The Joffrey Ballet’s Couture & Cocktails, now in its seventh year, is one of the most anticipated fashion events of the year. This year, glamour queens Kristina McGrath and Sonya Jackson co-chaired the event that attracted more than 500 trendsetters. This party has always been known for its exciting venues and, this year, the new McGrath Acura dealership was the place to be! With more than 50,000 sq. feet of dramatic space, guests were filled with excitement and anticipation as they walked the red carpet leading into the party. Ivan Carlson’s décor set the tone with flashing pink strobe lights while chic bars filled with Skinnygirl cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres from Stefani Catering were major crowd pleasers. A vintage couture auction presented by LUXURY GARAGE SALE had partygoers oohing, ahhing and bidding. At 7:30 p.m., white curtains parted to reveal another gorgeous space filled with a huge runway and row upon row of Lucite chairs. Bartenders served the seated VIP guests who included “Chicagolicious” star AJ Johnson, Jan Flanagan, Lynn and John McMahan, Jacqueline and Leon Kinloch, Michaela Parrillo, Rebecca and Charlie Besser, Gale and Jay Gottlieb, Toni and Rick Canada, Daniel DeVos and designer/wife Pamella Roland DeVos, Chef Art Smith and Jesus Salgueiro and Mike McGrath among others. To open the fashion show, co-chairs Kristina and Sonya roared into the space in a $380,000 cherry red Lexus LFA. After inviting Leon Kinloch and orchestra leader turned auctioneer David Rothstein to the stage, the quartet began the live auction portion of the night. Packages included exotic trips on United Airlines with hotel stays at the Langham Hotel Group among other exciting offerings. After the live auction, more donations were raised with a “runway strut,” where guests could take a turn on the runway for varying amounts – there were some pretty fancy moves up there and it was a very clever idea for additional fundraising. And then, the main event: Pamella Roland’s Spring 2013 collection presented by Neiman Marcus! I will tell you that I wanted almost every single thing I saw on that runway. From simple daytime dresses to elegant, entrance-making gowns, Pamella’s creations had the crowd cheering and clapping in appreciation. When I interviewed her for Watch312.com, she told me her inspiration was the minimalistic paintings by Ellsworth Kelly...and indeed, her black-and-white theme made a dramatic yet elegant statement. The peplum dresses were gorgeous enough on their own as the models glided down the runway but when they turned and the crowd saw that the entire backs were sheer, it made everyone moan. At the end of the show, when Pamella made her triumphant runway walk, a standing ovation rattled the walls. Guests were then shuttled to another magnificent room for the post-show reception while this space was transformed into a dance floor. The McGrath Acura space, with its soaring ceilings and exquisite artwork, could be a museum if it wasn’t an uber successful dealership. White leather furniture was arranged for special VIP seating that included darling pillows emblazoned with McGrath Acura and champagne waiting patiently in elegant containers. Beginning at 9 p.m., the dance party was kicked off by the world-famous Joffrey dancers led by Mauro Villanueva and David Gombert, April Daley and Miguel Blanco, Victoria Jaiani and Temur Suluashvili, Derrick Agnoletti, Fabrice Calmels, Erica Lynette Edwards, Dylan Guiterrez and Tian Shuai among others. Food trucks were stationed in the entrance space and included delicious mac and cheese from Southern Mac & Cheese, Chef Leah’s perfect pancakes from Babycakes, Two Italians' delicious meatballs and pizza, Mexican fare from La Adelita and vegan, dairy-free offerings from Ste Martaen. No one wanted this exciting night to end at this glorious new venue on the river but sadly, we will all have to wait till next year to find out what new adventure C & C takes us on! Congrats to Sonya and Kristina and the Joffrey on this fun-filled night that raised more than $275K for Joffrey programming and outreach. This event has grown exponentially in size since its inception in 2007 with past featured designers including David Meister, Carmen Marc Valvo, Maria Pinto, Temperley London and Escada. A special thanks to this year’s sponsors United Airlines, McGrath Imports, Pamella Roland, Neiman Marcus, Michigan Avenue Magazine, Laura Mercier, Beam Global Spirits & Wine (love Tom Strehle!), Skinnygirl, Constellation Brands, Inc., Exelon, The Daniel and Pamella DeVos Foundation and the beautiful sweet tables from Sugar Chic Designs! (To see ALL party pics by Mila Samokhina and Steve Starr, please click here!)
