Hilary Swank, Edie Falco honored at annual ASPCA Ball
By Si Si Penaloza
Celebrities, animal welfare devotees — and a few furry VIPs — lit up The Plaza Hotel last week for ASPCA’s 18th Annual Bergh Ball honoring Hilary Swank and Edie Falco. The ASPCA, or American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty To Animals, raises awareness and funds for abused animals across the country. On the red carpet, Swank and Falco took turns fawning and cuddling up with these previously neglected animals. Hosted by Lake Bell and Isaac Mizrahi, the official festivities kicked off with speeches by the honorees in the grand ballroom of the landmark Manhattan hotel. While attendees dined on a savory dinner, they enjoyed the musical talents of Chelsea Leyland and Sarah Charness.
At the black-tie affair, ASPCA President and CEO Matt Bershadker presented Swank with the ASPCA Compassion Award and Falco with the ASPCA Voice for Animals Award. Swank, who has two rescue dogs of her own, is so passionate about animal rights that she started her own charity, the Hilaroo Foundation. The story behind the name? Adorable, natch. The two time Oscar winner named the charity with a mashup of Hilary and her late dog, Karoo. Her goal is to bring together abandoned animals and disadvantaged youth, and she told reporters that starting this charity was one of the bravest things she’s ever done. “This comes from my love of animals and kids and the innocent souls that don’t have a voice,” Swank reflected. “I think we need to speak for them and all stand together and do what we can to help them.”
“The work that the ASPCA does every day for homeless and vulnerable animals is extraordinary, and that’s why we’re all here tonight. To be honored with the Compassion Award by such a distinguished organization as the APSCA is humbling, and I am proud to be affiliated with you and the work you do – with compassion – every single day on behalf of animals,” Swank said as she accepted her Award.
“Anything that I can do to bring animals to their rightful place of health and good, safe homes, I am thrilled to do. And the ASPCA just does it right, down to the very last detail. I am thrilled and honored to be recognized by the organization that really does it all so well,” Falco said in her acceptance speech.
The ASPCA Compassion Award recognizes individuals in the public spotlight who demonstrate an extraordinary commitment of time and effort to directly impact the lives of vulnerable and victimized animals in the United States. The ASPCA Voice for Animals Award recognizes noteworthy individuals in entertainment and the arts who use traditional and modern media to increase awareness and inspire action on behalf of animal in crisis.
Co-host Lake Bell said she enjoyed “any event that allows large canines into the Plaza,” alluding to several foster dogs gamely facing up to the flashbulbs as guests took turns posing with them. “I’m like, where’s the biggest slobberiest one? I want him!” she said. Getting in on the antics, Falco clutched a rescue pit bull puppy to her couture gown while Swank played up her feline fetish by donning a cat mask and taking selfies.
Swank dotes on her two rescued pups. “I give them special treatment every day, because I love them so much,” she said. “I’m lucky I get to travel with them and they get to go to work with me.” Likewise, Falco beamed with pride as she talked up her Brussels Griffon with fellow guests.
The theme of the gala was “Pup Art,” and featured playing cards that showcase photos of dogs and cats from the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City and reproductions of dog and cat portraits by Andy Warhol, licensed by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Posing as jokers in the deck are Bravo’s Andy Cohen, with his dog Wacha, and actor Nathan Lane, with his dog Mabel.
Hugh Hildesly of Sotheby’s hosted a riveting live auction that raised a whopping $250,000! Animal lovers stepped up and gave generously to the cause. Auction highlights included:
A posh trip to Paris generously donated by London Jewelers and Chanel celebrated the romance, art and food of the world’s most romantic city. The bidding started at $15,000 and quickly drove up to double its starting bid, selling for $30,000. The itinerary includes a private tour of Coco Chanel’s apartment, a 3-night stay at the Park Hyatt Vendome and private tours of several museums.
A once-in-a-lifetime trip to the exclusive island of Mustique prompted a lively bidding war. The item included a seven-night trip to the private island in the Southern Caribbean, a 14-person house with a professional staff of six and a private infinity pool and tennis court. The bidding started at $25,000 and sold twice for $45,000.
A custom Christian Siriano gown was a very in-demand item. After starting the bidding at $4,000, several bidders rallied back and forth for the one-of-a-kind dress before selling at $9,500. Hilary Swank, Edie Falco, Lake Bell and Allie Rizzo all donned his designs to the party.
The Bergh Ball is a cornerstone of the ASPCA’s fundraising efforts. For nearly 150 years, the ASPCA has made groundbreaking strides protecting the lives of vulnerable and victimized animals across the country. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org.