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For the third year in a row, the heavens attempted to wash away the guests of the Brooklyn Hospital Center’s annual gala fundraiser, and for the third year in a row, the guests in their finery laughed in the face of thunder, lightening and sheets of rain.

At the hospital’s "Midsummer Nights Dream" gala in 2000, honoring Pete Hamill, the dinner tent came crashing down - miraculously before the guests were seated. (No one was injured.) After the rain abated, guests laid their tablecloths on the grass of Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park and had their dinners picnic-style with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge.

In 2001, the gala was moved to the awe-inspiring Ellis Island museum, where torrential rain lashed at the guests who rode the ferry to and from the island.

On May 31, the party tent - pitched near second base in the middle of Keyspan Park on Surf Avenue in Coney Island - stayed securely anchored while the rain and wind did its worst.

"They have spunk," guest MaryAnn Rago said of the gala organizers, "because they still aren’t inside."

This year’s Founders Ball, held in the home of the minor-league Brooklyn Cyclones, was chaired by Robin Maddalena.

Maddalena, who proudly told us she’s ridden the Cyclone roller coaster, created a "Dreams of Summer" theme party with all the trappings of a Gatsby-esque soiree. The 800 guests were instructed to leave their black tie at home and come in "summer elegant" attire instead. Guests arrived in everything from suits to floral dresses to straw hats, with hospital president Frederick Alley sporting an ascot.

The cocktail hour was held in the open-air stands of the ballpark, with salty ocean breezes blowing over the guests, as they sampled delicious h’ors deouvres from the sea - oyster shooters with sauce mignonette, fried clam rolls and coconut shrimp. For dinner, catered flawlessly by Manhattan’s Great Performances, guests filed into the enormous tent on the field, to delight in seemingly bottomless baskets of Wellfleet seafood salad, braised short ribs of beef over risotto and for dessert, strawberry shortcake.

Spectacular table centerpieces of turf with wicker picnic baskets and floral arrangements evoked a bucolic mood, but the clouds rolled in anyway.

Plans for the promised fireworks by Grucci were washed away by the inclement weather, but the fearless guests danced the night away to the sounds of "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" and many other tunes performed by the inexhaustible Peter Duchin orchestra.

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and his wife, Jamie, looking glamorous in her vintage Kenneth J. Lane chandelier earrings, took a moment to chitter chatter with us.

"We’re here to celebrate Brooklyn Hospital, which does superb work delivering the best medical service," said Markowitz over the sound of rain beating on the tent walls. "And they help our water problem, too!" he added, alluding to the city’s drought and the rain dance-like effect of the Founders Ball.

(Markowitz said that although he’s got that new job in Borough Hall, he’s still going to produce his star-studded Coney Island concert series, which will begin in July.)

The 2002 Founders Medals were bestowed upon Richard Hayden, managing partner at Swanke Hayden Connell Architects, who has served as trustee of the Brooklyn Hospital Center for 19 years, and to the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. The award was accepted by Philharmonic board member Joseph Rosalie.

The center bestowed Walter Reed Medals to the chairman of Brooklyn Hospital Center’s department of ophthalmology, Rory Dolan, to Peter Sherman, chairman of the dentistry department and to Chennareddy Swaminathan, the director of internal medicine at the center’s Caledonian Campus.

The event raised $700,000 earmarked for the Diagnostic Cardiology Center program of the 157-year-old Fort Greene-based hospital. Individual tickets to the ball began at $500.


Hollywood legend

Renowned stage and film actress Celeste Holm received the first annual Alfred Drake Award presented by Brooklyn College’s theater department chairman Sam Leiter on May 14 at the Gershwin Theater.

Holm played Ado Annie opposite Alfred Drake as Curley in the 1943 Broadway production of "Oklahoma." (At the tribute, the irrepressible Holm lip synced along with a recording of her "Oklahoma" showstopper, "I Cain’t Say No.") The 83-years-young actress is no stranger to accolades having received a best supporting actress Academy Award for her performance as Annie Dettrey in "Gentleman’s Agreement" (1947) and Oscar nominations for her roles in "All About Eve" (1950) and "Come to the Stable" (1949).

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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