The musician devoted his performance at The Breast Cancer Research Foundation benefit at the Waldorf Astoria to her

By Jeffrey Slonim
Updated December 01, 2020 11:35 PM
Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty

Introduced by Elizabeth Hurley, Sir Elton John played a riveting performance at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on Tuesday, pounding out hit after hit on the keyboard of a thundering grand piano. The benefit’s cause – the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which fights to eradicate breast cancer – recently hit home for the musician.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I lost my best friend last year, and it doesn’t seem possible that she’s not with me anymore,” John, 69, said onstage during the annual Hot Pink Party for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, a black tie gala.

As he spoke, images of Ingrid Sischy, former editor of Artforum and Interview, who had also written for The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, were shown onscreen. She died of breast cancer in July of 2015. While seated at dinner earlier, with bodyguards stationed behind them, John at times had his arm around Sischy’s partner Sandy Brant. At one point, he raised his hand and donated $50,000 to the cause, sponsoring two months of breast cancer research.

“But she is with me,” John, who has supported the charity since the outset 14 years ago, later suggested onstage. “Because of her partner for life, Sandy Brant. And I’d like to pay tribute to Ingrid tonight by mentioning her.”

Ironically, John also pointed out that Sischy wouldn’t have liked the attention.

“She’d hate that,” he said. “Because she said that she’s just one of millions of people in this world who have this disease. And it’s because of this wonderful organization that raises money every year that goes to research to help people not have this disease – so Ingrid didn’t die in vain. She dies to help other people. And I love her and I miss her. And I want to pay tribute to all of you out there who have his disease.”

He then crooned powerful renditions of “Tiny Dancer,” “Levon,” and “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”

“This one’s for Ingrid,” John said, before ripping into “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

Finally, he introduced “Circle of Life” by offering, “This says everything about what’s going on tonight and how we feel about each other,” ending with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?”

It was unmistakable.