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Help Is on the Way XXI Exceeds Expectations

August 6th, 2015
Co-chair Sophie Azouaou with performer Constantine Maroulis. Photo by Steven Underhill Photography

Co-chair Sophie Azouaou with performer Constantine Maroulis. Photo by Steven Underhill Photography

By Teresa Rodriguez

It was a spectacular evening of entertainment and surprises at REAF’s Help Is on the Way XXI Gala. This year’s theme was Hollywood Glam, and more than 900 guests were treated to an evening of wine, food and entertainment benefiting Meals On Wheels and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The Nob Hill Gazette was an official media sponsor.

Exceptional performances were delivered by an impressive lineup of Broadway, TV and film artists. Susan Anton and the Help is on the Way Ensemble opened the show with a song and dance routine to Hooray for Hollywood, which was followed by a inspiring set of performances by Paula West, Jake Simpson (two-time Star Search grand champion) and Loretta Devine (one of the original Dreamgirls on Broadway). Tony Award–winner John Lloyd Young (Jersey Boys) sang thrilling renditions of Oh, Baby, Baby and Unchained Melody. American Idol’s Kimberley Locke brought the first act to a stirring close singing This Is My Life. The second act started with American Idol’s dashing Constantine Maroulis performing a rousing rendition of This Is the Moment.

The live auction exceeded all expectations, thanks, in part, to help from Asim Abuallah and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum. All fundraising goals for the event were met.

Co-chair Sophie Azouaou was instrumental in getting sponsors and donations for this gala. “As a Board Member of REAF, I was truly honored to co-chair our 21st anniversary gala,” Azouaou says. “It takes a village to co-chair Northern California’s biggest concert and gala. I am deeply thankful to Richard Blum and Dianne Feinstein for their support. I am also thankful to all my friends for their tremendous help. God bless them all.”

Following the show, the lobby of the theater was transformed into Club REAF, a nightclub-inspired cocktail and dance party where JCB bubbles flowed, along with Ketel One, Bulliet Bourbon and Don Julio cocktails.

Festival del Sole Gala Sets Records

August 3rd, 2015
Kevin Spacey Photo by Susana Bates for Drew Altizer

Kevin Spacey
Photo by Susana Bates for Drew Altizer

Four hundred and fifty esteemed guests dressed in white gathered on the fairway of the Meadowood resort July 19 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Festival del Sole. Kevin Spacey took the stage and sang a few songs from the swing era. Between tunes, he entertained the crowd by seguing into his character, president Frank Underwood from House of Cards. (Nancy Pelosi was in the audience, which added a bit of irony to the banter.) Patti Austin joined Spacey onstage and mesmerized the crowd with her angelic voice.

The guest list was like a who’s who of the wine industry, as well as San Francisco’s best and brightest: Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset, Timothy and Athena Blackburn, Margrit Mondavi, and Darioush and Shahpar Khaledi, to name a few.

Festival director Rick Walker and his exceptional team assembled a phenomenal list of auction items that raised a record-breaking $1.6 million that night. Then Maria and Jan Shrem kicked off the “Fund a Need” with $100,000, which swelled

Maria Manetti Shrem, Nancy Pelosi

Maria Manetti Shrem, Nancy Pelosi

to $430,000 by the time pledges were tallied. That epic amount helped fill the wish lists of Napa County middle and high school arts programs, provided funds for Napa Valley Youth Symphony scholarships, and underwrote free community concerts.

The night ended with bourbon and cigars under the stars, sponsored by Wingtip. The men’s clothing retailer created a lovely “speakeasy” among some tall pines, which were wrapped in twinkling fairy lights for the occasion. Enjoying the post-event cocktails were Michael Polenske, Dr. Melina Jampolis, Beth Townsend and Maria Quiros—to name just a few.

