Parties, nonprofit fundraisers, LBA mixer, police memorial

| June 1, 2023 | 0 Comments

Butter, the Labrador retriever, stood guard at the front door, welcoming new and veteran moms from Larchmont Charter School to the return of the annual “Sisters of the Grape” wine tasting event at the home of chef, television personality and local Longwood Highlands mom Daphne Brogdon. The annual event hosted by Daphne, Julie Johnson and Kim Huffman Cary — put on ice when Covid-19 hit — was a welcome return to socializing and friendships old and new.


Guests on April 28 enjoyed three homemade tarts: bacon and onion mascarpone, onion, and Hubert Keller’s iconic onion, bacon, milk and egg recipe. An assortment of Alsatian cheeses plus fruits, nuts and breads, lined the kitchen’s center island, along with handheld salads and lemon cake bites. Three Alsatian wines were drained, including a 2018 Crémant d’Alsace from the Emile Boec Kel Winery, a 2020 Midelberg Riesling from Boeckel Winery and a 2021 Rouquin de Jardin Pinot Noir from the J. Mouret Winery.

To avoid the usual “moms talking about their children” conversation, each attendee was asked to write down an area of great interest to her. Answers ranged from baking cakes to attending live concerts to world travel. The conversation starter did the trick, and the hosts finally had to kick everyone out as the night descended into pumpkin territory. Moms in attendance included Jennifer Enani, Tara Timpone, Eileen Lanza, Juliet Burton, Cory Pohlman, Jenna Flexner, Jane Stuecken and Lily Icarangal.

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WINDSOR SQUARE BACKYARD of June Bilgore was a venue for new Aviva president and CEO Amber Rivas to introduce herself to the community.

Amber Rivas, the new president and CEO of Aviva Family and Children’s Services, who hit the ground running on Jan. 4, was welcomed to the community at the “Sip & Snack” high tea at the home of Windsor Square’s June Bilgore. The April 27 backyard presentation was attended by local residents, Aviva representatives and several NGA members, including Jennifer Kim and Susan Kneafsey. Aviva and NGA have worked in partnership through the years and were delighted to come together for one beautiful, sunny afternoon to learn more about Aviva’s future plans and to enjoy tuna, egg salad, smoked salmon, ham and cucumber tea sandwiches and scones, fruits, cookies and an array of English-themed bites.

AMBER RIVAS is the new president and CEO at Aviva.

Rivas, who spent 17 years at St. Anne’s Family Services (six of which as COO), told the attendees how thrilled she is about Aviva’s mission and future growth.

“Aviva’s programs are near and dear to my heart. It has a phenomenal reputation, and I’m excited to support the next chapter and its legacy,” said Rivas. The organization focuses on mental health services, foster housing and adoption, supportive housing for women and children (through Wallis House) and crisis intervention. The tea attendees were especially excited about the upcoming June 3 “Lifting Up LA” gala at the Avalon Hollywood, which will honor actor and philanthropists Jon Cryer and Lisa Joyner, former Mayor Eric Garcetti and First Lady Amy Wakeland, former Aviva Board Chair Bruce Anderson and former Wallis House resident Amber McCline.

“I instantly felt a connection with this organization,” Rivas shared. “It’s important to me to work with people who care about our mission first and foremost.”

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The local La Brea Tar Pits is not a dinosaur site. Its specialty is Ice Age flora and fauna trapped in the local goo within the last 50,000 years. But the Tar Pits Museum is a part of the Natural History Museums of Los Angeles County, and learning and sharing information about dinosaurs long has been a part of the mission of the Natural History Museum (NHM).

Dinosaurs definitely were on center stage April 29 at the NHM in Exposition Park, when the beloved Dinosaur Ball returned in-person for the first time since 2019, raising $1.4 million for NHM educational programs. Tar Pit aficionados were among the 450 people attending, including excavation site director Dr. Emily L. Lindsey, the co-curator of the La Brea Tar Pits. [Learn more about Dr. Lindsey in the Chronicle’s March 2023 issue in “Science and community come together at La Brea Tar Pits” and in the March 2018 issue in “Misconceptions about La Brea Tar Pits, Ice Age animals, climate change.”—Ed.]

• • •

Also on the 29th, locals gathered to greet a group of visitors traveling with Historic New England’s president and CEO, Vin Cipolla, on a one-week trip titled “California Modern: Mid-Century Masterpieces of Palm Springs and Los Angeles.” The group’s final evening was in Los Angeles and included a mini-bus tour of DTLA, Mid-Wilshire, Museum Row, Hancock Park, Larchmont and Windsor Square, guided by John Welborne and Brian Curran. The travelers ended up at the Windsor Square home of Curran and Kevin MacLellan (1908, hardly Modernism!), where Bret Parsons joined them, and everyone talked about architecture and history over drinks and dinner.

