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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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