“Frankly, my dear, you should give a damn,” Louis Bacon said last night, paraphrasing from what he called his holy book, “Gone With the Wind.”
The Raleigh, North Carolina-born hedge-fund manager, who looks a bit like Rhett Butler (especially the hair), exhorted guests to protect nature as he accepted the National Audubon Society’s Audubon Medal.
Later, as the evening wound down by the elevators outside the Plaza Hotel’s ballroom, Bacon, mingling with Uma Thurman and Arpad Busson, held the medal. It came on a blue ribbon, framed and under glass.
“I’d like him to wear it -- every night,” said his wife, Gabrielle Bacon.
With that, the couple clasped hands and made their way home, a slightly different ending than the movie version of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer-winning novel.
Bacon recently took the reins of Orton Plantation, in Brunswick County, North Carolina, where an ancestor built a home in 1735 -- a Moore, on his mother’s side, after whom his firm, Moore Capital Management LP, is named. Bacon is replanting its rice fields to recreate a habitat for water fowl, and restoring a native forest to welcome back woodpeckers.
Paul Tudor Jones roasted his friend of 30 years, joking about the land Bacon preserved in Long Island being “the only neighborhood in the Hamptons that let him move in” and noting that Bacon had spent “vast amounts of money preserving land just so he could get someone to go fishing with him.”
Then Jones, himself a defender of the Everglades, wept as he thanked Bacon, on behalf of fish and fowl, for doing his part.
Five women costumed as North American birds circulated during cocktail hour. They wore bras and undies, a feather here and there, and body paint (they’d spent six hours standing during their transformation).
Each ably identified herself (which most guests -- including Jonathan Rosen, author of a book about birding -- failed at). There was a red-breasted robin, a Blackburnian warbler, a loon, a blue jay and a calliope hummingbird.
“Mrs. Bacon and I thought of it,” said Ann Colley, the executive director of the Moore Charitable Foundation, which has carried out much of Bacon’s conservation work. “We didn’t want it to be boring.”
It worked. “Someone said, ’Have you seen the birds?’ I had to come find you,” said David Koehler, vice president for advancement at International Crane Foundation Inc., to the painted women.
Koehler was there to see the organization co-founder, George Archibald, receive the society’s Dan W. Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership. Eleven of the 15 species of cranes are endangered.
In addition to referring to his holy book, Bacon said being an effective environmentalist depends on being able to collaborate, lead from behind and be a pest.
He recalled his intention, after graduating from Middlebury College with a degree in American Literature, to “make a quick fortune and above all get out quickly” so he could spend the rest of his life hunting and fishing.
“That master plan has been a total failure because I’m still on Wall Street,” he said. Yet he finds time for hunting and fishing, and his fortune has helped protect many areas, including two easements on ranches in Colorado that represent the largest donation ever to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, about 170,000 acres.
The event drew 560 guests and raised more than $2.4 million.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater, Greg Evans and Craig Seligman on movies.
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