UCI MIND Celebrates Classic Memories

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Joining me at UCI MIND's "Celebrating Classic Memories" Gala were its co-chairs, from left, Sean and Alice Cowell and Tom and Dana Chou

Joining me at UCI MIND’s “Celebrating Classic Memories” Gala were its co-chairs, from left, Tom and Dana Chou and Alice and Sean Cowell

The Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders (UCI MIND) held its fifth annual Time of Your Life Gala in celebration of 25 years of funding research to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. This year’s gala, “Celebrating Classic Memories,” drew on memories from the ’30s and ’40s, with a classic black and white theme, which many of the 250 guests emulated in their dress. The Lyon Air Museum in Santa Ana proved a more than suitable venue, as vintage cars and airplanes from that era were the perfect backdrop for the gala’s theme. Greeting guests on the red carpet was the ever-popular UCI MIND Director of Development and Donor Relations Linda Scheck.

An event highlight was Bill Stout’s Big Band 2000 playing music of the era throughout the cocktail reception, which offered cheese stations paired with either champagne, beer or tequila/whiskey along with a tempting selection of silent auction items featuring pictures of movie stars on item numbers and description boards.

I enjoyed meeting the two young couples who were the gala co-chairs. Sean and Alice Cowell and Tom and Dana Chou volunteered their time because they have been touched by a family member suffering from Alzheimer’s. Tom, whose mother passed away from Alzheimer’s last year, said of UCI MIND, “It’s been a great experience getting to know the organization and what they do.” Alice, whose husband Sean’s mother is suffering from the disease, said, “UCI MIND has been an amazing resource for us.”

The dining area, which was camouflaged throughout the cocktail time by white chiffon draping, revealed a stunning all-white dinner venue with square and rectangular tables covered in white faille with white leather chairs and baby’s breath centerpieces. Asher Entertainment’s performance drew enthusiastic applause as its dancers replicated the exact dance moves from famous classic movie scenes projected on large screens throughout the room. Singing in the Rain was great fun!

Burton Young and Rand Sperry proved engaging masters of ceremonies, with UCI Vice Chancellor of Advancement Gregory Leet espousing UCI’s 50th anniversary and its impressive alumni, who are, as he stated, “a growing force in our community, state, nation, and world.” Three of those alumni were honored at the gala, and introducing them were UCI MIND Co-Directors, Frank La Ferla, Ph.D. and Dean of the Francisco J. Ayala School of Biological Sciences, and Andrea Tenner, Ph.D. The UCI alumni honorees, recognized for their leadership, advocacy and support for Alzheimer’s research, included University of Redlands Professor James B. Pick, Ph.D, Industry Marketing, Caring.com Vice President Shannon Ingram, B.A., and Silverado Care Communities Senior Vice President of Operations Michelle Egerer, M.Ed, B.A.

A powerful video showing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the nation, which featured its devastating statistics, closed with dancers from Asher Entertainment performing the Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, “Love Never Felt So Good.” As they danced, the entire room transformed into color through lighting and a lounge area with colorful furniture was revealed along with a full-on casino area. The Dessert Lab featured customized UCI MIND mini-cheesecakes with a selection of wines presented in test tubes. Very clever! Cake pops and mini-cupcakes were also offered.

Needless to say, the evening continued with guests gambling for a good cause and dancing the night away in celebration of a successful event, which garnered net proceeds of more than $100,000. Kudos to Linda Young and Elite OC Productions for overseeing the gala’s entire production.

Selected photos from Happy Photos

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A Gala to Cherish!

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Joining me at Cystic Fibrosis of Orange County's  31st Annual Cystic Fibrosis Gala were Guild President Sue Hook and CF patient, advocate and gala speaker Stacy Motenko

Joining me at Cystic Fibrosis Guild of Orange County’s 31st Annual Cystic Fibrosis Gala were Guild President Sue Hook and CF patient, advocate and gala speaker Stacy Motenko

I am always touched to the bone by Stacy Motenko. She has spoken of her life with cystic fibrosis for each of the last 14 Cystic Fibrosis Galas. Stacy is now 27 years old, and knows the clock is ticking. The fatal disease affects the lungs and digestive system and because of malfunctions in the sodium chloride channels, thick mucus is produced. The lungs become encompassed, and it makes breathing nearly impossible. Children and adults with CF spend two hours a day hooked up to a machine that vibrates to help loosen the mucous and get rid of it in the lungs. In addition, they take 40 pills a day to keep them alive.

“I was not expected to live long enough to graduate from high school,” Stacy told the 425 guests at this year’s 31st Annual Cystic Fibrosis Gala, held at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa in late May. She has shared with us over the years her struggles with multitudes of iv therapies to boost her immune system, being hospitalized for weeks at a time – many times over the years – with major intestinal blockages, having sinus surgery with six weeks of complications following it, to name a few. With that being said, this brave young girl graduated from high school and college (with honors) and started her career working at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in San Diego. Currently, Stacy is working as a CF advocate at Modern HEALTH Specialty Pharmacy, “so that I can help other CF families navigate this difficult disease,” she said.

Stacy thanked everyone for their love and support over the years. “I learned, while telling my story, that I could conquer challenges and live a meaningful and fulfilling life despite my disease,” she said. “And, I learned, through your example, how important and rewarding it is to help others.”

The other person who always impresses me at the CF Gala is Sue Hook, who began fighting the CF battle for a little boy in her neighborhood when she was in high school. She is a founding member of the the Cystic Fibrosis Guild of Orange County, formed in1982, Guild President for 20 years and running and a trustee of the National CF Foundation for more than 15 years. She doesn’t have children herself, but she knows lots of kids with CF, and she fights for them every day.

