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Disco Fever

| Monday, May 15, 2006

Oh, what a night! Sky-high platform shoes, heavy gold chains, necklines that plunged to nether regions, hair out to there ... and these were just the dudes at Friday's walk on the wild side. Chicks wore tattoos, hot pants, micro-minis, tons of hairpieces and go-go boots as they got their groove on at Crash the Prom . And why not• Like, how many times do we go around this planet anyway?

Tapping into the disco-mad '70s, the Pittsburgh Public Theater unleashed Studio 54's white-hot industrial vibe on the top floor of the Bitz Building on Ninth. Unfinished walls were draped in white, dotted with outrageous posters and flowered snowy white by Michael Jacobs of Blooms, who also designed the totally cool ambience. Pastel leisure suits• There was enough polyester here to make a hot air balloon.

The huge watering hole was open for business, Catered Elegance dished the tasty graze, the wait staff wore hipster tees and (would I lie to you?) the live auction was a laugh riot. In a stunning coup de theatre , four shirtless beefcakes were hired to boogie with the gals all night long.

But Gary Racan's abfab Studio E Band was the main act, and the dance floor cleared when Lenora Nemetz and the Public's Ted Pappas strutted their showboat stuff from "Saturday Night Fever."

"You Should Be Out There Dancing," sang the band to the nearly 300 who answered the call. Like awesome-possum chairs Audrey and Tim Fisher ; zoot-suited state Rep. Dan Frankel , Lou DiNardo , Scott Bergstein , Bob Kennedy and PPT prez Dave Matter with their foxy dates; PPT's Mark Power in DayGlo orange; Linda and Stuart Miller ; Nadine Bognar ; Jeanne Rudov ; Judy and Michael Chetayan ; Joan and Jerry Apt ; Nanette and Ira Gordon ; Barbara Barry and Rick LeBeau ; Peggy McKnight , glittering in a sequined mini-skirt; Carol Caroselli , wearing shoes studded "SEX;" Sibby and Duff McCrady ; Bernie Worden ; and prom chaperones Pam and Ben Chapple.

Deja who• Try Catherine and Mark Loevner ; Rachel Walton and Fran Wymard ; Heather and Randy Hillier ; Jan and Ernie Meade ; Missy and J ohn Unkovic ; Barb Mendlowitz , in a knockout leopard print; Drs. Helene and Todd Blodgett ; Lynn and Ron Davenport ; Meg and George Cheever ; Dr. Larry Leahy ; Kitty Hillman and Richard Burkland ; John Mills ; Jane Treherne-Thomas and Bill Dietrich ; Lyndell Miller ; Cherrie and Reginald Brown ; Linda and Rob Indovina ; Richard Parsakia n; Augusta Kairys ; Sandy Bettor ; Steve Webster ; Michelle and Andy Aloe ; Grace Jones aka Varian Huddleston ; and John Travolta wannabes in white suits and black shirts.

Can you dig it?

Community Visionary

Because his heart has never strayed from the heart of our city and because he's helping to improve our region's economic growth as president of Citizens Bank, Ralph Papa was honored Saturday night as a Person of Vision . The visionary leader was doing the heavy lifting for Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh , the agency of hope for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Event chairs Alan Boarts (with Jill ) and Mark Evans (with Jenifer ) teamed with the best emcee in the biz, Jim Roddey , who also did a terrific stint with a few spiffy auction items. And one of his own: "Twanda Carlisle will commission you to do a study!"

After a delicious dine, the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's ensemble of singers and dancers lit the Westin Convention Center stage with a medley of show tunes for the black-tie gathering, which included Ralph's proud bride Ruth Anne Papa ; BVRS director Steve Barrett with Bobbi ; the Hanna clan; the Steelers' Joe Gordon ; Elizabeth and Denis McCarthy ; Tom and U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan ; Ellen and Russ Swank ; Michelle and Dr. Chuck Mackett ; Julie and Andrew Uram ; Bonnie and Dick Anton ; Phyllis and Lou Naples ; Connie and Dennis Farkos ; Cynthia Kutcher ; Stephanie and Jim Baumgartner ; and Julia and John Gleason .

The X Ball

X marked the spot of Thursday's Venetian Nights , un ballo splendido showcasing Nova Era, the Sensational Venetian musicians from Disney's Epcot, and Exhibit A pointed to celebrated suspense author Mary Jane Clark , the star attraction of Thursday's black-tie for 300 that was a love-in of X's and Oohs at the Omni William Penn, Downtown.

As the mother of a child with the Fragile X syndrome, the leading known cause of autism, it's no mystery why Clark is turning all her sleuthing skills toward research for curing the genetic disorder through the FRAXA Research Foundation .

