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Summer Solstice Soiree

| Monday, June 23, 2003

Ah, the joys of gardening. On the first day of summer, never mind the chilly temps, the call of earthly pleasures delivered 250 guests to Lisa and Dennis Pegden 's breathtaking bowers in Sewickley. A 1920s French country manse sets the tone for their pool and terraced gardens. From the white rhododendrons at the front gate to patios dotted with whimsical bird houses and bright flowers in Mediterranean urns, there are vines and plants in every shade of green. Light moves through a graceful allee of ornamental pear trees against a patinated brick wall and its beautiful black ironwork. Well-chosen benches and a hammock invite a cozy read and places for friends and family to gather.

Beyond the pool and the cutting garden under a majestic sweetgum tree, there unfurls an immaculate sweep of lawn that doubles as a soccer field for the Pegden's four children. Soccer by day, party central on Saturday night at the fabulous benefit previewing the eighth annual Sewickley Garden Tour .

The Pegdens love to entertain, and it shows. Poolside, the irresistible Ipanema vibe of Lorena Martinez's Dolce Aqua floated along with the lovelies in tropical prints and linen dresses and men in mostly blazers.

White tents were nicely spaced on the green, and the good times were rolling. Caterer Michael Lench gets high marks for his sumptuous al fresco buffets with an Italian accent. His new old-world approach to cheffing meant brilliant presentations on three stations groaning with juicy shrimp, scallops, beef, plump ravioli, raspberries and so much more. Life is hard; summer entertaining should be easy. This one was merely divine.

Auctioneer Trip Klein was back to priming the pump for bijoux, garden variety items and art by (pause) Picasso, Miro and Warhol. Why, a drawing by Matisse was knocked down at (gasp) $2,400. The party was a blooming success. It raised $40,000 for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force , with its myriad services available to clients at no charge, thanks to everyone donating their services or practically giving them away. And, once again, proving that these supporters have hearts as green as their thumbs. None more so than our hosts, the peerless Pegdens.

Petals of honor to benefit chairs Jill Winters and Danielle Gillespie , with Jim , and to Natasha Green , who founded the event in 1985. Taking time to smell the roses: PATF director Bob Feikema and Carol Maurin; Bill Behan and Gary Vlachos; Leanne Mangano; Mark Zappala; Suanne and Paul Patek; Barbara Barry; Helen and Tim Miller; Kathleen and Bill Wycoff; Jan and Marc Pereira; Cindy Dyer and daughter Kristen; Ellen and Jay Brooks; Rosewitha and Ulie Krauskopf; Leah Reynolds; Bob Kmetz; Gail and David Becker; Jane Roesch ; Dr. Rege Pugh; Bonnie and Ron Casper; Beth and John Straka; Sandy Cooper; John Gates; Susan and Peter Tedesko; Suzanne and Peter Friday ; and Jeff and Patty Kendall (she designed the Pegden gardens).

Then there were D.A. Steve Zappala and Mary; Jon Olson; Leslie and Matthew Braksick; Caroline and Shane Conlan; Joanna Littlefield; Elise Smith and Tom Vreeland; Sandy and Richard Roberts; Emilie and George Szakach; Amanda and John Dunn ; Dr. Larry Leahy; Donna and Casey Keller; Reg and Priscilla Henry; Kate Lydon; Bill Korenich; Shirley and Neill Barker; Mary and Craig Kirsch; Barbara and Dr. Ralph Gaudio; Bethany Bauman; Rick Sipes; Frank Czuri; Suzanne Mauro and Josh Stanton; Mary McVay and son Tim; Bob Davis; Kathi Gambridge; Mary and Wayne Murphy; Elizabeth Evans; Jay and Holly Miller; Mary Fran and Dan Sponseller; Marvin Wedeen ; and Gail and John Stoner .

We're rooting for you.

AAP ON VIEW

Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper, Whistler, Phillip Pearlstein and Andy Warhol were members of the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh . As one of the oldest arts organizations in the country, AAP has been contributing to the vitality of our town since 1910. Hard times recently meant having to sell the downtown gallery to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and setting up shop in its basement. But no one was hanging crepe at AAP's preview party for its 93rd annual exhibition in the University Art Gallery at the Frick in Oakland (up 'til July 22). According to prez Tim Fabian , "we have maintained our history, membership and independence intact." Which brought more cheers than the entire award ceremony.

Now on to Friday's spirited opening that drew hundreds of art lovers, artists and collectors in a crowd as engaging as the show. Look to its jurors for the show's sophistication. They're Laura Hoptman , curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum, and Elizabeth Thomas , assistant curator. And their credits are almost as long as the show.