Hook presented the guild’s “Breath of Life” award to the Stremick family – parents Nancy & Lou Stremick, and their children and spouses Katie & Dan Horwich, Gianna & Nick Stremick, Julie & Sam Stremick, and Megan & Russ Helgeson. The entire family has raised money to fight CF ever since Katie & Dan’s daughter Ella was diagnosed at 15 months. She is now eight years old. Emma’s uncle and godfather Uncle Nick formed “Team Ella” by running the OC Marathon and raising more than $100,000. The ladies are all guild members, with Katie and Julie chairing the gala’s auction four years running, and the men are constantly making connections for CF. “Collectively, you are dynamic…individually you are each exceptional!” Sue said, as she presented each couple with a pair of Tiffany champagne flutes.

Welcoming everyone were gala co-chairs Gayle & Dan Demsher, another impressive couple, who have chaired the gala six years running and have a 14-year-old son, Connor with CF. Gayle pointed out that when the gala began 31 years ago, the life expectancy of a child born with CF was kindergarten. “Today, the life expectancy has increased to almost 37 years old,” she said, and, speaking of the latest strides in science, she shared, “We have the science that leads to managing this disease, and we are so close!” Dan thanked the generous sponsors – the top donors were American Airlines and BJ’s Restaurants, Inc. – and shared that the Orange County chapter continues to be in the forefront of raising money and awareness for CF, “raising more than $3.6 million this alone,” he said. Wow!

Feisty auctioneer Dawn Marie Kotsonis entreated guests to bid on trips to NYC, Hawaii, Nashville, and France, tickets and accommodations to the Notre Dame/Stanford football classic in South Bend, The Voice tickets, an autographed Kate Perry guitar, and weekend use of a Ferrari from Ferrari & Maserati of Newport Beach and two-night stay at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. The Stremick family offered to match the first $100,000 raised in the Bid for a Cure auction segment, and it was matched and more, raising $239,650 for the cause. Traditional Jewelers in Newport Beach donated a handsome Baume & Mercier men’s watch valued at $4,700, which was won by CF parent and supporter Steve Caro. The really good news? More than $624,000 was raised in net proceeds for CF research and care. The Droppers band packed the dance floor – this is a dancin’ crowd! – and guests let loose with all the built up tension an event like this can bring. One last mention – Walter Urie’s black and white photographs of the CF children and adults shown around the ballroom and in the program book were just beautiful and reminded all of us of the importance of much better treatment and a cure.

The Really Good News: Since the gala, Vertex Pharmaceuticals announced it is going for FDA approval for a drug that will treat CF’s basic genetic defect in 50% of patients. That is phenomenal news!!

Photos by Ashley Swensen and Leana Rakjian

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SOS Onion Luncheon’s 20th Annual Soiree

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Joining me at SOS's 20th Annual Onion Lunch was the lunch founder Kathy Marlowe Thompson

Joining me at SOS’s 20th Annual Onion Luncheon was lunch founder Kathy Marlowe Thompson

I’ve been attending the Share Our Selves’ (SOS) Star Team Onion Luncheon for nearly all of its 20 years, and I really didn’t know until this year that the Star Team and Onion Luncheon founder, Kathy Thompson, had been a Hollywood starlet. Known as Kathy Marlowe in the ’50s and ’60s, the curvaceous beauty starred in dozens of movies and TV shows (see her pinup photo). Later, settling into her life in Newport Beach as the wife of Jerry Thompson and raising three children, two of whom were at the luncheon – April Egbert and Todd Thompson, Kathy turned her attention to philanthropy. Luckily, SOS was the recipient of her largesse.

Kathy and Jerry had been hosting an annual springtime luncheon for many years, where they gave family and friends a gift of Imperial County Sweet Onions, and Kathy prepared and gave out onion recipes, including cream of onion soup and onion ice cream. Twenty years ago, Kathy decided to fundraise for SOS by founding an A Team guild filled with passionate volunteers for the nonprofit and a Star Team guild filled with generous donors and hosting the onion luncheon as a means of fundraising for the nonprofit. Soon, hosting the luncheon in their home in 1994 with 30 guests and 75 pounds of onions demanded a larger venue with the growing number of guests, and the annual event was moved to Five Crowns Restaurant in Corona del Mar. It has remained there since, and with this year’s 20th anniversary celebration, the event boasted 92 guests and 1,000 pounds of Imperial Valley Onions!

So, as in the past, the A Team, for which Kathy is president, hosted the luncheon, which honored the Star Team. Kathy was surprised at the luncheon with a beautiful plaque commemorating her 20 years of service and dedication to SOS. SOS’s Founder Jean Forbath and its Executive Director Karen McGlinn presented the honor to her. Forbath credited the A and Star Teams and Kathy’s efforts for having raised more than $800,000 over the 20 years, including $40,000 from this luncheon.

The luncheon did not disappoint with the Five Crowns’ signature Prime Ribs of Beef, Yorkshire Pudding and Creamed Spinach entree. Neither did the live auction, led by feisty auctioneer Mike Russell and his assistant, the Tompson’s son Todd. They were hilarious together! Jane Taylor scooped up two tickets to SOS’ 24th Annual Celebrity Chef Dinner on November 7th, James Marrietti won 50 pounds of Imperial onions and Laurie Veitch won the darling white gold and diamonds star earrings from William Harold Jewelers. She said the earrings were for her daughter, who just got engaged.