Michele Cox , Kathy Birmingham and Toni Johns chaired the gala that turned out parents of Fragile X kiddies from coast to coast. And honored Augusto Odone , the father of Lorenzo Odone of Virginia who was portrayed by actor Nick Nolte in "Lorenzo's Oil," for his breakthrough discovery in treating his son's rare disease.

After tucking into a stravagante menu, Nova Era lured guests to the dance floor, where we spotted Dan Grimaldi (he's Patsy Parisi in "The Sopranos") and Florence ; Dr. Robert No ll, Fragile X Center director at Children's Hospital; emcee Larry Richert of KDKA; Antonia and Ira Elo ; John Mitchell ; Laura Kronk ; Bruster's Bruce Reed with Lisa Unis ; Dawn Osthoff ; Beth Ann and Frank Fuhrer ; Tracy Recchia ; Nick and Nicole Antonucci Fusca ; Annie Hochwarth and Dr. Tom Costello ; Michelle and Rick Hvizdak ; and Barbara and Al Crawford .

New Gallery in Town

If leadership can indeed be distilled to a juice, then Dick Simmons ' cup runneth over. To his credits as chairman emeritus of Allegheny Technologies and chairman of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, add gentlemen, intellectual, cultural connoisseur and philanthropist extraordinaire.

Just the other day, he and Ginny flew off to New York for what he thought was a quiet 80th birthday celebration. Except his family had other thoughts and surprised him with a dinner party at Mario Batali's Del Posto restaurant. Pity the poor diners elsewhere in the opulent outpost, because Batali personally served each course and then invited the Simmons party for a look-about in his famed kitchen.

Yet, the highlight of Dick's busy week was the dedication of the new R.P. Simmons Family Gallery in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Thanks to his fabulous $5 million gift, the museum will continue showing those exhibits that knock you off your feet.

In the throng of 100 fans and friends were such as their kids Amy and Sean Sebastian with Margot and Greg Curran (and six grandkids); Georgianna and David Hillenbrand ; Frank Cahouet ; Tom Bigley ; Sally and Ned Randall ; Bill DeWalt ; Jack Barbour ; Ann and Ron Wertz ; Cherry and Ray White ; Suzy Broadhurst ; Toto and Jim Fisher ; Brooks Robinson ; Hugh Van der Veer ; Jim Wilkinson ; Joan and Phil Gulley ; and Michael Bielski .

Wonder Women

Seven successful, on-the-go women stepped off their meteors on Monday to be honored at the YWCA's Tribute to Women in the Hilton Pittsburgh. They've made their mark in business, the arts, education, community and human services ... in a man's world. And there's not a shrinking violet in the bunch.

Chaired by Pamela Coates and Beverly Elovitz for 900 high achievers from every community sector, these trailblazers flashed brilliantly: Allerton Lifetime Achievement awardee Sarah Campbell , founding member of the Homewood-Brushton Community Improvement Association; Barbara Luderowski , Mattress Factory; Debora Foster , H. J. Heinz Co.; Judge Cheryl Allen , Court of Common Pleas; Barbara Mistick , Ph.D., Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; Dr. Joann Narduzzi, Pittsburgh Mercy Health System; Carolyn Duronio , Reed Smith. And Jane Holmes , one of Pittsburgh's earliest philanthropists, who was honored posthumously.

Cheering sections included honorary chairs Dr. Nancy and Milt Washington ; YWCA prexy Beverly McGrath and CEO Dr. Cecilia Griffin Golden ; Judy Thompson ; Chris Probert ; Dr. Doreen Boyce ; Jacqui Lazlo ; Dr. Joanne Andiorio ; Pam Golden ; Audrey Reichblum ; Carol Word ; and Dr. Janet Simon .

The Caring Kind

We certainly counted our blessings to be among the 800 black-ties during Friday's Bishop's Annual Dinner for Catholic Charities at the Hilton Pittsburgh. Now in it's 24th year, "A Matter of Caring" will help answer many prayers for the 80,000-plus adults and youngsters in need -- regardless of race, creed or nationality - who benefit from CC's generosity.

During the VIP reception, Bishop Donald Wuerl greeted the faithful such as co-chairs Ann and Chris Donahue ; local CC director Patricia McCullough ; board prez Dave O'Brien and Colleen ; county exec Dan Onorato and Shelly ; Angela and James Maher; Mary Anne and Hoddy Hanna ; Congresswoman Melissa Hart ; state Sen. Jay Costa ; emcee Larry Richert ; District Attorney Stephen Zappala and Mary ; Carole and Mark Shepard ; and Kaya and Mickey Pohl .

Of course, caritas is Latin for "love, charity and compassion," which were in abundant supply as awards were presented apres dinner to Parkvale Bank's Michaelene Olshavsky (with Bryce Bryant ), Mercy Health System's Ken Eshak (with Anka ); and New Orleans' CC director James Kelly .

-- John Altdorfer

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