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Brooklyn was well-represented at the 72nd Alfred E. Smith Dinner

October 21, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dais of dignitaries at 72nd Alfred E. Smith dinner. Eagle photos by John Alexander
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Almost 2,000 guests packed the Hilton Midtown Hotel in anticipation of the 72nd Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on Oct. 19.

The evening is held in honor of Alfred E. Smith, the four-term New York governor, and the first Catholic to be nominated for president of the United States in 1928.

This “white tie” celebration allows people from all political parties to let their hair down and enjoy a light-hearted evening with all proceeds benefiting Catholic Charities.

This year marked the first since 1945 that the event was not held at the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom.

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Brooklyn dignitaries in attendance included former Republican Party Chairman Craig Eaton, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese and Msgr. Jamie J. Gigantiello, pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and vicar for development and director of parish giving programs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn.

This year’s keynote address was delivered by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who seemed to take great joy in roasting President Donald Trump. In fact, Ryan’s ribbing had many applauding and laughing heartily along with his inspired stand-up. The evening was filled with biting humor and loud applause.

The dais was filled with some of New York’s top elected officials, civic leaders and clergy. Guests included Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, radio host and Gristedes Supermarket chain owner John Catsimatidis and former Mayors David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg generated the loudest applause upon his introduction.

John Castle of Castle Harlan Equity was the recipient of the Happy Warrior Award, which honors an individual who best exemplifies Smith’s ideals.

Castle drew laughs when he said that Ryan’s first job in Wisconsin was driving the Oscar Myer Weiner mobile. “You know how normal people do fantasy football,” Castle said, “Well, Paul Ryan does fantasy tax reform.” Castle also joked about all the bike lanes and bike racks in New York City. “On my way over here I said to my driver, ‘when did New York go so bicycle crazy?’ He said, ‘Sir, I can’t really talk while I’m pedaling.’”

The evening was hosted by Emmy Award-winning actress Patricia Heaton, star of the classic TV sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and the current series “The Middle.”

Heaton referred to a little bit of history between herself and Ryan. “Remember that night a few years ago? You, me, Mitt, Ohio. It was kind of dreamy. We’ll always have Akron,” she said.

Ryan opened his remarks with a zinger. “You know what I find amazing about this is I don’t think I’ve seen this many New York liberals, this many Wall Street CEO’s in one room since my last visit to the White House.”

Regarding Heaton, Ryan received wild applause when he called her a “Hollywood Republican,” and added, “That is an oxymoron, which clearly was the word that Rex Tillerson was searching for.”

Ryan called fall his favorite season of the year, “We’ve got deer season, the leaves are changing, the beaches are empty, or as Chris Christie calls them, perfect.”

About Trump, Ryan said, “I know last year that Donald Trump offended some people. I know his comments according to critics went too far. Some said it was unbecoming of a public figure. And they said that his comments were offensive. Well, thank God he’s learned his lesson.”

The crowd roared when Ryan said, “A lot of people, they ask me, guy from Wisconsin, what it’s like to work on a daily basis with an abrasive New Yorker with a loud mouth. But you know, once you get to know him Chuck Schumer is not all that bad.”

Schumer did not attend this year’s dinner.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York and Ryan, a fellow Roman Catholic, go back to when Dolan was archbishop of Milwaukee and Ryan was representative from Wisconsin.

Dolan said that the Alfred E. Smith celebration has gone on for close to three quarters of a century, and that “the evening has been one of joy, civility, most of the time, unity, patriotism, friendship, grateful memories and charity.”

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