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.



Curtis Showers with Humor, Compassion and Inspiration


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Joining me at Hoag's Circle 1000 Founders' Brunch was keynote speaker Jamie Lee Curis

Joining me at Hoag’s 27th Annual Circle 1000 Founders’ Brunch was keynote speaker Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis, the curvy wife of Arnold Schwarengger in True Lies and promoter of Activia yogurt, was the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Circle 1000 Founders’ Celebration Brunch, benefiting the Hoag Family Cancer Center, held at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. I expected to see Jamie in her signature short, short hairstyle, but instead, she wore a pink wig. The first thing out of her mouth when she began her talk was the explanation for the wig. She was wearing it to pay tribute to a young girl named Katie Westbrook, who she befriended while the 13-year-old was fighting cancer, a battle she ultimately lost. Jamie asked the family for the wig following her death. “I wanted to bring Katie’s courage and spirit here today,” Curtis said, “because I’m representing every human being fighting for his or her life.”

I’ll go back to her heartwarming speech in a minute, but I wanted to acknowledge Founders’ committee chair Beth Knapp, underwriting chair Tara Shapiro and the 21-member committee, many of them past chairs. This committee helped raise an impressive $930,000 for the Hoag Family Cancer Institute. Knapp introduced Dr. Burt Eisenberg, the new Executive Medical Director of the Institute and read Eisenberg’s achievements, which were exemplary. Hoag is definitely fortunate to have him on its team! She also acknowledged Hoag Hospital President/CEO Robert Braithwaite and Hoag Hospital Foundation President Dr. Flynn Andrizzi. Recognizing who she called Hoag’s “world-renowned” Hoag physicians in attendance, she introduced Dr. Jack Cox, Dr. Aidan Raney, Dr. Douglas Zusman, Dr. Gary Levine, and Dr. Christopher Duma. Knapp continued by thanking the Hoag medical, nursing and administrative staff by saying, “Your commitment and compassion is the core of the exceptional care one expects and receives at Hoag Newport, Hoag Irvine and the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.”

Then came the “goose bump” moment when Knapp asked the 468 guests attending who were cancer survivors, fighters and caregivers to stand. She proceeded to ask those to stand who were cancer-free for five years, 10 years, etc. on up to 25 years. There were many standing. “This is the part of the program that is at the heart of our fundraising efforts,” Knapp said.

Curtis, who spoke next, admitted to being a bit teary-eyed at the importance of those standing. “Life is beautiful, transformational and painful,” she said. “Each of us must accept the things we cannot change – my genetics, my Grandma Helen moving in five years ago – can’t change it!” she added humorously. “The things I can change are my attitude, my mind, my hair, writing children’s books (she has authored 10 books), sobriety.” Curtis summed things up by saying she’s tries to live by two principles in her daily life: “Did I learn to live wisely?” and “Did I love well?”

At the conclusion of Curtis’s talk, Marisha Van Dyke, representing Traditional Jewelers in Fashion Island, presented the award-winning actress with an Ippolita mother-of-pearl and diamond pendant in 18k yellow gold from its “Lollipop” collection.

I’ve been attending this event for more than 20 years, and I do want to mention that it was founded by breast cancer survivor Sandy Sewell. Curtis lauded her in her talk by saying, “Sandy, thank you for having this brilliant idea!” Circle 1000 was launched in 1987 when Sewell gathered friends around her who would contribute $1,000 annually and who would in turn ask their own circle of friends to participate. Today, those humble beginnings have expanded to 1,000 friends, who have collectively raised more than $14.4 million for Hoag. Hear! Hear!

Selected photos by Ketara Gedahn


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Volunteers Extraordinaire Honored!


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Joining me at OneOC's 38th Annual "Spirit of Volunteerism" Awards Luncheon were One OC's CEO Dan McQuaid and Diane Killeen, Manager of Disney's VoluntEARS and Cast Initiatives

Joining me at OneOC’s 38th Annual “Spirit of Volunteerism” Awards Luncheon at Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim were OneOC’s CEO Dan McQuaid and Diane Killeen, Manager of Disneyland Resort’s VoluntEARS and Cast Initiatives

It was a packed ballroom with 1,046 guests at the Disneyland Hotel for OneOC’s 38th Annual “Spirit of Volunteerism” Awards Luncheon. The program zipped along in its two-hour time frame and honored 376 unsung volunteer heroes, including presenting the Giving is Living Award to the exemplary corporate-nonprofit partnership between Habitat for Humanity and The Home Depot.

I particularly enjoyed the music of the six-piece, all-volunteer Smart Jazz Execs Band, who entertained during the reception, and, once inside the ballroom, Montage, a song and dance troupe from Orange County School of the Arts, kicked off the proceedings performing to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I’ll Be There.” OneOC Board of Directors Chair Arnie Pinkston welcomed everyone, noting the “Volunteers Lift Us Up” theme for the occasion and stating that in the past year OneOC had connected nearly 28,000 volunteers in 1.2 million hours of service, providing a $30.1 million value to our community. That’s impressive!

