By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
Over 1000 guests flew in from all over the globe for nightlife impresario/ philanthropist/entrepreneur (Swiss Army Knife) Michael Capponi’s 40th birthday party benefit at Capitale in New York City on May 4- a veritable who’s who of the city’s top nightlife heavyweights, models, celebrities and promoters. No stranger to extravagant birthday bashes, Capponi has celebrated past birthdays in a tree-house mansion in Nygard Cay; aboard a pirate ship at the now defunct Jimbo’s; and in an airplane hangar at Opa Locka airport to name a few. We had no doubt that Capponi would pull out all the stops for his latest milestone, which, as expected, would require an airplane ride.
This year’s Jacmel Carnaval themed event shone a spotlight on Capponi’s progress in providing quality education, diverse vocational training, industry development and job creation in Haiti throughout his 60 trips to the island nation since the devastating earthquake in January 2010. Capponi created the Haiti Empowerment Mission, to which Capponi’s guests donated a whopping $120, 000.
The grand affair, hosted by Donna Karan and Maria Bello was co-hosted by prominent nightlife industry figures, Mark Birnbaum and Eugene Remm of EMM Group, Richie Akiva and Ronnie Madra of Butter Group, Valmira Mavraj and Sarah Bromley of VIEvents, Jeffrey Jah and Mark Baker of The Double Seven; and Seth Greenberg, Valerie Post, Peri Callimanopulos, and Dayssi Kanavos, who along with special guests including The Today Show’s style contributor, Jill Martin, New York Fashion Week producer, Fern Mallis, and Consul General of Haiti in New York, Charles Forbin enjoyed an evening filled with performances by Jacmel Carnaval dancers, authentic Haitian cuisine, cocktails and music by Haitian musicians Melky Jean and DJ Jus-Ske. Silent auction items included works by Peter Tunney and Haitian artist, Philippe Dodard (both in attendance) and nightlife experiences at exclusive clubs such as LIV, Set, and Lavo, and a night out with Michael himself. Ludus, Marquis Vodka, Capponi Construction Group and Capitale sponsored the party, so that 100% of the evenings proceeds could go to the foundation.
After a VIP cocktail reception and silent auction, the glamorous crowd moved to the main ballroom for the party where Capponi gave an emotional speech highlighting the importance of the Haiti Empowerment Mission. He gave special recognition to Donna Karan, saying, “I’ve been with Donna many times in Haiti, she is an incredible inspiration to me, someone I really look up to, admire and hope to emulate one day. Donna always talks about death and birth. When there is the death of something there is the birth of something else. Ironically my 40th birthday party is here with all of you in New York City. In my long nightlife career, we got caught up at a very young age which led to troubles, addictions, and loss of businesses, reputations, friends and dignity, things had gotten so bad for me that I found myself homeless and in the blizzard of 1996, in the streets of the East Village, begging to buy drugs, today nothing makes me more proud to have overcome that and channel my energy and my past addictions into creating real positive change for this world.”
photo credit: World Red Eye
Capponi thanked his friends for their overwhelming support, for flying in from so many cities to celebrate this milestone birthday, which he wished was his thirtieth, and encouraged the crowd to plan a trip to Jacmel, Haiti, when the time is right and the infrastructure, new roads and airport are in place. “Haiti is one of the most beautiful countries in the world- its beaches are on par with some of the greatest destinations. The culture, the arts and crafts and the music is something so special that I am almost at a loss to explain it to you, but one day when you all visit Haiti you will understand.”
“I promise you that Haiti will have a great impact on your life, there is something so magical about it, that nowhere else in the Caribbean you will find. It’s the true, last remnants of an African civilization in our hemisphere.”
He closed the speech by thanking his beautiful mother, Danoushka Capponi, who “has been through all of it with me, thick and thin.”
Then, to the sounds of pounding drums, Capponi presented the annual Jacmel Carnaval, one of the most famous carnivals in Haiti, led by Algeba and the Brooklyn Recycle Project. Haitian musician, Melky Jean performed as native Haitian dancers, wearing colorful Carnaval attire, playing horns, and hoisting large paper mache faces in the air, led the masked crowd in an impromptu conga line around the huge space.
To make a donation or for more information about the Haiti Empowerment Mission, email: Danouska@haitiempowermentmission.com.
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