Our gal wades into the King Neptune Gala, squeezes into a wine feast and auction, and works the beat at the Heart Ball. And that’s just for starters.



My, your gal Gabby was busy this month. And you thought winter was time for the blahs.

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“Do you know who I’m standing up tonight? Prince Charles and Camilla,” Tatiana Copeland confided during the King Neptune Gala, an A-list affair at the University & Whist Club that celebrated the 10th anniversary of our tall ship Kalmar Nyckel. Actually, the replica of the Kalmar Nyckel was being honored (not the original that carried Europeans here in 1638), but as the ship’s godmother and key sponsor, Tania was in Wilmington instead of hobnobbing with touring royalty in Philadelphia. Not that she comes up short rubbing elbows with heads of state. A few days earlier, Tania met President George W. Bush during his Delaware pit stop. “He was charming and charismatic and funny, which I didn’t expect,” Tania enthused. Meanwhile, Delaware Republican Party chairman Terry Strine said over cocktails that he anticipates a “very active Republican primary. We want to bring Mitt Romney here in April, Senator John McCain here in June and Rudy Giuliani back in July.” Any Democrats feeling stranded at the King Neptune bash could appreciate the presence of U.S. Senator Tom Carper, who’d just observed his birthday with a cake aboard Air Force One. (The details remain sketchy.) Former Governor Russell W. Peterson, accompanied by his wife, June, reported he’s trying to get a wind-energy plant going off the coast of Rehoboth. Top guests who kept everything ship-shape: new Kalmar Nyckel Foundation executive director Marcia Ferranto, Bonnie and State Senator Charlie Copeland, Danielle Rice, Don DeWees, Nancy and Dennis Rochford, Paul Clark, Nick duPont, and Kalmar Nyckel builder Allen Rawl and his wife, Liz. By the way, Tania and her husband, Gerret Copeland, served as models for the carved torsos on the prow of the Kalmar Nyckel. Take a gander when the vessel’s in dock.

Stage Struck

We caught Marilyn and Nathan Hayward at the sold-out, Saturday night show of “The Retreat from Moscow.” The buzz during the Delaware Theatre Company’s dramedy was that the dysfunctional couple in the play, divorcing after 33 years, reminded everyone of someone they know. Ding! Six nights later, Marilyn, who chairs DTC’s board of directors, showed her wattage at the Wine Feast and Auction, DTC’s beverage-friendly benefit for oenophiles. As for Nathan, we blush to relate this story, but since Gabby was shocked down to her dowdy hemline, we’ll forge ahead. “Over here. We’re pinching Nathan’s cheeks,” Marina Kaiser called, summoning our presence from across the room at Chase Center on the Riverfront. “Phoebe (Phoebe Craven, Marina’s sister) grabbed one side and I grabbed the other…” Nathan, Marina and Phoebe are first cousins (their mothers are twins), which might account for some familiarity. Nathan was head of DelDOT. Marina makes fancy, shredded scarves. And Phoebe is known as the nice one. Gabby started casing the crowd for a few more conversation-starters. There was superchic Denise Hindes of Greenville with David Baldt, a DTC board member, Harold Gray, another DTC board member, with his wife, Linda, who designs necklaces, and liquor distributor Ciro Poppiti. Jane Castle, in a blue boucle jacket, chatted everyone up. “I see about five people here I know,” said Dave Dobraniecki of Trolley Square, huddling with Debbie Paxton and Kay Taylor, both of Wilmington, and Rich Chatten of Pike Creek. Sometimes this is a problem. Gabby was relieved to find her favorite fashionista, Claire DeMatteis, nearby. “He’s the only one here in a white dinner jacket. Don’t write about me. Write about him,” Claire urged, pointing to her husband, Michael Marquardt. Michael, that sweetheart, gave us the lowdown on some vintages. Everybody happy now?

