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Doing the Right Thing: Bailey House 24th Annual Auction & Party Gets It Right

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Friday Feb 24, 2012

Where else can you find Jane Pauley looking impossibly chic in a little black dress while eating a hot dog and watching "The King and I" amidst a curated showroom of vintage furnishings? Where else but the Bailey House Auction & Party?

Nearly a thousand well-heeled and fashionable New Yorkers catwalked and promenaded through the Lexington Avenue Armory for the 24th annual Bailey House Auction & Party. Initiated by interior designer Alan Tanksley in 1988 as a means to raise funds for AIDS research, the Bailey House Auction & Party has become a favorite on Manhattan's fund-raising circuit calendar.

For this year's edition, the Lexington Avenue Armory, a massive Beaux Arts structure built in 1906 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965, was festooned with brightly-colored, suspended doors of every style, symbolizing the import of homes for those living with HIV/AIDS. Or as Bailey House's motto puts it: "The future starts with a place to live."

Created by interior design expert and visual artist, Geoff Howell, the dozens of doors hung from the Armory's lofty ceiling, sometimes tantalizingly within reach and serving as a reminder of how elusive housing can be for those in need.

Home to the U.S. 69th Infantry Regiment, the Armory was overtaken by platoons of fashion and design aficionados, all bidding on more than 300 home design items and a vast array of silent auctions, which were donated for the benefit of Bailey House and its clientele. Within the four showrooms were pieces from Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Fortuny, Baccarat, Swarovski, Gucci, Donna Karan, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Restoration Hardware, and dozens of other design firms.

Scores of works of art had been donated by collectors and artists - and fashion designer Bruno Grizzo had his own artist’s studio where he created dazzlingly evocative watercolors of well-dressed guests.

Apart from Jane Pauley, who reminded guests of the import of ponying up funds for those addictive Bailey House hot dogs, the party’s hosts also included Andy Cohen, Tim Gunn, Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan, and the ever-charismatic and charming fashion designer, Carmen Marc Valvo, who helped incite the bidding frenzy.

Celebrity guests included "Food Network" star Chris Nirschil, "Real Housewives" Alex McCord and Simon von Kempen, ABC news correspondent Brian Ross - as well as inveterate style maven and New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham who roamed the comely crowd in search of fashion genius.

The crowd was a fashion photographer’s fantasy, with men in kilts, men in gowns, men in tiaras, and women in little black dresses. And then there were the shoes: statement heels working the floors as intently as the bartenders and catering staff.

Nearly as tempting as the deals and the steals (and a plethora of silent auction items including hotel stays and shopping sprees and spa days) was the food. Who could resist truffled mac-and-cheese? Or the miniature shepherd’s pie? The cupcakes, the cold sesame noodles, the vegetable samosas - and the Mexican hot chocolate, infused with tequila? And, of course, the beloved Bailey House hot dogs, served from street carts, complete with a queue of people waiting for their dog.

A raft of intoxicatingly potent elixirs, contributed by Patron and Ultimat Vodka, helped to loosen the wallets of the well-heeled crowd so that by the time veteran Sotheby’s auctioneer, Hugh Hildesley, hit the podium, the altruistic crowd flew into a bidding frenzy for auction items such as a Robert Mapplethorpe print and a five-night European getaway that included business class tickets on Swiss Air, as well as tickets to Jean Paul Gaultier’s couture show in Paris, which sold to the highest bidder for nearly ten thousand dollars.

When Bailey House was founded in 1983, there were very few providers of critical services for the homeless; Bailey House’s mission was to provide housing and support services for those homeless people living with HIV/AIDS.

Raising more than $500,000 at the 24th Annual Bailey House Auction & Party, New Yorkers proved yet again that they care about the health and well-being of their fellow citizens. As the Bailey House banner above the podium proclaimed, "You got that right."

LINK: Bailey House

Bailey House Auction & Party

PHOTO ALBUM: 24th Annual Bailey House Auction & Party Photo Album

A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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