How do you get 130 people to gather at Restaurant Daniel on a frigid Thursday night in the middle of December for $10,000 each for a night of salmon and Pat Benatar? Most people familiar with Michael Milken know of his love for quizzes so I will venture to give a satisfactory answer. If you are Michael Milken and started the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) in 1993 during which time you have raised over 765 million dollars, helped avert 1.4 million prostate cancer deaths, contributed to a 20-fold increase in government funding within the past 25 years, and most importantly funded almost every practice-changing development in prostate cancer over the last 25 years-then it shouldn't be too hard to understand why PCF continues to gather the best and brightest in the Hamptons, New York City and all over the world.
Milken arrived from London last night where he was heading a conference on prostate cancer and appeared fresh as a daisy and ready to take control of a carefully rehearsed evening. The 72-year-old Milken is an extreme perfectionist, ensuring that every portion of the evening is executed to exacting detail. However, Michael couldn't foresee a glitch in the video in which he showcased the 3-year $50 million partnership that PCF had formed with the Veteran's Administration to assist our heroes who lack access to medical resources. Milken cringed at the misstep as he joked that the producer of the video had been fired and that the military had hacked his film.
Michael is also a fan of baseball and offered attendees the opportunity to attend two games of baseball for three days at baseball camp for $100,000 - with two people bidding. Milken's history is legendary as a titan of Wall Street who gained mythological status until he was sent to prison in 1989 for racketeering and securities fraud. He was permanently barred from the securities industry but is still the 606th richest person in the world. After doctors discovered he had advanced stage prostate cancer in 1993 he was given 12-18 months to live. Undeterred, the indomitable Milken started PCF that year and was featured in a November 2004 Fortune magazine article where they called him "The Man Who Changed Medicine."
Milken is all about solutions and he embarked on a lifelong journey to find a cure for his cancer which included adhering to a strict vegan diet containing no oil, butter, dairy, meat, sugar or alcohol - along with writing two cookbooks. If that wasn't redemptive enough, he decided to fund research to cure all types of cancers and diseases while still growing his fortune through multiple investment vehicles. This man is a grandfather, a husband, a philanthropist, a businessman and a problem solver.
The 25th Anniversary Gala was nothing short of extraordinary as Milken friends Steve Cohen, Leon Black, Igor Tulchinsky, Larry Leeds, the Citrones, Neil Rodin, David Yurman, Jim Coleman and so many others came to help Michael wage war against the scourge of cancer. Michael has concluded that the highest rate of return on investment in treating cancer is through the use of prostate cancer investigators who research the most effective treatments and drugs with 12 people donating $75,000 a year for three years to sponsor these investigators.
He noted that more than a third of these investigators were women and introduced powerhouse Dr. Lorelei Mucci who won a young scientist award in 2008 and has since published more than 250 articles and two major textbooks. Kudos to Mucci who is currently studying a global cohort of men with prostate cancer to determine how best to help them through epidemiological studies. Milken noted that there are sixty seven other cancers that have mutations similar to prostate cancer and asked the audience to help fund Veteran Centers of excellence - which puts our Veterans first.
There were at least 4 people who gave $500,000 per year for four years for these centers with the list rising as the night progressed. As of my last count more than $6 million had been raised although I did not receive an exact figure. Milken has the ability to raise vast sums of money in short periods of time allowing the crowd to enjoy the dinner without the fundraising portion dominating.
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre remarked that he thought managing the Yankees was tough until he tried to keep up with Mike's rigorous schedule. Torre recalled being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and how Milken had guided him since his diagnosis with treatment and diet advice. Milken and Torre both work tirelessly for the organization as their devoted wives assist in their efforts.
Milken met his wife Lori in High School at the age of 12, and joked that he decided to stick close to her since she was voted "most likely to succeed." Another critical cog in the PCF wheel is Dr. Jonathan Simons who is the President and CEO of PCF and has made original contributions to prostate cancer immunotherapy. Simons spoke about the tremendous advances in precision oncology where the exact type of cancer can be targeted noting that more than 60 percent of cancers are affected by inflammation.
Interspersed throughout the evening were Milken's notorious quizzes where I learned that prostate cancer exists in an astounding 33% of male veterans and the youngest average age of soldiers occurred in the Vietnam War. Just when information overload began to kick in, we were treated to the mentalist duo Jeff and Tessa Evason who wowed the skeptical crowd with their ability to guess random people's name and ages with an alarming precision.
The evening concluded with legendary singer Pat Benatar and her husband Neil Giraldo performing for an excited crowd who got the opportunity to witness the talents of this rarely seen superstar.