On a night when the Empire State Building was lit green in honor of the event, guests at the Emerald Gala on September 24 certainly all felt like children again. The famous Tavern on the Green for one night became a fairy tale world where everyone could let their imaginations escape for a few hours with old friends from that Technicolor masterpiece. A seven-story hot air balloon, emblazoned with the images of those legendary characters, heralded the event for all to see as they approached along Central Park West in New York City. A purple Horse of a Different Color drew a carriage in front of the entrance, where guests of honor walked not along a red carpet to the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi, but along a more fitting replica of the Yellow Brick Road.
Inside, the already elegant restaurant was a marvelous wonderland of Oz memorabilia and amazing delights around every corner. There was a gallery of fine art inspired by the movie from artists such as Angelo Aversa, Romero Britto, Nelson de la Nuez, Phillip Graffham, Gris Grimly, Glen Orbik, William Joyce, Marcus Antonius Jansen, and others, including my favorites by Alex Ross and Todd White.
An online charity auction of the Ruby Slipper Collection benefited the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, with modern ruby slipper designs by Oscar de la Renta, Moschino, Diane von Furstenberg, L.A.M.B. by Gwen Stefani, Jimmy Choo, and many others.
Jennifer "Oz" LeRoy, granddaughter of producer Mervyn LeRoy and owner of Tavern on the Green, looked even more beautiful than usual (if that were possible) in a dazzling green dress, waving to onlookers as she took a test ride of the hot air balloon. “If any restaurant could be transformed into Oz, it would be Tavern on the Green,” she said earlier that day. “It’s going to be singing and dancing, good food and champagne and Munchkins! It’s going to be a real celebration of The Wizard of Oz. I’m so honored. Of all the events that we’ve done, it’s sort of cosmic that this is happening at this time. It’s going to be, I’m sure, emotional for me and my family just because of my grandfather and the lineage and all that. I think it’s going to be a once in a lifetime event. I’m really excited about it.”