The Renaissance Society welcomed more than 340 guests, including prominent business leaders, curators and artists for its 2012 Benefit Gala at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on Saturday, September 8th. The event grossed more than $677,000 in support of The Renaissance Society’s 2012-2013 exhibition season and celebrated director Susanne Ghez’s 40th year at this internationally-renowned non-collecting museum of contemporary art. Guests enjoyed an evening that began with a cocktail reception and silent art auction featuring pieces by past Renaissance Society artists, alongside a special preview of a limited edition photo portfolio curated by guest of honor Susanne Ghez in celebration of her tenure as director of The Renaissance Society. During a lavish dinner by Radisson Blu Catering paired with wines from Todd Hess/H2Vino, guests were treated to the visually stunning décor and table arrangements of Paul Buenvenida and Gary Heiferman. A special tribute to Ghez included remarks from Renaissance Society Board of Directors President Greg Cameron, who warmly congratulated her on 40 years of inspiring leadership and generosity of spirit in supporting artists, noting the profound impact Ghez has had in creating one of the world’s most important contemporary art exhibition venues. The evening concluded with a live auction of cutting-edge art by Matt Saunders, Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall and a luxury trip to a private villa in the Mexican Riviera. The 2012 Benefit Gala Chair was Deirdre McBreen, Executive Vice President of Corporate Secretary and Principal at Peter J. McBreen & Associates. Distinguished guests at the event included Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Director Madeleine Grynsztejn and curators Naomi Beckwith and Michael Darling, Art Institute of Chicago director Douglas Druick and curators Peter Zegers, James Rondeau, Matt Witkovsky and Lisa Dorin, Columbia College Museum of Contemporary Photography director Natasha Egan, darling City of Chicago Cultural Affairs commissioner Michelle Boone, Northwestern University Block Museum director Lisa Corrin, Chicago Humanities Festival artistic director Matti Bunzl, Santa Monica Museum of Art director Elsa Longhauser, Terra Foundation director Elizabeth Glassman, Richard Wright of Wright Auction, Tang Museum curator Ian Berry, Arts Club director Janine Mileaf, Jane Addams Hull House Museum director Lisa Lee, and EXPO CHICAGO president/director Tony Karman. (Photos by Erin Drewitz.)
On the heels of successful launches in LA, NY, Miami and Dallas, creator Rande Gerber (husband of gorgeous supermodel Cindy Crawford) was joined by family and friends in Chicago recently to celebrate the launch of Caliche Rum, a rum six generations in the making and exclusively from the Serrallés Family Distillery, the birthplace of premium Puerto Rican rum. Since launching in March 2012, Caliche Rum has been very well received among consumers and trade alike being honored with some of the highest rated reviews in the industry. Congrats Rande and bring Cindy back home! :)
The Chicago office of international educational nonprofit Facing History and Ourselves welcomed Mayor Rahm Emanuel along with more than 200 partners, donors and supporters of its acclaimed multimedia exhibition Choosing to Participate for a private party on Monday, September 24th in the Winter Garden of the Chicago Public Library’s Harold Washington Library Center. Guests enjoyed heavy hors d’oeuvres, cocktails and guided tours of the exhibition (which is on display at the Harold Washington Library Center now through November 11th). In addition to Mayor Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule, other distinguished guests included event emcee and Emmy Award-winning ABC 7 News co-anchor Cheryl Burton, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard, Choosing to Participate co-chair and Aon president and CEO Greg Case, Walmart Chicagoland Market manager Reginald Reese, Facing History co-founder and Klarman Family executive director Margot Stern Strom, Facing History Chicago co-founder Judy Wise, Loop Capital Markets co-founder and president Albert R. Grace, Jr., Facing History Chicago Advisory Board chairman Jill Garling and her husband Tom Wilson (Allstate Chairman, President and CEO), Facing History Chicago director Bonnie Oberman and her husband Marty Oberman (former 43rd Ward Alderman and private practice lawyer) and Choosing to Participate Upstander honorees Mazher Ahmed, Henry Henderson, Nikki Jarvis and Tony Wasilewski. Facing History’s Choosing to Participate is a powerful multimedia exhibition examining the impact and history of bigotry and injustice that features five installations telling stories in the first-person about people and communities that have experienced racism and injustice, and how courage and compassion are necessary to protect democracy. The two local components of the exhibition are Upstanders: Portraits of Courage, featuring photographs and narratives celebrating 12 individuals and groups making a difference in Chicago and pARTicipation: Young Artists Speak Up, a display of original artwork from Chicagoland students in grades 7 - 12 that illustrates the importance of choices we make in our daily lives. For more information, please visit www.choosingtoparticipate.org. Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice and anti-Semitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. For more information, visit facinghistory.org. (Photos by Bob Carl.)