— Teresa Rodriguez

San Francisco Social’s Annual Benefit Dinner

by Teresa Rodriguez

July 7th, 2015
Attendees included Kelli Dugan, Brian Skrip, Steph Winn, Ben Flajnik, Danielle Leeke, Megan Bristol and Jessica Andrews.  Photo by Hanna Leeke.

Attendees included Kelli Dugan, Brian Skrip, Steph Winn, Ben Flajnik, Danielle Leeke, Megan Bristol and Jessica Andrews.
Photo by Hanna Leeke.

On June 12, Foreign Cinema was abuzz with San Francisco’s youngest socialites. The fabulous fledglings gathered together to raise money for the SF Child Abuse Prevention Center (SFCAPC) at an event sponsored by San Francisco Social, which encourages and engages young adults to get involved with local charities. The evening included a delicious three-course dinner featuring the restaurant’s signature dishes and entertainment from famed DJ Split.

The young ladies and gentlemen raised a toast to the event’s 10th anniversary with a shot of Fernet Francisco from the spirit’s co-founder and San Francisco Social host committee member, Ben Flajnik. The inspiring Fund-a-Need portion of the evening helped raise more than $21,000; the proceeds will aid SFCAPC in its mission to prevent child abuse and reduce its devastating impact.

An Evening of Musical Adventures Benefiting the San Francisco Symphony

by Teresa Rodriguez

June 4th, 2015
Uli Martinez, Roberta Economidis and Jacqueline Hawk. Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

Uli Martinez, Roberta Economidis and Jacqueline Hawk.
Photo by Moanalani Jeffrey Photography

On May 16, local socialites and philanthropists joined the San Francisco League of the San Francisco Symphony for An Evening of Musical Adventures. The intimate evening was filled with food, friendship and music. Showcasing their talents were the musicians from the San Francisco Symphony’s highly acclaimed Adventures in Music (AIM) program, providing music ensembles from the classical, Latin and jazz worlds.

The spectacular event featured a welcoming cocktail reception in the interior garden of the famed Airbnb lobby. Festive cocktails were followed by a seated multicourse dinner featuring performances by AIM ensembles: Omar Ledezma Jr. & Pedro Rosales, Latin percussionists; Swing Stories, jazz quartet; and Four Score Strings, string ensemble. Following dinner, guests boogied to the electro swing dance sounds of DJ Vochegroovsky.

“This extraordinary evening celebrates the Adventures in Music ‎program, one of San Francisco Symphony’s many music education programs,” says event chair Roberta Economidis. “This program brings music to over 25,000 Bay Area children each year.”

The event committee included chair Roberta Economidis, Gia Colosi, Pamela Rummage Culp, Mary Hagan, Anette Harris, Jacque Hawk, Maggie Hazelrig, Anne Herrera, Sallie Huntting, Kathryn and Damian Inglin, Jacqueline Jacoby, Judy Jorgensen, Kathleen Kelley, Christopher Hojin Lee, Sam Leftwich, Maria Hermanussen Marcus, Elaine Mellis, Laura Miller and Matt Herold, Manjula Jeyapalan Noone, Judith Schulman and Sharon Seto.

2015 San Francisco Decorator Showcase

April 30th, 2015
Cecilie Starin's Dining Room. Photo by Margot Hartford Photography

Cecilie Starin’s Dining Room. Photo by Margot Hartford Photography

By Fred Albert

The wine was flowing (though not fast enough for some) at the April 24 opening of the 2015 San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Elbowing their way through the crowd, a swanky assemblage of designers and their admirers surveyed the transformation of a 1917 Julia Morgan home into a stunning demonstration of decorative derring-do.

The Elizabethan-style home at 3630 Jackson Street in Presidio Heights proved to be an ideal subject, offering splendid views and three floors of design possibilities. Judging by the results, the ’70s are back with a vengeance, with Phillip Silver’s living room and other spaces evoking the plastics and patterns of the era. Lacquered walls were a recurring theme throughout the house, as were the use of enormous photographs, replacing the abstract expressionist canvases of yore.

