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R S V P : A Tireless Giver to Breast-Cancer Research


As people started lining up, holding three, four books apiece and insisting that she sign every one of them before she even so much as popped a pea pod in her mouth or had a drink, Evelyn Lauder was utterly unfazed.

Never mind that it was dinner time and she had been wearing the same beige Giorgio Armani suit since she boarded a plane in Boston early that morning. Launching her book of nature photographs, "The Seasons Observed," said Lauder--who already had made similar appearances in four cities and had 18 more to go--was easier than doing the cosmetics rounds.

"When Leonard and I do a trip to see the accounts, it's so much faster," the Estee Lauder Cos.' senior corporate vice president explained Wednesday night at the home of Vanity Fair magazine contributing editor Wendy Stark and her husband, John Morrissey. Lauder's husband, Leonard, is the company's president and chief executive officer and was en route to New York from a business trip in the Far East.

Earlier that day, Lauder estimates, she signed 70 copies per hour at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. All of her royalties from the book will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which she founded last year. The year before, Lauder was the force behind opening the Evelyn H. Lauder Breast Center at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital in New York.

The daughter-in-law of cosmetics queen Estee Lauder was in the sell mode now. "I saw your beautiful bride at lunch," she chirped to a man who must have walked down the aisle in 1945.

When a kindly aide arrived, asking her if perhaps she'd like a chair, Lauder replied, "I can stand. I can stand on my head ."

Why the push? "That is to try to sell the book and raise money for the foundation," she said.

Perhaps it was no surprise that women outnumbered men at the party. Among the guests were Joanna Poitier, Jane Semel, Michelle Phillips, Connie Wald, Barbara Davis, Stephanie Barron, Carla Kirkeby, Lynn Vandifrif, Van Venneri, Annie Gilbar, Ginny Mancini and Shirlee Fonda as well as Justine and Robert Bloomingdale, Nancy and Tim Vreeland, Jayne and Henry Berger, Gary Pudney, Jane and Marc Nathanson, and Ed and Danna Ruscha.

"I'm very much interested in breast-cancer research, having gone through a bit of a scare myself," Marsha Hobbs said. "All of us feel the statistics are such that you want to help the research."

"It's an issue that really affects us and our children. I have three daughters," said Ann Jones, wife of Foreigner's Mick Jones.

"I want to get a whole batch of books and give them as Christmas presents with a little note saying, 'It is a pleasure to give you this beautiful book because it has a special meaning.' Every gesture makes a difference."

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