An animated film followed, which showed the value of doing good and the unexpected consequences relating to volunteerism. OneOC’s President/CEO Dan McQuaid, who was portrayed in the delightful film as an old man with glasses and walking stick, came onstage following the film to claim in a humorous way, “I don’t why they cast me as the grumpy old man!” McQuaid introduced the event’s major sponsors: Title Sponsor, Orange County Register; Dynamic Spirit Sponsors: Cox Communications (who also provided the centerpieces – colorful jawbreakers and cake pops in glass cylinders), Disneyland Resort, Wells Fargo, Western Digital; Generous Spirit Sponsors: Walmart, Fluidmaster; Giving Spirit Sponsor: PIMCO Foundation. McQuaid lauded the Register’s partnership in providing coverage of how nonprofits and volunteers brighten our world and noted that the paper would be featuring a 16-page insert in an upcoming issue of all of the Spirit of Volunteerism honorees. McQuaid asked Steve Churm, Vice President of the Orange County Register and Freedom Communications, and the event co-chair, to speak about building community.

Churm said the Register, with expanding to Long Beach, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, as well as a newly launched Los Angeles Register, “is building and binding wonderful communities of people, institutions and ideas across Southern California.” He said the paper’s Golden Envelope program, which distributes checks to seven-day subscribers worth up to $100 in advertising to nonprofits of their choice, has gifted more than $12 million in advertising space to Orange County nonprofits in year one of the program. “That’s how we are building communities at the Register,” he concluded.

Churm’s co-chair Sharon Smith, who is a member of OneOC’s board and Vice President of Human Resources for Cox Communications, asked the event committee to stand and be acknowledged and announced that all the honorees were to entered into a drawing to win the Ultimate Disneyland Resort Getaway Package – a night at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, a special dining package and four two-day Disney Park Hopper Passes.

Tim Strauch, OneOC’s COO, announced a new program launched by OneOC called the Service Enterprise Program, which, in partnership with California Volunteers, offers a program for nonprofits to realize greater effectiveness by leveraging the time and talent of volunteers. The 12 nonprofits who completed the program were asked to stand.

The awards were presented to honorees in specified categories, as each honoree’s photo flashed on the screen, and they were asked to stand and be recognized. The categories and presenters were: Arts (presented by Disneyland Resort’s Diane Killeen, Manager of Disney VoluntEARS and Cast Initiatives), Law Enforcement (Angela Antonio, Bank of America’s Sr. VP/Consumer Market Manager and Co-Chair of Orange County Network), Human and Community Service (Mitch Redden, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage’s Regional Sales Manager), Education (Rose Krupp, Director of Western Digital’s Foundation and Community Relations), Health (Amanda FowlerEdwards Lifesciences’s Executive Director of Global Corporate Giving), Animals and Environment (John Wohlfiel, Fluidmaster’s VP of Human Resources, Corporate Volunteers (Amber Skalsky, PIMCO Foundation’s Program Manager).

OneOC’s Giving is Living Award was presented by the 2013 honoree Mark Lowry, Director of Orange County Food Bank. He stated that the judging committee, comprised of past recipients, OneOC board members and community leaders, selected Habitat for Humanity and The Home Depot because of their outstanding, combined efforts to house veterans in the Orange County Community. “The Home Depot Foundation’s mission to ensure every veteran a safe place to call home complements Habitat of Humanity’s goal to serve veterans and their families throughout both new home construction and home repairs,” Lowry stated. The “Veterans Build” collaborative effort culminated in the repair of 30 veterans’ homes. Accepting the award was Home Depot’s Sherry Caraway and Habitat for Humanity’s President Sharon Ellis.

Disney Ambassador Sachiko White came onstage with Russell, Disney’s Junior Wilderness Explorer, to draw the winning ticket for the Disneyland Resort Getaway Package. Lucky Krissy Humensky of Corinthian Colleges was the lucky winner!! The event netted $166,207 for OneOC’s volunteer, training, consulting, and business services in helping Orange County nonprofits.

Selected photos courtesy of OneOC


CASA’s Black & White Ball Heartwarming Affair


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Joining me at CASA of Orange County's Celebration of Children Black & White Ball were its co-chairs Lourdes Nark, left, and Wendy Tenebaum

Joining me at CASA of Orange County’s Celebration of Children Black & White Ball were its co-chairs Lourdes Nark, left, and Wendy Tenebaum

“Every person in this room has the chance to make a difference in the life of a child,” co-chair Wendy Tenebaum said at the Court Appointed Special Advocate’s (CASA) Celebration of Children Black & White Ball at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. Considering that net proceeds reached $780,000, it seemed like everyone contributed towards that goal. This nonprofit is awfully impressive. They specialize in training and supervising community volunteers to mentor and advocate for the most difficult abuse cases in the child welfare system, and CASA of Orange County has been doing it for 29 years.

I must say that the ballroom was lovely, thanks to Linda Young’s Elite OC Productions and Wildflower Linen, who combined gold with the black and white theme to create a very elegant setting. Montage, singers and dancers from Orange County School of the Arts, opened the ball, giving an impressive performance of “One Night Only” from Dreamgirls. Tenebaum and Lourdes Nark, the ball’s co-chairs, welcomed everyone and asked their committee to stand and receive applause for their hard work. The chairs were thanked with lovely bouquets of flowers from CASA of Orange County’s CEO Kathleen O’Neill and Board Chairman Mark Steiman for their efforts.

