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Three Nights Before 9/11

A Waldorf Story by Jeanmarie Tenuto

My name is Jeanmarie Tenuto, and this is my Waldorf Story. On Saturday, September 8, 2001, I attended the PETA (People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals) Event and Award Ceremony held at The Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Ave, Manhattan, New York. It was three nights before the terrorist attacks.

It was an honor to be part of the PETA event as my photography, specifically of the wild horses of Chincoteague, was sold at auction raising funds for PETA. The event was a black-tie, star-studded gala. After arriving by limo and checking into the gorgeous hotel suite (only where dreams are made), we dressed in our gowns and entered the cocktail lounge.

The vodka sponsor created a magnificent ice sculpture. What seemed like an acre away, the martini glass was positioned from where the liquor was dispensed as five or ten people were involved with the cocktail menagerie. One who poured, and the others, (many on ladders), were positioned to ensure the liquid would transfer through the gates, tunnels, and canals correctly to its grand finale of a very chilled and highly provocative vodka martini.

As we each sipped on fine cocktails, Sir Paul McCartney entered the room. Off to the side was the lead singer for the Pretenders, Chrissy Hynde followed by the unforgettable beauty of Pamela Anderson. We were inside celebrity awe only to be more shocked by the stunning Charlize Theron as she entered the room. Also included (but not limited too), was Bill Maher, Kid Rock and Ricki Lake and so many others were in the audience making an impact against the cruelty towards animals. Do not be fooled by all this dazzle, glitz, and bling. This affair had the grit of an active protest movement.

The bell rang and we were asked to take our seats at the assigned table. As we sat down, I noticed we had been positioned at a table in a section of LGBTQ advocates. All of whom were PETA advocates. Most sitting with us, if not all, were vegans.

As the superior wait service ushered into the room, each setting was plated with the most exquisite vegan meal I had ever experienced (including to the present moment). Everyone at our table was pleased. The chef’s menu was created for the carnivore palette with one hundred percent vegan delights. It was fantastic and mind-altering gastronomy.

At the end of the gala, we all posed in front of the beautiful backdrops for our portraits. My own portrait is submitted here. We slept like queens that night. The room was elegant. Beyond expression. The next morning, we woke to the church bells of St. Bartholomew’s. As our group gathered in the lobby, we brunched next door al fresco at the Cafe of St. Bartholomew’s. It was the most unforgettable night and followed by a full day, unique only to New York City.

It became a profound evening as it marked the last affair I attended before the terrorist attacks of 9/11, within three days. It is considered one of the most important evenings of my life. As I brought the wild American spirit of those horses into New York City, I never realized that spirit would be so needed by the 23 million who call this region home.