Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moonlight on the Lido Weekend

Lunch at La Concordia (the former ranch of Sophia Loren) to close out the gala weekend.
Moonlight on the Lido Weekend The California Chapter of Save Venice

The Moonlight on the Lido gala weekend produced by the California Chapter of Save Venice brought guests to Los Angeles from Paris, London, Madrid, San Paulo, Boston, New York, New Delhi, and San Francisco.

Those private jets and frequent-flyer miles were used to attend a small festival of parties in stunning private houses and a historic hotel overlooking the Pacific, all for the benefit of restoring the great art and monuments of Venice on the Adriatic.

On Friday night Ruth and Hutton Wilkinson inaugurated the weekend with a kick-off party at Dawnridge in Beverly Hills at the home at the home of the late legendary designer Tony Duquette.
Dawnridge garden
From the moment you entered the famous house (which has seen more than a few parties over the decades), you knew this party was definitely ON. The living room had been cleared to make room for a combo of musicians playing as turbaned waiters served drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

It was a mild January evening in Southern California. Guests naturally were drawn outside amidst the jungle-like gardens with its pagodas, intimate reflecting pools, Indian-inspired loggias and terraces playing host to Duquette’s sculptures, creating a mystical atmosphere. The man was a fantast of the first order and his living environments express that thoroughly: they charm and intrigue.
Interior of Dawnridge
After midnight the crowd had dwindled but the band played on until the last of the revelers took to the red-carpeted steps and their waiting cars. And so the weekend had officially begun, showcasing California creativity inspired by a deep love of Venice and her art.

The gala weekend’s committee was headed by California Chapter founders Terry Stanfill, Hutton Wilkinson, and Matthew White. The trio got together a team of devotees of Venice including Manfred Kuhnert, Sondra Ott, Donna Punj, Carole Abelmann and Cat Pollen who proceeded to transform fantasy into reality.
Ruth Wilkinson greeting guests with Piper Dundee
Moroccan buffet table
Chuck, Mara, and Heather Robinson with David Ott
Amanda and Nick Stonnington
Terry Stanfill and Matthew White
Hutton Wilkinson, Carole Black, and Peter Iacono
Manfred Kuhnert, Liz Makrauer, Victoria Reed, and Frederick Ilchman
Cat Pollon and Hutton Wilkinson
On Saturday morning the California weather did not disappoint -- cloudless blue skies over the glittering Pacific where the group gathered at the magnificently restored First Century Pompeian villa replica which houses the Getty collection of Greek and Roman antiquities.

A stroll through its beautifully appointed rooms filled with sculptures, ceramics, bronzes, coins and jewels, provided passing glimpses of courtyards with bubbling fountains surrounded by myrtle hedges, laurel, pomegranate, olive trees and the umbrella pines of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry. Dionysus was the patron of the Moonlight on the Lido Gala weekend.
The group seated in the Greek theatre
Getty pool garden
Ron Fleming and Sandra Ourusoff
Juan Prieto and Lee Doyle
After leaving the world of ancient Italy, guests went to lunch at another villa by the sea -- La Villa Contenta -- the Malibu estate of Liane and Richard Weintraub. Thanks to the Weintraubs’ generous hospitality, the Save Venice group were transported into a world of California magic.

Guests were dressed as the invitation requested, as if they had just “stepped off their yachts."
La Villa Contenta                                                                                       
After a reception on the terrace, the guests moved to a classically-inspired natatorium built on the hillside overlooking the outdoor pool and the sea beyond. Inside tables were set around a central reflecting pool. The walls, ceiling and chandeliers of the pavilion were encrusted with seashells, coral and mother-of-pearl, created by British artist Charlotte Jackson from the interior architectural plans of Hutton Wilkinson.
Natatorium with outdoor pool                                                                     
The natatorium interior                                                                            
Lunch was presented in yet more seashells and the delicious wines offered by Richard Wientraub, compliments of Laetitia Vineyard & Winery would have pleased Dionysus himself.
Hosts Richard and Liane Weintraub
Mary Lou Maier
Gail and Jerry Oppenheimer
Anne and Stephen Cucchiaro
Hutton Wilkinson, Richard Weintraub, Liane Weintraub, and Matthew White
Bea Esteve, Bea Guthrie, and Pepe Esteve
Dennis Stanfill and Charlotte Jackson
And then there was more: That evening was the main event, the Moonlight on the Lido Ball, inspired by Top Hat, the Astaire-Rogers film classic set in ... Venice – the Hollywood -- created a stylized Art Deco version.