Every year the ball honors people who have been exemplary in their support of children, and this year I thought it was particularly touching that they recognized the past Children’s Champions from every ball since 1994. Those present included founding CASA board member Bill Steiner, Junior League of Orange County (represented by Jaynine Warner), Anton & Jennifer Segerstrom, Richard & Frances Gadbois III, Fred Port, Gary & Linda Pack, Douglas & Melinda McCrea, Dennis & Susan Leibel, Jim & Sheila Peterson, Ted & Lourdes Nark, and Jon and Carol Demorest.

Fred Port, CASA’s Advisory Board Chair and the ball’s master of ceremonies, has been a mainstay for CASA of Orange County since it was founded 29 years ago. He introduced the ball’s honorees, who included this year’s Children’s Champions, sisters Lisa and Stephanie Argyros. The women, who are known for their support of children’s causes, thanked their parents, Julie and George Argyros, for being their inspiration. “CASA’s volunteer advocates are truly the champions,” Lisa said, in receiving the honor. Larry Wilson was recognized as CASA’s Advocate of the Year for his passion and service through his roles as Court Appointed Special Advocate, Educational Representative and a Family Connections Advocate.

The keynote speakers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, a foster parent for years and author of The Language of Flowers, and Supervising Judge of the Harbor Justice Center Douglas Hatchimonji enlightened the 450 guests with their experiences with the foster care system, the traumas and challenges of the children in the system and the life-changing differences a mentor can make in a child’s life. Ty, the evening’s 14-year-old youth speaker and Outstanding Youth recipient, brought the message home as he related his experiences as a foster child and what a difference having a CASA advocate made in his life. “Having a CASA has taught me to believe in myself and my dreams,” he said. “CASA (the nonprofit) gives a voice and hope to foster youth. CASA changes lives! I sure know it changed mine.” Gloria Loring, known for her former role on the long-running soap “Days of Our Lives” and, perhaps, more recently, as the mother of the famous Robin Thicke, completed the tender moment by singing a beautiful arrangement of “Hold the Child.”

The live auction, which followed with auctioneer Jim Nye at the helm, saw trips to Paris Fashion Week, courtesy of Barbara Bui, the 2015 Augusta National, special Angels and Anaheim Ducks packages, and a drop-dead gorgeous 5.62-carat Ceylon sapphire, courtesy of Lugano Diamonds, along with a $5,000 gift certificate towards a setting. The auction highlight was the appearance of Fred Port as Tina Turner (he was the CASA ball’s auctioneer for years and always stepped onstage as the gyrating Turner accompanied by the band playing “Proud Mary”). This year he offered his entire outlandish Tina Turner outfit, including the wig and shoes, for the auction and former Children’s Champion Anton Segerstrom scooped it up for $5,000. I can’t wait to see Anton as Tina Turner!!

Selected photos by Happy Photos


Powerhouse Women in Film/TV Share Experiences


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Joining me at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts' "Women in Focus" conference were Twyla Reed Martin and Dean Bob Bassett

Joining me at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts’ 15th Annual “Women in Focus” conference were major supporter Twyla Reed Martin and Dean Bob Bassett

The 15th Annual “Women in Focus” Conference, organized by Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, proved once again to be a high-powered gathering of the brightest and most accomplished women in film and television today. This year’s theme was “The Business of Entertainment,” and the day began with a gathering of 120 on Dodge College’s Hirsch Sound Stage B, where the group enjoyed a delicious lunch and talking with the panelists. Dodge College of Film and Media Arts Dean Bob Bassett welcomed everyone and noted that the original purpose of the conference was “a conversation between our students and women in the film business.” Eventually, he said, it evolved into an open discussion with students and members of the community regarding the film womens’ personal experience in the industry.

Dodge College Professor and Chair of Special Projects and Industry Initiatives Alex Rose, who received an Academy Award nomination for Norma Rae, was the conference chair. She thanked the sponsors, who included Twyla Reed Martin, for whom Robert Bassett’s Dean’s Chair is named, Eve Ruffatto, Harriet Sandhu, Laurie Rodnick, Adrienne Brandes, Diana Martin, and Joyce Tucker.

