Wow! What a Night!!

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Joining me at Chapman University's 32nd Annual American Celebration are its gala chairs Twyla and Chuck Martin

Joining me at Chapman University’s 32nd Annual American Celebration are its gala chairs Twyla and Chuck Martin

AmCel, the shortened name for American Celebration if you’re a Chapman University supporter, was another win-win fundraiser for the revered institution. It not only raised $2.2 million for college scholarships and financial aid, it also bestowed a Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award on the Bridges acting family – including the late and famous father, Lloyd Bridges, and his two sons Beau and Jeff Bridges. Beau, who is currently starring in the CBS-TV comedy, “The Millers,” and his family attended to accept the honor for the family (their son Zeke is a student at Chapman’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts). Also recognized as the university’s Citizens of the Year were longtime Chapman supporters Suki and Randy McCardle, two of the most engaging and philanthropic people you will ever meet.

Add a spectacular performance by more than 100 talented students from the university’s College of Performing Arts telling “The Chapman University Story” in song and dance, as well as a magnificent dinner dance in a stunning see-through gala tent alongside Memorial Hall, where the students performed, and you have experienced one of the most popular black-tie galas the county espouses. I know. I’ve been to all of them!

This year’s extravaganza was chaired by a terrific couple, Twyla and Chuck Martin, who are longtime Chapman supporters. They started working on AmCel right after the past gala and never wavered from their commitment to raise of lot of money for Chapman, make it a fun affair with a minimum of speeches and to introduce a fabulous online luxury auction filled with fairytale offerings, including exotic trips to the Caribbean, Thailand, Tuscany, and a cattle ranch in Montana. Add to that an Iron Chef showdown between Chapman President Jim Doti and Chef Alessandro Pirozzi of Cucina Alessa fame in a pizza cook off. It’s an Italian thing!

Speaking of President Doti, he once again made his annual “surprise” appearance in the students’ musical production, this time as Liberace, complete with the sparkly suit, cape and black pompadour toupee, dancing with Chapman supporter Julia Argyros to “Hello Doti.”

One of the best moments at the event was when Beau Bridges came on stage right after the hour-long student performance for the award honors and said, “You could be on 42nd St. and Broadway (in New York) and not see a better show!”

I must make a comment about the gala dinner dance. The Italian-style four-course feast with its osso buco entree was delicious, and the silver and gold decor under woodland canopies of gold eucalyptus branches was magical.

Before I sign off, I did want to mention that actress Connie Sellecca and her dashing musician/radio and television personality husband John Tesh were one of the 800+ guests. They were very impressed with the student production. Also, President Doti acknowledged the recent $15 million gift from longtime Chapman supporters Harry and Diane Rinker, whose gift will name Chapman’s new health science campus in Irvine. The gifts keep coming. It’s pretty amazing what’s happening at Chapman.

In short, Chapman University’s 32nd Annual American Celebration was a showstopper!

Selected photos courtesy of Chapman University

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A Fantastic Wine Tasting for a Great Cause

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Your truly enjoying The Wooden Floor's Seventh Annual "Keep the Promise" wine tasting benefit

Yours truly enjoying The Wooden Floor’s Seventh Annual “Keep the Promise” wine tasting benefit

The Wooden Floor, the award-winning dance, academic and family services nonprofit that delivers hope and opportunity to 375 low-income youth annually, has hosted a top-drawer wine tasting for years. I attended the inaugural one at its Santa Ana studios, and it was an impressive effort, with stellar vintages featured and lots of money raised to help young students aspire beyond the grip of the poverty cycle. There was always a reason I couldn’t attend any of the successive fundraisers until the seventh annual “Keep the Promise” wine tasting at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach.

I was very glad I did. The sold-out event drew 280 wine lovers and avid supporters, who were able to blind taste 14 highly-rated, hard-to-find wines from around the world. Each one was hand-selected, with the help of Big Canyon’s Master Sommelier Steven Poe, and graciously donated by honorary co-chairs and premier sponsors John and Janice Markley.  John loves good wine and the couple has a very impressive cellar to prove it. They have combined their love of wines (they have donated the wines for the wine tasting every year) with their love of The Wooden Floor to create a major fundraiser for the nonprofit. You can tell from the smiles on their faces and the passion with which they speak about the organization that they are committed to the cause.

