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2014 International Car Show a valentine to auto aficionados

| Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, 5:14 p.m.
John Altdorfer
Nathalie and Mario Lemieux await the awarding of a $100,000 check for the Austin's Playroom project during the Red CARpet Charity Preview Gala for the Pittsburgh International Auto Show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh. Feb. 13, 2014.

Chalk it up to dumb luck or brilliant marketing strategy, but the Greater Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Association seemed to know what they were doing when they pinned the 2014 International Car Show ahead of Valentine's Day weekend.

“I'm looking around to see what I can buy for her,” joked Randy Hillier as he made the rounds with his wife, Heather.

Gifting ideas aside, on Feb. 13, a crush of 800 were expected to file into the David L. Lawrence Convention Center for the Red CARpet Preview Gala. Almost immediately, it was the people-watching that seemed to garner the most attention. “You could literally stand here all night and watch this,” said Nancy Angus, Mario Lemieux Foundation executive director. Others couldn't help but comment on the fleeting hemlines floating by.

Trending fashion topics aside, chairs Mario andNathalie Lemieux ushered in the VIPs while accepting a check for $100,000 on behalf of Austin's Playroom Project, an initiative of the Mario Lemieux Foundation. Named after their son, who was born prematurely and spent 71 days in the NICU, the Playroom Project creates cheery and creative play spaces that allow hospital kids — whether visitors or patients — to be kids again.

Meanwhile, as a coterie of household names in the auto biz — including Bud Smail, Rob Cochran, Corina Diehl, Debbie Flaherty and GPAD Foundation prez Tom Rohrich — circulated, most of the room was busy eyeing up potential additions to the family.

“She loves cars, especially sports cars,” said Susie Shipley as Michele Fabrizi honed in on a Mustang Shelby GT 500. “She probably knows more about cars than most of the men here.”

Among the crowd were GPADA CEO John Putzier, MLF prez Tom Grealish, Dr.David andKathleen Amati, Dennis andAnnie Baglier, Leah Micholas, Charlie andLatasha Batch, Jay and Alicia Caufield, Bud Green, Pierre Larouche, Bob andLisa Pompeani, and Sally Wiggin.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kbenz@tribweb.com, 412-380-8515, or on Twitter @KateBenzTRIB.

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