Once inside Dodge College’s Folino Theater, where hundreds of film students also gathered, Rose introduced conference moderator and Chief Marketing Officer for DreamWorks Animation (The Help, The Dark KnightDawn Taubin, who, in turn, introduced the panel. The discussion was lively and, at times, quite humorous. Asked for an example of when it would be better to be a man in the business, CBS Films Co-President (Last Vegas, Inside Llewyn DavisTerry Press quipped, “The day I gave birth to my child!” All the panelists agreed that most films that debuted domestically five years ago are now launched internationally first and that figuring out the audience for the film is crucial to its success. “It’s important that we’re talking about one primary audience and the film can speak to a universal theme,” said Cathy Schulman, Academy Award-winning producer (Crash, The Illusionist) and President of Mandalay Pictures. TV producer/director (Breaking Bad and Game of ThronesMichelle McLaren voiced the challenge of making telling the story – “You only have 1 1/2 hours for the audience to have an emotional connection.” Erica Huggins, President of Image Entertainment, (J. Edgar) said that their film, Rush, was a disappointment at the box office because, “We didn’t capture what the movie was about through our marketing.” Sue Kroll, President of Warner Bros. Pictures Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution (The Great Gatsby, Argo), said Gravity sold as an experience for all ages and worked all over the world. “It’s important to begin the connection to marketing early,” producer (The Master, Magnolia) JoAnne Sellar said. They all agreed that marketing was a powerful tool but that often, unfortunately, it costs as much to market a film as it does to make it.

The panelists said there was gender bias in the industry but they choose to work through it. Those who have children admitted that there is a delicate balance between family and work, and they all declared their passion for what they do, with Kroll putting it best, “You get this incredible satisfaction. I well up watching reels. Having that responsibility is worth all the hard work.”

Aside: Dawn Taubin is a former professor of Public Relations and Advertising at Dodge College and her daughter, Kendall, a senior  film student at Dodge in Producing and Public Relations, graduated in May. Cathy Schulman, who teaches graduate level film producing at Dodge College, received an Honorary Doctorate at its 2014 commencement, for which she gave the commencement address.

Selected photos by Michael Munson and Westin Ray WiF1-01WiF2-01WiF3-01WiF4-01

Guilds Score Again with Casino Fundraiser


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Joining me at The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts' "Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels" benefit is Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle

Joining me at The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts’ “Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels” benefit is Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle

Stuart Winston sat amongst his pile of chips grinning from ear to ear! I’ve known Stuart quite a long time, but I didn’t know he was a first-rate poker player! He was joined by nearly 300 supporters and guests of The Guilds of Segerstrom Center for the Arts’  Second Annual “Spring Celebration: Bet on the Wheels” benefit at Hotel Irvine Jamboree Center (formerly the Hyatt Regency Irvine) for an evening of gaming, delish food offerings, a fabulous silent auction and raffle prizes, and continuous musical musings for listening and dancing by the very talented Jet Set Quintet.

The lounge atmosphere was quite inviting, with dining options showcased in the theme of the cuisine around the hotel ballroom. There was an Italian Trattoria with ravioli, pizza, veal marsala, sautéed scallops with black truffle risotto, etc. (loved the red and white checkered table cloths on the dinner tables), an Asian Cafe with edamame, tempera shrimp, teriyaki beef skewers, and handmade sushi, a Gastro Pub with petite grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup (it was delish!), mini lobster & brioche rolls, beef sliders, wedge salad, and Dungeness crab cakes prepared onsite, a Sweet Shoppe with all manner of tempting indulgences, and, finally, a Martini Lounge, offering cosmos and lemon drop martinis to your heart’s content.

Guilds Chair Marilyn McCorkle welcomed the partygoers and introduced and thanked the evening’s co-chairs Amy Larson and Marty Olds. As Marilyn explained, “Just as the roulette wheels turn for our lucky winners, the money raised tonight will help to keep the “wheels” of the school buses turning (“Bet on the Wheels” – get it?), bringing children from around Orange County to performances at the Center.” Together with the event monies, there are 22 Guilds’ chapters raising money for SCFTA throughout the year, making the Guilds’ total fundraising since they were founded in 1978 more than $14.5 million. That is an impressive number!

SCFTA’s President Terry Dwyer followed up with the number of young people reached through the Center’s education programs – more than 6 million! – and read a few heartwarming notes from appreciative partners who were the recipients of the Center’s educational programs.

Mike and Eve Ruffatto, The Guilds’ 2014 honorees, were recognized for their longtime support of SCFTA. “We are celebrating a great couple – philanthropists and volunteers, who give so much back to our community,” McCorkle said. This year, for the first time, The Guilds elected to launch a new tradition and honor a fellow Guilds member for his or her service to the Guilds and the Center. The inaugural “Guilds Inspiration Award” was presented to past Guilds Chair Bev Sandelman. McCorkle chimed, as she presented the award to Sandelman, “Bev, you are an inspiration to all of us.”

Lugano Diamonds owners Moti and Idit Ferder were given a special commendation for their longtime support of the Guilds’ Spring Celebration. The generous couple has provided the top raffle prize for many years, and this year’s $2,550 freshwater pearl necklace, composed of three 65-inch strands, was breathtaking (see photo)! They also continue to present the honorees with a gift. Eve received a gorgeous pair of 18k white gold diamond and South Sea pearl earrings designed by Moti, and Mike’s gift was a set of 18k yellow gold and black diamond cuff links.