Mona Nesseth, my wine aficionado friend, attended with me, and we had a great time tasting and guessing the wines we were sipping at each of the 14 wine stations. However, neither of us won. Joe and Monica Guillena placed 1st and 2nd, respectively, in the blind tasting competition. They are Wooden Floor supporters and have attended the tasting since 2010.

Honorary Co-Chairs Don and Joan Beall saluted the nonprofit’s 30th anniversary year. “It has changed our lives,” Joan said of their nearly 20-year involvement. “Besides offering dance and other activities, college is part of the mix, and we are so proud that 100% of the graduates completing high school have enrolled in higher education for nine consecutive years.” Don proposed a champagne toast to The Wooden Floor’s anniversary with Melanie (Rios, TWF’s Executive Director) leading the way,” he said.

Students Eliseo, Emma and Wendyolyne shared heartwarming testimonials of their time spent at The Wooden Floor, and Executive Director and CEO Dawn Reese brought remarks to a close by predicting a rosy future, saying, “We believe the next 30 years will be as important as our first, as our students have become agents for change in their neighborhoods, our community and globally.”

The effort netted more than $260,000, a 30% increase from the year before. Hear, Hear! The evening concluded with a French Champagne toast with the 1996 R&L Legras Blanc de Blancs Cuvee Saint-Vincent, rated 97 pts. by noted Swedish Champagne critic Richard Juhlin. It was that kind of night!

Selected photos from Miguel Vasconcellos

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Coast Community Awards Impress

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Joining me at the Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro were Coast's Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis

Joining me at the Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro were Coast’s Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis

When you gather the likes of Henry Segerstrom, Greg McGillivray and Wylie Aitken in the same room for an evening, you know it’s an important occasion. These people could be anywhere, but they chose to be at Coast Magazine’s Second Annual Coast Community Awards at AnQi Bistro at South Coast Plaza for an evening honoring the county’s most generous community service and philanthropic heroes. There were lots of categories with four nominees in each, and, I must say, any one of them could have been the honoree. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on the judges committee!

Coast Editor-in-Chief Justine Amodeo and Executive Editor Kedric Francis welcomed everyone, with Amodeo relating the fact that the inaugural Coast Community Awards, which occurred two days following September 11, 2001, were very well received but with the Orange County Register (who owns Coast) going through some hard times in subsequent years, it precluded further ones. However, with the recent purchase of the umbrella company, Freedom Communications, “it was time to resurrect the awards,” Amodeo said.

The awards, partnered by the Orange County Register, featured Freedom Communications’ President and co-owner Eric Spitz quoting Robert K. Greenberg, the founder of the modern servant leadership movement. ‘Not much happens without a dream. Behind every great achievement is a dreamer of great dreams. Much more than a dreamer is required to bring it to reality; but the dream must be there first.’ Those remarks set the tone for the heartwarming affair.

Register Magazines Publisher Jeff Ditmire served as master of ceremonies and joined Amodeo and Kedric in presenting awards along with Freedom’s CEO and co-owner Aaron Kushner, VP of Targeted Publications and Special Sections Steve Churm, and SVP of Revenue and Press-Enterprise Publisher Mike Burns. Community presenters included Arts OC’s Pat Wayne, PBS SoCal’s Mel Rogers, Wahoos’ Wing Lam, OC United Way’s Carla Vargas, and OneOC’s Dan McQuaid. Each honoree received a beautifully commissioned award by internationally renowned sculptor Chris Schulz.

The awards highlight was the presentation of the “Coaster” (the original name for Coast) Lifetime Achievement Award to Henry Segerstrom, Orange County’s version of entrepreneur/philanthropist extraordinaire. As the guiding force, he has made South Coast Plaza, with its large contingent of luxury retailers, into the highest grossing planned retail center in the country, and Segerstrom has put just as much effort into making the county a cultural icon with its public art and the amazing Segerstrom Center for the Arts. OC Register Magazine’s inaugural issue captured Segerstrom in Kedric Francis’s feature, as he described the man, saying, “There’s something quintessentially Californian about Henry Segerstrom, with a sense of can-do optimism that was emblematic of the state in the second half of the last century when innovators and industrialists built the infrastructure and institutions that made the state great.” Accepting the award, Segerstrom, conveying his endearing vision and  spirit, said, “Let’s be the idol of the world in what we accomplish.”