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SINKS were the perfect shape and height for ice-filled offerings of cold beverages at the Larchmont Boulevard Association’s May mixer at Romi Cortier’s.

In early May, local Larchmont merchants reconnected at their first post-Covid-19 mixer. Sponsored by the Larchmont Boulevard Association (LBA) and held at the Romi Cortier Design / Art Gallery, the invitation advertised “drinks and small bites.” There was an extensive array — hardly “small” — of delicious appetizers filling up every flat space in the half-dozen rooms of the studio, courtesy of LBA board member Melissa Farwell of Larchmont Village Farmers’ Market. Hair-washing sinks provided perfect vessels when filled with ice and cans and bottles of cold drinks. In addition to LBA board members Cortier and Farwell, board members Bob Day, Mel Miyamoto, Edie Frère, Patti Carroll, Sharon Sweeney, John Welborne and Patty Lombard greeted fellow Larchmont business people and guests, including 13th District Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez and his field deputy for the Larchmont and Windsor Square areas, Karla Martinez.

HUGO Soto-Martinez, at left, discusses neighborhood issues at the May 10 LBA mixer held at the studio of Romi Cortier, center, with Leila Kenzle, Sharon Sweeney and Bob Day.

• • •

After a seemingly unbearable two-year COVID-19 hiatus, about 50 women from all over the Larchmont area descended on the home of the La Brea-Hancock neighborhood’s Wendy Burg for the beloved Semi-Annual Clothing Swap, started years ago by a few intrepid moms looking for a way to socialize, “shop” for free, eat, drink and be merry. Billed as “a fashion-filled, recycle-minded charity event,” the idea behind the May 20 swap was for each person to bring her “gently used” unwanted clothing items, offer them up to others for the taking, then return home with a fabulous new “free” wardrobe of her own. Any leftover items were donated to Goodwill.

LOCAL WOMEN, including Goldie D’Annunzio, Melissa Disharoon and Juliet Burton, enjoy “shopping” and socializing.

The “shopping” event was also a potluck, and participants came in strong, bearing dips, cheeses, fruits, salads, main courses, wine and beer. The freebie fashionistas commented that this swap had more clothes than usual, probably due to pent-up post-Covid-19 demand. Several women showed up with college-bound daughters in tow, eager to five-and-dime some new summer and fall college wardrobes. Seen heading home with alternatively lighter closets yet new wardrobe additions were Anita Saunders, Goldie D’Annunzio, Catherine Mann, Jane Stuecken, Jen Enani, Julie Vlasak, Loretta Fox, Melissa Disharoon, Juliet Burton and Susan Hoen.

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CAMERATA PACIFICA was the beneficary of the outpouring of admiration for Carol Henry, shown here with sons Michael (at left) and Will.

The weekend of May 19 to 21 saw lots of tributes to local (and formerly local) patrons of music. A large turnout of people from throughout Southern California came to event center Vibiana, the former Catholic cathedral in Downtown Los Angeles, to salute Carol Henry while raising a half-million dollars for Camerata Pacifica, one of the favorite music groups (among about a dozen favorites) of her and her late husband, Warner. Two generations of Henrys lived on Plymouth Boulevard, with Warner and Carol raising their three children, Will, Katie and Michael there. Katie was out of the country on May 19th, but she sent a touching video tribute to her mom, who over the years has provided volunteer leadership to about a dozen important nonprofit boards including the Los Angeles Opera since 1985, serving as president from 2005 to 2010.

Local fans of Carol’s who helped fill Vibiana while listening to an exciting concert of Baroque chamber music and then drinking and toasting the honoree included Janet Ciriello, Robert Ronus, Hilary Crahan and James Conlon.

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SALUTING ROBERT RONUS (center) for his Opera League recognition are (from left) Carol Henry, Jennifer Fain and Carlotta Keely. Photo by Greg Grudt

Two nights later, it was Robert Ronus who was the honoree –– this time of the Opera League of Los Angeles, which presented the Hancock Park resident with its Peter Hemmings Award. Named for the beloved first general director of Los Angeles Opera, the award recognizes prominent supporters of the institution. Among previous winners in attendance to honor Ronus were Carol Henry and LA Opera music director James Conlon, who had to depart early to catch a red-eye to Cincinnati, Ohio, to conduct at the historic May Festival in that city.

Other locals honoring Ronus at the Sunday dinner and performance in the elegant, high-ceiling main dining room of Downtown’s Jonathan Club were Jennifer Fain, Gill and John Wagner, Julie Levtow, Carlotta Keely, John Welborne and Janet Ciriello.

