Hello, dahlings. Princess Diana! Jackie O! Adam and Eve! No, they couldn’t be there in person, but the celebrities of yore inspired the awesome tabletop décor at Beebe Medical Foundation’s 19th annual Thanksgiving Ball, whose glamorous theme was Fashion. Hollywood designer Bob Mackey and martini cocktails had something in common—an unprecedented tie for first place among the dinner-table motifs—but such glitz narrowly topped the female guests’ superchic attire. The hypothetical winner’s circle was shared by: Wendy Eaby, sales manager for DMA Comcast Starlight in Sussex County, in a short seafoam green-and-silver dress worn by her mother in the 1960s; hair stylist Kelly Bifferato of Wilmington, all blonde-in-black with an adorable shag-cut pixie and sequined, body-skimming Anne Klein gown; and chairwoman Christine Strauss, the height of sophistication in a long black sheath fluffed with off-the-shoulder ostrich feathers. Her entrance-makers always come from her attic, which must be the size of Saks. Any fashion police lurking nearby might have noticed that Christine’s gloves didn’t match. “I could only find one glove, but I’m told the Duchess of Windsor only wore one glove, so I’m carrying the other,” Christine explained. As for men—usually relegated to penguin suits at such soirees—a few pushed the envelope, thankfully. Steve Sumption of Lewes popped an elaborately patterned red silk vest under his tux (That paisley! Those fleur-de-lis! Those skipper ropes!). Frank Collier, a neighbor of Wendy Eaby’s near the Rehoboth Country Club, strode into The BayCenter wearing a black cowboy hat with black tie, since Steve hails from San Angelo, Texas. Yippee kai yay! But, say, don’t the bad guys go around in black hats? “Naw, I’m sweet and gentle,” Frank assured Gabby. The bountiful hors d’oeuvres proved a banquet to Judith Grello, an employee of Spa By The Sea, who went bug-eyed. Die-hards soldiered on, with the only strange interlude during four scrumptious courses being a Ghost of Princess Diana model who paraded in a billowy wedding dress and face-concealing veil. “This is tasteless” (and more, which we’ve tactfully excised) muttered one mover-and-shaker, whose name you know. Well, it was different, unlike the inevitable denim dinner table that was decorated by Carltons store. Eavesdropping, we caught Jacqueline Rifenbergh,
a competition judge, remarking to Linda Palmer, also of Lewes, “There’s a whole table up there done in nothing but denim. It’s hilarious. Denim is a fashion statement.” Honey, that’s something Ralph Lauren discovered decades ago.
EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
“When I first got here, I said ‘Oh my God, David, they’re rock stars!’” sensible Kate Lyons of Centreville confided after spotting super novas Leigh and Leslie Keno at the preview party for the 43rd annual Delaware Antiques Show. “David” is Kate’s husband, of Lyons Insurance Company fame. The blonde Keno brothers, esteemed for their roles on PBS’s “Find!” and “Antiques Roadshow,” were a plus, signing copies of their book which Kate and Boo Stroud, co-chair of the dealer liaison mommittee, clutched in shopping bags. (You, too, can meet the Kenos—or hear them, anyway—since they’re narrating interactive iPod tours at Winterthur.) Hankering for a wicker settee ($12,500) or a little bronzed bank ($625)? They were among the night’s goodies, as about 550 strong convened at Chase Center on the Riverfront. “There’s a painting over there for $125,000. I want to go figure out why,” Brett Jones of the executive committee joked to sociable George Meldrum of Wilmington. Fred Fiechter, managing director of Target Properties, inspected a pair of heron candleholders for $4,000. Since Fred makes patio-sized cannon for his friends as a hobby, we know he’s a man of taste. Need we say that spiffy ladies seized a chance to show off their fashion wattage? Tina Hayward—whose husband, Pete Hayward, is a Winterthur trustee—was haute trendy in brown suede boots, a brandy-colored pants ensemble and a replica necklace of smokey topaz. Friends clustered around Betsy Hershey of Centreville, always ahead of the pack, who’d put a handmade pheasant-feather ruff over her golden beige jacket. “I’ve got to be careful. The guy next door has a gun,” Betsey quipped. Energetic Laura Barone, an officer for Wealth Advisory Services at Wilmington Trust (the preview party sponsor), worked the crowd and showed Gabby a photo of her seven-month-old son in the ladies’ room. For shopping fuel, guests spooned lobster risotto out of martini glasses. Better than sundaes!
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?