The other Coast Community Award honors included winners in the following categories: Arts Organization: UC Irvine’s Claire Trevor School for the Arts for its new summer Shakespeare Festival, with Dean Joe Lewis III accepting; Business: Pacific Life for its philanthropic foundation, which donated $5.6 million in grants to local nonprofits in 2013, with VP of Branding and Public Affairs Tennyson Oyler accepting; City Project: City of Newport Beach for its new Civic Center & Park with Mayor Keith Curry accepting; Couple: Wylie and Bette Aitken, major supporters of a diverse list of nonprofits; Educational Institution: SOKA University Performing Arts Center, accepted by General Manager David Palmer; Environmental Project: The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano, accepted by Founder/Director Evan Marks; Gala: Oceana SeaChange Summer Party, accepted by gala chairs Valarie Van Cleave and Eve Ruffatto; Health Organization: Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), accepted by VP of Marketing & Communications Jan Lansing; Individual: Susan Samueli, not the least for her work in co-founding the Samueli Foundation, a resource for organizations to empower people to fulfill their potential; Nonprofit Organization: Free Wheelchair Mission, for providing thousands of wheelchairs for impoverished disabled people in developing countries, accepted by Founder/President Don Schoendorfer; Philanthropist: Geoffrey and Nancy Stack, for their work founding the Cystinosis Research Foundation; and Volunteers: Izzy’s Corner at Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, accepted by its founder Isabel Janavs. All 48 finalists received the book, “Henry T. Segerstrom: The Courage of Imagination and the Development of the Arts in Southern California,” courtesy of Assouline.

Montage, the talented performing group from Orange County School of the Arts, gave a sparkling performance, and guests received $25 gift certificates from the An Family towards a dinner at AnQi in celebration of the traditional Vietnamese New Year. For the ladies, Marie and Kelly Gray offered a lovely scarf from their new Grayse fashion collection.

Selected photos by Ann Chatillon

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One Man’s Crusade

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Joining me at the Wells of Life Gala & Auction was its founder Nicholas Jordan

Joining me at the Wells of Life Gala & Auction was its founder Nicholas Jordan

I attended Wells of Life’s Second Annual Gala and Auction at Mission Viejo Country Club and found out how powerful one man’s passion for helping others can make a difference. Irishman/American Nick Jordan (I love his brogue!) told me he had raised $600,000 for schools in Uganda when he had the chance to visit the country for the first time in 2008. “It was then that I realized that without fresh water, you won’t have a school because one child dies every 15 seconds due to lack of clean water,” he said. “That moment changed his life. I stopped funding schools and committed to drilling wells.” That was five years ago, and Wells of Life is currently drilling its 100th well in Uganda. Jordan said he was dedicating the rest of his life to raising awareness and funds for the cause. I was truly impressed.

The upbeat fundraiser drew 220 guests, many of them friends of Jordan, and garnered more than $100,000 in net proceeds. Following dinner, Jordan introduced three high school girls, who spoke about forming clubs in their schools to raise monies to fund wells for the Laguna Beach charity. Everything from bake sales and t-shirt sales to car washes and a tennis fundraiser helped fund wells, which costs $6,000 for each well. Those speaking included Katie Altman from Pasadena, Chrissy Cheung from Mission Viejo and Leighton Mauze from San Antonio, Texas.

Auctioneer Larry Dick proved very effective raising money in the live auction by urging, cajoling and just plain threatening. He was really very funny, and the crowd responded positively. An auction highlight was artist Toni Danchik’s painting, “New Life at the Water Well,” which Wells of Life board member Peter Callahan purchased for $4,000. Danchik, who was present, was born and raised in South Africa before coming to the U.S. in 1994. She said, “Africa will always be part of my heartbeat.” Thanks to a $15,000 matching grant in the Fund-A-Well auction, that much was raised and more, thanks to an anonymous donor.

WOL board member Michelle Yegsigian introduced board member Eithne Keegan, who talked about visiting Uganda last year and viewing first-hand the poverty and the need to build wells. “Young girls can’t go to school because they have to walk an average of three miles each day to get water to bring back to their communities,” she said. Keegan, a registered nurse at Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, has helped mission efforts all over the world. “She has a heart, a drive and compassion for people,” Yegsigian said. “Eithne exemplifies what Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.’” Jordan presented Keegan with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her efforts.

