The Shmooze

Frankie Valli, Paul Williams at Caron Gala

By Masha Leon

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Caron New York 20th Annual Gala at Cipriani 42nd Street was launched by NYU’s “Ani v’Ata” Jewish acapella group.

There was a serving of laughter courtesy of comedian Stewie Stone, vice-president of NYC Friars Club and self-described “recovering alcoholic” as was Paul Williams president and CEO ASCAP and the award presenter to the evening’s honoree Frankie Valli.

As a respite from the gala’s sobering message apropos the toll alcohol and drug abuse visits on families, Stone had the nearly 800 guests roaring to such comedic noshes as: “In Florida you can always spot an ethnic table by how they order: Italian table: ’Hey! a little vino here. Irish table: ‘A little more beer here!’ Jewish table: ‘We didn’t get any rolls…Can we have some rolls here!’”

Denise LeFrak Calicchio and Frankie Valli // Photo by: Karen Leon

Recipient of the Richard J. Caron Award of Excellence Denise LeFrak Calicchio was greeted by Stone with “I could never get an apartment in one of your father’s buildings.” The inspiration for Frankie Valli’s hit “Denise, Denise,” Calicchio launched her acceptance speech with: “I lost my beautiful mother Ethel [Lefrak] exactly one year ago today. Her main mission besides raising her family was to help people less fortunate. This is my family’s legacy [that] I am honored to carry on. “

Caron president Douglas Tieman informed that the impact of alcohol and drug abuse on our society today…“is the # 1 health care problem in America…costing more than $500 billion; #1 cause of crime…home breakup…with 40% of 8th graders having tried drugs or alcohol…. The #1 concern of parents in the country today is ‘How do I get my child through those teenage years unscathed?’” It’s 2014 and I can safely say there’s not a person whose life has not been affected by some form of [drug or alcohol] addictions. Caron will help you get sober…overcome your demons, and see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“My name is Paul Williams and I am an alcoholic…I stood on this stage a year ago when Judy Collins gave me this award…. My sobriety date is March 15, 1990. What you get from the Caron Foundation is far beyond putting the plug in the jug….. What you get is your life back. Alcohol and Cocaine addiction made me feel big enough to deal with the rest of the world…Cocaine made me feel like I could shoot basketball for money… I am honored to present the award to the Energizer Bunny of Rock ‘N Roll — lead singer of the Four Seasons’ [hits] “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” who sold 100 million records…. The life I have today I could not have imagined without Caron [one of the oldest and largest group of treatment facilities in the U.S.]”

“This is a very exciting evening for me,” said Valli. “I did not know there was a foundation like this helping people…I was truly amazed…. In 1980 I lost a daughter to drugs…[it was] devastating. I never really knew I could help…but from today on, if you guys need anything, I promise you, I will be there.!”


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