Longtime Chicago-based media exec Abe Thompson accepted the Living Legends Award from the Black United Fund of Illinois (BUFI) during their 12th Annual Living Legends/Passing the Torch© recently at the Parkway Ballroom. The Living Legends event was conceived by BUFI as a way to encourage generational continuity in civil rights, business and the professions while sharing the collective skills, ideas and strategies with a new generation of leaders. Thompson passed the torch to the students of Kennedy-King College. Huge congrats to a beloved Chicago icon!
Congrats to the Joffrey Ballet’s Christopher Clinton Conway and Park 52’s Marc Brooks on being named the Fall 2012 Chicago Brand Ambassadors for Paul Stuart and its Phineas Cole Collection! They couldn’t have picked more perfect candidates for this honor than Christopher and Marc, whose chic style is always inspiring and uniquely their own. Since 1938, Paul Stuart has been a leading arbiter of taste, style and fashion for luxury menswear in the U.S. The store has dressed world leaders, dignitaries, celebrities and titans of business for over 70 years. In the fall of 2007, Paul Stuart launched Phineas Cole, the first new brand in the company’s history. Its slimmer, more contemporary silhouette is perfectly suited for our town’s best dressed guys! Congrats CCC and MB – they are very lucky to have you in their beautiful new brand! Join them on Thursday, October 18th, for cocktails and hors d’oeuvres to celebrate this new line from 6 to 8 p.m. at 107 E. Oak St. RSVP@Skirtpr.com.
Dance devotee Cheryl Tama Oblander is helping plan a major ballet festival in Havana, Cuba, scheduled for October 27th through November 4th (leaving from Miami). Cheryl has been named as the representative for the Center for Cuban Studies and is organizing an amazing itinerary that includes eight nights, welcome and farewell dinners, motor coach tours, exclusive museum passes, five festival performances and so much more! The trip is limited to 25 to 30 guests so email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.festivalballethabana.cult.cu/ for more info!
I was so honored to have been asked by LUXURY GARAGE SALE to sift through their fabulous fashions and pick my top five! It was no easy task with pages upon pages of beautiful couture offerings but it was a very fun challenge that I happily accepted. Check out my choices and see what you think...and then check out YOURS here! LUXURY GARAGE SALE – an upscale consignment service that specializes in selling new and gently-used contemporary, designer and vintage clothing and accessories – was co-founded by partners Brielle Buchberg and Lindsay Segal. Childhood friends, Brielle and Lindsay always had a love of collecting beginning with stickers and erasers and evolving to shoes and handbags. Over the years, however, their assorted collections soon overwhelmed their available storage space. Utilizing their backgrounds in fashion and sales, Brielle and Lindsay began selling their unwanted items and after realizing that their friends had the same predicament as well, a light flashed and voila – LUXURY GARAGE SALE was born! Happy Hunting!
Who wouldn’t like to party with Nate Berkus!!??? Join handsome and talented Nate as he celebrates the launch of his new book, “The Things That Matter” on Tuesday, October 23rd from 5 to 8 p.m. at Jayson Home and Garden, located at1885 N Clybourn Ave. EVERYONE is welcome! Also, bubbly and bites are being provided by Francis Coppola Winery and Chicago's Real Kitchen. I can't wait to read your new book and see YOU, Nate – we love you!
Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI) brings Chicagoans a festive evening of cultural discovery with From Chicago to Lahore: A Cultural Nexus. This party with our Pakistani sister city will celebrate the work of artists from Chicago and Pakistan and will highlight our similarities and the impact of arts upon people of all cultures. Free and open to the public, this event will be at the Chicago Cultural Center (located at 77 E. Randolph) on Wednesday, October 17th, from 6 to 9 p.m. The night will include an exhibition of visual arts, a brief speaking program, film screenings, musical performances, poetry readings and so much more. For more info, please click here!
Many thanks to journalist/producer extraordinaire Elysabeth Alfano for including me in her recent fabulous Huffington Post article about the Art Institute’s Rubloff paperweight collection! This one-woman dynamo is also the creator and producer for “Fear No Art” and “The Dinner Party.” To read her latest article, please click here. What a great piece...nice work, Elysabeth!