The Lugano Diamonds’ drop-dead triple-strand pearl necklace was won by Judy Coulson, with Stuart Winston, who is Vice President of Marketing and Development at Lugano Diamonds, tearing himself away from the poker table to present the pearls (just kidding, Stuart!). Ed Munoz claimed the one-year membership in SCFTA’s Donor Lounge and Center Room, and Marilynn Darling walked away with the coveted $1,000 South Coast Plaza shopping spree and one-year valet pass. The Fund-a-Future live auction, overseen by auctioneer/emcee Jim Nye, helped boost net proceeds to more than $250,000 for The Guilds and the Center, which included a $20,000 gift from arts philanthropist Henry Segerstrom and his lovely wife Elizabeth.

Fun Aside: I spotted former Guilds Chair Gerrie Goodreau sipping a cosmo, wearing a stylish LBD (Little Black Dress) and dripping in pearls. They were the pearls she won at the event several years ago, thanks to the ever-generous Lugano Diamonds. See her photo. She is stunning!

Selected photos by Nick Koon


A Night to Cherish!


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Joining me at the 11th Annual "Natalie's Wish" gala at the Balboa Bay Resort are the Cystinosis Research Foundation founders Nancy and Jeff Stack

Joining me at the 11th Annual “Natalie’s Wish” gala at the Balboa Bay Resort are the Cystinosis Research Foundation founders Nancy and Jeff Stack


I remember attending one of the very first “Natalie’s Wish” galas and hearing Jeff and Nancy Stack talk about their passion in finding a cure for cystinosis, the rare disease with no cure that their daughter Natalie had been diagnosed with at age 12. I also remember Jeff saying to me in a quiet moment that he and Nancy doubted their daughter would live to see a cure but they were determined to try. I must tell you that when I attended the couple’s 11th annual fundraiser a few weeks ago, both Nancy and Jeff were convinced their daughter would survive because a cure, they feel, is very close.

Jeff and Nancy Stack have made a phenomenal impact on the rare disease community since they took up the quest to find better treatments and a cure for cystinosis. Because of their efforts, the Cystinosis Reseach Foundation is the largest provider of grants for cystinosis research in the world, funding more than 114 studies and fellowships in 11 countries since its founding in 2003. CRF has raised nearly $23.5 million towards research studies around the world. It is a remarkable achievement.

You should have seen the 40 cystinosis families who attended the gala, many of them with their children. They had been a part of a two-day Day of Hope Conference held at the Balboa Bay Resort, where the gala was held, which included conference sessions with leading cystinosis research doctors and an Italian Fest under the stars on the beach. Many of the families have created foundations of their own to raise money for cystinosis research, and it was impressive to see the families come on stage at the gala holding enlarged checks representing the monies they raised. When the cure is found, those families will have helped make it possible. It was a heartwarming moment.

There were lots of those moments at the gala. From CRF board director John Hagestad stepping to the podium to welcome everyone and state CRF’s amazing achievements to Jeff acknowledging the doctors in attendance who are funded by CRF and are doing cystinosis research to Nancy’s and Natalie’s impassioned remarks, it was truly heartening. Another moving moment for the sold-out assemblage of 455 guests was when Erin and Chad Little came onstage for Erin to talk about their journey with cystinosis through their four-year-old daughter Olivia, who was diagnosed at 18 months.

The “Night of a Thousand Stars”-themed gala featured a spectacular ballroom. Nancy told me she and Jeff envisioned a night in Tuscany with the stars shimmering overhead, and I have to say the strings of lights gently swaying over the gorgeous dinner tables, which were both rectangular and round and covered in gold brocade linens with gorgeous white, green and orange floral centerpieces in earthen vases with accompanying rustic wooden cushioned chairs, certainly put you there. And, the floor-to-ceiling Tuscany-themed backdrops were the finishing touch. Kudos to Danielle Staffieri, CRF’s Special Events Coordinator, for organizing the effort.

The live auction, led by master auctioneer Mark Sheffield, saw some spirited bidding for tickets to Kate Perry’s world tour, the Eagles at Honda Center, and the Grammy Awards, as well as luxury travel packages to Hawaii, Aspen, San Francisco and Napa Valley, and Santa Barbara’s Bacara Resort. Acclaimed chef Alan Greeley’s dinner for 10 at the Stack’s home in Corona del Mar sold for $16,000 – three times, while the “Pick Your Paradise” package offered a choice of top luxury resorts, courtesy of Inspirato, and a $5,000 gift certificate from Traditional Jewelers to select a bauble for the trip. The Stacks also offered a hosted dinner for 12 at The Pacific Club, with Michael Browne of Kosta Browne Winery introducing the wine pairings, and Jeff, known to be a wine connoisseur extraordinaire, offered, in two separate packages, a case of highly-rated white and a case of over-the-top red wines.

The highly acclaimed Canadian quartet, The Tenors, drew the inspiring evening to a close singing two of my favorite songs – “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” And, Nancy’s request for them to sing Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” was a high moment as well.

The best news is that $2.3 million was netted from the awe-inspiring evening, thanks especially to Tom and Traci Gendron, who announced a gift of $500,000 to the Cysinosis Research Foundation that night. As I departed, Nancy’s words were ringing in my ears. Knowing that their daughter Natalie is 23 and the average age of death from the disease is 27, she and Jeff know that time is of the essence. Nancy said, “What I know is that one day all of you, and I believe it will be soon, will be able to say you helped cure a rare and fatal disease called cystinosis.” We are all hoping and praying that a cure will be announced at next year’s gala on April 18, 2015!

