Willie Nelson raises funds for Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (June 5, 2013)


photo:  Associated Press

by: Mike Vilensky

The Four Seasons restaurant, a business crowd and celebrity mainstay in Midtown, has seen any number of boldfaced diners, but a high-profile Four Seasons newcomer showed up on Wednesday: Willie Nelson.

“It’s his first time here, and I hope to welcome him!” said Alex von Bidder, co-owner of the restaurant. “I’m excited—I’m a lifelong fan. I’m sorry I didn’t wear my cowboy hat tonight.”

Mr. Nelson performed at the restaurant that evening for the first in a series of “Cabaret for a Cause” shows benefiting the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a nonprofit helping wounded military personnel and their families. With his band, Willie Nelson & Family, the singer played a one-hour set to a crowded room of over 150 people, raising $60,000 for the organization.

“It’s one thing to be a legend. It’s another to be an icon,” said TV newsman Dan Rather, who introduced Mr. Nelson. He “has made so many albums I frankly lost track.”

The Four Seasons crowd is typically a tactful, genteel bunch. But in this setting, they suddenly revealed their love of live-music and a singer with hits such as “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die.” There was real-estate magnate William Rudin, nodding along to classic country tunes like “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

“I’ve got my bluejeans on,” said Mr. Rudin, who runs Rudin Management Co. “I’m ready to rock out.”

Mr. Rudin gave us a few Four Seasons menu recommendations. “The crab-cakes are excellent,” he said, before adding, “everything’s good!”

The money raised at the event will go toward a campaign to raise $100 million for the construction of new National Intrepid Center of Excellence Satellite Centers, where military personnel can be treated for brain injuries and post-traumatic stress.

Former Navy SEAL Pete Scobell attended the event and touted his time at one of the centers. His thoughts on the evening’s performer? “‘On the Road Again’ pretty much sums up my whole military career,” he said.

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