Hugh Hildesley and Jamie Niven at The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Special Projects Committee's Annual Dinner.
NEW YORK - The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center celebrated Jamie Niven’s 40 years of board service with a dinner at Le Cirque. Some 200 friends gathered, led by Allison Aston and Eugenie Niven Goodman, representing the youthful friends, and Deborah De Cotis and Kirk Henckels, representing the more mature denizens of "Jurassic Park" – the over-sixty dinosaurs who have known Jamie over the years. Your correspondent acted as MC and auctioneer for the reverse auction and was thus afforded an opportunity to roast the honoree gently during his introduction. Borrowing a format that had been devised by Fred Wistow, a brilliant and entertaining lawyer, I introduced Jamie with the following words:
It says in my diary for this evening: “Speak. Jamie Niven. Memorial.” The good news is that Jamie is still alive and can thus enjoy the following eulogy.
Allison Aston, Eugenie Niven Goodman, Deborah DeCotis, and Kirk Henckels.
At this point, I was going to tell you the twenty reasons why I hate Jamie Niven, but due to the restrictions of time that have been placed on me, I will limit my remarks to the top six reasons why I detest Jamie Niven.
1. He is way too cool. Immaculately dressed, with just a hint of crumpled; debonair with a dab of modesty – albeit false modesty – he swans around looking like he belongs in every conceivable environment. I skulk.
2. He knows EVERYBODY. At Sotheby’s, we senior executives now welcome important clients in the lobby during major exhibitions. I try, unsuccessfully, to avoid doing this duty at the same time as Jamie. As I hesitatingly creep forward to greet one or maybe two clients in the course of an hour, our friend is involved in a continuous, virtual cocktail party with endless bevies of beautiful people, mainly foreign, and all female.
3. He is constantly travelling to exotic destinations in order to maintain his exclusive business relationships – on premier golf courses around the world. For me? Trenton, New Jersey.
4. His office not only has a huge window – mine has none – but it is constantly refreshed with magnificent orchids – gifts from charitable organizations for whom he has conducted benefit auctions. And what do I get? A plastic container in the form of a bear from some billionaire Wall Street trader who has devoted his premature retirement to raising bees and making his own honey.
5. I hate Jamie because he is a brilliant mimic, with at least 100 different accents, wickedly illustrating his endless supply of funny stories. After 50 years in New York City, I cannot even produce a convincing American accent.
6. And, finally, Jamie gets honored every time he goes to the bathroom. His office wall is covered in plaques, trophies and Hollywood memorabilia. Other evidence of his overwhelming popularity, including, naturally, photos of actors and photos of presidents – and photos of actors who were presidents, and on and on and on….
And so, I will just have to suck it up, swallow my dented pride and admit that Niven is indeed a good man, a fun guy, and one who through his support of this great organization has made a huge difference to many, many people who really needed the help. Time and again, we go to Jamie and begin the conversation, “Jamie, I have this friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer…” Jamie ALWAYS helps, and this is why my good friend is being honored here tonight. Thank you, Jamie, for being you.
The event raised money for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s funding of new areas of research in the cure for cancer, to be named the Jamie Niven Grant – a great way to recognise his efforts over the years.