It was left to McGlinn to sum up SOS’ mission of providing care and assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Orange County since 1970. She talked about the homeless lady waiting for Karen at SOS on Christmas Eve, the man who worked at a local car dealership, who had inadvertently run over his son and didn’t have money for his funeral, and the lady in her ’60s caring for her 30-year-old challenged son, who was terminal. “We have created a new tapestry of life,” McGlinn said, “and you have made it possible.” In closing, she said, “Our legacy is our simple acts of kindness.”

Guests departed with a bag of Imperial County Sweet Onions and recipes for cream of onion soup, cheese scalloped onions and Kathy’s famous microwave onions. I had one bit of sadness that day. Link Mathewson, my longtime friend who passed away earlier this year, was not there to enjoy it. She always greeted me with her winsome smile. Luckily, her son Curtis Mathewson and wife Julie were there to represent her.

Selected photos by Gary Bridge

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Balboa Bay Resort’s Wine Festival Draws Enthusiasts

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Joining me at the Balboa Bay Resort's Newport Beach Wine Festival at the Grand Tasting was my wine aficionado friend Mona Nesseth

Joining me at the Balboa Bay Resort’s Newport Beach Wine Festival at the Grand Tasting was my wine aficionado friend Mona Nesseth

It was time for the Balboa Bay Resort’s 11th Annual Newport Beach Wine Festival, and I was ready! I always attend the festival’s Grand Tasting on Saturday evening out of the three-day non-stop wine extravaganza. Mind you, it’s not all about sipping wines. You had a choice of a “Beer at Breakfast” offering, a “Cigars ‘On the Rocks'” evening, and a cooking class with wine pairings besides the master sommelier wine dinner, several wine tasting seminars and an All-American Seafood Festival.

The resort’s Executive Chef Vincent Lesage and Chef de Cuisine Rachel Haggstrom and their crew pulled out all the stops for the Grand Tasting to present a wonderful assortment of foods to complement wines from the 90 wineries assembled for the occasion. The imported cheeses, house made charcuterie (the pepper pate was exceptional!), prosciutto, salami and homemade pickles were delicious, and I always love the assorted sushi and sashimi. Guests lined up at the slider station for both the beef bourgignon and lamb sliders, and the carving station with its New York Prime and leg of lamb was no less popular. The pasta station offered such faves as truffle mac and cheese, seafood ravioli and agnolotti Florentine, and the ahi tuna station was another favorite of many guests. The desserts were spectacular and were presented in a beautiful fashion. I must mention the David Platt Trio, who provided wonderful “sipping” music throughout the soiree.

As to the wine tasting, I took with me my friend Mona Nesseth, a wine aficionado of the highest order, to sip, sip, and sip some more. We loved the artsy labels that Jayson Woodbridge, the winemaker behind Hundred Acre and Layer Cake wines, created for his If You See Kay cabernet sauvignon (see photo) and Cherry Pie pinot noir. Both wines were excellent. We tasted a wonderful ’10 Lancaster cabernet as well as a very nice ’11 Roth pinot noir. Up Santa Barbara way, Summerland Winery poured an excellent ’13 Grenache Rose and ’11 Proprietor’s Reserve pinot noir, while Rodney Strong Vineyards, long a favorite of mine, featured its ’10 Reserve Cabernet and ’11 Symmetry meritage. The vineyard’s representative told me the story of Strong, a former ballet dancer who trained with American Ballet and spent four years dancing in Paris, where he developed a taste for wine. After retiring in 1959 (he said he couldn’t be an old ballet dancer but he could be an old vintner), he purchased Windsor Vineyards, which he renamed Sonoma Vineyards and later Rodney Strong Vineyards in 1980. Sold to Guinness, it became a family-owned winery once again when Tom Klein bought it in 1989. The esteemed winery was named 2013 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. That is a very nice story, isn’t it?

Mona and I particularly enjoyed the ’10 Chateau de la Cour Saint-Emilion Grand Cru and the ’11 Chateauneuf-du-Pape offered by Hi-Time Cellars in Costa Mesa. They were delish! Other reds that stood out were Penfold’s ’12 Cab, “Bin 9,” Etude’s ’12 Lyric pinot noir and Stags Leap’s ’09 petite sirah. And, of course, it wouldn’t be a tasting without champagne. I remembered the Beau Joie champagnes from last year. The bottles are wrapped in copper with lovely cut-out designs. If I sound like I only drink reds, that is not true. I do love a good white wine, but, my dear friend Mona is such a red wine lover that I guess I tasted only reds for the night. Next year, I’ll get some white wines mentioned, I promise!

There was a nice selection of high-end wines in the silent wine auction, with funds raised allocated to the Balboa Bay Club’s Scholarship Fund for local graduating high school seniors. I spotted the Balboa Bay Resort’s General Manager Sam El-Rabaa and is wife enjoying the evening, as well as JC Converse, the resort’s Waterline restaurant GM. Many guests ended up sipping on the terrace and lounging in comfortable sofas and chairs as the tasting wound down. I think I even caught a whiff of cigar. It was that kind of night.