Jordan told a compelling story about Anne Kinney and her four-year-old daughter Cassie (see their photo). Anne heard about Wells of Life through Jordan and thought it would be an opportunity to inspire her daughter for service. So Cassie held bake sales and sold lemonade and Anne ran marathons and, later, when a corporate sponsor contributed $3,000, mother and daughter were able to fund two wells. One of them was named “Cassie’s Well.” Anne said, “Cassie inspired us all.”

Kudos to the young girl dancers from the Laguna Niguel’s Aniar Academy of Irish Dance, who entertained with great enthusiasm and expertise and also to Jeff Trujillo of Pulse Media, who produced a compelling and compassionate Wells of Life video for the benefit.  Media Sponsor, OC Register Magazines, represented by Associate Publisher of Freedom Specialty Media Jeff Ditmire, was also given a shout out.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening! Jordan told me next year’s fundraiser is already scheduled for Oct. 25, with world-renowned Irish tenor Anthony Kearns performing. He is a founding member of The Irish Tenors, so stay tuned…WellsofLife1-01WellsofLife2-01WellsofLife4-01WellsofLife5-01WellsofLife3-01

CASA’s Parisian Soiree

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Joining me at CASA's Second Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon are, from left, AnQi's Elizabeth An, CASA Ball co-chair Wendy Tenebaum, Barbara Bui's Liz Tate, and ball co-chair Lourdes Nark

Joining me at CASA OC’s Celebration of Children’s Second Annual Fashion Show & Luncheon are, from left, AnQi’s Elizabeth An, CASA’s Black & White Ball Co-Chair Wendy Tenebaum, Barbara Bui’s Liz Tate, and Black & White Co-Chair Lourdes Nark

A stunning flower cart overflowing with breathtaking florals and an over-sized, back-lit Eiffel Tower greeted the 144 guests at CASA Orange County’s Second Annual Celebration of Children’s Fashion Show & Luncheon at South Coast Plaza’s AnQi Gourmet Bistro. The “Party in Paris” theme was well-received by all, as were the Barbara Bui fashions straight from the City of Light via its South Coast Plaza boutique.

The South Coast Plaza day started with a champagne reception at Jo Malone, where guests enjoyed sipping mimosas, while sampling the latest fragrances from the popular perfumer and entering a raffle for a Jo Malone Orange Blossom Candle. Jo Malone Account Executive Jeanina Esparza and Boutique Manager Katherine Seach were gracious hosts to all.

Gathering at AnQi for the luncheon and fashion presentation, guests were further introduced to the whimsical Parisian theme by colorful upside down umbrellas hung from the ceiling and, together with pink uplighting, gave the soiree a decidedly Valentine’s Day feel. The table decor featured black tables with pink silk table runners and varying shades of pink rose centerpieces. Guests could purchase the roses, which were tied in small bundles, from the centerpieces and the flower cart. Kudos to Linda Young’s Elite OC Productions, who oversaw the decor and production of the entire fundraiser.

Three handsome male models wearing French berets sold opportunity prize tickets, which included a Jo Malone gift basket with a private party in your home, an AnQi Valentine’s Day dinner for two with a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, a $1000 South Coast Plaza gift certificate and one-year valet pass, and a 1.4 cts. diamond bangle from Lugano Diamonds, CASA Celebration of Children’s Emerald Sponsor.

The Barbara Bui resort and summer fashions, co-sponsored by South Coast Plaza and shown on AnQi’s all-glass runway, were fresh and engaging, with a sunny urban vibe to resort and a denim rock couture salute to summer. Lourdes Nark and Wendy Tenebaum, co-chairs of CASA’s upcoming Celebration of Children Black & White Ball, welcomed everyone and encouraged them to support the nonprofit’s major fundraiser on April 25th. Tenebaum, a CASA advocate who mentors and supports a CASA foster child, spoke about why her involvement means so much to her and to the child. “We show up for the child week after week, so they know someone cares,” she said. Gordon Clune, husband of Elizabeth An, CEO of House of An of AnQi Gourmet Bistro fame, spoke on behalf of his voice-less wife, about the family’s support of CASA, a nonprofit near and dear to their family’s collective hearts.

Following a delicious lunch, featuring a yummy soy glazed salmon salad, the fundraiser segued into an exclusive after-party at the Barbara Bui boutique with delicious macaroons and French Champagne. Boutique manager Liz Tate greeted everyone and drew the winning ticket in the raffle for a Barbara Bui “Air” leather handbag.

