Lynn Wyatt joined her good friend Elton John at a star-studded gala to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Elton John AIDS Foundation at New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine last week. But as the Houston society titan made her way to the front table, she paused when she saw she was seated between former President Bill Clinton and current New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“My mother told me never to talk about religion or politics at dinner. What am I going to do tonight?” she mused to a Vanity Fair reporter.
Back in Houston, Wyatt recalled the memorable evening. "I said to Elton, 'I'm in the catbird seat,' " she told CultureMap.
She did talk a little politics with Cuomo, asking him about his biggest current challenge. "Where should I start?" he replied.
And Clinton was interrupted so many times by well-wishers during the dinner, "I asked the waiter to bring one of those covers (for his plate) so his meal didn't get cold," Wyatt said, "and they did."
Wyatt, who looked dazzling in a heavily jeweled Alexander McQueen jacket and long Chanel skirt, mingled with the celebrity-studded crowd, including Glenn Close, Valentino Garavani, Diane Lane, Judith Light, Donna Karan, Keke Palmer, Billy Joel, Sting and Trudie Styler, Sheryl Crow, Susan Lucci, John's husband, David Furnish, Cuomo's partner, Sandra Lee, and the evening's host Neil Patrick Harris.
The evening had many emotional moments. Jeanne White, the mother of Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who was diagnosed with AIDS in 1980s and helped to change attitudes about the disease with his courageous battle, called John, who befriended her son during his illness, her "guardian angel." And Aretha Franklin, who has been battling cancer, moved the audience with such hits as "I Say a Little Prayer" and "Freeway of Love." John called her "the greatest singer of all time."
During a live auction that raised $700,000, Alec Baldwin drew laughs with imitations of Clinton and President Donald Trump. In all, the evening raised $4.4 million to continue the fight against AIDS.
With heartfelt speeches by Clinton, Cuomo, and John, as well as additional performances by Joshua Bell and Heather Headley, the evening went on until 1 in the morning. "It was so interesting with my dinner partners, I didn't want to leave," Wyatt said.
She has supported John and his foundation since its inception in 1992, missing only of his annual fundraisers in 25 years. "Tonight was so special," she said.
John was in an optimistic mood, too.
“I’m very proud of the foundation and what we achieve, how we work, how we raise money, how we spend it, and how we don’t waste it. But hopefully in another 10 years, this will be over," he told the crowd. "We have the medicine to make this disease go away; we just have to make the stigma go away and pull people together as a human entity.”
While in New York, Wyatt also attended the New York Public Library’s Library Lions gala with her good friend, designer Carolina Herrera, before returning to Houston for the Houston Cinema Arts Festival. After a screening of the film, Love, Cecil, detailing the life of legendary fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, Wyatt interviewed the film's director, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, in front of an audience at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.