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Fantastic Festivals

Gabby motions to rename September “Schlecktember.” All in favor? Not only did Gabby spend half a day in glorious darkness inside the Newark Cinema Center taking in fabulous independent films during the Newark Film Festival, she also spent a gorgeous, sun-dappled day tiptoeing around Brandywine Park in peep-toe leopard flats admiring the unique wares offered at the revamped, renamed Brandywine Festival of the Arts—both events brought to you exclusively by Barry Schlecker in September. Does he sleep? Gabby hopes not. He throws the best parties.

At the Festival of the Arts, Gabby scored darling rhinestone-drop earrings from local jeweler Gimme Faith Design, and was tickled pink by Julie Nelson and her On A Whim Crafts tent. Julie is a woman after Gabby’s own heart. After watching Gabby buy a panzoratti (let’s save the tsk tsks until Gabby can no longer put the L in LBD, shall we?), Julie admitted they’re the sole reason she attends the Italian Festival. Julie’s craft? She creates magical things out of, well, everything she can get her hands on. “I just started doing this a year ago,” she said. “And being here at the festival has been just fantastic. The people really appreciate handcrafted pieces.”

Poor Gabby was almost trampled by the crowd clamoring to get inside the Dixie Bags tent. Of course she had to see what all the fuss was about. The answer? Dog breed-inspired bags. To the woman who almost knocked Gabby over to get to the last patchwork poodle-clutch—Excuse me. Canine couture is decidedly out.

What is decidedly in, however, is puppy love, which Gabby overheard a certain local photographer gushing about to a friend. Local lensman extraordinaire Luigi Ciuffetelli, dressed in a flannel shirt, Converse high-tops and no-nonsense denim, talked dogs and waxed romantic about his old studio in Manhattan. But rest assured, readers, Gabby distinctly heard him say that he loves his newly remodeled digs in Little Italy. Luigi’s tent, featuring his outstanding work, was one of the festival’s best—and Gabby’s not just saying that because she’s had a crush on him for three years. Well, perhaps a little.

Kudos to Andrea Miller, publisher of Laugh! magazine, who had Gabby giggling over her hilarious content at her table. What’s not funny was Miller’s heartfelt remorse that The News Journal dropped its four color pages of comical content down to a column or two. “People need that,” she stressed. “But I get it—the economy.”

And of course, many thanks to the Friends of the Wilmington Parks, who not only had the good sense to stamp festival-goers’ hands with the exact green of Gabby’s dress, but who also were not once found without a smile.

Page 2: A Sneaky Peek

 

A Sneaky Peek

Newsflash: The University & Whist Club in Wilmington isn’t as boring as you might think. Oh, I know, how dare Gabby even imply that it isn’t hip? But until it opened its doors to the public during a recent open house for the first time in its history, Gabby had no idea of all the fun that goes on inside those impressive doors. As membership chairman Edward Clemens told Gabby, “This is not a place where you come in and find a bunch of old men sitting on sofas, smoking cigars going ‘Harumph harumph harumph.’” Well put, Mr. Clemens. You’ve certainly made a fan in Gabby.

Gabby learned many interesting tidbits during her whirlwind tour of all three floors of the club. For example, no one there seems to be entirely sure how one plays whist—nor articulate exactly what it is—but, as club member Jean Bryce showed Gabby, the vintage game pieces sure are pretty to look at.

Interior designer Cathy Hodgins was on hand, as she should have been. Because of her efforts in staging the house for show, people were allowed on the third floor for the first time in the club’s existence. “It just used to be everything no one wanted from the second floor got brought up here,” she said. “So I spent months going through the rooms, the stairwells. You won’t believe all the things I found.” Among her finds: sconces, valuable paintings, a chandelier—even original clothing and furniture previously undiscovered. “This house is just so fabulous,” she said. “And the oil paintings I’ve found—I can’t wait to investigate them and go through the archives. They look around the 1800s to me, these amazing Hudson Valley paintings.”

