George Christy Talks About Princess Lilly Fallah Lawrence, Kobe Bryant, Hedva Amrani And More
“Beyond … this is way beyond,” beamed Ann Mangini. “I’ll treasure it,” she sighed after opening the Tiffany robin’s egg blue box and unwrapped a crystal minaudiere, a gift from Princess Lilly Fallah Lawrence during Lilly’s holiday fete at the Penthouse Restaurant in Santa Monica’s Huntley Hotel.
Ann’s renowned as “the jeweler to the stars.” Her shop on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade attracts the Who and the Who, and not long ago the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was glimpsed buying a rare lavender diamond for wife Vanessa as a comfort gift after his Colorado madness.
No sooner did Lilly Lawrence arrive on the West Coast, after a luxe life at the Essex House in Manhattan with her late financier tycoon husband Bunty Lawrence, Lilly discovered Ann, who became her favorite jeweler. For years we’ve known that Lilly’s jewelry collection, in Anne’s words, is “way beyond;” her mother Mahine’s jewels were second to the Queen of England.
Lilly’s ho-ho-ho Christmas fete was masterfully overseen by Penthouse manager Tony Trincanello (a New “Joisey” boy). Those Broadway musical aficionados familiar with Leonard Bernstein’s delightful score for My Sister Eileen, with lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, may remember the tune, Why, Oh, Why Oh, Why Oh, Did I Ever Leave Ohio. Honeychile, you split from the Buckeye State, to meet a La Divina like Lilly.
The alluringly beautiful daughter of Dr. Reza Fallah, the ambassador-at-large during the reign of the Shah of Iran, Lilly grew up in the Pahlavi Palace in Teheran before taking over New York with her philanthropy. Lucky, indeed, is Los Angeles for Lilly’s “giving back” to the adopted country that she loves.
Two years ago, a tree toppled during a raging Malibu fire that destroyed her magnificent mountaintop estate, The Castle, ruining her lifetime valuables. Never one to weep, Lilly said, “My possessions never possessed me … what I’m concerned about are our boys in Iraq.”
With her philanthropic heart, she’s purchased thousands of prepaid phone calls for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. She contributes ongoing funds to the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital, donates apparel and books to the Sojourn Women’s Shelter in Santa Monica, along with furnishings to schools and medical centers. Also serves as the presenting sponsor for the Santa Monica Film Festival, and served as a founding sponsor for the Malibu Film Festival.
As Ann Mangini reflected about her Tiffany crystal minaudiere being “way beyond,” every guest received porcelain animals at their place settings and surprises such as Waterford crystal wine glasses with decanters.
Her love of freedom is so powerful that during the ’70s, Lilly voluntarily put herself at great personal risk to bring down the corruption in her native country, exposing closely guarded secrets of the Secret Police. Why did she dare do it? She quotes the Reverend Martin Luther King about his civil rights crusade – “it’s just what I had to do.” This September 14th, she was honored by George Washington University with the Defender of the First Amendment Award.
The fete celebrated Lilly’s award, along with her birthday, joined as she was with kind friends who’ve enhanced her Los Angeles lifestyle. “These are special people one bonds with, and who become loyal best friends … you wonder how you lived without them.”
In the Penthouse Restaurant’s Private Room, Lilly created a floral fantasy with florist Yanelis – garlands of butterfly orchids, calla lilies and multicolored roses. Seated at one large table, the 16 guests dined on smoked salmon, gnocchi, a releve of lemon sorbet to “cleanse the palate” (as Alfred Hitchcock occasionally told us). Followed by a choice of seabass or short ribs, assorted French cheeses, preserved apricots, walnuts and almonds. Designed with pastry roses and calla lilies, Lily’s birthday cake was accompanied with the prized Louis Roederer rose champagne (a rare, repeat rare, treat for oenophiles).
Toasting Lilly’s life were her devoted assistant Cheryl Pokomo (a look-alike for Sharon Lawrence) with husband Dr. Randy Pokomo, medical director of Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital; the Oscar-nominated sound designer Mark Mangini, now working on The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins about the Catholic Church’s alarm with the proliferation of demonic spirits. Consequently, the Vatican is rushing to train more priests to be exorcists.
Also, Fox Emmy-winning news anchor Christine Devine with Sean McNabb, bass player with Dokken, who announced their engagement; Fox Emmy-winning news co-anchor Carlos Amezcua with MCC’s Sharon Clayton; KTLA news anchor and reporter Wendy Burch; Juli Hutner with Robert Trappenberg.
We met Kim Devore, daughter of the Hollywood haberdasher Sy Devore who outfitted Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley – Kim’s a producer with the Discovery Channel now working on a special about untamed Alaska – “nothing to do with Sarah Palin.” Escorting Kim was attorney/judge Barry Glaser.
Equally “way beyond” was Hedva Amrani’s first concert in 12 years, titled My Israel. The joyously irrepressible Hedva attracted a sold-out audience at the American Jewish University’s Gindi Auditorium in Bel-Air. Singing ballads of love and of yearning for her beloved Israel, she performed a repertoire that’s greeted her with high enthusiasm from Tel Aviv to Tokyo, where Hedva’s albums attain platinum status.
Trim as a beauty queen, Hedva was born in Yemen, and chose songs from her native land, along with music influenced by the flamenco heritage from the Sephardic settlers in Spain, also influences from the Askenazys, dueting as she did with the acclaimed actor-singer Mike Burstyn. Her singing is heartfelt and subtly nuanced, and between selections, Hedva’s anecdotal commentary charmed.
She dueted gracefully with Doran Danoff on Tell Me Yes, with lyrics by Hedva and music composed by Doran, her musician son with husband Dudley Danoff, the prominent urologist. A ten-member orchestra accompanied Hedva splendidly, with vocalists Fletcher Sheridan and Maya Haddi meriting special mention.
In the audience were Japanese Consul General Junichi Ihara, Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, who presented Hedva with a proclamation, and Spago’s Barbara Lazaroff, who insisted we attend to experience the joyous music of Hedva.
Additionally “way beyond” is the success of the “toy drop” at Spago. Within a week, it’s brought in more than $2,000 worth of toys for Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles. The brainchild of Spago hostess Ellen Farentino, whose parents are actors Michele Lee and James Farentino, Ellen says, “Please, let’s contribute more toys before the holidays end to cheer these hospitalized youngsters. They’ll be grateful for your Santa Clause surprises, as will we for your good deed.”
On another note, we are grateful to the fashionable Marjorie Beradino, who was wed to the late John Beradino, the baseball star who initiated the enduring role of Dr. Steve Hardy on General Hospital. At the premiere of How Do You Know, she acknowledged her “25 wonderful years with Johnny,” and gave us an accolade we’ll share and boast about for a moment. “I’ve followed your Courier column for years, and as a former English teacher I must compliment you on your grammar and punctuation.” It doesn’t come any better than that for a writer. Thank you, Marjorie.