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‘Life Without Limits’ Gala Touches Hearts

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Joining me at the United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County's "Life Without Limits Gala" were Impact Award honorees Dennis Kuhl, Angels Baseball Chairman, Amanda Fowler, representing Edwards Lifesciences, and Dr. Michael Muhonen, CHOC Children's Director of Neurosurgery

Joining me at the United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County’s “Life Without Limits” gala were Impact Award honorees Dennis Kuhl, Angels Baseball Chairman, Amanda Fowler, representing Edwards Lifesciences as its Executive Director of Global Corporate Giving, and Dr. Michael Muhonen, CHOC Children’s Director of Neurosurgery

My heart was touched by Reo Kobayashi and Brianna Pievac when they greeted me at the United Cerebral Palsy of Orange County’s “Life Without Limits Gala.” They were welcoming the 370 guests attending the black and white-themed soiree at the Island Hotel, and their big smiles, while dressed in their party finery, told you what the fundraiser was all about (see photo).  For 60 years, UCP-OC has been serving children with a wide array of disabilities, including cerebral palsy, autism, epilepsy, Down syndrome, and developmental delays. The gala, established six years ago, has raised more than $2.3 million, which is pretty impressive. Add $437,000 to that figure, which was what was netted for the evening, and that’s close to $3 million in seven years.

The gala attracts community leaders and corporate partners who are passionate about the cause. Past honorees include Michael Hayde, Jim Mazzo, Julia and George Argyros and David Pyott. This year’s benefit kept standards high by honoring Angels Baseball Chairman, Dennis Kuhl, a CHOC Children’s Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon and Director of its Neurosurgery Division, Dr. Michael Muhonen, and Edwards Lifesciences. 

Following a tempting silent auction and reception in the ballroom’s foyer, guests gathered in the ballroom for dinner and the awards. Master of ceremonies Tim Brundige warmly welcomed everyone and thanked the gala sponsors, including top sponsors The Allergan Foundation and the Argyros Family Foundation, for their generosity. UCP-OC board member Matthew Maletta introduced the first honoree, his friend, Dennis Kuhl, saying, “Dennis’ impact on children with disabilities in our community is great.” The Chris and Rebecca Arguon family presented Kuhl with the award, in appreciation for the help their daughter Ruby has received at the Bud Kuhl Therapy Room at UCP-OC, named for Dennis’ late father. It was a picture-perfect moment as UCP-OC recipient Azalea played “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on the keyboard to honor Dennis as all the UCP kids attending gathered on the dance floor in red Angels t-shirts. Deeply moved, Kuhl said, “It is such a privilege for me to give back to these kids.”

Dr. Mulhonen’s presentation included testimonials by four of his patients. Sarah Hatch thanked Mulhonen for implanting her with the first Baclofen Pump, which she said enabled her to walk and even run within six weeks of surgery. Paris Taylor’s father spoke for her, concluding with Paris saying, “I love you, Dr. Mulhonen.” Sydney Wyma said, “Thanks to you, Dr. Mulhonen, I have been able to realize my passion of playing the violin,” while Juneau Resnick, who said she had had 10 brain surgeries performed by Dr. Mulhonen, thanked him for performing her most recent one. OCP-OC President/CEO Deborah Levy presented Mulhonen with the award, to which Mulhonen responded, “The CP population is my extended family – my ‘angels of the night,’ according to my wife. I am honored to have four angels on stage with me tonight. So, to my angels,” he said, “thank you for your inspirational stories and thank you for the privilege of caring for you.” As a surprise gift to Mulhonen, Juneau sang a beautiful rendition of “The Rose” (see her photo performing).

Gala co-chairs Jeannette Wistner and Blair Minnis presented the Corporate Impact Award to Edwards Lifesciences, the global leader in the science of heart valves and critical care monitoring, which supports the UCP-OC Early Intervention Program. Receiving the award was John McGrath, Ph.D., who is Edwards’ Corporate Vice President of Quality, Regulatory, Clinical. On stage with McGrath was Chandra Gibson and her daughter Leilani, who we we were told via video she had had her first heart surgery at age nine months and through UCP-OC’s physical therapy programs was making great strides (see mother/daughter photo). McGrath said that Leilani was the recipient of one of its heart valves. “We at Edwards Lifesciences see the incredible work United Cerebral Palsy, Orange County, does,” McGrath said, “and we are proud to support its vision.”

The live auction, overseen by auctioneer Bill Menish, featured a meet & greet with Sarah McLaughlan, golf at Pelican Hill with Dennis Kuhl and Angels great Chuck Finley, a hitting lesson with another Angels great Rod Carew, plus getaways to Lake Tahoe, Hawaii and Chicago. Tickets to a Ducks vs. Kings playoff game that same week sold for $4,000 to an avid hockey fan. The only stipulation was that you be a Ducks fan!

In his closing remarks, Brundige asked that the gala committee, board of directors, staff, and volunteers step onto the dance floor for a collective toast for their commitment to children with disabilities in Orange County. I have to say that was a very clever way to pack the dance floor for the gala’s next phase – dancing to the California Band. It was not wasted! Proceeds benefited UCP-OC’s six major service areas: early intervention, therapy, respite care, inclusive childcare, recreation program, and family support.

Aside: Hats off to the Island’s chef and his staff – dinner was really delicious with sautéed prawns on squash blossom risotto, traditional wedge salad, seared filet and herb crusted Chilean sea bass, and a to-die-for s’more pudding cake with salted ice cream topped with house made marshmallow and graham cracker crisp. Yum!!

Selected photos by Don Didier

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‘Puttin’ on the Glitz’ Great Fun!

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Joining me at the PBS SoCal "Puttin' on the Glitz" gala at The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa was legendary music icon Peter Asher from from famed Peter and Gordon duo in the early '60s

Joining me at PBS SoCal’s “Puttin’ on the Glitz” gala at The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa was legendary music icon Peter Asher

The 2014 PBS SoCal Gala, “Puttin’ on the Glitz,’ was an evening of Old Hollywood glamour. From the craft cocktail reception that featured photo opts next to vintage Rolls Royces and the Swing Dolls entertaining with such ’40s hits as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers featured dancing in one of their black and white film classics as you entered The Hangar at the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, where the gala was held. The Hangar was transformed with its walls draped in red and crystal chandeliers sparkling overhead. The shimmering red lame table tops with floating gardenias in huge glass bowl centerpieces only enhanced the elegant theme. Gala co-chair Kelly Mazzo said of the vintage affair, “I want tonight to be fun,” and it was!