Not one to be deterred by a velvet rope with a No Entrance sign, Gabby took a little tour that was off limits to the rest of the guests. Slipping up a pair of rickety steps, Gabby found herself smack in the middle of the high tower visible from the front of the club, with views all the way to the river, feeling very much the princess. Can you imagine what it would have looked like all those years ago, with nothing but land and stars? And—pssst—Gabby has an exclusive for you: Sources say the U&W club is flirting with the idea of putting a table for two up in that tower for an intimate romantic dinner catered by none other than chef Robert Lhulier himself. Fan me. Quickly.

General manager Jason Smith, looking absolutely natty in a striking red tie, showed Gabby something in the basement that she’s willing to bet you didn’t know existed: The autopsy slab belonging to Dr. James Tilton, the first U.S. Surgeon General and previous occupant of the home. “That’s Delaware granite,” Smith said of the slab. That didn’t interest Gabby nearly as much as what was next door—the wine cellar, stocked with bottles for club members to purchase at cost plus 10 percent—reason alone to join.

Club members at U&W were so fabulous that Gabby thinks she would very much enjoy sleuthing around the house and keeping an ear out for juicy gossip. To the Friday Club boys, be warned: Gabby’s coming for you. No girls allowed? As if.

Page 3: Life of the Party

 

Life of the Party

Cancer, schmancer. That was certainly the attitude at the beautifully outfitted Northern Lights for Life event at the conservatory at Longwood Gardens. Orchestrated by the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Gabby joined survivors and their supporters for the coalition’s annual fundraising gala, which featured a fantastic silent auction (trip down the Danube, anyone?) and enough stellar fashion choices to have Gabby going gaga, lady.

Sponsor Vincent Poppiti certainly brought some flavor in his elegant, fresh white suit. Gabby spied him swaggering by once or twice with his beautiful wife in tow. The infectiously effervescent Mary Jo Chandler glowed in a beautiful diaphanous, ruffled turquoise little number, but that was nothin’ compared to the floor-length, black Sue Wong gown she traipsed down the runway in for the fete’s annual survivor fashion show. “You know, I feel, as an older woman, that if I do this fashion show, maybe five years down the road, one of the younger girls who was here gets diagnosed and will be able to say, ‘Hey. Remember that lady from that night in the fashion show? She did OK and she made it through.’” Mary Jo made it through, all right. She and fellow survivor Moraima Perez—“The Lady in Red”—worked it out on that runway like nobody’s business.

And then there was Stacey Bacchieri, second vice president of DBCC, survivor and resident diva, judging, at least, by her lustworthy gunmetal-and-gold Badgley Mischka minidress and sequined Dolce bag. When Gabby got red carpet, Stacy didn’t even know who she was wearing. “Oh, just go ahead and read the tag. I have no idea,” she said. “I’ve had one drink. That’s all it really takes.”

Of course, Northern Lights is more than an excuse for Stacey to dress up. “The DBCC has been a big part of my life,” she said. “It is so wonderful to be a part of a group of women who have such passion and drive to help people diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a very connected feeling. This event is so uplifting, and so important.”

Executive Director Vicky Cooke, regally outfitted head to toe in purple, echoed the sentiment. “This is so important because we highlight the survivors,” she said. “We really strive to recognize them. That, combined with our many fabulous sponsors, really makes this night special.”

Special, indeed. But tiring, too—those girls know how to party. Thank goodness the party was in the conservatory, stocked with enough large plants to hide a sheepish Gabby who just had to slip out of her stilettos from time to time. The plants also provided a unique vantage point for Gabby to spy on two women wearing the exact same black-and-white mini (a brunette and a blonde—a tale as old as time) who were doing all they could to ignore each other. Gabby didn’t even try to stifle her laugh. But ladies: Please wear your name tags next time. How else are you going to make the gossip pages?

Until next time, stay fabulous. 

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