War of the Words: Sharp-tongued Honorees and Attendees Spit Daggers at NYC Galas

Pam Schafler and Mika Brzezinski.

Pam Schafler and Mika Brzezinski.

There wasn’t a drop of red wine at the New York Historical Society’s perennial Strawberry Festival luncheon last week, and Shindigger was left to wonder: wasn’t it five o’clock somewhere? Sure, there was a delicious quinoa, truffle and herb salad, but that wasn’t why everyone had turned out. It was to see Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski receive the Women in Public Life award.

“We DVR the show every weekday to watch it at a more sane hour,” Shindigger confessed, after the ceremony, to Pam Schafler, vice chair of the NYHS board of trustees.

“I can watch her on television every day,” Ms. Schafler said of Ms. Brzezinski. “I’ve shaken her hand, I’ve heard her speak in front of me—it will never be the same.”

Ms. Schafler then got up and pulled Ms. Brzezinski over so we could have a brief introduction.

The Observer?” she mumbled reluctantly, inches from our beaming face.

“We’ll be very friendly,” was our reply. “Who was your favorite senator that you’ve had on the show?”

Claire McCaskill,” she blurted, with zero hesitation. “She’s fabulous. She speaks very plainly and she and I have come together on the issue of fighting obesity. We started very feistily with each other, and she cracked a big joke about me being a skinny size two at the National Press Club Awards, and since then, she’s lost 50 pounds and looks great, and has even more confidence on TV.”

We noted that the two women did butt heads over the soda ban, and pointed out that Ms. Brzezinski seems to be a big proponent of healthy living.

“Yes, I am,” she confirmed. “That’s why I wrote this book [Knowing Your Value], because I need to let people know where I’m coming from if I’m going to have a platform and have such a strong opinion about things.”

“You’re by far the best-dressed on the show,” Shindigger said, on a less serious note.

“Oh, thank you!” she chirped, moving in closer, no longer wary.

We wondered who on the show could use the most help with their wardrobe.

Mike Barnicle,” she said, cutting us off before we could finish our question. “He looks terrible! His stomach is always sticking out. What is with that button? Get a shirt that fits!”

And with that, Mika left the building.

On Thursday, Shindigger briefly continued our political leitmotif at the 35th American Apparel & Footwear Association American Image Awards, which benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project. Tony-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell posed for photographers with Bernadette Peters, who looked smashing in a skin-tight Hervé Léger black dress, in the bowels of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Then we headed across town, where another Broadway star was in the limelight. At Cipriani 42nd Street, actor Raúl Esparza received the El Museo del Barrio’s Excellence in Arts award. There, the politics were of a more local variety, as attendees came with daggers!

“I can tell a lot of them have dieted,” one lady of the night whispered into Shindigger’s ear as Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a bevy of socialites graced the step and repeat. “I know they’re trying to look good, but at that age, when you lose weight that quickly—their skin is hanging!

At table 40, we witnessed one bow tie-clad attendee, seated beside Yliana Yepez, mouth and point, “She’s a mess,” about an amiga closer to us.

This was not a dry affair in any sense of the word, and so we ordered more wine and enjoyed the show.

Sometime between the appetizer of baked tagliolini with ham and the plating of roast filet of beef with chimichurri sauce, an elder patron of the gala collapsed. Nearby tables cleared out of the way, an announcement was made for a doctor and medics were summoned.

Needing a break from the chaos—and maybe a laugh, too—Shindigger danced across the Italianate floor to Yaz Hernandez, who looked ravishing in a one-of-a-kind Narciso Rodriguez dress and H. Stern diamonds.

“I think someone just had a heart attack,” we told her.

“Where? Are they OK?” she said, craning her neck for a better view.

“I think they’re stable,” we assured her. (In fact, to everyone’s astonishment, the gentleman had returned to his seat and was now finishing his meal!)

She had stepped aside as gala chair this year to let her husband, Valentin Hernandez, serve in that role.*

“Because we’re soulmates, because we work as one,” she giggled in her spicy Puerto Rican accent, but then added: “This still feels very much like my gala!” Of course, she had a big hand in bringing in top-notch donors. “We are so lucky to have Raúl,” she gushed. “I have five tables of people who flew in from Nicaragua to be here for our honoree Ramiro Ortiz Mayorga. This is our Met Gala!”

The fiesta continued then with meringue cakes, petits fours, more booze and Mr. Esparza accepting his award. And all was going well until we noticed, in the middle of sipping our Glendronach on the rocks, that there was more commotion nearby, and Shindigger was pretty sure that the elder Latino patron had had a second emergency and now needed to be evacuated.

We took that as our cue to exit as well.

*CORRECTION: The print version of this article mistakenly named Valentin Hernandez as the president of the board for El Museo del Barrio. Valentin Hernandez is married to Yaz Hernandez, who is the president of the board.