Among the 380 guests was gala committee member Pame Schmider, divinely dressed in an elegant gown, complete with fur wrap, ropes of pearls and the must-have cigarette holder, who had her table guests served Shirley Temples laced with vodka, of course! Schmider was definitely clued in on the “fun” part of the evening! Brad and Janice Hall also took the invitation’s suggestion of wearing old Hollywood glamour attire, with Brad looked dashing in top hat, white tie and tails and Janice in a vintage gown and jewels. I sat at the Charles Laughton table, as each of the tables were named after a Hollywood greats from the past, and I loved it that Hollywood movies from the ’30s were shown during dinner.

PBS’ Antiques Roadshow’s host Mark Walberg, serving as master of ceremonies, extolled PBS for its educational focus, with 1.2 million students participating in its offerings, he said, as well as claiming, “PBS is the most watched station for the arts.” PBS SoCal Board of Trustees President Jim McCluney announced that there are more than 16 million viewers of PBS broadcasts in Southern California – an impressive number! Emmy Award-winning journalist Elizabeth Espinosa and former host of PBS’ SoCal Insider Rick Reiff announced their new collaboration as co-hosts of the new PBS SoCal show “Studio SoCal” and then recognized the PBS SoCal 2013 Community Champions. Acknowledged as individuals and/or organizations for their extraordinary work in the community included Lise Luttgens (Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles), Faye Washington (YWCA of Greater Los Angeles), Jose Ramos (Welcome Home to Vietnam Veterans), Deborah Yim (Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice), Jane Pisano (Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County), The Joyful Child Foundation (represented by Founding Director Erin Runnion), Reverend Michael Mata (for his work designing ministries and community programs), Barbara Carrasco and Harry Gamboa, Jr. (for their work as artists), and Blaire Baron Larsen and Julia Walker Wyson (Los Angeles Drama Club).

The big gala honors were reserved for legendary music industry icon Peter Asher and The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, which were presented by PBS SoCal’s President/CEO Mel Rogers. Asher, founder of the popular British Invasion duo Peter and Gordon, became the first head of The Beatles’ Apple Records label, where he signed a then-unknown James Taylor (Taylor congratulated his “old pal” via video). Later, leading a successful career as a manager and record producer, Asher was involved in the careers of such standouts as Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Carole King, Bonnie Raitt, Cher, Diana Ross, and Neil Diamond. Rogers said in his introduction, “Peter knew anyone who rocked and anyone who mattered.” The recipient of three Grammy Awards, Asher, in accepting the honor, lauded PBS, saying, “I’ve been a PBS subscriber for years. Congratulations!”

Established in 2008, The Grammy Museum is a nonprofit educational and interactive museum, which engages children and adults through permanent and special exhibits and hands-on educational programs. Rogers said of the museum, “It is dedicated to connecting people with the power of music.” Museum Director Robert Santelli accepted the honor, saying, “We transform peoples’ lives and connect with the great American culture in common with PBS.”

Auctioneer extraordinaire Letitia Frye did her magic in the live auction, which saw items like an evening with Peter Asher for 20 guests at Bluewater Grill in Tustin sell twice – at $10,000 a pop. Also offered was an evening for eight guests with PBS Newshour’s Gwen Hill with dinner at the Island Hotel’s Oak Grill ($9,000), an evening for eight guests with CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg with dinner by Chef Justin Davis of South Coast Kitchen ($7,500) and an evening for eight guests with Hollywood and Disney animation producer Don Hahn with dinner in Disneyland Hotel’s Blue Sky Suite ($12,500).

The affair revved into high gear when the live band, JT & Friends (thanks to premier sponsors John and Mary Tu), offered its rock ‘n’ roll and pop fare to pack the dance floor. First up was Asher himself, guitar in hand, to sing Peter and Gordon’s #1 smash hit, “A World Without Love,” written for them by Paul Mc Cartney and celebrating 50 years, as it was released in 1964. Next, Asher performed the Buddy Holly hit that Peter and Gordon recorded called “True Love Ways,” on stage with the late Gordon Waller on video. John Tu’s band (he’s the stoic drummer) rocked the spacious room with hit after hit, including the music of a talented foursome representing the Jersey Boys (i.e. Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons) singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Walk Like a Man.” Rod Stewart look-and-sound-alike dished out some of his signature hits as the night rolled on, as cigars and cognac were offered alfresco.

Guests departed with a generous bag of Arbonne International makeup and skin care products for both men and women, and there was another gift bag in the car with Royal Red Velvet Cupcakes, a PBS license holder and two tickets to The Grammy Museum.

Kudos are due gala co-chairs Kelly and Jim Mazzo and Ardelle St.George and Don Carnegie for heading up the fun affair, which netted $771,000 to benefit countless at-risk kids, teens and prospective graduates through PBS SoCal’s American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative to help students stay on the path to graduation and future success.

Fun Aside: I ran into Patricia Ward Kelly, the widow of the late, great dancing icon Gene Kelly. My Old Hollywood Glamour experience was complete!

Selected photos by Craig Mathew

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Saddleback Medical Center Gala Inspires!

