|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.
|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.
|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.
|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.
|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."
|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.|
|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.|
|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 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.
|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.
|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.
|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|