Jo Malone and Barbara Bui offered 15% of their sales proceeds to CASA, and Lugano Diamonds offered 10% of sales through February 14, with the effort netting $25,753 for CASA.  AnQi presented guests with a $25 gift certificate towards dinner.

CASA’s executive committee members, who were there to support gala co-chairs Nark and Tenebaum included Jeanina Esparza, Nancy Eaton, Irene Martino, Daryl Nelson, Sally Roberts, Jaynine Warner, and Linda Young.

Selected photos by Happy Photos

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David Webb Author Delights!

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Joining me at the Harbor Ridge Women's Club luncheon, from left, are Ruth Peltason, author of "David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler," Kevin Parker, Director of the David Webb boutique in Beverly Hills, and club Program Chair Sandy Chiles

Joining me at the Harbor Ridge Women’s Club luncheon, from left, are Ruth Peltason, author of “David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler,” Kevin Parker, Managing Director of David Webb Beverly Hills, and club Program Chair Sandy Chiles

When I was asked to attend a Harbor Ridge Women’s Club’s luncheon by Sandy Chiles, I was quick to say yes because the program was about American jeweler David Webb. I’ve always loved his work and was introduced to author Ruth Peltason, whose recently-released book, “David Webb: The Quintessential American Jeweler,” was the subject of her talk that day.

The 57-guest luncheon, held in a private room at The Ritz Restaurant & Garden in Newport Beach, included ladies I have known for years and who are known to be avid David Webb jewelry collectors. Kevin Parker, Managing Director of David Webb, Beverly Hills, is well known to them because they have purchased most of their beautiful David Webb baubles from him over the years. Kevin’s guests included Renata Ackerman, Deanne Baldwin, Mary Dell Barkouras, Barbara Bowie, Margaret Kott, Elizabeth Lewis, and Sally Jac Schafer. Chiles, who is program chairman for the 100+-member Harbor Ridge Women’s Club, has been a collector for years. “One of my first purchases was a pair of gold earrings from the David Webb boutique in Amen Wardy in the mid-80s,” she said.

Parker brought some beautiful examples of Webb’s glamorous jewelry to display alongside Peltason’s stunning book. You couldn’t take your eyes off the displayed jewelry or the beautiful illustrations in the book. Clearly, David Webb was a genius. His signature animal bracelets and richly colored assortment of fine jewelry are as much a statement today as they were in the ’60s and ’70s when he was the go-to jeweler for the society swans and Hollywood stars.

Peltason, a New York-based author, editor and lecturer, confessed she was intrigued to write a book about Webb. “I’m mad about him!” she said. “More importantly, a study of Webb and his work is long overdue. I liked that he was an American jeweler and considered it a wonderful opportunity to honor our country’s cultural legacy.”

Peltason said Webb was 17 years old, “with no money and just a dream,” when he came to New York City to work in the diamond district in 1942. By 1944, he had opened his first shop on 47th Street with three employees, and by 1950, his jewelry was featured on the cover of Vogue, the first time a designer’s jewelry appeared on the cover of a magazine. From then until the day he passed away in 1975 at the early age of 50 from pancreatic cancer, he took the jewelry world by storm with his work appearing on the covers of the biggest fashion magazines and at the same time receiving the top industry jewelry awards. His modern, bold, stylish, elegant, and beautifully made jewelry attracted women from all walks of life – from civic leaders, style icons and the famous, among them Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Diane von Furstenberg, the Duchess of Windsor, Barbra Streisand, Sophia Loren, Diana Vreeland, Guy de Rothschild, Estee and Evelyn Lauder, and Gwen Stefani. He truly was America’s quintessential jeweler! 

Peltason said Webb left behind 40,000 drawings and production records, so, “the well is not dry,” she said. “Today, they are making David Webb Jewelry the way he always wanted it to be made.”

Thanks are due to Chiles for putting together the program, to Luncheon Chair Liz Schnepple, and to club President, Megan Wagner, for the elegant, informative affair. And, kudos to Kevin Parker for making Peltason’s appearance possible. The best news? I won the raffle prize, Peltason’s amazing book on one of our country’s iconic jewelers! Hear! Hear!

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SPIN Celebrates 25 Years!