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The Blues Beat the Blahs

Seasonal affective disorder, cabin fever, cravings for carbs—why can’t we just sleep through cold weather? Fully awake, Gabby asked the black-tie contingent at the Winter Blues Ball, a benefit for the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, What do you do to banish the winter blahs? Fenwick mayor Audrey Serio said, “Oh, go to one of our places in Florida,” then burst out laughing. “Keep movin.’ I play racquetball,” said Jim Kyger, owner of All States Construction Company in Ocean View, the gala’s presenting sponsor. Chris Phillips and Justin Grey, honchos at Mercantile Peninsula Bank, had travel plans, Chris to visit the Keys, Justin hitting Las Vegas. “I don’t really get the blahs,” Cathy Lynch of Frankfurt told Gabby. “If I did, I’d go out and walk around nature or take a soothing bath with candles.” (Cathy owns an Aveda boutique. Maybe the merchandise boosts her morale). For Delaware artist Aubre Duncan, a Blues Ball committeewoman, “March is the worst month. I do an art show in Florida.” Milton Warren, president of Delmarva Two-Way Radio, and his wife, Geri Warren, first vice president of Mercantile Peninsula, had just visited Florida. Brave souls who bite the bullet by staying in Delaware could take a tip from Joan Gordon of Bethany Beach: Try a book. Joan, who’s on the board of South Coastal Library, was reading “Water for Elephants” and “The Boleyn Inheritance.” Decor for the fundraiser, held at Bear Trap Dunes, shimmered in silver and black. Many ladies wore bling and black with varying décolletage. “It’s cold out there,” declared Helen Hahn of Bay Colony, in long-sleeved black velvet with a strand of pearls. “Here are these brave girls with their backs hanging out.” Helen was referring to some PYTs (pretty young things) in the ladies’ room, where Gabby camps out for scoops. That is a dreadful pun, but blonde-maned Alyce Kyger (wife of Jim) looked smashing in a slinky teal-blue column from Cache in the Christiana Mall. Suzanne Davis and Annette Levitsky of Bethany Beach favored bare gowns, too, enhanced by dangly earrings from Tiger Lili, a local bauble-tique. Retail warriors should also check out Dovetail, Inc., the nest-featherer’s treasure trove from interior designer Connie Britell that was scheduled to open in late March. One way or another, we’re all material girls. Shopping is the best way to banish the blahs. Florida? Go figure.

Party Hearty

The 47th Annual Heart Ball survived several sea changes over the decades to arrive at its smaller, elegant incarnation. “There were 900 people at the Wilmington Country Club in the old days,” recalled Mary Colbourn, co-recipient with her husband, cardiologist Arthur Colbourn, of this year’s James H. Gilliam Jr. Memorial Award. Mary, affiliated with our local Heart Ball since the early 1980s, carried a program from the 1986 event. My, how the palace guard has changed! “Lots of balls in Wilmington just stopped happening. The one that’s survived is the Grand Gala,” Mary said. “Getting dressed up in tuxedos isn’t the current generation’s thing. They like dressing down.” Mary looked soignée in a handkerchief-hemmed, black georgette dress purchased at Lord & Taylor in King of Prussia. Mary Merritt, vice president of the Heart Association’s Delaware Market, went bolder in a two-piece black number from Lady’s Image jazzed up with heart-charms bracelets and a rhinestone-studded red purse. Linda J. Gilliam, widow of the award’s eponymous titan, proved the night’s prize catch, conversationally. This woman is as savvy as she is special. Heart attacks are the leading fatality for women, Linda noted, because “women are less aware of the symptoms and more caregivers.” When the discussion segued into presidential candidates, a profound admiration for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton surfaced. Survival, that’s what it’s about. Just ask 16-year-old Christina Bennett of Magnolia, 2007 Heart Hero, who made it through three heart surgeries to sparkle in a flippy dance dress at the benefit. Later, in the ladies’ room (where else?) we met her comely mom, Maria Bennett, and fawned over Jaime Martin’s citron-yellow gown, which used pleated twists to form its non-existent back. Reese Witherspoon would have phoned her stylist if she’d been there.

Casino Royale

“So three in each slot. Then what?” Joyce Evans of Fox 29 News was clearly a novice at playing those one-armed bandits during A Night with the Stars in Vegas, an inaugural fundraiser for Junior Achievement of Delaware. When a stash of silver coins spewed from the slot machine, Joyce, still flummoxed, asked “Has it stopped now?” Celebrity dealers from the media manned blackjack tables (two of whom edit this writer’s copy), so we must tread lightly on other specifics. Suffice to say we encountered Carol Arnott and Tucker Robbins, both of Greenville, and Jayne Armstrong of Newark at one boss’s table, betting with chips but no real money. Pretty JA staffers, such as Rebecca Fisher and Jennifer Pacella, welcomed folks at the door. Frank McIntosh, president of JA Delaware, explained why Glitter Gulch was an appropriate party theme for an organization that gives students economic training. “What’s happened in Vegas is sort of like the American dream. It’s a thriving metropolis,” McIntosh said. Alicia Sheerin, president of Identity Quest (I.Q.) Promotions, pulled the affair together, complete with a Marilyn Monroe look-alike who sang “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” in a curve-clinging gold dress. Michael Waite, vice president and operations manager for WJBR 99.5 FM, who emceed the Heart Ball, worked the crowd as a guest. The new ultra-premium p.i.n.k. vodka—infused with caffeine and, allegedly, an aphrodisiac—proved popular at the bar. For all you shop-’til-you droppers, we drooled over the snazzy, silver-coin earrings that Rose Petrick of North Wilmington snapped up for $15 at a Sharpley garage sale. Sure beats eBay…Ta-ta, ’til next time. 



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