Cecilie Starin raised more than a few eyebrows with her provocative dining room, where glamorous furnishings were juxtaposed with walls covered in “street art” (that’s graffiti to you and me). Personally, I couldn’t stop swooning over Kathleen Navarra’s expansive

Kathleen Navarra's kitchen. Photo by Matthew Millman

Kathleen Navarra’s kitchen. Photo by Matthew Millman

kitchen/family room, which was pretty, playful, and extremely inviting. Loved the plaster-white chandelier over the cerused oak island, the mosaic backsplash, and the glossy gray-blue ceiling that evoked a San Francisco sky.

The Best Bang for the Buck Award goes to Eche Martinez, who confided that his sultry gentleman’s private lounge only cost $1,500 to decorate. Normally, you’d be hard-pressed to score a sconce for that little money. But necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. And sometimes that mother can rock.

The San Francisco Decorator Showcase runs through May 25; go to to learn more.

The Pent Room by Green Couch Interior Design. Photo by David Duncan Livingston

The Pent Room by Green Couch Interior Design. Photo by David Duncan Livingston


Gordon Getty Opens his Home and a 100-Point Wine

by Teresa Rodriguez

March 31st, 2015
John Conover and  Hillary Newsom with host Gordon Getty.

John Conover and Hillary Newsom with host Gordon Getty.

At Ann and Gordon Getty’s iconic Pacific Heights mansion, a few select guests were invited to a private luncheon with Jeff Owens, who is the youngest winemaker to receive a perfect 100-point score for his first vintage from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate.

The four-course lunch was specially prepared by the Gettys’ private chef to pair perfectly with the wines. Of course there was caviar, which was a match made in heaven when served with Owens’ Odette Chardonnay. The pièce de résistance was the 2012 Odette Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, for which Owens received his perfect score.

The winery is operated by the PlumpJack Group and is owned by Gordon Getty, Gavin Newsom and John Conover. Getty says that the name Odette, much like PlumpJack, is a fictitious character. Coincidentally, however, there was also a real Odette—and she happened to be a wine judge. Odette Kahn was a leading authority on wine and editor of  La Revue du Vin de France.  She’s infamous for her 1976 “Judgment of Paris,” when she was mortified to discover that she had voted for a California wine as the “Best in Show.” While telling the story, Mr. Getty’s eyes light up and a mischievous grin fills his face. “We couldn’t think of a better name for a winery we knew was going to be award-winning,” he says.

Although most people won’t be invited to lunch with Mr. Getty, they can visit the winery. Odette Estate is tucked away in the rolling hills of the Stag’s Leap District, and features a historic 36-acre vineyard and a 5,000-square-foot winery with 18,000 square feet of caves. Visit to learn more.

Women and Wellness Weekend March 6–8

February 26th, 2015

By Teresa Rodriguez

Lounge poolside at the Westin Verasa Napa.

Lounge poolside at the Westin Verasa Napa.

Westin Verasa Napa is hosting the third annual Wine, Women and Wellness event March 6–8, 2015. Wine, Women and Wellness is an epic culinary, viticulture and health-inspired weekend getaway created expressly for us fabulous fems, in honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, which is celebrated March 8.

Wine Tasting

The festivities kick off Friday, March 6, when the Westin Verasa Napa hosts a Grand Wine Tasting Event from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Solara Courtyard. Girlfriends will have an opportunity to sample the wines of notable and award-winning female winemakers, including Pam Starr (Bridesmaid Winery and Crocker & Starr Wines), Heidi Barrett (Barrett & Barrett and La Sirena), Martha McClellan (Sloan Estate, Checkerboard Vineyards, Hamel Family Winery, Vineyard 7&8, Toymaker Cellars and Levy & McClellan), Mary Rocca (Rocca Family Vineyards) and Celia Welch (Corra Wines and Lindstrom Wines). The $25 per person ticket price includes small bites to be served during the wine tasting.