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Joining me at SPIN's Silver Anniversary Gala was its longtime Executive Director Jean Wegener

Joining me at SPIN’s Silver Anniversary Gala was its longtime Executive Director Jean Wegener

Every time I attend a fundraising event for Serving People in Need, or SPIN for short, I am impressed by the dedication and passion the group has for helping the homeless. I was truly moved to hear statistics at the nonprofit’s annual gala, celebrating its 25th anniversary, that 92% of SPIN’s clients successfully completed its transitional housing programs and found permanent housing as intended and that none, I repeat none, of SPIN’s clients who exited to permanent housing returned to homelessness. Now, that is something to shout about!

I can tell you, there was not a happier person at SPIN’s Silver Anniversary Gala than SPIN’s Executive Director Jean Wegener. Jean is just one of those people you meet and instantly like. And, you like her even more when she talks about helping the less fortunate. She is passionate about SPIN, and when $153,000 was raised in the Restore a Family in Crisis appeal later in the evening, Jean was over the moon. The appeal, which ultimately helped garner $220,000 in net proceeds, was a record for the gala, and she was ecstatic!

The celebration, held at the Huntington Beach Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa, drew nearly 400 guests and featured one of my favorite people as master of ceremonies. Bruce Cook, well-known, respected journalist for the Daily Pilot and and the Balboa Bay Club’s Bay Window magazine, welcomed everyone and introduced the gala’s impressive chef team. The culinary partnership between the Hyatt’s Executive Chef Manfred Lassahn and celebrity guest Master Chef Charlie Palmer was quite a treat, as the pair orchestrated a sumptuous four-course feast with excellent wine pairings, while the white-gloved Hyatt wait staff did a spectacular job presenting it.

Longtime SPIN supporter Melanie Salata Fitch and volunteer guest auctioneer John Wortmann, best known as Board of Governors Chair at the Balboa Bay Club, worked their magic during the live auction to raise significant monies for SPIN. Highlights included a fabulous trip to Paris via American Airlines with an exclusive Cordon Bleu experience for two, which ended up selling multiple times, as well as two different six-night getaways to a Newport Beach cottage on the water and a historic Victorian home in Napa Valley’s St. Helena.

The evening culminated in a spectacular performance by one of Orange County’s own rock bands, Sugar Ray. With lead singer Mark McGrath yelling, “We’re back home” and giving a shout out to SPIN’s 25th anniversary, he recalled the band performing at SPIN’s very first dinner. The dance floor was packed as the band took the crowd down memory lane performing some of their biggest hits. Joseph McGintyMcG” Nichol, noted film and television director and producer and childhood friend of McGrath’s (they both attended Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach), made an appearance as the band was performing. He joined his parents, Karen and Dick Nichol, who are longtime SPIN supporters.

Among the gala’s major underwriters attending were Don and Soogie Kang (who offered a matching challenge grant of $50,000 in the appeal), RJ and Rhonda Mayer, Elizabeth An and Gordon Clune, John and Mary Tu, Richard and Kim Crawford, Frank and Peggy Listi, Mary Lou and Wayne Shattuck, Edward Rimpau, Christine and Scotdt Lieberman, Mary Frome, Charles and Regina Granville, David and Angela Lee, and SPIN’s board chairman Al DeGrassi and wife Susan.

The capper of the evening was when longtime SPIN supporter Ginny Walker won First Prize in the opportunity drawing – $1,000 in cash! – and she donated it back to SPIN. It was that kind of evening!

Selected photos courtesy of Rene Lopez Photography

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Baubles Sparkle for CureDuchenne!

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Joining me at The Saks/Graff reception for CureDuchenne were its founders Debra and Paul Miller, Saks Fifth Avenue's Vice President and General Manager Chris Bues?? and Graff Vice President Alain Huy

Joining me at The Saks/Graff reception for CureDuchenne were its founders Debra and Paul Miller, left, Saks Fifth Avenue’s Vice President and General Manager Chris Bures and Graff Vice President Alain Huy

Thanks to Saks Fifth Avenue at South Coast Plaza and world-renowned jeweler Graff, monies were raised for research and awareness for the orphan disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The national nonprofit, CureDuchenne, was founded right here in Orange County by Paul and Debra Miller 10 years ago and is headquartered in Newport Beach. The Millers told me at the elegant jewelry reception held at Saks that the reason they founded CureDuchenne is because their son Hawkin, now 17, was diagnosed with the dreaded disease, which has no cure, when he was a young boy. Paul said that through the $15 million that has been raised, seven very promising clinical trials have been funded. “When the trials are approved, then drugs will be created to treat and cure the disease,” Debra explained. “It gives us hope.” They realize that it is a race against time since the disease, which affects thousands of boys and their families, destroys muscle strength and function and causes death between the ages of 18 and 25.

