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Winged wonders

| Monday, Sept. 29, 2008

The National Aviary soared to new heights at Feathered Jewels , Saturday's stunning wingding that transformed the Hunt Armory into a tropical paradise. You heard me. Never mind the military tanks and armored war machines hiding behind the black scrim, the setting was as colorful as the A-list avians who flew their North Side coop for a night on the town and then delighted 800 black-ties during the cocktail mingle.

Who but I would tell you that every other woman wore mostly long and black, and all the men dressed like penguins•

Wish you could've heard the tiny gasps of pleasures when the drapes opened to the ballroom. Divided into three color-coded sections, guests sat at tables that were exquisitely covered in matching sequined cloths in either turquoise, mango or lime green by Victoria's Linens, lit by pin spots and flowered to dazzle by Michael Jacobs of Blooms. A feathered tiara to Laurie Streiner , who orchestrated all this gorgeousness.

For close encounters of the beaked and feathered, there was a fascinating free-flight bird show that, quel hoot, even had an Eurasian eagle owl landing on a dinner table! Happily, the lights were turned up for the show ... otherwise, the vast space was glommed in darkness.

Not a fowl dish to be found on Big Catering's deliciously prepared, presented and inspired Latin American menu. Which included a luscious medley of desserts. Ate like birds• I don't think so.

Anthony Bridge accepted the Phoenix Philanthropy Award for United States Steel Corp. that has generously feathered NA's nest over the years. All in, the eve raised $400,000 to enable America's birdland to continue its expansion program and the construction of a spectacular interactive theater.

Apres-dinner, Sputzy had us shaking our tail feathers off to his terrific band, and we spotted chairs Miriam (in a divine purple pleated Badgley Mischka gown) and Todd Moules , prez/CEO of lead sponsor National City Bank, the tweethearts; NA prez Mike Flinn with Eileen ; Del and Mike Dempster ; NA director Linda Dickerson ; Gary Wilson and Sheri , gorgeous in an iridescent Nicole Miller; Carole and Mel Rex ; Jane and Michael Dixon ; beautiful Aradhna Dhanda with Grant Oliphant ; Judge Christine Donahue ; Jim Schrott ; Cathy and Jim Lehman ; Paula DeRenzo and Rich Hamilton ; Joyce and Bill Bender ; and Jody with Michael Doherty .

More birders: Judy , Jim , Sharon and Matt Stalder ; Angie Longo ; Sydelle Kessler ; Ann and Frank Cahouet ; Libby and Mike Mascaro (they're preggers!); Lari and Vince Locher ; emcee J.R. Randall of Star 100.7; Betsy Teti ; Erin Estell and Dr. Todd Katzner ; Kathy Testoni ; Jane Treherne-Thomas and Bill Dietrich ; Jane Werner and Bob Rutkowski ; Chris and Tom Kobus ; Judy Nocito ; Kim and Robert Fanelli ; Connie George ; Kelly and Billy Tomko ; Joanie Siebart and Ralph Manning ; Tammy and Eric Blazer ; and Bobbi and Berel Broffman .

Oeuvre Achiever

Not only did Tina Brown cross the pond to revive Vanity Fair and The New Yorker , she tripled their circulation and was subsequently ranked as 47th among the 100 Most Powerful Women in America. Last year, Brown's book "The Diana Chronicles," about her dear friend, the late Princess of Wales, became a best-seller.

The petite powerhouse came out with guns blazing to open the Drue Heinz Lectures on Monday and kept a full house at Carnegie Music Hall enthralled with the saga of the most photographed woman in the world whom the paparazzi chased to death. A media frenzy that she dubbed "Beatlemania in a tiara!"

Before Brown took to the stage, Elsie Hillman spoke of Jay Dantry and his 53 years helming our town's literary landmark, Jay's Book Stall in Oakland, to which the 2008-09 DHL are dedicated. Right up to when he closed the shop in June, thousands of people cared what Jay said about books, because he represented character, taste, standards and integrity -- qualities as rare as Christmas bluejays. And when Elsie persuaded him to stand, he received a thunderous standing "O."

At a private cocktail reception in the balcony, delightfully catered by Parkhurst, Jayne Adair , the DHL dynamic director, welcomed such bookworms as Barbara Mistick ; Pam Golden ; Harry Schwalb ; Diana and Joe Emanuele ; Myrna Hackney ; Michelle and Andy Aloe ; Katy and Dr. Fred Sherman ; Shirley Sawyer ; Basil Cox ; Kathy Stept ; and Margaret Whitford .

40 Years of Changing Lives

"This is our concept of a school ... without armed guards, metal detectors or bars on windows. Without an act of graffiti or a drug incident. Where everyone is treated with dignity and respect," so sayeth Bill Strickland , founder of Manchester Bidwell Corp ., at Wednesday's swelegant celebration of Bidwell Training Center 's 40th anniversary. He was speaking of Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's remarkable school that rescues teens from broken homes and neighborhoods by using the arts to teach them life skills. As well as the equally remarkable BTC that "teaches careers" to displaced adults.

