It may seem counterintuitive for Gabby to make her way to Dewey in the dead of winter, but two little words convinced her to hop on the highway, bikini-hostile weather be damned: Steve Montgomery. Monty, the charming owner of The Starboard, hosts the biggest party all summer, so Gabby knew he would not disappoint during the third annual Dewey Beach Winter Gala at The Bay Center.
The party raised more than $19,000 for the Dewey Beach police, lifeguards and beautification fund. Attendees sure didn’t need the beautification, especially not Caroline Longanecker, the blonde Gabby spotted across the room because of her dazzlingly colorful gown from Caché. The Washington, D.C., media specialist and her clique of 10, mostly Delaware natives, have been visiting Dewey Beach every summer for 25 years. “I don’t know why, but everyone seems so much happier and festive this year,” Caroline said. Husband Craig Longanecker told Gabby that, though no one in their group had any affiliation with the Dewey police or lifeguards, “Mostly everyone at this table has been rescued by a lifeguard or arrested by the police, so there’s that.”
The Bay Center shimmered as a silver-and-white winter wonderland, with gorgeous hanging snowflakes and tall, lighted arrangements of branches. Upstairs was the crown jewel, with Dewey’s finest establishments putting on the ritz. The Lighthouse had an oyster bar, Bethany Blues dished out delicious beef brisket sliders, and the Starboard served Bloody Mary shrimp. Gabby made a beeline for her favorite taste of summer—a Lighthouse orange crush—while almost getting crushed in the stampede of people who headed to the dance floor for the big-band sounds of Leroy Hawkes & The Hipnotics.
The Starboard ice luge was a favorite all night, but Gabby spotted one group that looked like it was having more fun than all ice lugers combined: the Southern Wine & Spirits of Delaware table. Gabby overheard Bill Galbraith, of the gorgeous Napa winery Bouchaine (owned by Delaware’s own divine twosome, Tatiana and Gerret Copeland, of course), talking about how great the party was. “They do such hard work all year, the police and lifeguards,” he said. “They really deserve this.”
Page 2: Shining a light
If ever Gabby wished for more than two eyes, it was at this year’s Southern Lights of Life at Dover Downs. The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition’s annual downstate gala boasted too much sparkle, too much style and too much pink fabulousness for one set of peepers to take in. How can a girl concentrate on the colorful streak of flair that is Tonda Parks in an intricate sequined blazer when, across the way, master of ceremonies and former Mr. Delaware Chris Saltalamacchio rocked the most fabu white dinner jacket with hip black lapel piping that Gabby has seen all season?
Really, this just won’t do. Gabby found a seat to map out her party plan of attack, only to be arrested by the ever-affable Gary and Grace Hartman of Dover. Grace, a survivor, was in more than good spirits as she caught up with friend and fellow survivor Claire Zaragoza, outfitted in a chic black pantsuit with dazzling appliqués of peacock plumes. “I can’t tell how much this organization helped me,” Gary said. “When Grace was diagnosed, I just went to pieces. The work they do is unrivaled. I wouldn’t have gotten through this without them.”
Grace was one of many survivors in attendance. Others, like Jeralin Rochester, rocked it out on the runway as part of the fashion show. No stranger to doing big things, Jeralin is a Senior Olympics veteran. But even she didn’t expect the thunderous applause after her turn on the catwalk in a flowing chiffon gown in periwinkle from Milford Bridal Boutique. “I was thinking, I only have 14 friends and family here. Who are these people screaming?” And scream they did. With former Dewey Beach mayor Pat Wright and trucker Terry Timmons, the only guy who strutted his stuff in the show, she brought down the house. “This is such an awesome party,” Jeralin said. “I can’t wait until next year.”
There were more than enough diva moments to go around. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Shirley Alston Reeves got hers. Shirley, former lead singer of The Shirelles, tore up the stage during dinner hour in a screeching red gown that commanded attention. Since there was no dance floor, Shirley incited unprecedented amounts of all-out chair dancing. At the end of the night, some lucky auction bidders walked out with European cruises, a week’s stay in Fenwick Island and $3,000 worth of shiny tech toys from Best Buy. Even better, they left with hope.
“I will continue to work with the DBCC for as long as breast cancer exists,” said event chair Okemah Strickland. “To keep fighting this in Delaware, we need to raise more money. This organization gives a level of comfort that you can’t get from anyone else. They just treat you with such care and comfort that it makes you want to help them fight for the future.”
Page 3: Running away with things
Are we still giving snaps for a job well done? Gabby doesn’t care if they are as out as those dreadful sweater ponchos. She’s giving mad snaps loud and proud for anyone who had a hand in the hippest, fiercest party she’s been to lately: AIDS Delaware’s Red Ribbon Runway at Barclays Bank.
As much as Gabby would like to pretend walking the red carpet and being blitzed by hoards of paparazzi is her norm—sigh—it isn’t. So it was a real treat for all RRR guests to live like Hollywood royalty for the night, with a walk up the famed carpet and a quick mug for the cameras.
Gabby immediately spied Miss Delaware Kayla Martell looking lovely in pink with her VIP guest of the night—mom Rhonda. “The positive energy here is just amazing,” Kayla said. “Everyone looks fabulous. This is the fanciest event I’ve been to in a while.”
Kayla, fresh from the Miss America pageant, was back home and back “to normal—or whatever my normal is now, I suppose. Miss America was the most incredible experience of my life. I’m still on top of the world.”
Kayla insists there is no state-on-state hate at the pageant. “Honest to God, it’s such a sisterhood. Genuine friendships. I was recently in Florida shooting a mid-March episode of ‘The Doctors,’ and Miss Florida and I had dinner. Miss Maryland might end up in my wedding next year.”
Gabby ran into Kelsey Williams, a sharp-dressed (fitted leopard dress, cascading auburn curls) University of Delaware senior in the fashion apparel program. Kelsey was one of four UD students who designed for the RRR. Her showcased dress, a hand-embellished pink beauty with a basic bustier silhouette, was from her senior collection, Rosy Future.
“I love the basic technique of using hand embellishments,” Kelsey said. She would know. She learned from the best. “Eli Saab is my inspiration. I did an internship with him in Paris over the winter.”
Charles Ebbie Alfree III, known to all as “Ebbie,” outdid himself with this year’s event. “This is our big let-your-hair-down, have-fun party,” Ebbie said. “It’s amazing how, when we added this fashion element with the runway, it just brought this entirely new energy. People are meeting with friends, having cocktails. It’s just taken on a life of its own.”
Gabby spied his fabulous black Alfani hat with red-and-black plaid detail hopping all over all night. Then it was all about the fashion show, which highlighted some of the best Delaware has to offer in clothing and salons: Morgan’s, Sherif Zaki and Currie, to name a few. A front-row seat had Gabby sitting smack next to State Treasurer Chip Flowers, who was sipping something pink that he insisted was not a cosmo. “It’s really beer, honestly,” he said with a laugh. Gabby bets you didn’t know how fashion forward the dapper Mr. Flowers is. He kept Gabby on her toes with play-by-play commentary of each outfit on the catwalk. “That really is a beautiful gown, but I think I’d prefer if the black and white were reversed,” he said of one frock. “Think about that—all white. Stunning, don’t you think?” Congressman John Carney was in attendance as well, though—wise man—he had a seat toward the back, away from Gabby’s wandering ear… Till next time, stay fabulous