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Michael J. Fox bid $2,000 for a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Chef’s Package,” Little Big Town performed a tight set of hits, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came home early from Cuba just to support girlfriend, Sandra Lee, as the honoree of the 32nd Annual Food Bank for New York Can Do Honors Awards gala on Tuesday (April 21).
“Honey,” Lee deadpanned to the audience. “Thank you for coming back from your trip.”
Fox and his wife of 27 years, actress Tracy Pollan, mingled with rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his missus, Dorothea Hurley, and snapped a photo with Cuomo at the event, held at Cipriani Wall Street, which as of this writing, had raised $2 million in just under four hours.
Fox wasn’t the biggest spender of the night. One bidder with deep pockets shelled out $150,000 for a private catered meal for up to 19 people prepared by honoree Top Chef Tom Colicchio, emcee Mario Batali and David Chang. Bidding for box seats for a Yankees game started at $10,000.
Honorees at the event included Colicchio’s wife, A Place at the Table filmmaker Lori Silverbush, who told Billboard that she is proud of the film’s legacy bringing awareness to what she called a “solvable problem.”
“I hope to make a sequel about how people are no longer hungry,” she said. “That would be the best sequel of all.”
The evening was especially personal for Lee, who talked with passion about her early years growing up as a child on welfare.
“I know exactly how people who walk into the grocery store on food stamps feel,” she told Billboard on the carpet. “I know exactly how embarrassing it could be to be standing in front of a classmate with her mother and have to pull out food stamps to pay for the groceries and the checkout clerk starts separating the paper goods that don’t qualify for food stamps.”
Lee later said that she was touched that Little Big Town, fresh off of their performance at the American Country Music Awards win, chose to perform at the gala. “They were so kind to come and get on a plane and fly here today to be with us tonight.”
Little Big Town, who later performed “Girl Crush,” said they were nervous to play in front of Bon Jovi, who was seated at a table near the front of the stage.
“I would never put him on the spot,” said singer Karen Fairchild when asked if there might be a possible duet. “But if he wants to, I’ll melt.”
Tuesday’s night’s event was a good start, as guests that included Chew co-hosts and emcees Batali, Daphne Oz, and Carla Hall, 50 Cent, FEED projects co-founder Lauren Bush, Michael Strahan, former New York Giants and current Baltimore Ravens defensive end Chris Canty, actor Paul Sorvino, Chopped host Ted Allen, Worst Cooks in America host Anne Burrell, Orange is the New Black star Laura Gomez, Cooking Channel star Gabriele Corcos, former Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebands, Keeping up with The Kardashians guest star Jonathan Cheban, former Real Housewives of New York City star Kelly Bensimon and more dined on sea bass and sampled drinks mixed with Casamigos Tequila, while supporting the organization, which serves more than 1.5 million New Yorkers.
“We are letting people know how much food insecurity there is, not only in New York but also in other parts of the country,” said Hall, who shared microphone duties and demonstrated how to text donations to the crowd.
Batali, wearing a pair of orange Crocs on the orange carpet (orange is the color of hunger awareness), said that he is amazed at how far the event has come.
“I am involved in this dinner for 15 years. The very first time we did this dinner was $250,000,” he said. “Look at Rachael Ray over there. She is probably worth $250 million as we breathe.”
Chopped host Ted Allen, who noted that while the those in the room were obviously “able to feed themselves,” marveled that the donation of just one dollar would be enough to fund five meals.
“We can get food into the mouths of hungry children right now next door to us. And why would you not do that?” he asked.
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.
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