Wine Pairing Dinner

After the Grand Wine Tasting Event, enjoy a unique opportunity to dine with some of the winemakers during a four-course wine pairing dinner at the Michelin-starred La Toque restaurant. Chef Ken Frank has created a menu of sumptuous courses paired with wines expressly chosen for this event. The experience includes interaction with the female winemakers and four courses with wine pairings offered at $150 per person, including tax and gratuity.

Make it a Weekend

The Wine, Women and Wellness getaway weekend will also offer relaxing activities designed with women in mind. Ladies can begin their day with a renewing walk or run with the Westin Verasa Napa’s onsite running concierge, or take part in a morning yoga session led by Buddy Macha, a lululemon instructor. Girlfriends are invited to book in-room treatments with Gloria Curry Day Spa throughout their stay. And to close out the weekend on Sunday, Sophie Jaffe of Philosophie will be presenting a Superfoods Cleansing Smoothie Workshop showcasing ways to naturally recharge your body after a weekend of possible over-indulgence.

Westin Verasa Napa, 1314 McKinstry St., Napa; visit or phone 707-257-1800 for details.


Pacific Orchid Exposition

by Fred Albert

February 3rd, 2015
Visitors admire a display at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. Photo by Brenda Hawkes.

Visitors admire a display at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. Photo by Brenda Hawkes.

Now in its 63rd year, the Pacific Orchid Exposition is the largest show of its kind in the country. More than 150,000 orchids from across the globe (including some varieties never seen in the US) will be on display at this year’s event, which takes place February 20–22 at Fort Mason Center’s Festival Pavilion.

Sponsored by the San Francisco Orchid Society, the exposition features tours, demonstrations and lectures, in addition to a panoply of blooms available for viewing or purchase. This year’s theme, “The Thrill of Discovery,” was inspired by artist Sally Robertson, whose iconic watercolors of the titular flower have been a staple of the Pacific Orchid Exposition for the last 20 years.

The exposition kicks off February 19 with a Gala Benefit Preview at 6:30 p.m. Guests will have an opportunity to view and purchase the orchids on display before the general public, while savoring gourmet hors d’oeuvres and wines. There will also be an auction, with some of Robertson’s watercolors included in the offerings.

Admission to the gala is $43 in advance and $50 at the door. Tickets to the general show are $11–$14 in advance and $12–$14 at the door. For more information, visit

Sally Robertson has been painting images of orchids for the show for the last 20 years.

Sally Robertson has been painting images of orchids for the show for the last 20 years.

Merla Zellerbach

December 28th, 2014

The Nob Hill Gazette staff and publisher Lois Lehrman are so very saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend and past editor Merla Zellerbach. We miss her terribly.

Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios Soars

by Fred Albert

November 20th, 2014
Martin Girard/

Martin Girard/

Cirque du Soleil was flying high last Friday with the opening of Kurios, the Montreal-based troupe’s 35th offering, making its US premiere under the blue and gold tent next to AT&T Park. The enthusiastic audience (including Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom) came primed for fun—some dressed in vintage garb in keeping with the production’s steampunk design motif.

While the various acrobats and contortionists are spellbinding, as usual, it’s that aesthetic vision that really makes this production soar. Kudos to director Michel Laprise and his design team, who realize a world of gadgets and gizmos that unspool before us like Alice’s journey through Wonderland.

At one point, a tea party that could have been straight out of Lewis Carroll’s fable is interrupted by a performer who scales an ever-higher stack of chairs upon the table. Suddenly, a mirror-image tea party appears overhead, all its guests hanging upside-down, while one descends his own pile of chairs, until the two men meet in the middle. Miraculous.

As with other Cirque productions I’ve seen, the storyline is so scant as to hardly bear mentioning, and the comedy routines pale beside the physical feats—an “invisible circus” act being the worst offender. (Where are Bill Irwin and David Shiner when you need them?) But these are minor quibbles in a night that otherwise levitates on currents of spectacle and wonder.

Kurios plays in San Francisco through January 18.

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