We all wear disguises, one way or another. Enchantingly, Unmasking Autism, a gala auction for the Autism Society of Delaware, gave guests the option of wearing masks, occult garb or embracing the paranormal with astrologer-potion mixer The Reverend Amy Blackthorn at the Greenville Country Club. The hit of the evening: Warren Ellis, who stood out in a plush black velvet-and-stars sorcerer’s hat. Warren, a state employee who works among the disabled, ’fessed that he keeps the cap in his office. “I just put it on when I can’t decide what to do about a problem that has no obvious solution. Poof! That’s what magic is for,” he told Gabby. “He’s fascinated by Merlin,” added his wife, Theda Ellis, executive director of the Autism Society. Alison Kortanek of Wilmington, a former committee member for the affair, looked necromantic in a sienna-colored cocktail dress complemented by the cheek artistry of Jennifer Montgomery of Crazy Faces face painting. Yet Alison’s allure hid a serious side. As mom to an 8-year-old autistic son, she observed, “Autism is a full-time job. We don’t get a break. This is our chance to take time off and have fun.” Co-chairs Marcy Kempner and Deb Markwood were bewitching in formal gowns, minus wands and broomsticks.
LANDING ON PARK PLACE
A glass of wine in one hand and a popsicle stick in the other does not describe your usual foodie at a formal affair. But Barbara Hannah of Middletown enjoyed the best of both worlds at Black Tie Monopoly and Monte Carlo Night, which pulled out all the stops for the American Red Cross of the Delmarva Peninsula. “It was fabulous, worth every calorie,” raved Barbara, who’d just polished off a Blue Bunny Turtle Sundae ice cream bar by the roulette wheel. Since the benefit’s menu paired pick-up food with real-estate stops on the Monopoly board, guests could chow down on seared ahi tuna (Oriental Avenue) after getting out of jail free. Alas, knives would have come in handy for cutting the beef brisket from the Tennessee Avenue table. “It looks so good,” moaned Lori Captain of Wawaset Park, staring hungrily at the barbecued strips on her plate. Security rivaled something out of “Ocean’s Eleven” as gamblers wooed Lady Luck at blackjack tables—though not everyone was willing to bet the rent. Co-chairs Kashmira and Jay Sonecha (he’s president of Blenheim Homes, the event’s founding sponsor) resisted the high-rolling spirit. As wine distributor Ciro Poppiti explained things, “I’m more of a pinochle man than Monopoly. I’m the only one who still reads the bridge column.” Ciro’s cousin, Francis Pileggi, a lawyer at Fox Rothschild, was in-the-chips in an altogether different way: He’d just been knighted by the Knights of Malta in Washington, D.C. “They used to give you a sword. Now they give you a machine gun,” Francis joked. WJBR deejay Michael Waite did a bang-up job as auctioneer of luxury packages. Co-chair Ajit Mathew George sweetened the pot by adding a case of wine from his private cellar to a weeklong stay at his house in the British Virgin Islands. (In a sign of tough times, $2,400 worth of advertising in the News Journal went untouched). The convivial Ajit looked resplendent in his famed red silk tunic spangled with gold medallions. And please, his name is pronounced Ah-jeet—not Adj-it, which fell from everyone’s lips. Let’s close, suitably, with dessert at Atlantic Avenue. “Want some ice cream, sweetie?” server Dale Nock asked with a sly twinkle. If only she were a male on MySpace.com.
“Gemstones have vibrational power!” visionary artist Nanette Crist exclaimed as she inspected the classy baubles at CMM Designs, one of 40 boutiques that participated in The Perfect Gift. But Nanette saw red when it came to checkbook power, snapping up a scarlet, satin-edged top and skirt at the opening night party. Svelte Nancy Northrop of Kennett Square reported she’d sold her Agera skincare line to a company called Isolgin and is enjoying the downtime. Original T-Bag Designs—a South African collection where women artists recycle T-bags into notecards, coasters and such—drew Nancy and her friend Caroline Lunger to its philanthropic products. The Perfect Gift’s purchases support Delaware nonprofits through The Christmas Shop Foundation. “Get it now. Don’t wait,” urged Paula Grant, information desk co-chair. We caught Carol Pyle, special events chair, trying on a pretty necklace from Anna Biggs Designs. Later, Carol gravitated to some sparkly evening purses.
SIGHTINGS At the screening of Karen Kuder’s “Cannonballs, Anecdotes and Artifacts—the Wonderful Life of Chris Sanderson” at Theatre N at Nemours: Andrew Wyeth’s renowned model Helga Testorf; who had flashbulbs popping; Susan Teiser, proprietor of Montrachet Fine Foods in Centreville; photographer-picture framer Obie Kline of Wilmington; plus assorted denizens of Chadds Ford. At the Delaware Theatre Company’s Saturday night reception for “The Turn of the Screw,” Lyn Doto and Bill Montgomery hosting Dorothy Thornhill of Watford, England, one of Wilmington’s sister cities; Julie Von Blarcom chatting up fellow arts titans Anne Marie Cammarato, the play’s director; and Maxine Gaiber, executive director of the DCCA. Ta-ta, ’til next time.