The doors swung open and the sweet sound of an electric guitar began to play, followed by the deep thump of a blues bass walk. Two men in black suits, black hats, thin black ties and sunglasses stepped to the stage, one wielding a mic, the other a mouth harp.
It was the Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, and they brought a new passion and energy to A Night to Remember, the annual charity dinner hosted by Marvin R. Shanken, editor and publisher of Cigar Aficionado and Wine Spectator magazines. The event raised more than $1 million for the Prostate Cancer Foundation, and brought the world one step closer to curing this killer of men.
The pool room at the Four Seasons Restaurant was soon alive with the rich notes of "Sweet Home Chicago," with Aykroyd playing a fierce harmonica and Belushi dancing on the edge of the pool, hamming it up with the enchanted crowd.
"You know why we're here," said Shanken. "We're a dying breed here to celebrate the joys of cigars."
The room was filled with some of the movers and shakers of the world. Michael Milken, founder and chairman of the Prostate Cancer Foundation; former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and his wife, Judith; Jeff Greenfield of CBS; sports commentator and former NBA star John Salley; David Pecker, chairman and CEO of American Media Inc.; Jamie B. Coulter, the former chairman of Lonestar Steakhouse and Saloon; Ed Rabin, former president of Hyatt Hotels Corp.; Richard Santulli, chairman of NetJets; Chuck Wagner, owner and winemaker of Caymus Winery; Richard P. Torykian Sr., director of Lazard Freres & Co.; Lee Einsidler, CEO of Sidney Frank Importing Co.; Frederic DeNarp, president and CEO of Cartier North America; John Esposito, president and CEO of Bacardi U.S.A.; Jack Kliger, president and CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.; Jim Taylor, general manager of Cadillac for General Motors; Phil Geier, chairman emeritus of Interpublic Group of Cos.; Gerry Ruvo, president and CEO of Skyy Spirits LLC; Larry Schwartz, president of U.S. spirits and national accounts for Diageo North America; Richard Cohen, president and CEO of Robert Talbott Inc.; Royce Pulliam, president and CEO of Global Fitness Holdings; restaurateurs Drew Nieporent of Nobu and Ken Aretsky of Patroon and celebrity chef Michael Lomonaco; and Michael Goldstein, owner of Park Avenue Liquors.
Dan Aykroyd performing as Blues Brother Elwood.
The evening began with a cocktail hour reception of Dom Pérignon 1999 and some of the finest cigars made in the world. The guests chose from tables filled with open boxes of Arturo Fuente Don Carlos, Ashton Classic and Ashton Aged Maduro, Alec Bradley Tempus, C.A.O. America and C.A.O. Vision, Diamond Crown and Diamond Crown Maximus, El Rico Habano, La Flor Dominicana, Oliva Serie V and Serie O, Padrón 1964 Anniversary Series, Partagas 150 Signature Series, Rocky Patel Decade and ITC 10th Anniversary, San Cristobal, Savinelli ELR and Savinelli Special Selection, Te-Amo World Selection and Winston Churchill by Davidoff.
The head table. Standing, from left to right: Chuck Wagner, Michael Milken, Marvin and Hazel Shanken, Judith and Rudolph Giuliani, and Jeff Greenfield. Seated, from left, Dan Aykroyd, John Salley, Frederic DeNarp and Jim Belushi.
After the Blues Brothers had played five great songs, Shanken returned to the podium to begin a Night to Remember tradition -- the auction of mystery wines. True to the feeling of camaraderie throughout the night, the winner of a mystery wine does not take the bottle home with him, but shares it with his table. The wines are always special, but this year they were off the charts -- a 1945 Château Latour and a 1945 Gruaud Larose in magnum; a 1928 Haut Brion and a 1928 d'Yquem; and a 2000 Mouton-Rothschild, in magnum. Each raised between $22,000 and $33,000.
Shanken kept his busy gavel swinging as he began the auction proper with a golf vacation at The Breakers in Palm Beach, donated by David Burke of The Breakers. It was won with a $7,000 bid by Lee Einsidler. "That's a steal," said Shanken, who, along with his wife, Hazel, donated airfare for the trip. The second lot, a collection of three humidors and the first samples of the new Artesanos de Miami cigar, donated by General Cigar Co. and Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, sold for $12,000 to Jaime Coulter. A collection of 2005 Bordeaux donated by Christina and Don Zacharia of Zachy's went for $16,000 to Philip Geier. A gorgeous men's Cartier tank watch in 18-karat white gold, donated by Frederic DeNarp, went for $17,000 to Dawn Fitzpatrick.