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

George Christy 09-12-2010

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Jane Nathanson chairs the gala at LACMA this Saturday when 900 art patrons from here and abroad gather to dine and hail philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, whose $45 million gift funded LACMA’s Resnick Pavilion that was built for $53 million. Christina Aguilera is entertaining.

“This will be the largest purpose-built, naturally fit, open-plan museum space in the world,” informs LACMA CEO Michael Govan about the the single-story, 45,000 square foot structure design by Renzo Piano. Featuring a trio of exhibitions, the new building opens to the public with a free weekend October 2-3. The Pavilion’s another shining jewel in the cultural crown of the City of the Angels.

The Resnicks’ manorial estate in Beverly Hills is featured in the October issue of Town & Country Magazine. Since 1979, they’ve owned the floral wire service Teleflora, masterminded the Franklin Mint for 25 years before selling it, also own Fiji Water, POM (the healthy pomegranate drink) made from their pomegranate acreage in the San Joaquin Valley, and pistachio orchards. At age 19, Lynda founded an advertising agency in Philadelphia, and she details her business philosophies and successful marketing strategies in Rubies in the Orchard: How to Uncover the Hidden Gems in Your Business (our Pick of the Week some months ago).

What better than celebrating a birthday at home with home cooking? So it is at Mitzi Gaynor’s residence in Beverly Hills. Trotting out the Baccarat crystal, Christofle silver service, she set every table with her Herendt porcelain, which is Hungary’s best – Mitzi’s of proud Hungarian ancestry. Masses of white roses and rubrum lilies decorated every elegantly appointed table (with silver napkin rings, yet). All this for her beloved choreographer-director Tony Charmoli to celebrate a belated birthday.

Why belated? Well, when it was Tony’s B-Day, Mitzi was touring Razzle Dazzle: Behind the Sequins, produced by Rene Reyes and Shane Rosamanda, and Shane says that in San Francisco during their first tour, Mitzi was greeted with a standing and stomping ovation after the first number of the rousing Honeybun from South Pacific (she starred as Nurse Nellie Forbush in Joshua Logan’s film of the the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical).

Not only did she set San Francisco on fire and on its feet, but Mitzi enraptured The New York Observer’s acerbic critic Rex Reed in Manhattan. Michael Feinstein agreed to build a special stage for her at the Regency Hotel, where Feinstein’s at the Regency books the best, from Barbara Cook to Mitzi.

She’s since played both coasts and more than a dozen flyover cities, and during her engagement this month at the Lawrence Welk Resort in San Diego, she sold out five performances in the theater that seats 600. A memoir is in the works, and aren’t there hints about Las Vegas? Talk about a roaring “I’m back, thank you everyone!”

Emmy winner Tony Charmoli’s a class act, having directed and choreographed Mitzi’s NBC specials (available on DVD), as well as the current Razzle Dazzle. Who hasn’t he worked with might be easier to note, from Bob Hope to beauty pageants, Mikhail Baryshnikov to the popular Circus of the Stars. Tony’s ageless, and laughs that he grew up in the below-zero weather of Northern Minnesota – “where I was frozen for twenty years before my life began, that’s why I’m as young as I am.” Sister Al is 102, and sister Claire is 99.

Barbara Lazaroff joined Mitzi’s guests, says that her chum Tony walks up hill and down dell every day, exercises, and when not working he keeps his cool by painting and gardening. Little did we know that Barbara studied biochemistry, worked in a hospital for eight years, and claims that hers is the largest Rolodex of top doctors throughout the country.

This weekend marks the 28th year of American Food and Wine’s Meals on Wheels that Barbara and Wolfgang Puck host at the Universal Studios Backlot, having raised nearly $20 million to feed those in need. They bring in celebrity chefs from around the country to unite with our California cooking stars, all serving buffet feasts that go on through the night. This remains one of the liveliest charity events in our city, with credit being acknowledged to New York food critic Gael Greene for birthing this ingenuous idea.

Shall we discuss Tony’s dinner at Mitzi’s, every delicious dish prepared by her own loving hands. Housekeeper Abby Aguire assists, and whips up a holy moly guacamole as a drinks teaser. Chicken a la Romeo Salta, lasagna with four cheeses, shrimps a la Pierre Franey (the late Romeo and Pierre long ago belonged in the Chefs Hall of Fame). Artichoke salad, and homemade brownies, too, served with a melange of fresh berries. If only there was take-out to savor the next day over lunch (or breakfast?).

Fine photographer that she is, Barbara documented the evening for Tony, and fashionista Barbara chose Dolce & Gabbana’s aubergine silk from her couture collection, accessorized with a museum-quality, Spanish-style shawl from Valentino. Both India Irving in blue-lilac silk chiffon ruffles by Chloe, and mom Lynn von Kersting in a beautiful blue-and-white Pucci print were standouts, as was Mitzi in silvery Marc Jacobs. Bunny Stivers was a portrait in a classic white tailleur, and Phyllis Sues, the wife of Laugh In’s Alan Sues, chose flirty black ruffles. Phyllis was the first of Tony’s lead dancers.

Lynn von Kersting was congratulated on her Amore e Gioia Sotto il Sole, An Indigo Seas Scrapbook of Ivy Recipes and Summer Snapshots that she art-directed and self-published and is available exclusively at her Indigo Seas shop on North Robertson Boulevard. Great photographs of Lynn, Richard Irving, their daughter India and beau Mario Rivelli taken by Traditional Homes’ Darra Baker, who edited this highly personal “scrapbook,” as Lynn modestly describes it.

Accompanying Barbara Lazaroff was dapper art gallerist David Streets, and in the mix were Jim “Essex” Woods, who arrived with several cheesecakes, Kip Grimm, who’s followed Mitzi’s successes for years, Steven Byrket, the event planner for El Cholo who attended to those mechanical details for Mitzi — rounding out the tables and chairs, etc.

Tony’s pal TV Academy president John Shaffner was thrilled with those comments about Jimmy Fallon’s hosting the Emmys – “I went to New York with a hope of convincing him, and as we talked I knew Jimmy was the one.” John and partner Joe Stewart are the production designers for the new Conan show, and among their design projects are Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Ellen, and Friends. Yes, it’s true that John threw the first pitch for the first game during the Dodgers’ 50th anniversary in 2008!

Speaking of birthdays, we recalled a moment during our youth in Manhattan when we were invited to a red-checkered tablecloth Italian restaurant in Little Italy. The honoree was a Sicilian-American of considerable girth, whispered to be a Mafia kingpin.

After our Lucullan feast, when it was time for Signore Mafioso, who was a livewire of fun, to blow out a candle for his birthday, we did a double-take. Instead of a cake, the owners presented him with a towering meatball sandwich. His favorite menu item. He quickly blew out the lonely flame before chowing down on his favorite dish. Not to be ignored, we guests plowed into a Sicilian cassata – almond-fragrant sponge cake filled with candied fruits and topped with whipped ricotta cream that, of course, was out of this world!

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