was the honored guest as the Big Apple’s glitterati jammed Carnegie Hall for the 25th annual birthday gala of the beloved New York Pops, the largest symphonic pops orchestra in the country.
Gossip queen Liz Smith and Denis Leary of Rescue Me cohosted a lively program that included Jay Siegel of the Tokens, known for such huge hits as The Lion Sleeps Tonight and Portrait of My Love; Diana DeGarmo, an American Idol alumna now appearing in Hairspray on Broadway; John Lloyd Young, who plays Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys on Broadway; Lea Salonga, a 1991 Tony winner for her role in Miss Saigon, who has a new album out titled Inspired; Meredith Vieira of NBC’s Today, and Michael Feinstein.
Vieira took the baton and conducted the orchestra in John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever. (Meredith: Don’t give up your Today job.)
Neil Sedaka and Jay Siegel, both from Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, formed a lifelong friendship at Lincoln High School where, in 1955, they formed the Linc-Tones singing group. The Tokens emerged from that group, giving birth to many memorable songs.
Actually, Sedaka says he started writing songs at age 13. Later he got a scholarship to study piano at Juilliard. "My mother was not thrilled when I turned to rock ‘n roll," he says.
"She got used to it when I got a couple of hits. I bought her a mink stole. We called it her Hadassah talis."
Sedaka said that songs are like children. "They live and breathe every time they are sung." He thrilled a packed house as he breathed life in Laughter in the Rain.
Macy’s and Paula and Tom McInerney were honored for their continued support of the New York Pops, which was founded in 1983 by the incomparable Skitch Henderson.