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Joining me at the Saddleback Memorial Foundation's "A Celebration of Hope" gala was it chair Bebe Shaddock

Joining me at the Saddleback Memorial Foundation’s “A Celebration of Hope” gala was its chair Bebe Shaddock

Bebe Shaddock is an inspiration! She is a beautiful lady who has a passion for Saddleback Memorial Medical Center. Having served as past chairman of the Saddleback Memorial Foundation, she chaired its annual spring gala, “A Celebration of Hope,” in May at The Ritz-Carlton Resort in Dana Point. Bebe, having been a patient herself at the hospital and having lost her dear husband there, says, “My husband was in the best of hands. I have friends whose lives have been saved there. I feel the hospital is a safe place, both physically and emotionally.”

The sold-out gala, attended by nearly 500 people, included physicians, corporate sponsors, the senior leadership of both the medical center and foundation, and many grateful patients and their families. The celebratory affair toasted the opening of Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s MemorialCare Cancer Institute, which just opened this past Saturday, to which SMMC’s CEO Steve Geidt said, “It will move us to the next generation of cancer services.” Geidt thanked the many generous supporters who made the cancer institute a reality, in particular, Laguna Woods resident and longtime hospital supporter Gary Damsker for his seven-figure donation in naming the Damsker Family Pavillion.

The live auction, led by masterful auctioneer Zach Krone, featured some hot items, among them the First Car at Valet, which sold twice to Diane and Dwight Devlin and Aileen and Kevin Grant (Aileen is a SMF board member). The VIP Parking also saw two takers at $3,250 each. The winners, who were allowed a designated parking spot in front of the hospital’s main lobby for one year with free car washes, included Sea View Pediatric Medical Associates’ Dr. Mary Ann Wilkinson and Dr. Mary O’Toole, who is with Orange Coast Women’s Medical Group and was a gala committee member. But, the piece de resistance, as far as I was concerned, was the Pies You Can’t Buy item. It seems Steve Geidt is a fabulous pie maker and has offered a pie a month for one year at previous galas. The popular offering sold twice to Dr. William and Cheri Wallace (Dr. Wallace is with South Orange County Surgical Medical Group) and Pam and Peter Pellizzon (Peter is with Hollencrest Capital Management). Both couples paid $3,000 for the pies!

During the “Gifts from the Heart” portion of the evening, Saddleback Memorial Medical Center’s Chaplain Anette Rihovsky spoke about the compassionate care patients receive at SMMC by the physicians and nursing staff. She shared her personal experiences dealing with cancer through her aunt’s passing at a young age and her husband George’s bout with it. Thankfully in remission, she said George, who was a cancer patient at SMMC, was treated with dignity and respect.

Monies raised in the Fund-A-Need portion of the evening were designated for the cancer institute’s outdoor healing Garden of Hope, which will provide a respite from the stress of cancer for patients and their families. More than $60,000 was raised towards the garden, which is being designed and landscaped by Roger’s Gardens, represented by Karin and Barry Fulton and Laura and Chuck Belville at the gala.

Others making remarks included Saddleback Memorial Foundation President Cecilia Belew and its Board of Director Chair Bill Phillips. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the heartfelt video, “A Celebration of Hope,” which was shown early on in the evening. It featured the personal journeys of five grateful cancer patients, plus one granddaughter of a patient, and touched hearts. Those highlighted included Josh Snyder (age 40, bladder cancer), Dr. Marc Winter (age 55, breast cancer), Barbara Werth (age 48, breast cancer), David Chadwich (age 59, lung cancer), Cheryl Tempel (age 60, ovarian cancer), and Dr. Leila Rasouli (the granddaughter whose grandmother Alice was cared for at SMMC).

The Derek Bordeaux Band was the perfect finale for the inspiring evening, and the packed dance floor proved it. The gala netted $230,000 for the new MemorialCare Cancer Institute. Philllips announced next year’s gala date at The Ritz-Carlton: Saturday, April 25, 2015. Bebe was all smiles!

For the Record: Saddleback Memorial Medical Center is a member of the MemorialCare Health System and was named Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report for the past three years. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System is comprised of five top hospitals: Long Beach Memorial, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Community Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial in Fountain Valley, and Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills and San Clemente.

Selected photos by Paul Gero

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Farewell to an Amazing Man!

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Joining me at the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's "60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner" honoring its beloved President/Artistic Director Dean Corey (pictured)

Joining me at the Philharmonic Society of Orange County’s “60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner” honoring its beloved President and Artistic Director Dean Corey (pictured)

I know a lot has been written and voiced in the past year about the departure of the beloved leader of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. Dean Corey was the “Man for all Seasons” at the Philharmonic for 21 glorious years. He steered the nonprofit through some perilous times (that goes without saying in the nonprofit arts world!) but mostly just putting the organization on the map for hosting the world’s top conductors, orchestras, solo artists, chamber groups, and choral ensembles. I can’t thank him enough for that. Having a degree in music myself and, thus an appreciation for experiencing the finest musical performances, it was a terrific 21 years!

After all the accolades, the Philharmonic saluted Dean one last time at its “60th Anniversary Celebration Dinner” with a tribute to him as its President and Artistic Director extraordinaire. Held at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, the evening drew 194 guests, including some of Dean’s performing arts friends – Irvine Barclay’s Doug Rankin, Segerstrom Center’s Terry Dwyer, Baroque Music Festival’s Burton Karson, past Segerstrom Center President Jerry Mandel, and Chapman’s Musco Center for the Arts’ William Hall. I even spotted the Philharmonic Society’s second Executive Director Erich Vollmer, who preceded Dean.