What a perfect way to spend Sweetest Day on Saturday, October 20th! Join me as I host “Here’s to Life Concert 2” presented by the very irresistible jazz soloist Zemrah at Prairie State College’s Main Auditorium, located at 202 S. Halsted St. (Chicago Heights), beginning at 7 p.m. (A VIP reception will begin at 5 p.m.) Zemrah has been performing and perfecting her musical style since childhood becoming the lead female vocalist of the duet “Fire & Ice” to being selected as the Crown Royale Female Vocalist of the Year. She continued as a solo artist opening for Nancy Wilson to now having her own inspirational concert. The night’s musical director Syd Brown will be joined by guest artist Marcus Gentry. For show information and tickets beginning at $55, please visit www.zemrahsongstress.com or call 318.936.7241. (Her first CD, “Irresistible Zemrah,” is – quite simply – irresistible!) I hope to see you there!
At Cheeky Chicago’s 4th Anniversary Party (coverage coming soon!), I had the opportunity to sample DavidsTea, which will be making its debut in Chicago on October 13th at 1645 N. Damen. Now, I’m not a big tea drinker but with flavors like Read My Lips (a black tea with chocolate, vanilla, mint and red candy lips), Pumpkin Chai (black tea with cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel, squash, carrot and caramel bits) and Banana Nut Bread (dates, currants, almonds and freeze-dried bananas), I stand up and take notice! I also love the fact that all proceeds for their Haitian-inspired KANPE Tea (a blend of hibiscus, mango, cinnamon, papaya, banana, coconut and stevia) will go toward the KANPE organization dedicated to long-term relief in Haiti. The company opened last year with two locations in NYC and plans locations this month in San Francisco. DavidsTea is also available online at www.davidstea.com. Congrats to owners David Segal and his cousin Herschel Segal and WELCOME to Chicago!
Don’t miss this new fall event benefitting PAWS Chicago! PAWS at the Park Hyatt Costume Party “Howl-O-Ween” will be coming to the Grand Salon of the Park Hyatt on Sunday, October 28th from 2 to 5 p.m. You and your family are invited to join in this spooky, fun-filled event featuring a costume contest at 3 p.m. for people and pets with celebrity judges, prizes for Best in Show for Dog, Family, Favorite Duo and Most Outrageous. Co-chaired by Nancy Timmers and Walter Brindell, the party will also include delectable desserts by pastry chef Meg Galus, pawtastic bites by executive chef Ryan LaRoche, beer, wine and Tail-tinis for adults from NoMI Lounge! There will also be a live auction, children’s face painting, photographer Greg Szoda and intuitive dog readings by Denise Zak. Tickets are $75 (adult and 13-up), $25 (6-12) and $20 per pet. (For tickets and more info, please click here!)
A special thanks to all of you who voted for me as “Chicago’s Most Social Scenester” in the contest recently hosted by RackedChicago.com! I know I terrorized so many of you to vote but it worked and I won!! :) So thanks for being so patient and so supportive! ALL of the nominees are dynamite social scenesters and included Amanda Puck, Billy Dec, Ryan Beschel, Lisa Frame, Cece & Melinda, Marcus Riley, Emma Arnold, Graham Kostic, Jessica Zweig and Erica Bethe Levin and Monica Dimperio. I am so honored and promise to live up to this title! :) Thanks so much to Jared Hatch for the nomination!
From humble desires to complete fruition, the story of the building of the World’s Largest Ronald McDonald House is an inspiring one. This love-filled Watch312.com documentary will make you laugh, cry and believe that goodness and hope can overcome all obstacles. The new Ronald McDonald house near Lurie Children's opened June 26th and is located at 211 East Grand in Streeterville. Its14 stories offers 86 guest rooms and amenities to comfort families in time of need. If you would like to help support this worthwhile cause please click here. I also hope you enjoy my video that was a labor of love from beginning to end!
I hope your fall is off to a beautiful start and I hope you get a chance to celebrate with a visit to a pumpkin patch! One of our favorites is County Line Orchard, located at 200 S. County Line Road in Hobart, Indiana. I love their apple cinnamon and pumpkin donuts but they also have a corn maize, petting zoo, live band performances and, of course, a pumpkin patch! Their country store offers fresh jam, homemade pies, kettle corn and lots of other tasty treats. A perfect way to enjoy the change of seasons!
Love, as always,
P.S. My friend Rhonda Sanderson recently shared a story of her bout with breast cancer in this inspiring video. For every new Facebook fan, story shared or purchase made through Hungry Howie’s Pizza chain, a donation will be made to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Please click here to see it and share it with your friends to help make a difference. :) Great job, Rhonda!