San Francisco Bids Farewell to 2006

Happy New Year from Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco

By Jeanne Lawrence

New Yorkers Peter Mintun and Brian Stokes Mitchell Ring in 2007 at San Francisco Symphony Gala

The San Francisco New Year may arrive three hours later than it does in New York’s Times Square, but it arrives in style! The 12th annual appearance of the Peter Mintun Orchestra topped the program at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall.

The last night of the year started with James Gaffigan conducting the SF Symphony’s ‘Pops’ selection along with some bubbly Strauss waltzes – getting everyone in the mood for more ‘bubbly’ later.

Dancing on stage

This year, Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell joined the festivities. The multiple Tony nominee’s credits include South Pacific with Reba McEntire at Carnegie Hall, Man of La Manchaand a Tony Award for Kiss me, Kate.

New Yorker Peter is known as much for his love of the romantic melodies from the 20’s and 30’s as for the vintage settings in which he appears. For years he played at Nob Hill’s Huntington Hotel which was owned by the late Newton Cope, who almost married Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy.

At midnight, 2007 (of course) balloons dropped! The guests toasted with champagne and danced onstage to the tunes of Peter Mintun and his Orchestra. Lucky for us that society photographer Robert Altman and Robert L. Thomas were there to capture the fun. What better way to start off the New Year on the right foot—or the left, for that matter!

James Gaffigan leads a rousing SF Symphony

Tunes and Balloons

Peter Mintun leads his incomparable orchestra

Brian Stokes Mitchell croons one for the crowd

The Jesters Trio performs with Peter at piano

Vivian Vosu rests her dancing shoes

Porter Redmond III collects balloons for his granddaughter

Peter vamps for Robert Altman's camera

A New Year’s Masquerade in the Sky

Meanwhile across town, Asim and Isha Abdullah, owners of fashion house Emmanuel Ungaro, Claudia Ross, and Alan Malouf hosted an unforgettable night of enchantment and fantasy, to ring in the New Year fashionably. 

Masked guests were welcomed by bubbling flutes of Veuve Cliquot and the strains of a string quartet. The fortunate few who attended include Jeane Larette, Brenda Mickel, Shell and Craig Cardon, Simon Thieriot, Joy Bianchi, Barbara Brookins-Schneider and Jim Schneider, Allison Store, Joel Goodrich, Frank and Daru Kawalkowski and society photographer Drew Altizer who took our photos.

At the stunning Pacific Heights penthouse, famed for one of the premier panoramic views of the Golden Gate and downtown San Francisco, guests feasted on lavish buffet while enjoying the intimate evening of conversation and comraderie.  

After midnight, the surround-sound system cranked up and everyone danced the old year away. An unlimited flow of Cliquot kept the party going well into the wee hours.

Wondering what other New Yorkers passed through the Bay Area in 2006? Well, here are a few.

Isha and Asim Abdullah, owner of Ungaro fashion house

Daru and Frank Kawalkowski

Joy Bianchi and Henry Phillips

Dr. Alan Malouf

Brenda Mickel and Jean Larette

Allison Store in Tracy Reese

Claudia Ross and Asim Abdullah

Robin Collins, Alan Liss, and Deborah Leylegian

Barbara Brookins-Schneider and Jim Schneider

Claudia Ross and Shell Cardon

Susan and Jonathon Bloom

Joel Goodrich unmasked

Vince Schwabb and Sunny Akhtari

SF’s Wild about Harry Benson’s Book

Yet another packed book party for renowned New York-based photographer Harry Benson and his latest, Harry Benson’s America. Vanity Fair hosted this exhibition at Kenneth Cole on Grant Street.

By now, everyone knows how Scottish-born Benson came to this country as the official photographer of the Beatles inaugural American tour. The experience with the Fab Four opened Harry’s eyes as well as the doors to the world of celebrity.

In town for the exhibition was Susan Lloyd, widow of Frank Lloyd (founder of the Marlborough Gallery), who was visiting her son Alexander Lloyd.

Alexander, a graduate of U Penn’s Wharton, is now working in venture capital. Let’s hope he has as much success as some of the other Wharton alums, The Donald himself and his daughter, Ivanka Trump.

Gigi and Harry Benson with Susan Lloyd

Melina Jampolis and Alexander Lloyd

Some of Benson's early Beatles photos

Kenneth Cole in SF hosts Harry Benson exhibit

Antiquities Curator Goes for Something Modern

Dr. Carlos Picón, curator-in-charge of Greek and Roman Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, stopped off to check out the new de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. 

Good friend and fine arts consultant Heide Betz hosted a dinner party so her pals could meet him and New Yorker Andrew Kepler, who recently established his own architectural and design firm called Andrisani-Kepler.

Carlos was the one who convinced his buddy, major Texas philanthropist Nancy Hamon, to donate “mucho dinero,” for the Jake and Nancy Hamon Gallery for Hellenistic and Roman Art from Cyprus at the Met. 

Picón also advised the late Bill Blass on his antiquities collection. Did you know that Blass left one-half of his estate, $26 million and his most important ancient sculptures, to the Greek and Roman Art Department?

“He was a very loyal friend. We’re designing a plaque now for the Roman gallery to honor him,” said Carlos.

Dr. Carlos Picon and Andrew Kepler are hosted by Heide Betz

The Nancy and Jake Hamon Gallery at Metropolitan Museum of Art

A Plum Party for Sykes

SF fashion designer Julie Chaiken of CHAIKEN honored New Yorker Plum Sykes and her new book, The Debutante Divorcée, with a cocktail reception at Neiman Marcus.

Everyone knows Sykes’s acclaimed bestseller Bergdorf Blondes, spotlighting the lives of NY’s Park Avenue Princesses, but who knew she’s also a contributing editor for Vogue?

Guests enjoyed “Plum-Tinis” and delicious delicacies while models strolled about in the latest CHAIKEN creations—perfect for women seeking “classic design with an urban flair.”

SF’s own socialites attended: ballet patrons OJ Shansby and Lisa Grotts, SF Ballet principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan—who dances like a dream—fashion lover Elizabeth Thieriot, couture collector Tatiana Sorokko, Shell Cardon, PR gal Lori Puccineli, and interior designer Karen Caldwell.

Careful, girls, you could end up being the subject of Plum’s next book!

Happy New Year!

Craig And Shell Cardon

Maureen and Claire Herr

Melodie Johnson and Daru Kawakolski

Plum Sykes, John Capezzi, and designer Julie Chaiken

SF Ballet Principal Dancer Yuan Yuan Tan

Plum fans

Jewelry designer Rosalina Lydster, Melodie Johnson, Elizabeth Thieriot, and Claudia Ross

Cocktails to close out 2006


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Photographs by Robert Thomas and Drew Altizer


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/