Generously, Saks and Graff donated 10% of sales at the 75-member reception, and there was a lot of interest. The Graff exhibit, which was celebrating the esteemed jewelry house’s 60th anniversary, was exquisite and featured show cases and vitrines of breathtaking jewelry throughout the private reception area. Tray-passed hors d’oeuvres and libations were served as Saks Fifth Avenue’s Vice President and General Manager Chris Bures and Graff Vice President Alain Huy welcomed guests. The Millers spoke briefly about CureDuchenne and its mission to save thousands of lives. Debra lauded her friend Elaine Wu, who is on the board of directors of CureDuchenne, and who was responsible for inviting many of the guests.

There was a lot of interest in the jewelry, and several ladies were trying on the baubles. I noticed one lady in particular. She told me her name was Catherine Chau, and it was her birthday. She was trying on a gorgeous diamond and emerald watch and smiling the whole time. Needless to say, smiles abounded! All in all, it was a good day for raising money for a good cause, especially one that needs more awareness in the general public, as is often the case with orphan diseases.

SAVE THE DATE: CureDuchenne is hosting a gala celebrating its 10-year anniversary on March 29, 2014, at the Balboa Bay Resort. Visit cureduchenne.org for further information.

Selected photos by Robert Rooks

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Fashions at Harvesters’ Soiree Shine!

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Joining me at the Harvesters' 21st Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show are, from left, South Coast Plaza's Executive Director of Marketing Debra Gunn Downing, Harvester and immediate past chair Jennifer Segerstrom, and South Coast Plaza Managing Partner Anton Segerstrom

Joining me at the Harvesters’ 21st Annual Luncheon and Fashion Show are, from left, South Coast Plaza’s Executive Director of Marketing Debra Gunn Downing, Harvester and immediate past chair Jennifer Segerstrom, and South Coast Plaza Managing Partner Anton Segerstrom

I’ve been attending the Harvesters’ Luncheon and Fashion Show benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County for all of its 21 years, and I can’t remember a fashion presentation that showed so many beautiful, engaging fashions as the latest one. Held at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 380 guests enjoyed a jam-packed silent auction champagne reception in a tent alongside the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall followed by the dazzling New York-style runway fashion show in Samueli Theater.

I have to say the fashion extravaganza, presented and underwritten by South Coast Plaza, was overwhelmed by fashions from the French fashion design houses, Dior and Lanvin. Some of the looks took me back to the ’50s and ’60s, when elegance personified by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly reigned supreme. I easily envisioned Hepburn in the classic black strapless Lanvin cocktail dress with its billowing mid-calf skirt as well as the luxury label’s horizontally tiered ivory chiffon blouse and black velvet pencil skirt with three-quarter-length leather gloves (the icing on the cake!). Kelly could easily have worn the Dior ivory satin cape top and asymmetrical black velvet skirt. All three looks took your breath away (see photos)! Other highlights included beautiful neutral prints from Roberto Cavalli, Chloe and Marni as well as showstopper black and white solids with touches of fur from Salvatore Ferragamo, Max Mara and Fendi. It was left to Versace to show a stunning yellow coat, Gucci, a blue, super-sexy satin dress, and Valentino, with the most elegant evening gown I’ve seen in a long time in red satin.

Event co-chairs Lori Anderson and Julia Post welcomed everyone to the fashion show and thanked their committee, in particular, underwriting chair Melissa Knode, silent auction chairs Kristie Caggiano and Susan Croul, and Joni Brice, who was responsible for the heartwarming Second Harvest Food Bank video. South Coast Plaza’s Director of Community Relations Kathryn Cenci was also acknowledged for her ongoing role as fashion show liaison, as was the entire Segerstrom family for their continuing support. James Cueva of Jaeger-LeCoultre was given a nod for sponsoring the Roederer Champagne reception and silent auction, as well as featuring their luxury timepieces on professional models wearing Brioni and Wolford fashions.

Following the fashion presentation, guests retired to the concert hall’s foyer for a tasty lunch catered by Patina and a much-anticipated opportunity prize drawing. The prizes included a Jaeger-LeCoultre Ladies Grand Reverso timepiece, a Saint Laurent Small Sac de Jour Carryall (see photo) and a South Coast Plaza $1,000 gift certificate, one-year valet parking pass and five-course chef’s tasting dinner with wine pairings for six guests at Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale’s. Guests were delighted with the guest favor, a fabulous black, quilted tote, courtesy of South Coast Plaza.