The 1935 film fantasy was actualized in the ballroom of the historic Casa del Mar Hotel in Santa Monica.

The Save Venice night on the Lido not only conjured up images of Cole Porter, Noel Coward et al on the actual Lido, but of the great Astaire-Rogers film "Top Hat" with the Van Nest Polglase black-whte-and chrome version of Venice with its polished-to-glass Bakelite floors. Fred and Ginger thrilled American movie-goers in the depths of the Great Depression who, for a dime or even less could spend an hour and a half transported by their terpsichorean delights; another kind of restoration of a whole society dancing on the melodies of Berlin, Gershwin, Kern, and of course, Cole Porter.
Overlooking the ocean (just like the Lido) the powder blue and white room with its elegant Venetian chandeliers was festooning with towering plaster centerpieces on pristine, white tables. An enormous white swan basked regally behind the bandstand.

The crowd was greeted by “Charlie Chaplin,” “Laurel and Hardy,” and the “Marx Brothers.” Gentlemen (and a few ladies) donned top hats and tails, while ladies wore deco gowns and Jean Harlow wigs.

Ruth Wilkinson came as Norma Desmond (ready for her close-up) in blue furs and a jewel-encrusted turban. Hutton greeted guests and thanked the performers.

Bea Guthrie, the honored guest and long-time champion of Save Venice, was introduced by Terry Stanfill, Vice President of Save Venice and Chairman and one of the founders of the California Chapter.

Mrs. Guthrie, Mrs. Stanfill, Hutton Wilkinson and Matthew White were all awarded a certificate of appreciation from the City of Los Angeles for their visionary and tireless leadership.
Oceanside view of Casa del Mar
The beautiful Tintor-ettes -- beaded and feathered -- were joined by dapper, dancing boys and a cast of talented vocalists dressed in period, to entertain in a “Lido” cabaret setting.

A 22-piece orchestra, led by Tony Galla, played mostly Cole Porter, with sheet music tucked into enormous silver shells. One of the highlights of the evening were the Grecian goddess-like singing trio, The Three Graces who flew in from New York and turned the room into a 1930's supper club.
Manfred Kuhnert, Impresario, arriving
David Benoit commanded the Steinway Concert Grand generously donated by Steinway for the evening. Shoshana Bean, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Audra Mae, Tim Draxl serenaded the crowd with spectacular performances. Michael Starr closed the show with his hilarious “Pancakes Barbara” act.

Some guests never realizing that the feathered-boa-wearing “Barbara” was a he, not she. Manfred Kuhnert, the entertainment chair, was the talented impresario of the evening.
Hutton and Ruth Wilkinson
Frank Pennino
Penny and Adam Bianchi
The Ballroom before dinner
Liane Weintraub, Matthew White, and Barbara Guggenheim
Elizabeth Locke and John Staelin
Kacey and Peter McCoy with Shane McCoy
Camille Natta and John Claflin
Entrance of the Tintorettes
Escorts leading singer Shoshana Bean to stage
Dennis and Terry Stanfill with Hutton Wilkinson
Sally Perrin and Liana Grinspan
Gail and Harvey Glasser
Larry Bruce and Sheila Wilkins
Jennifer Leigh Warren with Tintorettes passing bonbon box
Monique l'Huillier
Tintorettes with male escorts
Pancakes Barbara
Jennifer Leigh Warren singing Cole Porter's "Let's do it"
William Thuillier, Bob Bradway, Michelle Bradway, Alvaro Picardo, and Matthew Upham
Cat Pollon and Charlie Chaplin
Camille Natta
Bea Guthrie, Terry Stanfill, Hutton Wilkinson, Matthew White receiving awards from the City of Los Angeles
Beatrice Rossi Landi and Roberto Mariani
Tom Carroll and Stefanie Powers
Donna and Brij Punj
The Three Graces
Kathy Offenhauser, Sandra Ott, and Bob Offenhauser
Sunday was another crystal-clear day. Everyone met up at La Concordia, the former ranch of Sophia Loren, for lunch. Michelle Kay hosted a party at her very Western ranch. Keeping in mind its previous owner, the event was called a “Spaghetti Western.” Guests in western attire, from denim to diamonds were greeted by mariachis playing romantic tunes beneath the ancient California live oaks as near-by horses whinnied. Barbecue and “custom” spaghetti was served in the relaxed style of the early Californios. It was the ideal place to be with friends, both old and new to re-live the magic of the weekend.

The gala raised $200,000 earmarked to fund the restoration of four important panels by the Venetian master Gentile Belini.

Matthew White
Photographs by Mary Hilliard

Click here
for NYSD Contents