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POLICE OFFICERS and community members remember fallen officers at memorial groundbreaking. WSHPHS president Richard Battaglia is at center, with hand over heart.

Sun., May 21, was busy in the afternoon, as well. At the headquarters of the Wilshire Division of LAPD, locals joined police officers for the groundbreaking of the Fallen Police Officers Memorial and Garden. Drawings were on display showing the proposed memorial that will honor local police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty while serving the Wilshire area.

After the guests and participants were welcomed by Capt. Sonia Monico, commanding officer of the Wilshire Division, numerous speakers solemnly remembered these eight public employees who, beginning in 1958, had made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting and serving the residents of Los Angeles. The memorial project was described by its manager, First-In Fire Foundation president, Lyn MacEwen Cohen. In addition, Richard Battaglia, president of the Windsor Square Hancock Park Historical Society, a major funder of the memorial and garden, spoke. The Society also hosted a reception following the ceremony.

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RAISING AWARENESS for nurses: Ronald Simms, Victoria Mann Simms and Rachel Barchie.

Beverly Hills’ Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts was the May 22 setting for the inaugural event of Off The Chart, an initiative undertaken by the Simms / Mann Family Foundation to identify and reward nursing greatness. Thirty well-deserving nurses were carefully handpicked from City of Hope, UCLA Health and Keck Medicine of USC (10 from each) to receive a $10,000 gift each, no strings attached.

Attendees were ushered into the Wallis’ Lovelace Center to listen to journalist and author Sarah DiGregorio share personal stories of how greatly the nursing world affected and assisted her own family throughout her life. Victoria Mann Simms, co-founder and president of the foundation and the Simms / Mann Institute, then shared the origins of the idea for Off The Chart. “I had great concern about the nurses during Covid-19,” Simms shared. “Off The Chart wasn’t a strategic initiative… this came from a place of deep appreciation.”

Wilton-Ridgewood resident and foundation executive director Rachel Barchie emphasized, “Hopefully, we will be a model for other companies to emulate in their own communities and health systems.” After the discussion, guests were treated to an outdoor reception featuring dinner and an ice cream bar.

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COUNCILMEMBER Hugo Soto-Martinez recognized former Windsor Square Association board member Caroline Labiner Moser for many and varied contributions to her community.

Another post-Covid-19, in-person get-together saw Windsor Square Association block captains and directors assemble with local officials — including Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, LAPD officers including Wilshire Capt. Sonia Monico and LAFD Station 29 firefighters including Capt. Josh Morehouse — for dinner and a pep talk about the benefits of organizing residential neighborhoods block-by-block. Approximately 80 people attended the May 24th gathering that featured a buffet of Mexican food. All of the planning was done by Windsor Square Association board members June Bilgore, Angie Szentgyorgyi and Tracey Durning, the latter two serving as moderators and introducing several block captains who told stories of what has worked for organizing their blocks. Durning said that her magic trick is serving margaritas, while Scott Abrahamson, Niloo Eskandari and Marcelo Ziperovich told of other ways they kept residents of their blocks involved for mutual benefit.

WINDSOR SQUARE Block Captain gathering included, from left, Jason Greenman, Jeanne Williams, Randy Esada, Andy Murr, Amy Forbes, Steve Tator and Dorothy Schouten.

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Okay, shhhhhhh… I usually don’t do this, but I’m going to give you a little sneak peek at an upcoming event, Sat., June 24, when St. Vincent Meals On Wheels will be throwing its annual mega fundraiser at Paramount Studios featuring Los Angeles’ top celebrity chefs and restaurants, this year dubbed “Hollywood Under The Stars.” I was lucky enough to get an advance tasting of some of the yumminess that will be featured at this year’s extravaganza, including gumbo by Chef Nika Shoemaker-Machado of Georgia’s Restaurant, wagyu aburi nigiri and an hamachi shot of yellowtail, dashi, avocado and radish by Chef Richard Archuleta of Alexander’s Steakhouse; Maryland crab cake by 2023 Host Chef and Culinary Angel Isaias Peña; and two tasty desserts, a carrot cake cupcake by John Hensley of Lark Cake Shop and an obscene amount of deliciousness from Läderach Chocolatier Suisse.

Newscaster and host Susan Hirasuna and actor and host Doug Savant reminded the sneak previewers that Meals on Wheels serves 800,000 meals to homebound seniors each year. So if you want to attend an important and memorable fundraiser in the neighborhood, mark June 24 on your calendar!

And now you’re in the Larchmont know!

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Category: People

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