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Celebrities, Fans Return For Frank’s ‘Little Party’

With a new venue—Indio’s Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and its new golf course, Eagle Falls—the Frank Sinatra Starkey Hearing Foundation Celebrity Invitational swings into its 22nd year.

By Frances Allen

Twenty-two years ago, Frank Sinatra threw “a little party in the Desert.” It became an annual event as Frank would invite his friends to Rancho Mirage for a long weekend of fun, golf … and, well you know the rest.

But there was a charitable component behind many things Sinatra did, and the beneficiary of his “little party” was the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, which opened in 1986 on the campus of the Eisenhower Medical Center.

    The vision of Frank and Barbara in founding and maintaining the center was to provide a place to offer counseling for victims of physical, sexual and emotional child abuse with a focus on prevention, community education and breaking the cycle of abuse, with all services provided to any child in need, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

That they succeeded is reinforced every day. The Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center has a worldwide reputation for its achievements in protecting children from abuse. So, who can begrudge supporters of the center a little fun while helping innumerable children?

    Like its beneficiary, Frank’s “little party” has attained a global reputation and, more important, has grown in stature and in the number of its supporters.

This year the festivities for the 22nd Frank Sinatra Starkey Hearing Foundation Celebrity Invitational Golf Tournament, (with the Starkey foundation serving as the title sponsor of the event for the second year), will be held from Feb. 18-21 at a new venue: Indio’s Fantasy Springs Resort Casino and its new golf course. Eagle Falls is owned by The Cabazon Band of Mission Indians.

 • The fun begins on Thursday evening with the tournament’s Pairings Party held at the casino. This is where teams are announced as guests enjoy a lavish “Pasta Italiano” buffet, silent auction and hilarious entertainment by comedian/musician, Gary Mule Deer, all overseen by the man whom Frank Sinatra dubbed the “master master of ceremonies,” Tom Dreesen. And no wonder as Dreesen is making his 22nd appearance as the tournament’s emcee.

• Friday, Feb. 19, is the first day of the shotgun start golf tournament, where everybody’s favorite English teacher, master elocutionist Norm Crosby, will serve as 2010 honorary marshall.

However, while the golfers (mostly male) attack the course at Eagle Falls, their wives and partners can attend the Sinatra Luncheon/Fashion Show, chaired by Barbara Sinatra’s good friend, the glamorous and fashionable Nelda Linsk.

Admission to the luncheon and show is available as a separate event, and for $150, guests can attend a silent auction and peruse fashion-must-haves such as furs from Dicker & Dicker of Beverly Hills, jewelry from Borrowed Bling and purses by Over the Top. And that’s only the prelude.

Non-golfers, (and this is worth a day away from the course), will dine at a spectacular luncheon and fashion show, presented by Troy on El Paseo and featuring the stunning and intricate creations of Lourdes Chavez. (Those readers who read about the Palm Springs International Film Festival in this column will remember that it was a stunning gown designed by Lourdes which got me entrée onto the red carpet.)

Although virtually every other hole on the golf course will be a food and drink station, Friday night’s dinner, named “Frank’s Favoriti Italiano” is designed to replace spent carbohydrates, while featuring entertainment provided by the Gatlin Brothers.

• While there is another round of golf Saturday, the anticipated event is, as always, the gala, which through the years has featured mega-celebrities such as Sinatra himself to Tony Bennett and Liza Minnelli. This year is no exception, featuring The Smothers Brothers as headliners, along with co-host Robert Wagner and honorary spokesman Dick Van Dyke.

Also honored at the gala will be Wallis Annenberg, who will receive the first-ever “Champion of the Children” award in recognition of her support for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center and its cause.

Also receiving special recognition at the Saturday night gala will be Bill Austin, founder and driving force behind the tournament’s title sponsor, Starkey Hearing Foundation. Quite simply, the Starkey Foundation gives the gift of hearing; delivering more than 50,000 hearings instruments annually through hearing missions to 86 countries and is supported and sustained by the selfless efforts of volunteers and donors around the globe.  

• And, finally, there is Sunday, Feb. 21. This is your chance to see where it all goes, as Barbara will host an open house and tour of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. It’s an event guaranteed to leave you more satisfied than even all the pasta consumed over the previous three days. There are still tickets available and you can be a part of this spectacular, star-friendly event by calling 800-377-8277.

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