But, for the first time in 23 years, founder Joe Robert wasn’t there. The philanthropist and driving force behind Fight Night died in December, and the evening was a raucous gathering — including his mom, sisters, older son and closest friends — in his honor. The inevitable question: How long can the party survive without him?
If this year was a sentimental sendoff to Robert, the focus for next year and years after will be on the gala itself. “We have to keep the creativity up to make people continue to say, ‘Wow!’ ” Fernandez told us.
Most important, it means pulling in influential millionaires. In the same way Robert tapped Fernandez years ago (they both attended St. John’s College High School), Fernandez persuaded Under Armour founder Kevin Plank, another St. John’s alum, to be the event chairman next year.
Across town at Knock Out Abuse, the ladies’-night counterpart at the Ritz-Carlton, this year’s co-chairs Charrisse Jackson-Jordan and Michelle Schoenfeld got a big wet-kiss thank- you for their work: a video mash-up of “Moulin Rouge” edited so that it appeared a lovestruck Ewan McGregor was singing their praises. It was classic Knock Out, a party that mixes girl-power testimonials (former supermodel Carre Otis sharing how she survived an abusive relationship) with the giddy trappings of a high-end bachelorette party (shirtless dudes in top hats and black Speedos, cascades of champagne).
It thrives because heading Knock Out has become something of a social plum. Jordan, the wife of former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, said it not only opened her eyes to the problem of domestic violence, but is “one of the hottest tickets in town. Most socialites would love to chair this event!”
Read more: Business leaders flock to Fight Night
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