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American Institute for Stuttering Benefit Luncheon on the
Queen Mary II
June 10, 2007

Written by Wendy R. Williams
Photographed by
Melinda MacLean

(Opposite Photo - Tina Brown)

Freeing Voices
Changing Lives


Jake Steinfeld, Tina Brown, Catherine Montgomery, Sir Harold Evans,
Kenyon Martin, Carly Simon (holding her Iceberg Award)
and Captain Christopher Rynd of the Queen Mary II

CBS New Anchor and Managing Editor Katie Couric hosted a star-studded luncheon on June 10, 2007 for the American Institute for Stuttering. The luncheon was held in the glamorous Queens Room of the Queen Mary II, which was berthed in Red Hook, Brooklyn preparing to depart at 5PM that day for England. The expenses for the luncheon were graciously underwritten by Cunard, the owner of the Queen Mary II.

The hosts for the event were Tina Brown, Sir Harold Evans and James Manley (CEO of Atlantic Pacific Capital). Luncheon honorees Dominick Dunne, Kenyon Martin, Jake Steinfeld and Carly Simon were presented with the first annual "Freeing Voices, Changing Lives Leadership Awards". Unfortunately Mr. Dunne was unable to attend because he was otherwise engaged covering the Phil Spector trial in Los Angeles. (We will all need to read that issue of Vanity Fair).

Katie Couric, Jim Manley, Jake Steinfeld and Tina Brown

There was a charming group of special guests at the luncheon, including: Candace Bushnell; Lauren Hutton; Henry David Hwang; Norma Kamali; School Chancellor Joel Klein; Kevin Kline; Elsa Klensch; Michael Nouri; Austin Pendleton; Faith Popcorn; Jack & Suzy Welch; Senator Charles Schumer; Ron Silver; John Stossel; Sam Waterston; and Jack and Suzy Welch. (Scroll down for photos.)

Before the luncheon, I was able to speak briefly with Tina Brown about her new book, “The Diana Chronicles,” which has just been published on the tenth anniversary of Princess Diana’s death (see the New York Times Review of the book).

Tina said that she had lunch with Princess Diana in New York in July of 1997, a month before she died. But she had known Princess Diana since they were both in their twenties in London when Diana was shy Di and Brown was the editor of The Tattler. She said that she had researched her book for a year and the book contained interviews with some people who spoke publicly about Diana for the first time, including one of Diana’s lovers, Teddy Forstmann.

Brown said that at her last luncheon with the Princess, Diana said that she wanted her boys to be media savvy and how she regretted that she would never be Queen, but being Queen was impossible after the Martin Bashear interview.

Before and during the luncheon, the director of the foundation Catherine Montgomery said that the foundation “treats the whole person to both speak more easily and accept themselves. …..many need to recover from years of shame.” Montgomery said that [one of her goals] “is to dispel myths about stuttering, like the myth that the stutterer is nervous. Stuttering is genetically based and is a neurological glitch.”

When Sir Harold Evans (writer, editor, former editor of The Sunday Times and Tina Brown’s husband) spoke, he said that he had asked the cruise ship's captain (Captain Christopher Rynd) if we could take a quick spin out to sea. "He didn't say yes, he didn't say no," said Evans. "It's like my love life!"

Katie Couric told the gathering that she believed in paying it forward and she thanked Cunard for underwriting the event and also thanked them for underwriting a previous event for Katie’s favorite charity, the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance. Katie also spoke about how many famous people have been afflicted with stuttering including the writer John Updike who said, “You write because you don’t talk very well.” She also spoke about many other famous former stutterers including: Winston Churchill; Tiger Woods; Carly Simon; and Bruce Willis.

Katie then presented the awards which were actually Icebergs, but reassured us that the band would not start playing “Nearer My God to Thee.” She said that the Iceberg signifies the fact that the damage caused by stuttering is not just to the voice. The voice is just the tip of the damage that stuttering does to a person.

The Honorees then spoke.

Fitness guru Jake Steinfeld told about how he had difficulty in class when he was asked to read and that one time he was placed at a table with two other stutterers and he quipped that it would, "Take an hour for my table to read a paragraph."

Steinfeld said his life changed at age fourteen when his father gave him a set of weights. When he was in his twenties, he moved to Hollywood where he met people like Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stephen Seagal. He found that the only difference between his new friends and the people he had known before is that they [his new friends] had a dream and they never quit.

NBA All-Star Kenyon Martin of the Denver Nuggets said that his stuttering drove him to succeed in basketball. He also said that he has a four year old daughter who may have inherited his stuttering problem and that she is the main challenge of his life right now.

Singer, Songwriter and Author Carly Simon told us that she was the kid in school who would never raise her hand; the answer was locked in her throat. Her mother called it her worry lump. When it was her turn to read in class, she always asked permission to go to the bathroom. Simon said that the shame of stuttering and the resulting lack of self esteem has affected her entire life.

Simon said she came from a musical family and at the dinner table her mother told her to tap her foot and say “Pass the butter” to the rhythm. She told us that she became an expert at word substitution; she could not read to her own children [she could not pronounce certain words] so she made up stories [so she could use word substitution] and the stories became musicals.

The event had a Sunday-lunch-at-the-country-club feel. Everyone was dressed in their Sunday best and many had brought their children. Sir Harold Evans and Tina Brown’s daughter Izzy attended with a large group of attractive young friends; playwright David Henry Hwang brought his dauther Eva and son Noah; and Virginia Cannon and Hendrik Hertzberg brought their son Wolf. People were having fun, greeting old friends and catching up on their week (Sam Waterston and Kevin Kline were observed talking shop). It was a charming (in-port) outing on a magnificent ship.

Check out Melinda MacLean’s photos of the event both below and on the next page.

Sir Harold Evans Anna Deavere Smith
Captain Christopher Rynd
of the Queen Mary II
Catherine Montgomery, Director of
The American Institute for Stuttering
Jake Steinfeld and Tracey Steinfeld Kenyon Martin and Darius Sobers
Kevin Kline Lauren Hutton

Senator Charles Shumer, Catherine Montgomery,
Sir Harold Evans and Tina Brown





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