Philharmonic Society Board Chairman/CEO Noel Hamilton welcomed everyone and announced that the $1 million challenge grant offered by a generous anonymous friend of the Philharmonic Society a year ago had been met and that a new matching challenge grant of $250,000 was being provided by Jim and Catherine Emmi to continue the 60th anniversary gifts. The Emmis were presented medals welcoming them into the Society’s esteemed group of Esterhazy Patrons. Hamilton then announced that the Society was establishing a fund in Dean’s honor called the Dean Corey Fund for Artistic Excellence and Innovation that will support future program growth.

Sabra Bordas, the Philharmonic Society’s immediate past board chairman, recognized event chair Kathy Hamilton and her committee for orchestrating the evening with its springtime in Paris theme, in tribute to Dean and Kaly’s retirement destination in a little village in the south of France. The French-themed dinner with escargot and a beef tenderloin entree topped with Bearnaise and red wine sauces was delicious, and Youngsong Martin’s Wildflower Linen’s provided elegant green silk tables covers topped with silver sequined overlays, white chiffon/green ribboned chair covers and purple, pink and white floral centerpieces. It was a lovely ballroom!

In lieu of the 60th anniversary, Bordas asked the following to stand – past board of director chairs, past presidents of the 800-member strong Volunteer Committees, current board of directors members, the Esterhazy Patrons, and concert series sponsors, which included the Segerstrom Foundation, Shanbrom Family Foundation, Sam Ersan, and the Donna L. Kendall Classic Series. And, in conclusion, Bordas thanked the Golden Baton group of donors, “who consistently support the Society,” she said.

Preceding a black and white 60th Anniversary Video showcasing the Philharmonic Society’s history, Hamilton opined on the Society’s beginnings in 1954, “Orange County boasted some of the fastest growing cities in the nation, but we still didn’t have a freeway. Walt Disney was still planning his Magic Kingdom, From Here to Eternity won the Oscar for Best Picture, and a group of music-loving Orange county citizens gathered in Elaine Redfield’s living room to lay the groundwork for the Philharmonic Society.” The group firmly believed that Orange County citizens needn’t have to depend on Los Angeles-based cultural organizations for their artistic needs but that the best could be offered here. Within its first decade, according to Hamilton, the Society transitioned from being an orchestra to a presenting organization and within two years of its founding, dedicated committees of volunteers sprang up to support the the Society’s youth music programs, which continue today to educate and enlighten 150,000 students annually.

Following Grammy-nominated French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s endearing performance of Chopin nocturnes, a Brahms intermezzo and a special request from Dean for Claude Debussy’s “Clair de Lune,” three people offered tributes to Dean. Judith Jelinek, President of the Committees when Dean arrived in 1993, spoke for all the volunteer committee members when she said, “Thanks for the memories.” Mitzi Tonai, who served as the Society’s Director of Development for 18 of Dean’s 21 years, spoke for the staff when she said, “We admired your creative mind, even when you deviated from the agendas, and loved your great sense of humor and endless ‘Deanerisms.’ Your infectious laugh always lifted our spirits.” Don Evarts, past board president, said, “Dean, you have put us on the international map and have enriched our lives and been an inspiration to all of us.”

Hamilton and Bordas presented Dean with the Society’s greatest honor, the Golden Baton Award, after which Dean recognized the Philharmonic Society of Orange County staff, one by one, and then had some advice for the future of the Society and classical music in general. “Give your new president a lot of support and make him feel welcome, as you did to me 21 years ago,” he said. “Keep the quality high,” he said, regarding the musical presentations, the program for young people and the trust of the ticket buyers and contributors. “And, enthusiastically embrace technology. It is the greatest tool for furthering our mission that has ever come along.” Concluding, Dean said, “Love the music, live the music and pass it on.”

It was left to Hamilton and board member Dave Rosenberg to offer a champagne toast to the revered retiree. “Dean’s wonderful stories and his love of life have made him a delightful leader and companion on this musical journey – whether it’s sharing a meal, a bottle of wine or embarking on a musical adventure in the U.S. or abroad,” Hamilton said. Dave added, “As Michael Levine said of Dean in the introduction of Dean’s book, Beethoven, The Late Great, ‘one day at a performance of Mahler in tuxedo, the next day at a football game in jeans and a ball cap’ – wide grin on his face at both, having the time of his life and making those around him feel welcome and happy and comfortable. Dean is indeed a rare human being and will be missed.”

As I write this, Dean and Kaley have just departed for France and their new life. With the internet making everyone so available these days, we will definitely keep up with them – many in person, since the Coreys have invited any and all to visit them – but, I for one, will miss seeing the man in person with his thatch of white hair and horn-rimmed glasses, always a little askew, and his beautiful dissertations on classical music only he can impart. And, no one can tell a story like Dean! He truly is a bon vivant and raconteur of the highest order! Continue to love life, my friend, and farewell, until we meet again.

Selected photos by Nick Koon

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Neiman Marcus Hosts JDRF’s Dream Guild

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Joining me at the JDRF Dream Guild soiree at Neiman Marcus were, from left, event co-chair Elyse Roberts, Dream Guild outgoing President Analisa Albert and incoming President Pamela Lowry, and event co-chair James Cueva

Joining me at the JDRF Dream Guild soiree at Neiman Marcus were, from left, event co-chair Elyse Roberts, Dream Guild outgoing President Analisa Albert and incoming President Pamela Lowry, and guild member and champagne sponsor James Cueva

Members of The Dream Guild have two things in common: they are fashionistas and they are committed to raising funds to treat and cure Type 1 diabetes. Supporters of JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), the support group plans fundraisers throughout the year to do just that. The latest effort was the guild’s Spring Fling Membership Luncheon, hosted by Neiman Marcus in the luxury store’s digs at Fashion Island.

