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The Brooklyn Public Library Foundation’s annual fundraising gala had a bumpy takeoff when the gala’s theme "Taking Flight" was deemed inappropriate by the fundraising chairpersons in light of the recent attack on the World Trade Center.

The library threw out their invitations, designed long before Sept. 11, and started from scratch with simple announcements and a modest event held in the Central Library on Thursday night.

Gala guests, attired in their finery, entered at Grand Army Plaza along a runway of sorts - the library’s grand staircase, lit with small white lights and fall foliage. Instead of the grand white party tent of previous galas, the guests mixed and mingled in the children’s wing, which was as crowded as an airport lounge - though the patrons were decidedly better dressed.

And who could complain about a few less floral arrangements when they were rubbing elbows with first-class choreographer Eliot Feld?

"I am happy to be here because public libraries are important," said Borough Park-born Feld. "Especially when I was a kid - though as a child I also had great anxieties when books were overdue. You know I gave [the Brooklyn Library] a wrong address. I’m afraid they’re still after me!"

Feld escorted dancer Patty Tuthill of Ballet Tech, Feld’s 4-year-old dance company that recruits many of its dancers from the New York City Public School for Dance and prepares them for professional dance careers. Feld began his career as a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre and Tuthill, also from Brooklyn, began hers in the fifth grade, dancing with Ballet Tech’s school.

The guests arrived at the Nov. 1 gala to pay tribute to the honorees, including Feld, and to support the library, which has recently decided to close many of its branches on Sundays in response to Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s request that city-funded institutions go ahead and cut their budgets by 15 percent in anticipation of hard times ahead for the five boroughs.

Famed Brooklyn illustrators Leo and Diane Dillon, residents of Cobble Hill for 38 years, were two of the library’s honorees. The Dillons have twice been awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal ("Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale" and "Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions").

They took their moment at the microphone to gripe that the library has already been cutting services since the 1980s - including the research librarian telephone number, which they used to help them research their illustrations when they were working against a deadline. As an example, the couple said the now-defunct service allowed them to get an almost immediate answer when they called to ask, "What were the color of George Washington’s eyes?" - info they needed for a poster they were designing.

"Librarians are a part of our careers," the Dillons told GO Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Heights illustrator Melanie Hope Greenberg, who donated one her illustrations, "Fish," to the library’s silent auction, gave The Brooklyn Papers an interview about her new book "Supermarket" (look for story in an upcoming Brooklyn Papers edition) and a sneak peek under her gown. The illustrator was wearing chunky black boots under her dress - her "power boots," she told us.

Former two-term Gov. Hugh Carey did not reveal anything under his clothing, but he did make a splash with former Mayor Ed Koch last week when they teamed to endorse Mayor-elect Mike Bloomberg.

"Koch convinced me [Bloomberg] is a man who can bring jobs to New York," Carey, another gala honoree, told GO Brooklyn. (The former guv is still proud of his Brooklyn beginnings. He was born at 13 Park Place and said all 14 of his children were born in Brooklyn Hospital.)

CNBC anchor-producer Maria Bartiromo raised eyebrows with her positively plunging neckline. The Dyker Heights native consoled the crowd, "I know these are extraordinary times, but the truth is, this is what we should be doing now - unified and patriotic, stronger than ever."

Novelist-screenwriter Gloria Naylor, author of "The Women of Brewster Place," the 1983 National Book award winner and a graduate of Brooklyn College, dedicated her award to her mother, who she credits with sparking her love of books.

BPL Executive Director Martin Gomez -a good sport about announcing the Yankee-Diamondbacks score during Game 5 of the World Series that night - estimates the library was able to raise $250,000 for the library’s collections.

"There will be a reduction in our services for the short term," Gomez told the gala patrons. "But we’re going to bounce back."

Borough President-elect Marty Markowitz, one of the gala guests, said he was on the library’s team. "It’s one of the institutions I will support," he said.

The fifth annual gala event, emceed by Jo Ann Allen of WNYC’s "All Things Considered," was catered by Manhattan’s Glorious Food and the Shedrick Mitchell Quartet - Brandon Owens on bass, Rodney Green on drums, Jaleel Shaw on sax and Shedrick Mitchell on keyboard - provided the groovy tunes.
Brooklyn Arts Exchange

The Brooklyn Arts Exchange’s first annual gala was attended by 150 people in Sal Reale’s new club, RedHookBlue. Awards were given to Regina Hawkey, Greg McCaslin, Sandra Stratton-Gonzalez, Steve Gross, Mikki Shepard, Peggy Shaw and Hank Smith.

"We’re not done with the final tally, but we’ve made good progress in meeting our [financial] goals," BAX Executive Director Marya Warshaw told GO Brooklyn. Warshaw says that even her Park Slope non-profit arts organization has been negatively impacted by the events of Sept. 11.

"It’s a very real situation. We had hoped for more people than those who came, and it’s directly attributable to what’s going on," said Warshaw.

"Yet we are incredibly gratified by the number of people who did show up and the energy that they had. In that way the event was successful," she said. "And the awardees - what they do is of tremendous value, but invisible. It was nice to spotlight the work they do."

Among BAX’s gala attendees was Emmy Award-winning TV host Meredith Vieira of ABC’s "The View."

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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