Serving Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Holmby, Century City, Trousdale, Brentwood, Westwood

George Christy 05-22-2009

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Long before their stars sparkled in the cinema firmament, I predicted stardom for Amy Adams, Cameron Diaz, Daniel Day-Lewis.  On target also was my restaurant radar.  Championing Spago, the Ivy, Morton’s, Chinois, Cut, Taverna Tony, Cecconi’s, each of them from their opening week.  If my constant readers and restaurant lovers, Anne and Arnold Kopelson, are paying attention, they may want to check out My Pick of the Week today on page 13.

We anticipate Sam Worthington will be the next big star, and trust his manager Sandra Chang at Industry Entertainment and his CAA agents will steer him right.  This former bricklayer from Perth, Australia stars in McG’s Terminator Salvation, and commands the screen, a ballsy actor reminiscent of another Aussie star, Heath Ledger.  What is it about these Aussie actors and their acting chops?

After an exhaustive year-long search, Jim Cameron cast Sam as his lead in Fox’s $200 million Avatar.  “I auditioned hundreds of actors,” says Jim, “and knew from the first two minutes in Sam’s audition tape that he was the one.”  Sam’s completed Last Night with Keira Knightly, and The Debt with Helen Mirren.  He’s filming the remake of the 1981 Clash of the Titans, based on the myth of Perseus battling Medusa and the Kraken monster to save Princess Andromeda, with costars Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and Alexa Davalos in England.

“He’s charming, well-educated at Uppingham, which is a private school  in England, and he’s fun. The kind of guy who says, ‘Come on, darling, let’s do something,’” reports Mitzi Gaynor, adding that, “Joni’s never looked better … she’s so bloody happy.”  Mitzi was among the 40 guests at the wedding ceremony, officiated by Rabbi Jerry Cutler, when Joni Berry, who can’t do enough for charity in our town, exchanged for-better-or-for-worse vows with London author Stephen Maitland-Lewis at her hilltop estate in Beverly Hills. 

We’re perennially impressed with Joni’s major gifts for our community and Israel.  For Share, with its industry wives dedicated to looking after certain children, she underwrites Share’s annual Boomtown dinner.  She chairs the Professional Dancers Society (herself a hot hooferette), and underwrites its twice-yearly fundraisers for dancers in need.  She owns Jody’s Gym on Fairfax Avenue (named after her late husband Jody),  and those of a certain age, who can’t afford a health club, are allotted full privileges without charge.  The place is packed.   Count on Joni for subsidizing Alzheimer’s research at Tel Aviv University in Israel, and she never fails to thank her family’s Eichenbaum Foundation for allowing her to do all that she does.  Dad Joe was a real estate tycoon in Los Angeles, and owned department stores in Chicago.

Joni’s handsome and best-dressed son, Tony Boyar, gave the bride away.  Her emerald and diamond earrings sparkling with white and green fire, the bride wore a café au lait silk crepe blouson with beaded sleeves and café au lait silk chiffon pants created by Mary Ellen Fields at Bill Hargate’s atelier.  Seated at tables decorated with white roses, freesia and orchids, guests dined on rack of lamb or Chilean sea bass catered by Michael Hollingsworth.  Along with relatives and Joni’s BFF Mitzi Gaynor, chums included Sandra Moss, The Improv’s Alex and Budd Friedman, Gloria and Mike Franks, Roxanne and Jack Carter, Martha and A.C. Lyles, Joanie and Norm Crosby, Ginny Mancini, Joanie Benny who gave Joni’s telephone number to Stephen.

Bridegroom Stephen informs he’s completing his novel with that intriguing title, Never Judge a Day Till Midnight (previous novel being Hero on Three Continents), and says he pursued Joni for more than a year.  “I’d seen photos of her from events, and was anxious to know her. I’d send notes or call, suggesting we gather over a drink or lunch, but I got nowhere.  This made me all the more determined, and aren’t I glad I was.”

