Gabby catches Cawley, the Coz and some high-calorie cookies.

Hello, dahlings! You probably know that comedian Bill Cosby is a crusader for philanthropic causes. At the 30th Grand Gala, Cosby literally gave ’em the shirt off his back. That’s right. This story spread like a bootlegged video of Britney Spears after Cosby’s hit performance at the Grand Opera House. When Cosby arrived at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, he tugged off his blue sweatshirt, emblazoned with the logo “Hello, Friend,” autographed it, then donated the item to be auctioned off. (“Hello, Friend” was the customary greeting of Cosby’s son Ennis, senselessly killed in California a few years back.) The shirt fetched $500 from an anonymous bidder, with proceeds benefiting programs at the Grand Opera House. “I think he was caught up in the spirit of the evening,” Steve Bailey, acting executive director of the Grand, said afterward. Committee members noted that singer Bonnie Raitt, the Grand Gala’s headliner in 2005, could have sparked a trend for stars helping its cause when Raitt purchased a page in the souvenir program. Cosby’s shirt added special significance. Thanks, friend!

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Charles Cawley rarely settles for second place in terms of the spotlight, but his warm-up act to Cosby’s riffs came off as laudably low-profile. Cawley, the former CEO of MBNA America who likes to share his riches, was cited for his generosity to the Grand Opera House by chairman Skip Pinella during a pre-performance ceremony. The Cawley Fund For Performing Arts at the Grand has raised $1.8 million so far, according to the tribute. Charlie received an original piece of the building as booty. His svelte wife, Julie Cawley, got a bouquet. We later snagged Tatiana Copeland, who’d just introduced the Cawleys, at the bar in the Gold Ballroom during the sardine-tight after-party. “My job was to get Charlie here tonight. He’s very hard to get,” said Tatiana, resplendent in a brocade jacket fit for a czarina. Tout le monde pulls out all the stops, style-wise, for this night-of-nights. Claire DeMatteis, fresh from receiving the Delaware State Bar Association’s Women’s Leadership Award, headed for the champagne in a gown of the same amber color that was pleated, appliquéd and so sensational-looking, it deserved to be enshrined at Winterthur. Murray Dingwall of Wilmington went mad for plaid in a full-dress Scottish kilt with tasseled waist and leather espadrilles. Concealed inside his kneesocks: a sharp dagger, per Scots custom. (“Brigadoon” meets “West Side Story”?) Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker arrived with boutique owner Martha Morgan, who gleamed in a gold-and-bronze lace halter gown by designer Nicole Bakti. Bon vivant Ajit George confided he was off to Spain and Portugal, where he planned to sit on the beach and drink Port. Su Horty of Wilmington indulged on Oreo cookies from the chocolate fountain buffet. Lynn and Bobby Carpenter of Greenville held down a table while CTO 5th Avenue played to a slowly waning dance crowd. Gabby, who felt privileged to boogie with Bill Montgomery, Mayor Baker’s chief of staff, couldn’t resist asking “How’s your hernia?” Bill cracked up before countering, “What’s the matter? Don’t you think I can keep up with you?” He did, and then some.

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United We Stand

Him again. Everyone stood up for Charles Cawley—unless they were already standing in the back—at the Tocqueville Society celebration for esteemed members who donate $10,000 or more annually to United Way of Delaware. Cawley, featured guest speaker, said that folks often ask him about the difference between being employed and being retired. “You lose your memory when you retire,” Cawley confessed, then went on to praise Tocqueville Society donors as “the salt of the earth…the light on the hill” and more, loosely paraphrasing the Gospel of Matthew. Whew. Since it was the Christmas season, we wondered if Cawley, chair Skip Schoenhals and former DuPont CEO Jack Krol, who each addressed the guests, were our Three Wise Men, locally speaking. According to Schoenhals, $3.7 million has been raised among the Tocqueville Society’s 322 members, yet the need for younger supporters was constantly invoked. “We’re excited to bring new blood to the United Way,” Cathy Burris chirped in her message of appreciation. Michelle and Wesley Schwandt were honored with the 2006 Young Tocqueville Award. Chris and Maria Buccini, also of Wilmington, were welcomed as co-chairs of the friskier contingent. Since the festivities took place inside the shiny, new WSFS Building at 500 Delaware Ave. (check it out), everyone probably felt equally fresh-faced. Anne Lynn and Drew Langloh, John Clatworthy, Kim and Jeffrey Schlerf, Kim and Patrick Gugerty, Chipman Flowers and Elizabeth Bours were the names we caught.

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Braking and Entering

It’s always about real estate, if you’re searching for a tent pole for your next party. So when Ellie Corbett Hannum invited us to a bash at the Parcels Building in the Ships Tavern district of downtown Wilmington, we didn’t walk. We ran—along with several hundred other whoop-de-doers who didn’t want to miss a good thing. Congressman Mike Castle dropped by to wish everyone happy holidays. Since Ellie co-owns a court reporting business, Corbett & Wilcox, legal beagles were in full supply: Ann and Dick Weir, Rich Abbott and Kathleen Jennings of Oberly, Jennings & Rhodunda, among them. Maureen and Jim Johnson, who renovated the Parcels space in 2005, played co-hosts. “I really like them because they’re a true rags-to-riches story, much like the man who’s portrayed by Will Smith in ‘The Pursuit of Happyness,'” Ellie told us later. “They have lunch delivered to all their employees the day before payday, because they remember what it was like to live from paycheck to paycheck.” Though we can’t vouch for the Johnsons’ lunches, the night’s buffet by Greenery Caterers rivaled the tree in Rockefeller Center size-wise, with yummies galore.

Smart Cookies

Don’t Crumble

Ruth Tingle‘s Cookie Exchange always draws sharp social ladies bearing trays of their treasured recipes to swap and horde. This festive yuletide tradition, now in its 20-something year, is one high-calorie pigout, since Ruthie, who’s head of alumni relations at Goldey Beacom, serves scrumptious mid-afternoon hors d’oeuvres as chitchat fuel. Michele Rollins left with a care package of Ruthie’s famous parmesan-lobster dip, as did Gabby, that unstoppable mooch. Priscilla Rakestraw, national committeewoman for the Republican Party who works at the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, rejected some salmon and veggies. “We don’t eat stuff that’s good for us,” she said. Jewelry designer Micki Altschuler and Happy Harry’s Ellen Levin discussed domestic abuse in the court system. Blonde Charlotte Hurley of Wilmington showed off her fancy black “2000” pumps. Artist Mary Page Evans was an early arrival, while social star Tina Hayward, nursing a cold, was coaxed into taking a cookie tray home. Trish Lyons, a Grand Gala co-chair, reported that her kids got a kick out of Bill Cosby. “They didn’t know what to expect.” Same time, next year.


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