Selected photos by Bob Hodson of Hodson Studios


Rivals Unite for a Cause


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Joining me at the Rivals United for a Cure reception was co-founder Barry Hoeven

Joining me at the Rivals United for a Cure reception was co-founder Barry Hoeven

If you live in Southern California, you know that there is an intense football rivalry between USC and UCLA. It goes all the way back to 1929, when the two universities first started playing each other. What you might not know is that there is a cause that has united the supporters of these two football powerhouses, and it is cancer. Rivals United for a Kure was organized a few years ago to bring the UCLA and USC sports communities together to raise funds for innovative cancer research for underfunded cancers, and to date, the revenue from Rivals’ first two galas has enabled the nonprofit to present nearly $600,000 in research dollars directly into the hands of doctors at UCLA Jonsson and USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

To that end, more than 40 alumni, supporters and friends of USC and UCLA gathered at Jerry and Sherri Worth Nourse’s Big Canyon home in Newport Beach to hear about Rivals United for a Kure and its mission. Joining the man behind Rivals, Barry Hoeven, who has been battling kidney cancer for 14 years, were the other two co-founders, Paul McDonald (USC and NFL football star and current radio color analyst for USC football) and Jack Baric, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, who created “A City Divided,” which features the more memorable moments in rivalry history and includes behind-the-scenes anecdotes from players, coaches and fans.

The featured guests were research doctors, who each spoke about their specialty. Lung cancer specialist David Shackelford, Ph.D., who is Assistant Professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, was one of the recipients of a Rivals’ grant last year. Dr. Uttam K. Sinha is the Medical Director of Head & Neck Surgery at USC’s Keck Medical Center and Dr. Sumanta Kumar Pal, whose specialty is kidney cancer, is Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Experimental Therapeutics at the City of Hope Comprehensive Medical Center.

Rivals committee member Julie Ann Ulcickas and her husband Jim, owners of Bluewater Grill, provided a tasty assortment of appetizers for the soiree, while Monette and Steve Zotovich of Zotovich Wineries offered their delicious chardonnay and pinot noir for sipping. Rivals’ Director Alison Hahn announced Rivals United for a Kure’s Third Annual Gala, scheduled for Sunday, November 16, (USC and UCLA Game Week) at the new City Club Los Angeles. Serena Overhoff and Melanie Belger are joining Sherri Worth Nourse in co-chairing the gridiron bash. Worth Nourse, a renowned Newport Beach celebrity dentist, said of her commitment, “I decided with my busy work and family schedule to make the time to chair the Rivals’ gala this year because so many of our friends and family members’ lives have been affected by cancer.”

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Eighteenth Century Parisian Fashion Presentation a Delight!


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Joining me at the Women of Chapman's "Fashion in the Age of Louis XV" event at AnQi Gourmet Bistro was the speaker, Maxwell Barr, and his model Megan Smith

Joining me at the Women of Chapman’s “Fashion in the Age of Louis XV” event at AnQi Gourmet Bistro was the speaker, Maxwell Barr, and his model Megan Smith

Fashion historian Maxwell Barr, who has studied the fashions of 18th century Paris for many years, recently presented “Fashion in the Age of XV” to a rapt audience of 114 members and guests of the Women of Chapman, a support group of Chapman University. Held at AnQi Gourmet Bistro at South Coast Plaza, Barr used a powerpoint presentation to augment his talk, but the real impact revolved around a live model, who was dressed in fashions worn by a bourgeoisie lady in 18th century Paris. These ladies were from the elite class of merchants and bankers, who were one step below royalty, and were the monied class. Many of them married into royalty, much like the Downton Abbey story, with rich bourgeoisie women marrying men with titles and no money.

According to Barr, who handmade all the fashions worn by the model, these ladies changed clothing from four to eight times a day. He demonstrated what she would wear for her morning toilet, lunch, dinner, and a masked ball. The MORNING TOILET included taking a sponge bath or being seated on scented pillows in a bath, which included washing her hair. After washing, she was dressed in a linen chemise, knit silk stocking with silk ribbon ties and a handkerchief linen corset (see photos). Barr said the boning used in the corsets of the time was called baleen, which were bones from a whale’s mouth. Next, a linen under petticoat and decorative top petticoat were added, and a floor-length powdering jacket with silk satin ties was put on for hair and makeup.


Barr confided, “Madame Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, was considered a style-setter in her day, and her hairstyle was copied by the bourgeoisie ladies.” He said it entailed combing the hair with tallow (bone marrow cooked down to tallow and scented with hazelnut, lemon or orange), pumped up in front and fixed in a long braid down the back, which was then brought forward and pinned to the top of the head, with rolled horizontal curls on each side of the face. When the hair was powdered, the tallow made it adhere. Barr said a lady’s makeup was purchased at art supply stores and was the same paint artists used. There was no eye makeup, only rouge and lip color. “The ideal was a white face with flaming red lips and lip color,” Barr said. “However, the bourgeoisie lady always wore less rouge than royalty – that was the rule!” After hair and makeup were completed, she donned a silk taffeta jacket, often with silk satin ribbon embellishment and a ruffled edge, to which a matching silk taffeta skirt was added over the petticoats. She was now ready to view the latest fabrics from various designers, embroider or make pillow lace for gifts. Barr said she took sustenance from broth and bread.

