Ron Delsener’s Gala Birthday

Ron Desener returned to the scene of the crime, so to speak, at New York City’s Central Park SummerStage June 20 to be honored for not only helping make the city’s parks summer destinations instead of places to be avoided, but also for his upcoming 80th birthday.

Photo: Michael Seto
Ron Delsener acknowledges a crowd of about 1,000 who turned out to honor him during the New York City Parks Foundation’s annual gala at Central Park’s SummerStage.

“They threw me out of Central Park 35 years ago; I’m back tonight!” Delsener said in accepting an award for a career that helped transform NYC, Bloomberg reported.

The gala was a fundraiser for the City Parks Foundation, which pocketed a cool $1.1 million from the event to help bring free music to NYC’s open spaces. Tickets started at $1,500 and topped out at $50,000 for a VIP table for 10 – a far cry from Delsener’s first $1 per ticket concerts in the park in the 1960s.

Delsener was feted onstage by a few friends – including Jon Bon Jovi, Peter Yarrow, Idina Menzel, and Father Guido Sarducci. They were backed by a band led by Paul Shaffer and including saxophone master David Sanborn and others who performed a concert after the obligatory speeches and fundraising auctions of ticket packages, according to American music preservation journal Elmore Magazine.

Nancy Hoving, a well-known philanthropist and wife of former NYC Parks Commissioner Thomas Hoving, introduced Delsener as one who helped bring people into the city’s 40,000 acres of park space at a time they were considered dangerous. A video of Delsener giving a musical history tour of Central Park followed, interspersed with news clips and concert footage of historic shows including Elton John, Tina Turner, and Simon and Garfunkel.

Delsener was the recipient of several standing ovations during his at times emotional speech, described as “colorful” by Elmore and including several anecdotes from a long and distinguished career that continues from his perch as chairman of Live Nation NYC.