The soiree commenced in the store’s shoe salon on Level One with a champagne reception and the opportunity to try on some of the hottest shoes by name shoe designers in the business. Event chairs Elyse Roberts and Neiman Marcus’ Director of Public Relations Michaele Hall were busy greeting the 90 guests, as was outgoing Dream Guild Board President Analisa Albert and incoming President Pamela Lowry. Following the reception, guests gathered on Level Two for a delicious luncheon (loved the Mariposa popover!!) and 2014 Spring fashion presentation. The tables were exquisite, thanks to Young Martin’s Wildflower Linen table covers and napkins, which were a rich brocade print (see photo). The huge pink cabbage roses and green hydrangeas were the perfect accent. Neiman Marcus Vice President/General Manager Leyla Vokhshoori welcomed everyone, and Albert thanked her board’s efforts for the year in netting more than $120,000 for JDRF. She named all the members present with a Type 1 diabetes connection, which included Toni Berlinger (grandson), Mary Allen (granddaughter), Julie Hellmers (two children), Stacie Brewster (daughter), Elyse Roberts (nephew), Cate Gunn (herself), Beth Bidna (mother), Ann Winthrop (daughter), Carol Crawford (two grandchildren), Anne Grey (husband), and Amy Zaharek (daughter). Winthrop, who is JDRF Board President, said that JDRF is not just “juvenile” anymore. “Fifty percent of those with Type 1 diabetes are adults,” she said.

Michaele Hall, a founding Dream Guild member, commentated the spring fashions as the stylish models strutted their stuff for the elegant crowd. Hall said the trends for spring, according to Neiman Marcus, include the color pink, in all shades – “from blush to anything but shy,” she said. Backpacks are the bag of the season. Artistic prints are a huge influence – from digital and geometric to floral and tribal, and summer booties with open toes, straps and cutouts are de rigueur. Mixing jackets with other looks is big, and a long white shirt is a considered very stylish. Tops and pants are shortened with midriffs bared and short shorts a heavy trend. Denim, from head to toe, is called “rocking the blues,” and stacks of bracelets continue to be a major statement in accessories. And, finally, white with black accents (not black and white) holds forth as a major trend for the season.

The fashionable affair concluded with Julie Hellmer’s mother-in-law, Carol Crawford, giving $10,000 in honor of her grandchildren, who have Type 1 diabetes. The gesture touched hearts. NeimanMarcus1-01 NeimanMarcus2-01 NeimanMarcus3-01 NeimanMarcus4-01 NeimanMarcus5-01NeimanMarcus6-01NeimanMarcus7-01NeimanMarcus8-01NeimanMarcus9-01

Local Soiree Benefits Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area

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Joining me at Newport Beach Lifestyle's benefit for Boys & Girls Club of Newport Harbor??? were, from left, """""""", Newport Beach Lifestyle publisher Randy Harding, ??????? and ??????

Joining me at Newport Beach Lifestyle’s benefit for Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area  were, from left, the club’s Senior Director of Athletics Brian Dolan, Newport Beach Lifestyle’s Publisher Randy Harding, the club’s Senior Director of Education Angela Gomez, Senior Area Director Nicole DeLoach

Newport Beach Lifestyle magazine, led by Publisher Randy Harding, hosted a fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area recently at a lovely estate in the Harbor Ridge area of Newport Beach. Guests enjoyed an evening filled with hosted wine, food and live music, courtesy of Orange Coast Winery, Wilma’s Patio, The Dessert Lab, and Vaughn Fahie Jazz.

I have to say Fahie played some smokin’ hot jazz on his trusty saxophone, and as to the food, Balboa Island’s Wilma’s Patio’s appetizers were delish, especially the guacamole, while the Dessert Lab’s peanut butter and jelly cheesecake was to die for! Collin Daly, manager of Orange Coast Winery, was busy pouring the tasty vino, and Kendra Scott, the Fashion Island jewelry store, was giving away jewelry! There was nobody happier than Catherine Rudat from Newport Beach, who loved her new Kendra Scott turquoise-colored earrings (see photo).

Bob Bibee, representing Pedego Electric Bikes in Irvine, sparked the interest of guests, as he had a brand new electric bike to show them. Adriana Bernales and Marie Claire Obregon showcased jewelry from their D’Combe Jewelry line, while author Faye Kitariev was representing her new book, “Choreography of Awakening,” which was hot off the press. She said the book shared the world of competitive figure skating and how the elements which create a medal-winning performance can transform your life.

Brian Dolan, Boys & Girls Club of the Harbor Area’s Senior Director of Athletics, was all-smiles as he talked about the club having the distinction of being the oldest Boys & Girls Club in Orange County. He said the club offers youth development services to Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine, and surrounding areas. Founded in 1941, the club’s Senior Director of Education Angela Gomez said there are 400 youth who participate in after-school activities and summer camps in their four clubs. “We provide quality youth development services to guide and inspire each individual who walks through our doors,” Senior Area Director Nicole DeLoach said. The silent auction proceeds at the event were given to the harbor area club.

All the while, Newport Beach Lifestyle Publisher Randy Harding and Editor Lysa Christopher were delighted to be hosting a party for such a good cause. Harding said the magazine will be one-year-old in July and represents 20 lifestyle magazines nationwide. “We deliver Newport Beach Lifestyle to 14,000 affluent homes throughout Newport Beach,” he said. It seems the magazine’s advertisers are very happy, as John Giannone, Medical Director at Newport Animal Hospital, attested. “We’re thrilled with the response from our advertising in Newport Beach Lifestyle,” he said.

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