If the bourgeoisie lady was going out to LUNCH, she removed the plain silk taffeta jacket and skirt and wore a fitted silk taffeta coraco brocade jacket (coraco means jacket with a flair), with the peplum a popular enhancement, and an embroidered silk taffeta skirt (not matching) over her petticoats. Barr said the lady’s jacket sleeve was cut for a bent elbow, since that was the way she held her arms at all times. Her accessories included a bergere (a flat-brimmed straw hat tied to the back of her head with a silk satin ribbon), beige kid leather three-quarter-length gloves, a small cross necklace on a ribbon, a triangular lace fichu (shawl), and silk taffeta brocade mules.


In preparation for DINNER, the bourgeoisie lady put on panniers, or side hoops, underneath her petticoats and, in this case, a shot silk taffeta sack-back gown or robe de la francaise. The iridescent fabric was woven one way in apple green and the other in apricot so that the green showed in natural light and the apricot shimmered in candlelight. Barr said the robe featured 130 embellishments with 20 yards of silk satin ribbon – rosettes, mimi-bouquets and triangle drapes in a lattice design. Her accessories included a pompom flower head ornament, a neck decoration or choker of silk ribbon and lace, ivory kid leather three-quarter-length gloves, and embellished lachet silk shoes with a Louis heel. The embellishments were diamonds and/or paste, depending on the lady’s wealth.


If the lady was attending a MASQUERADE BALL, she would wear the aforementioned robe de la francaise without the flower head ornament and neck decoration. A silk taffeta hooded cloak, or domino, with silk ribbon embellishments and matching ribbon ties was worn over the robe with an accompanying eye mask and fan.

FAN LANGUAGE: Barr said there was a complete fan language among ladies of that era so they could display a fan at a ball that would signify their intentions towards a gentleman. Examples were: Opening a fan slowly meant ‘Wait for me'; Striking a fan on your left hand meant ‘Write me’; Holding a fan closed meant ‘Do you love me?‘; Fanning slowly meant ‘I am married’; and Fanning rapidly mean ‘I am engaged.’

I want to thank WOC member and private jeweler extraordinaire Mona Nesseth for introducing my program co-chair Donna Calvert and I to Maxwell. Our membership is still talking about his presentation and how informative and enlightening it was. He created “Fashion in the Age of Louis XV” for the Getty Museum’s “Paris Life and Luxury Exhibit” and has lectured at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court in London, where he is currently studying embroidery techniques and application from the Renaissance to the present. The Royal School of Needlework is under the patronage of Queen Elizabeth II and is considered the best in the world. The school produced the appliquéd lace worn on Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. Early in his career, Maxwell worked with Romeo Gigli in Rome and Bob Mackie in Los Angeles before he segued into a 26-year career in the movie and television industries, working at most of the major movie studios and professional costume houses.

After retiring from the movie/tv industry to teach, Maxwell concentrated on Costume History at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and has lectured for the LACMA Costume Council, the UCLA Louis XIV Fashion Conference, aswell as for many other prestigious entities. He currently teaches and mentors at Woodbury University in Burbank in Period Design and Costume Construction, as well as at Los Angeles City College, and is continuing his studies of the French Royal family, specializing in Marie Antoinette, Empress Josephine and Madame de Pompadour. Who knows, a future program may be in the offing! The last thing I will say about Maxwell is that he is such a lovely person. We all loved him!

A big thank-you is in order for Elizabeth An, one of the powerhouse women in the An Restaurant dynasty. She was more than gracious to provide the restaurant for our program and to oversee a really delicious luncheon presentation. Mona’s friend, sommelier Margaux Kugelman, spoke about the superb wines offered for the occasion, which she made possible at a much reduced rate, and, thanks to Mona, were underwritten. Kudos are also due to Mona for underwriting Barr’s appearance. She is our WOC angel!!

Photos, courtesy of John Saade/Chapman University


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Community Dancers Shine at ALNM Benefit


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Posing for a photo with me are the volunteer dance contestants, from left, Brad Davidson, Marisa Wayne, Ben Anderson, Lisa Heil, Lauren Kear, and Marco McAleer

Posing with me for a photo are the volunteer dance contestants at the Assistance League of Newport Mesa’s Seventh Annual “Dancing for Tomorrow’s Stars.” From the left are Brad Davidson, Marisa Wayne, Ben Anderson, Lisa Heil, Lauren Kear, and Marco McAleer.

They had a lot of guts! I take my hat off to the volunteer dancers who danced their hearts out at the Assistance League of Newport Mesa’s Seventh Annual “Dancing for Tomorrow’s Stars” fundraiser at the City National Grove of Anaheim. A la “Dancing with the Stars,” ABC-TV’s uber-popular dance show, volunteers are paired with professional dancers, and they rehearse for approximately six weeks to perfect two two-to-three-minute dance routines and perform them onstage in front of judges and, in this case, 320 guests. It’s a little daunting, especially if you’ve never had dance lessons or danced much. The brave hearts participating this year included Ben Anderson, Brad Davidson, Lisa Heil, Lauren Kear, Marco Antonio McAleer, and Marisa Wayne.