Joni adds, “He sent flowers at Christmas, and I was annoyed.  The last thing I wanted to do was phone to say thanks, but I did, and finally capitulated that we’d have a bite of lunch.”  She’d been married four times, and didn’t want another marriage in her life, but fate is unpredictable by diverting us, and love manages to find a way.  “Who knew that we would click as we did?  That lunch led to dinners and more lunches, and now we’re hitched.  I couldn’t be happier, and we’re excited about honeymooning in London, Geneva, Venice and Paris next month.  Stephen has three wonderful children … two boys, Toby and Benjamin, and daughter Victoria.”

The night before, Joni and Stephen and family wined and dined at Spago, where we were catching up with glamour girl Barbara Lazaroff in a sexy floral Cavalli minidress, and her fiance John Hanwell, also a Brit.  Hails from Wells, near Somerset, and Wells is England’s “smallest city,” renowned as the birthplace of William Penn, after whom Pennsylvania was named, and famed for an irresistibly beautiful 13th century cathedral. 

John’s godfather is the Royal Ballet’s lead dancer, Christopher Gable.  “When I was a kid, I yearned to dance, but there was no hope with my clumsy feet.”   He informs that he and Barbara have several projects in the works that they’re enthusiastic about.  Barbara, of course, enjoys a titanic success with her Imaginings Design business — she designed the 1982 Spago on Horn in West Hollywood, the 1997 Spago in Beverly Hills, and the 1983 Chinois with its favored Asian fusion cuisine in Santa Monica, among other numerous projects.   She’s also partnered with Wolfgang Puck and Carl Schuster in their hugely popular Wolfgang Puck Catering.

Newlyweds Joni and Stephen attended the 18th Society of Singers dinner honoring Herb Alpert and Lani Hall with the Ella Award this week at the Beverly Hilton.  Last year, the SOS, presided over by Jerry Sharell, honored Andy Williams.   Created by the visionary Ginny Mancini, SOS assists professional singers worldwide who were bushwhacked early on from their royalties, and are assisted with housing, their health and welfare and life’s necessities.  More than 3,000 singers have been helped with emergency financial grants and disaster relief since SOS’ inception in 1984. (Ginny, whose late husband was the musical genius Hank Mancini, enjoyed a singing career with the Mel-Tones).

Ella Fitzgerald of the lustrous voice was Ginny’s first SOS honoree, with the program produced by everybody’s favorite George Schlatter.  Further honorees included Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Rosemary Clooney, Placido Domingo, Tony Bennett, Tony Martin, Elton John, Julie Andrews, Gladys Knight, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Joe Williams, Lena Horne, Celine Dion, Johnny Mathis, Barry Manilow.

Trumpet-playing Herb Alpert won seven Grammys, his hits yielding 14 Platinum and 15 Gold albums, with more than 72 million sold worldwide, many recorded with his legendary Tijuana Brass.   A Los Angeles native, Herb and partner Jerry Moss established the globally successful A & M Records (A for Alpert, M for Moss),  recording supernova artists from Sergio Mendes to Janet Jackson, selling it in 1990 for gazillions.

A painter and sculptor, Herb’s also a Broadway producer with hits such as Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.  Since 2004, he oversees his restaurant-jazz-club, Vibrato Grill, in Bel-Air.  With singer Lani Hall, his wife since 1974, he continues to perform.
Honoring Herb and Lani with his singular performance at the SOS gala was the impeccable Alan Bergman.  His latest album, Lyrically, is a must-have, with classics such as Windmills of Your Mind, and other lyrics written with his beloved wife and partner Marilyn.  Also performing were the Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles that donates more than 60,000 hours annually for their volunteer concerts and services, Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, jazz vocalists Renee Olstead and Tata Vega, Steve Tyrell, Pat Boone, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I’m reducing my life to doing things I like to do, some concerts now and then with Lani,” says Herb. “Making money’s no longer my goal, having fun at this age in my life is.” 

Just as it is, with our newlyweds Stephen and Joni.

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