“You’re pouring waaaay too much head,” was the first of many comments the peanut gallery lovingly lobbed at WJBR DJ and part-time pilsner pourer Michael Waite, who managed to avoid any direct hits by ducking behind the bar where he acted as Delebrity server for this year’s Variety Celeb Bartender night at Iron Hill Restaurant and Brewery on the Riverfront. “The perfect pour is not as easy as the pros make it look,” Michael said.
After finding the last opening at the bar, we spotted Blaise and Tina Muscara “waiting for Waite” to re-fill their glasses of Belgian ale. When at last they were served, Blaise good naturedly remarked “finally.” A sip elicited, “Mmm, summery and citrusy,” from Tina. Between pours we asked Waite what his specialty cocktail would be and what he would name it. Over the drinkers’ din he yelled, hand cupped to mouth, “anything with alcohol” and dubbed it The Can’t Waite. You don’t have to wait to hear Michael’s liquid gold voice or wit. Just tune into WJBR almost any time of day. It seems Michael never sleeps—except when he’s behind the bar.
It was Variety of Delaware director Meghan Evans’ third year doing the Delebrity Bartender party. She happily told us of how Variety serves children with any kind of disability by working with other charities. She cited Variety’s recent collaboration with Autism Delaware to start a summer day camp for kids with special needs. We were joined by Andrew Pack, executive director for Variety, who pointed out a tricked-out purple trike that was specially outfitted to be steered with one hand. Variety was presenting the tricycle to 10-year-old Christine Payne that night, and her elder sister, Teresa Payne, was super excited. “[Christine] really needs this bike so she can stop veering off to the side.” Teresa is in the drama arts program at the Alfred G. Waters school in Middletown, and with her bubbly personality, it’s easy to see why. The Payne parents thanked the therapists at the John G. Leach school for putting them in touch with “the very nice people at Variety.”
Standing in the wings, we nibbled wings with WPVI’s Lauren Wilson, who wore a bold geometric print sleeveless dress in shades of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry—very Neopolitan—as she waited for her shift at the bar. We chatted at a side table about ABC’s support of Variety in Philadelphia and, more recently, in Wilmington. Lauren intended to donate some personal time in September for Jack and Jill of America, which was planning an event to honor an 18-year-old member Brittany Debman, who lost her life to diabetes just a week after graduating from Padua Academy.
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Also noshing and joshing were dear Gabby Guy friends A.J. Previll, the Indomitable Ginger Weiss and Brooks (just Brooks) of Wilmington’s new upscale resale boutique Silver Lining on Ninth Street. All looked summer sun-kissed, rested and plain cute. New friend Nicel Peterson said she attended “for the cause”—pause—“and the beer. It’s part of my job to network. My boss would love to know I took the initiative” Now he knows, Nicel, now he knows…
The raffle ticket selling tag team of sisters Amanda and Molly Breffitt hawked chances to some fantastic prizes and trips. “Wanna know our secret to selling success? Ten dollars for an arm’s length and $20 for a body’s length of tickets—any body” they said in perfect unison—even 6-foot-8 former Philadelphia Eagle Jon Runyan.
Sure enough, big man No. 69 stood near the bar—not behind—amid an instant crush of photo- and autograph-seeking fans. “Do you plan to pour?” we asked. “I usually don’t make it that far,” said Big Jon. “Too busy signing and smiling”—which he does very well. “I guess I could start signing cocktail napkins. That’s closer to making a drink.”
His specialty? “Iron Hill brew or Grey Goose,” he said. “Throw a cocktail onion in it and call it the Runyan Onion.” That had us crying. You heard it here first, thirsty sports fans.
We need to mention the little people— that being every and anyone standing near Runyan, but specifically the two smiling, patient and pretty young Variety women: Lisa Jobb, director of after-school programs, and site co-ordinator Krisinda Alberto, who skillfully greeted and ticketed a barrage of guests. It was a good time for a very good cause—children of all varieties.
Tryin’ the Hawaiian
Last year’s Delaware Association of Police fundraiser benefited fallen Philadelphia police and had a carnival bent. “This year we’re trying a Hawaiian theme,” said event chairman Bill Draper. “And the funds raised will stay closer to home.”
The Delaware Association of Police Center may be a private club for Delaware police officers, Draper points out, “But we are the most affordable, rentable public hall in New Castle County. It is a home, a safe haven where police can come, relax and not worry about possible disgruntled people they’ve met on the job.” It is, after all, difficult to have a good time while worrying about unwanted confrontations.
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Bill took us on a tour. The bar-lounge-game room was cozy, but the floor-to-ceiling knotty pine paneling of the windowless hall gave it the distinct look of a finished basement, circa 1964, the year it was built. “Yeah,” Draper said. “We’d like to update the look without completely abandoning the history and familiarity our members have come to expect.” Call Ty Pennington.
As food and beverage manager at DAP, Reggie Harvey is the man responsible for getting the good times rolling. We asked how he planned to handle the expected 2,000 guests in the hall and adjacent luau tent. As he ducked behind the knotty pine bar, we heard his last words for the night: “I’m hiding.”
We asked lead man in the kitchen, Mike Goodwin, what went equally well with beer and piña coladas. “How about barbecue pulled pork on potato rolls, sausage, roast beef, cheese steaks, and ranch and bacon salad?” Any veggies with that? (We knew the answer but asked anyway.) Mike shrugged. “The roll?”
Kitchen helper Allison Yerkes said they were “ready for anything,” and Laura McElwain reminded Mike to plug the opening of C.P. Goodwins Bar and Grille in Wilmington. It’s behind Retro Fitness. (You might want to offer a salad or two, Mike.)
DAP president Joe Leary took a moment from greeting Hawaiian-shirted and lei-wearing guests to speak about DAP’s community and family outreach programs, such as Little League sponsorhips, the oldest all-police softball team and its annual pushmobile derby. “And, yes, we’d like to make a few building improvements, inside and out,” he added before being summoned back to aloha duty at the gate. That’s where we met DAP’s unofficial historian, retired officer Kevin Quinn, who told us how the compound “started in 1942 with one little house.” He’d like to start renovations in the bathrooms (which still wore their original Mens and Ladies signs) to make them handicapped accessible. “We could even add a second story,” Quinn said. “This place is built strong, double walls and ceilings. It’s good to have a few contractor buddies.”
Having contractor pals, as well as a friend or two in state government, has aided the annual pushmobile derby, too. DAP purchased an unused property on U.S. 13 for a buck and contractors paved it slick as glassphalt. “This is our 63rd year,” said derby chairman John Kirkpatrick, and as far as he can remember, there’s been only one mishap—a collision with a fence. “We’re doing this for the kids,” Kirkpatrick said. “But the families and friends love it, too.”
DAP treasurer Jim McDonald, frontman for the evening, hoped the evening’s admission and raffles would yield the $20,000 it takes to run the derby each year. He stressed the importance of keeping the center secure by “keeping this a place where you don’t have to look over your shoulder.” Why shouldn’t the men and women who keep us safe have their own safe place?
Before we said our alohas, we snapped superstar couple Lauren Gagliardino, Miss Delaware 2009 swimsuit competition winner, and her boyfriend, UD quarterback Sean Hakes, who had this to say about the team’s record last year: “We’re gonna bump that up big time.”
With all the cheesesteaks, Miss Delawares, UD football stars and police—active and retired—the party really was Delaware’s finest. Ciao for now.