Following a festive cocktail reception in the Grove’s foyer, guests gathered inside the dinner theater, where they enjoyed two courses of the three-course repast before the dance competition began. ALNM President Kathy Youngman welcomed everyone and encouraged everyone to vote for their favorite dancer online. She talked about ALNM’s philanthropic programs, which include Operation School Bell (provides clothes and school supplies to qualified students in community), Cheri Harris Children’s Dental Health Center (provides low-cost, high quality dental care to children of low-income families), Kids on the Block (puppeteers with their child-sized puppets perform skits addressing societal issues to 2nd and 3rd grade students), and Community Outreach Program (partnering with community agencies and schools to meet needs of children and adults through educational and scholarship funding). During dinner, several puppeteers and their darling puppets entertained guests.

Event co-chairs Joanne Johnston and Johanna Roe thanked their committee and sponsors and introduced the judges, which included Michelle Pulfrey from Good Day LA, Orange County Register theater critic Paul Hodgins and Black, Starr & Frost Chairman/CEO Alfredo Molina, who was also a past contestant. The co-chairs acknowledged, in particular, committee members Jill Ayres and Sara Guggenheim Jarrett, both past contestants, and Marie-France Lefebvre for their amazing support.

Bob Miller proved a great choice as master of ceremonies with his commanding voice and dry wit. He introduced a video of ALNM’s history, which is quite a history, since the National Assistance League chapter was established in 1940. Mary Lynn Bergman-Rallis, who has chaired the ALNM Scholarship Selection Committee for 12 years, introduced this year’s scholarship winner, Carlos Ibarra, who she said grew up in an impoverished neighborhood in Costa Mesa dumpster diving for recyclables daily with his mother. Eventually graduating from Costa Mesa High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Bergman-Rallis said Carlos utilized his extraordinary innate gifts and learned skills and wrote, produced and acted in his first short commercial film, the autobiographical “Cans at Dawn,” which debuted at the Santa Barbara Film Festival and also screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012. “Simply stated,” Bergman-Rallis said, “the film is a tribute to personal resilience and hope as experienced by this young boy and of a family unified by its desire to succeed.”

Carlos’ speech took your breath away. He said he was a high performing student, gifted athlete, talented performer and “occasional trouble maker,” to which he added, “hey…you gotta keep people on their toes!” The problem, he said, was that he had no money to attend college, which is something he and his family wanted for him. So, he navigated the college scholarship process and was turned down for 20 scholarships. Just about ready “to throw in the towel,” as he put it, the Assistance League of Newport Mesa notified him that he had received their scholarship. “They became my cheering squad and encouraged me to continue my scholarship hunt, and, once at New York University, gave me the motivation to finish college,” he said. Now in the professional world, Carlos said of the League, “They have become friends, colleagues and fans of my work, and as I continue to succeed, I will hopefully, in the not too distant future, be able to give back as much to them as they have given to me.”

As to the dance competition, Lauren Kear (looking fabulous in a sparkly costume with lots of feathers) and her professional partner Ed Van Ornum danced a sultry samba, while Ben Anderson, wearing a period zoot suit, complete with red tie and red-banded black hat, danced a mean fox trot with pro Alessia Minaeva. Lisa Heil (looking absolutely gorgeous in a red sequined and beaded gown with a red flower in her side bun) danced a powerful tango with dance pro Aurimas Petrulevicius, which received three 10’s, and Brad Davidson and his pro partner Natalie Schulz dancing a triple-10 jive to “Footloose.” Marisa Wayne (yes, John Wayne’s beautiful daughter!) and pro David Schulz received high marks for both their cha-cha and fox trot, and Marco Antonio McAleer exuded his Latin roots while dancing the salsa and tango with pro partner Viktorija.

Awards were presented to the following dancers: Lisa Heil was voted Best Female Dancer and also won Fan Favorite – the dancer who received the most votes – people gave money with their votes, which was earmarked for the charity. Brad Davidson won Best Male Dancer, Marisa Wayne was voted Most Elegant, Marco McAleer was Most Debonair, Lauren Kear was voted Most Charming, and Ben Anderson received the Most Wow award.

Kudos to Kalina Kovtur from Designs by Kalina, who helped design some of the dancer’s beautiful costumes, Bello Family Vineyards, who donated wines for the event, and to Black, Starr & Frost, who underwrote the cast party. Other past contestants I spotted at the benefit included Chris Gialanella, George Schreyer and Jim McAleer, along with former judge Janet Curci. Guests left on a high note, having witnessed a winning competition and knowing that a sizable amount (later stated at more than $150,000 in net proceeds) was raised for the amazing Assistance League of Newport-Mesa to help continue its important work in the community. Hear! Hear!

Selected photos by Michael Christopher at Logolite Entertainment



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