In a North Side area where hope had lost its meaning, there now stands the house that Bill built ... a beacon of hope which does, as the title of his newly published book declares, "Make the Impossible Possible."

Since taking over MBC, his name has been a synonym for the best and bravest in social entrepreneurship. Bill dreams with his eyes wide open, and other cities are clamoring to replicate those dreams. He has obliged with models in San Francisco, Cincinnati, Grand Rapids ... while Nova Scotia, Ireland and Israel are waiting in the wings. We thought then as we think now -- there's nothing he can't do.

Orchids to Bill and Rose Strickland and such others among MBC's 400 heavy-lifters as Dr. James Robinson and Betty ; Jesse Fife ; Val Njie ; Eddie Edwards ; George Fecter ; Burr Wishart ; Cliff Rowe ; Elise Hyland ; Claudette Lewis ; George Miles ; Nancy Rackoff ; and master quilter Ruth Ward .

Best of Class

Tuesday night and the Carnegie Music Hall foyer was bursting with color at Allegheny Valley School 's Celebration 2008 , to benefit over 900 individuals with mental and/or developmental disabilities.

Whimsical polka-dot napery, gerber daisies and puppet-themed centerpieces, another knockout production by Bonnie Walker Events, charmed 300-plus fashionable philanthropists at the smart reception.

Once seated, ventriloquist Terry Fator , million-dollar winner of "America's Got Talent" and Vegas phenom, had us rolling in the aisles with his wildly entertaining cast of puppet characters, ending with a hilariously impromptu Sonny-and-Cher duet with First Commonwealth VP (and great sport!) Joe Dell .

Toasting tiramisu-filled pastry cups afterward to the $240K success were John Duggan and Parie (her mother, Patricia Hillman Miller, founded AVS with the help of Bob Prince and Douglas Hannah); AVS prez Regis Champ with Cindy and daughter Chelsey ; Elsie Hillman ; Peggy and Jim Douglass ; Nadine Bognar ; Dorothy and Neal Pollon ; and Brooke and Clint Guyaux .

-- Kate Guerriero

Britto for Brazilian Kids

Talk about an opening night party as irresistible, as joyful as the art it embraced! Friday and the Britto Tours America sculpture exhibit by the internationally acclaimed Brazilian pop artist stopped traffic at the Waterfront shopping mecca in Homestead (till Oct. 19) ... a premiere that was generously paired with a fundraiser for Pro Youth , founded by Rachel Stephaich to help needy teens in southeast Brazil rebuild their lives.

A beautiful, clear tent in Town Center teemed with good times, scrumptious buffets from WF restaurants and a Brazilian beat as guests thrilled to Nego Gato's martial arts performance and swayed to the sounds of nightingale Kenia. Romero Britto , the darling, also donated 12 miniature sculptures that commanded top prices in the silent auction.

Artist Burton Morris with wife Sara showed for the fun, as did WF's Diane Lichauer , Dawn Lechlikner and Scott Schroedder ; Peter Stephaich with gorgeous daughters Andrea and Laura in Carnivale headdresses; Debra and Chuck Gordon ; Paul Kovach ; Vicky Lee and Otto Chu ; Cary and Richard Reed ; Anna and Ed Dunlap ; Judy Robinson ; Sue Fuhrer ; Ginger and Howard Schwartz ; Homestead Mayor Betty Esper ; and a bevy of lovely Chatham U. student volunteers.

The X Ball

ยก Un que partido ! Friday evening at the Omni William Penn, where 250 beauties and beaus gathered for FRAXA's Latin-fiesta-themed X-Ball .

Sipping signature X-Moj's, we hobnobbed among larger-than-life puppets during cocktails while bidding on the silent auction (a Squier guitar autographed by the Rolling Stones was one hot numero). Following a delicioso dinner, DJ Spike Riel had our stilettos cha-cha-ing across the ballroom floor with Hollywood heartthrob Ignacio Serricchio , who jetted in from La La Land just for the event.

Cheers to co-chairs Michele Cox (with Jim ) and Dawn Marie Tomczak (with Mike ) -- both stunning in signature Nicole Millers. To date, this fab fete has raised over $400K for researching the Fragile X gene, the leading cause of autism, through the FRAXA Foundation at our Children's Hospital.

Dancing the night away were emcee John Cline and Terri ; Helen and Dan Hoey ; Barbara Gates ; Helen Rho and Dr. Michael Oh ; Barbara and Al Crawford ; Gail and David Becker ; and New Yorkers Debbie and Jeff Stevenson .

-- K.G.

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