The festive fundraiser brought in impressive net proceeds of $455,000, which were targeted for the nonprofit’s mission of eliminating hunger in Orange County. The Food Bank feeds more than 240,000 people per month through 470 member agencies.

Selected photos by Carla Rhea and fashion photos by Donato Sardella

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Rivalry Set Aside for a Good Cause!

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Joining me at Rivals United for a Kure's Second Annual Gala were legendary head coaches, USC's John Robinson, and UCLA's Terry Donahue

Joining me at Rivals United for a Kure’s Second Annual Gala were legendary head coaches, USC’s John Robinson, left, and UCLA’s Terry Donahue

Rivals United for a Kure hosted its second annual gala, and the USC/UCLA football rivalry was forgotten for one night in lieu of raising funds for underfunded cancers. Held at the historic St. Vibiana Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles, more than 400 supporters gathered to celebrate the two coaches who are legendary in their school’s football annals. UCLA head coach Terry Donahue and USC head coach John Robinson and their teams went head to head many times and, remarkably, became friends along the way. The two coaches gathered in front of Viviana for a great red carpet photo op moment with the schools’ song girls and Joe Bruin early in the evening, showing the rivalry, indeed, was laid aside for the evening (see photo).

The cocktail reception, held in Vibiana’s lush courtyard, featured interactive tailgate games, delicious hors d’oeuvres orchestrated by Chef Neal Fraser of the Strand House in Manhattan Beach and a silent auction that included impressive sports memorabilia – i.e. a football autographed by 20 Heisman Trophy winners!

Linda Young’s Elite OC Productions transformed the cathedral-­like space into a USC/UCLA-­‐themed party with dinner tables covered in black and white referee striped table linens with red and blue football centerpieces autographed by Donahue and Robinson.

The coaches, after receiving the Rivals United for a Kure Spirit Award, invited players to the stage who they felt represented the best in the sport. They included, from USC, offensive tackle Anthony Munoz, fullback Sam Cunningham, wide receiver Curtis Conway, quarterback Rodney Peete, and linebacker John Papadakis. And, from UCLA, quarterback Wayne Cook, linebacker Frank Stephens, quarterback Tom Ramsey, safety James Washington, and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Gary Beban. Each player relived special memories from their gridiron years, some quite comical. But, it was Beban who brought the cause home when relaying the fact that his son was alive after surviving stage 4 lung cancer. “It was contributions like yours that made the difference,” he said.

The live auction, with celebrity auctioneer from Storage Wars Dan Dotson at the helm, included a one-week stay at the Mauna Kea Hale on the Big Island, Lakers floor seats for two, a four-night stay for 12 guests at a luxury villa in Puerto Vallarta, and a special Olympic Torch from Peter Ueberroth’s personal collection, signed by him, from the 1984 Summer Games. Rivals committee member Julie Ann Ulcickas and her husband Jim Ulcickas, who own the Bluewater Grill restaurants, offered a cocktail party for 50 at the restaurant. It sold twice for $4,500 each time. And, when Greg Richardson won the Golden ticket raffle, enabling him to select any one of the live auction items, he picked the Bluewater Grill party. See a very happy Richardson shaking Jim’s hand in the accompanying photo.

Among those making it happen included gala co-chairs and former star quarterbacks USC’s Paul McDonald and UCLA’s Matt Stevens, both of whom serve as their team’s radio color analysts; mistress of ceremonies and host, anchor and reporter for Fox Sports West and the NFL Network, Lindsay Rhodes; Rivals co-founder and Kure It Cancer Research founder Barry Hoeven, whose company, US Storage Centers, was the gala’s Title Sponsor; Rivals United for a Kure Director Alison Hahn, and Kure It Director Karen Jones. Other major sponsors were A Better LA, the Hausman Family FoundationSperry Equities/Burton Young, who underwrote the VIP party, Argyros Family Foundation, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Center for Reconstructive Surgery, Chase Bank, City National Bank, Jackson DeMarco Tidus & Peckenpaugh, and Winslow T. Maxwell Charitable Trust.

Net proceeds of close to $300,000 are benefiting USC’s Norris and UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Centers for the support of underfunded cancer research projects.

Photos by Carla Rhea and Happy Photos

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