Last Saturday night, hundreds of revelers clad in black-tie apparel packed the John Russell Pope mansion, home to the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity, for the bi-annual Victory Club Charity Ball.
A red carpet greeted partygoers at the door and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Reminiscent of eras past, tables of blackjack and roulette were dispersed throughout the mansion and the solarium served as a bar and lounge where guests could relax after dancing and gambling.
“I think it’s really, really classy and upscale,” said Larry Collica ’05, a member of Cayuga’s Waiters, one of the musical groups that performed for attendees. “Sometimes I feel like I’m in another place.”
Outdoing the general fraternity party at Cornell, the charity ball included girls who grazed the floor carrying trays of cigarettes and beverages and a limousine waited at the door to whisk attendees home at the end of the night.
Johnny Russo performed throughout the evening and Bernie Milton played into the early hours of Sunday morning. In addition to Cayuga’s Waiters, Hearsay also sang at the event.
“As for what was different this year, we focused on refining the event and making the evening more comfortable for our patrons,” said George Doerre ’04, an organizer of the charity ball. “Some of the improvements [from the red carpet to extra training sessions for volunteer-dealers ] this year represent investments in materials that will appear in Victory Clubs in following years,”
Johnny Russo, who has performed at Victory Club for 23 years, said that he believes this year’s party was the best he had ever attended.
Perhaps the most successful of any Victory Club in recent memory, this spring’s party raised more money than any event in the last 15 years. While specific counts have not yet been tallied, the party grossed over $11,900 — about two-thirds from ticket sales — and the net profit reached approximately $5,000, according to Tom Chandy ’03, one of the event organizers.
Proceeds from the event — ticket revenue and gambling losses — will go to benefit the revitalization of Ithaca’s Northside neighborhood. The Northside Steering Community, in conjunction with a city planning class at Cornell, has proposed several measures to revive the area by improving the aesthetic appearance of the local P&C grocery store, adding a community center, initiating a HEADSTART program, and creating a community park.
Cathy Carswell ’03, attended Victory Club to celebrate her birthday and commented on the event.
“It’s great fun. I’ve been very excited all week long for it,” she said on her way to the gambling tables.
Many attendees said that they consider Victory Club a necessary step before leaving Cornell.
“I’ve never had a chance to go and I’m graduating so I thought I might as well check it out,” said Rodney Martin ’02. “I’ve never seen anything like it in college.”
However, Martin pointed out that the plastic cups, though full of champagne, evoked images of less refined fraternity parties.
Martin also commented In regard to gambling for charity.
“It’s interesting,” he said. ” My church does bingo. I don’t really have an opinion. I like charity in general.”
In addition to the first-time partygoers, many guests were experienced Victory Club attendees, lured back by memories of past events.
Mike Brown ’02, a Victory Club veteran, was drawn to the event by, “the opportunity to spend a classy evening on the town in the company of a gorgeous woman and to lose significant amounts of money for a good cause.”
In comparison to past Victory Clubs, Brown said, “I feel older now, like some sort of James Bond character than like some kid with a poorly-fitted rental tux.”
Victory Club began during World War I to raise profits for the purchase of allied Victory war bonds and the philanthropic party has taken place bi-annually periodically since then. The success of this spring’s event seemed to extinguish any fears about the future longevity of Victory Club raised in past few years.
Archived article by Laura Rowntree