Winnowing the collection to 54 from a like number of artists, it's monotone-cool in color, varied in style and easy to relate to. Overall, the art is scaled down this year ... appealing to buyers wishing to add another piece without dooming an entire wall's worth to deaccession-ville. Or to the next charity art auction.

Faces in the crowd: Show chair Sally Gehl; Jane Arkus ; gallery director Josie Piller; Frederick Frank; Kathleen Zimbicki; Marjorie Shipe; Terri Perpich; Barbara and Jim Rettinger; Adrienne Heinrich; Lila Hirsch Brody; Jeanne and Scotti Mulert; Andy Sujdak; Pauline and Dr. Bernie Michaels; Michelle and John Y. Winberg; Jo-Anne Bates; Gissa and Rudy Weingartner; Martha and John Wolfe; Tey Steitler; Nancy Kountz; Patricia Sheehan; Shawn Quinlan; Val Cox; Ann and Alison Wardrop; Ellen Chisdes Neuberg; Linda Fruhwald; Janice Colker; Dorothy Forman; Ben Matthews ; twins Jeff and Mark Zetts; Betty Elias; Marilyn Bruya; Fran Panza ; and Joan Iverson Goswell .

State of the arts.

PREMIER HONORS

Though a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer could be counted among the Art Institute alumni and faculty, all eyes focused on grad Jennifer Smith, who just happens to be the premier of Bermuda. After graduation, the class of '71 fashion illustration major returned to her homeland to work as a journalist. At 25, she became the youngest woman to run for office in the island nation's history, entered the Senate in 1980 and assumed her current position in 1998. Now that's a fast track to success.

Reviving her Pittsburgh connection after a chance meeting last summer with Mellon Bank VP Ed Chidiac , who informed school officials about their distinguished alum, Madame Premier returned here Wednesday for A Date with Destiny and to accept the school's first honorary doctorate of humanities. On hand for the homecoming were school prez George Pry ; AI board chair Dr. Mary Louise Fennell ; past prez John Johns with Rachel and son John ; Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll ; instructor Flavia Zoreta , who created a stunning portrait of the premier; the Cultural Trust's Kevin McMahon ; Betsy Benson ; councilmen Gene Ricciardi and Alan Hertzberg ; Carrie Marches Butler and Steve ; Apryl Eshelman ; the Trib's Kurt Shaw with Acme Yan ; WQED-TV chef Chris Fennimore and Laura ; Raymond White ; Marilyn Hoyson ; Polly Stabile ; and Linda and Gary Marches .

VILLAGE VOICES

It only seemed as if we scaled Mt. Olympus. But the trek did lead us to a wooded hilltop in Mt. Lebanon for the Holy Cross Greek Food Festival , where the menu offered homemade favorites such as souvlakia, spanakopita, moussaka and a new wrinkle in the 31-year-old celebration.

From the open-air marketplace, brimming with olive oil, breads, herbs and other Grecian delicacies, to a 16-foot-tall windmill, rustic touches flavored the four-day fest's "village" theme created by Janet Conomos (with John ); co-chairs Regina and Jim Spanos ; Christine and George Peters ; Alexandra Sofis; and nearly 400 more volunteers.

As a bouzouki player strolled among the record crowds, we spotted the Rev. John Chakos ; G.P . Kokalis ; Steve and Pam Lagios ; Elaine and Jim Nellas ; Ronnie and Dean Stambolis ; Diane Babb ; Patsy and Karen Hatzimbes ; Adrienne Dickos ; Ponny Jahn ; Tessie and Chris Kucherawy ; Eva Vlastos ; Luke and Paul Diamant ; Joan and Nick Lamprinakos ; Popie Hagelios ; and John and Joan Zacharias . By Zeus!

BARD TO THE BONE

"Not to be" was never part of the question for Unseam'd Shakespeare , the plucky theater troupe that Monday celebrated its 10th anniversary . Dedicated to producing "radical" interpretations of classically inspired plays, the company invited a few good friends and patrons to a bacchanal feast at Casbah, complete with wine, women and song.

Set against a backdrop of conflicting passions, the four-course repast and apres-dinner bash offered a blend of fire and ice, sweet and spicy and unadulterated fun. Cheers to founder and artistic director Laura Smiley , whose vision has guided the company since 1994, and to co-chairs Rosemary Tomassi and Michelle Dawson (with husband Tim and son Ian Timothy ). As Phat Man Dee crooned and belly dancer Olivia Kissell gyrated, the merrymakers included longtime supporter Richard Rauh ; Doug Mertz and Stefano Muneroni ; Wendy and Dan Taylor , board prez Tim Carryer ; Lisa and Aaron Renby ; Marci Woodruff and Lon Durbin ; Adrienne Wehr and Rob Bupp ; Judith Diperna ; Dr. Sam Cho ; Sachiko and Chris Howard ; and David Wheeler .

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