putting on their annual shindig last Thursday.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and others posed for glam shots on the red carpet at the Waldorf-Astoria, and on the minds of all those who’d gathered for pre-dinner cocktails—New York’s Finest in their finest, drinking gin and tonics, chardonnay and (yes!) Coors Light—was one pressing question: how would host Jon Stewart top his bravura performance of two months prior, when he had Commissioner Kelly on his show and opened the interview by taking a big gulp from a far-larger-than-16-ounce container, earning a mock stern warning from the commissioner? The soda-ban storm having passed, Mr. Stewart would have to come up with a new shtick—and after the tough-to-follow act of the NYPD’s Emerald Society Pipes & Drums, with its formidable bagpipes, the comedian more than delivered.

Taking the lectern for his introduction of this year’s Hemmerdinger Award winners—Detective Patrick Blanc, central robbery division; Criminalist IV Katen Desai, police lab; Nurse II Mary Gallo, medical division; Computer Systems Manager III Joshua Kaminstein, MISD; and Sergeant Louis Rapoli, commanding officer, school safety division—Mr. Stewart repeatedly asserted that he wasn’t hosting the event for any personal gain, all the while rifling through his vest pocket for his “notes” which, it soon became apparent from their telltale orange, were actually New York City parking tickets. The room exploded in guffaws.

Mr. Stewart went on to jokingly characterize a Hemmerdinger as a physical affliction, clutching his lower back and groaning, “I have a Hemmerdinger. It must’ve been the ice.” (The Transom happened to be seated at the table of businessman and former MTA chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger, an impeccably gracious man who revealed to us that some 29 years ago, when he was formalizing his award, he received a visit from a young police captain—Ray Kelly himself.) Mr. Stewart also acknowledged the services of the NYPD in preparing his show for a visit from Pervez Musharaf. If there were to be a shooting incident, the police told Mr. Stewart, Mr. Musharaf would be forced to the floor. Asking them what he should do himself, Mr. Stewart joked that he was told, “Duck.”

For his hosting efforts, Commissioner Kelly graced Mr. Stewart with an NYPD bomber jacket, a good look.

After dinner, Charlie Rose and Commissioner Kelly gave the 2013 Honoree Award to real estate developer and longtime police supporter Arnold Fisher.

But the evening’s most dramatic moment came with the presentation of the Cop of the Year Award to Detective Ivan Marcano. The former beat cop’s story was told: last October, while off duty and riding in a car with his girlfriend in the Bronx, Mr. Marcano spied two men robbing a third and interceded, flashing his badge, only to be shot in the chest by one of the assailants. Back in his car, his girlfriend steering him to the nearest hospital, he happened to spot the bad guys in another car, at which point he hopped out of his and they out of theirs, and he was once again in hot pursuit.

Cut to video from a surveillance camera, and all assembled watched as then-Officer Marcano, cradling his injury in one hand as though it were no more than a valise and clutching his gun in the other, having felled one of the assailants, hopped into an ambulance that—no joke—just happened to be parked there. The coda, his promotion to detective, seemed, to the Transom at least, hardly sufficient. Knight the man, for goodness’ sake!

It was truly the stuff of instant legend, the kind of New York cop story that puts the most arresting police procedural to shame.

But the audience hardly had time to digest this tale of derring-do, never mind their tournedos of beef with wild mushroom semolina, because then from stage left emerged an exceptionally well-preserved Chaka Kahn. (“She’s 60,” Mr. Rose, who introduced her, boasted to the crowd.) Bedecked in a glittery, skintight, low-bodiced black body suit, high boots, a sequined red fire-breathing-dragon-emblazoned cape and a voluminous hairdo (how long do you think that took, murmured one of the Transom’s tablemates sotto voce), Ms. Kahn then proceeded to gamely belt out her own and others’ songs, pausing only to compliment the Waldorf’s chef on, in particular, the broccoli.

The Transom had noted earlier that when Detective Marcano received his award, there appeared near the base of the stage a raven-haired young woman with enviable poise and a digital camera. When she ascended the stage for a photo with the awardee, it became evident that this was none other than Hilda Miolan, girlfriend and, on that fateful night, driver to Detective Marcano. Raising our voice over Chaka Kahn, the Transom asked her: what was that night like for you?

“Very scary,” she said. “My adrenaline was going like crazy. But the outcome was great. He got everything he wanted.”