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George Christy 03-27-2009

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Angie Harmon, you are a dream emcee.  As we discovered during the Colleagues’ annual spring luncheon in support of the Children’s Institute at the Beverly Wilshire, which honored our indomitable restaurateur and food emperor Wolfgang Puck and the love of his life Gelila Puck, designer of stylish handbags. 

“Did you choose the luncheon today?” we asked Wolfgang, who beamed, “What else did you expect?”   Delicious it was, the chopped salad with those home grown vegetables from California’s Chino Farms, which merited a profile in the New Yorker magazine, followed by the roasted wild salmon with fresh ginger and slivered almonds a-top the celery root puree, and a fresh lemon tart with raspberries. 

    Accepting their Champion of Children Award, Wolfgang, in fine pixie-ish humor, flashed his engaging smile, acknowledging that he was thrilled to be among these beautiful women, many who buy several tables, and then wondered, “I don’t know what President Obama is doing downtown, and missing all of this!”  Recalling her Ethiopian heritage, Gelila noted that while she grew up comfortably, poverty stunted the lives of numerous children in her homeland, and she’s been involved with the Ethopian Children’s Fund since the ’90s. 

Wolfgang and Gelila contributed raffle dinners for six at Spago, Cut, Chinois, and Gelila, in her first public speaking engagement which she carried off admirably, sprung the surprise of Wolfgang cooking for a private party of 20 at a bidder’s residence, with the money fetched going to the Colleagues.  Unexpected it was, and dream emcee Angie rose to the challenge and took over with the polish of a veteran auctioneer.  She landed Patty Applegate’s winning bid of $22,000, prompting Wolfgang to add, “I’ll also provide the wines!”  How lucky can you get, dear Colleagues.  Overall, the luncheon raised in excess of $400,000.

Nettie (Mrs. Michael) Dart welcomed the crowd, and Angie introduced the videos, ranging from the heartbreaking to the uplifting about the lives of the youngsters benefiting from the Institute.  In addition to this spring fundraiser, monies are raised by the Colleagues Gallery at 3312 Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica, which offers designer fashions, jewelry, accessories and men’s wear contributed from, as Angie noted, “the best closets in town.”

After these annual luncheons, a fashion show delights the guests, and through the decades, fall collections from Oscar de la Renta to Valentino have graced the runway.  Our very own L.A. couturier  Kevan Hall, who’s dressed superstars for the Red Carpet and locals such as Jenny Jones, was this year’s choice.  Kevan’s collection for Paul Stanley featured a “spy” theme a la James Bond.  “Also, think Emma Peel, Honey West, and Mata Hari,” suggests Kevan.

Year upon year, Anne (Mrs. Frank) Johnson oversees the Herculean task of organizing the luncheon, and miraculously appeases the fashionable ladies with her judicious seating.  Founded in 1950 by Mrs. Homer Toberman, the Colleagues support the Children’s Institute, with its 25 programs, more than 350 employees, and hundreds of volunteers.  The Institute’s considered one of the nation’s strongest models for working with children affected by violence, child abuse and neglect, sexual abuse and domestic violence, gifting the youngsters with the promise and hope of better lives. 

Angie Harmon and husband Jason Sehorn have been among past   honorees that included Nancy Reagan, Maria Shriver, Brooke Shields and husband Chris Henchy, Diane Sawyer and Mike Nichols, Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, Shawn and Larry King, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Anjelica Huston and Robert Graham, Police Chief William Bratton.

Among the 600 guests in the Grand Ballroom were Wallis Annenberg, our Beverly Hills Design and Life editor Marcia Hobbs, Joan Collins with daughter-in-law Angela Newley, Brooke Knapp, Cheryl Tiegs, James Galanos, whose Palm Springs hacienda is for sale, Louise Danelian, Betty and Fred Hayman, Kelly and Robert Day, who underwrote the luncheon, Mary Milner, Jill Cartter, Chardee Trainor, Dana and Doug McKellar, Betsy Bloomingdale, Barbara Davis, Nancy Davis, Jolene Schlatter, Linda Thompson, Wanda McDaniel, Deborah Raffin, whose children’s book will be published by Abrams this fall.
Also: Vogue’s Lisa Love, Lauralee Woods, Wendy Stark Morrissey, Lauren King, Brigitte Bren, Katrina Cord, Lynn Booth, Alyce Williamson, Gayle Wilson, Peggy and Walter Grauman, Donna Kendall, Mary Emmons, Marjory Miller, Joni Smith, Shirlee Fonda, Virginia Madsen, Irena Medavoy, Gabrielle Beauvais-Nilon, Lois Aldrin, Barbera Thornhill, Lisa Rinna, Frank Johnson, Stephen Cord. 

Mary Marshall was seated nearby, with whom we had the pleasure lately of dining at e.baldi in Beverly Hills.  Our longtime friend Carolyn Ferris of the throwaway chic flew in from La Jolla, and we savored an evening of warm recollections.  Old friends are the best friends, with so much history to share.

Congratulations to four-time Emmy Award-winning composer Laura Karpman, the recipient of love letters from critics at the New York Times and Vanity Fair last week.  “If I wrote the comments myself, I couldn’t have written higher praise,” says her dad, the eminent Beverly Hills cardiologist Dr. Harold Karpman, who attended the premiere evening at Carnegie Hall.   Performed by the five-time Grammy winner diva Jessye Norman, the multi-media presentation, Ask Your Mama:12 Moods for Jazz, is based on a poem by Langston Hughes.  Dedicated to Louis Armstrong, “the greatest horn blower of them all,”  Ask Your Mama is featured in Jessye Norman’s Honor! A Celebration of the African American Cultural Legacy. 

The performance drew “thunderous approval,” says Steve Smith of the New York Times.  It was narrated from a recording by Langston Hughes, who died in 1967, and who spurred the 1920s Harlem Renaissance that included celebrated poets and writers such as Countee Cullen and Zora Neale Thurston.  A PhD graduate of Juilliard who fell in love with Hughes’ poetry, Laura threaded his haunting and resonant verses into a musical that she blended with jazz, hip-hop, and chamber music under the baton of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.  She interspersed the oratorio with recorded narrations from Leontyne Price, Charlie Parker, Bo Diddley, and vocals from Jessye Norman, mezzo soprano Tracie Luck, jazz singer de’Adre Aziza and Roots rapper Black Thought (Tarik Trotter).

“These artists inspired me, lending their brains and hearts and awesome musicianship to this project,” revealed Laura to Vanity critic Lindsey Keenan.  “Jessye Norman is equal part shocking and sublime.”  In August, Laura and company bring their inspirational presentation to our Hollywood Bowl.

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