Harvard’s Hasty Pudding Institute honored Sony Pictures Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Lynton with its first-ever “Order of the Golden Sphinx” award Monday night at Manhattan’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
“The award really embodies everything that’s really wonderful about being involved in the performing arts -- what it does for the community, what it does for education,” said Andrew Farkas, chairman of Island Capital Group and Grand Sphinx of the Hasty Pudding Institute. “No one has done more of that in their career than Michael.”
The 350-person dinner raised $1.5 million for the Hasty Pudding Institute, and featured performances by The Hasty Pudding Theatricals, Harvard’s all-male, cross-dressing theater troupe, and the Krokodiloes, its a capella group. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also praised Lynton in a videotaped message in which he expressed his hopes of making New York “the new Hollywood” through increased tax credits.
Lynton received both a bachelor's and a master's in business administration from Harvard, and his studio produced “The Social Network,” the 2010 film in which the university played a starring role. A scene from the movie, re-edited to include Lynton, played during dinner.
In his acceptance speech, Lynton began by downplaying his comedic skills (“I’m not funny. I’m not even pun-ny,” he said, eliciting a few groans), then proceeded to wise crack about of-the-moment subjects like Jeff Zucker, Honey Boo Boo, Sandra Fluke and the pope’s resignation.
One topic he didn’t want to discuss, however, was the controversy surrounding Sony’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” Asked before dinner if he was disappointed with the film’s meager haul at the Academy Awards last week, Lynton was mum.
But Farkas was full of praise: “I think that Michael has stayed very true to his own beliefs. For a studio executive to pander to nobody for anything is an extraordinary thing. He really doesn’t waver for anyone."
Over the years, Hasty Pudding has honored a slew of Hollywood stars including Bob Hope, Claire Danes, Justin Timberlake and Carol Burnett with its man and woman of the year awards. But Lynton is the first Hollywood executive to be honored by the group.
The Hasty Pudding Club, which counts five U.S. presidents among its members, was founded in 1770.