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Wok of Art

| Monday, July 14, 2003

When 50 of Pittsburgh's most sought after high-flyers gather to wow local foodies with their flashes in the pan, they have to be doing it for a great cause. At Tuesday's Dave Thomas Celebrity Cookoff , they did just that -- cooking up kudos to support the Three Rivers Adoption Council and its mission of helping folks adopt African-American kids and those with special needs.

If you've been on an effete diet of free-range chicken lying belly up on a bed of arugula, then Benihana's outpost in Green Tree was where you found the beef again. Where you could also share shrimp and veggies hot off the teppan tables, and golden Foo dogs at the door kept the peaceful from entering.

The food• Who cares. Although there was no General Tsao or his chicken, the hi-jinks were worth their weight in jade. Like Ralph Papa of Citizens Bank and County exec Jim Roddey spicing their vittles with a can of Spam and a link of hot dogs.

Now in its fourth year, the thrill has not gone out of this grill. And these Emerils-come-lately proved they could take the heat in the kitchen. The edible complex was packed wall-to-wall at two sittings and buzzing with good times.

Let the snooty haute cuisiners keep their soupcons. We're talking sauciers' apprentices run amok ... except for WQED-TV's ringer, chef Chris Fennimore . And baby, they were cooking. For entertainment, we watched a few chefs giving it their best shot by flipping a morsel into the air that landed in an open mouth. Sometimes. Or the Halos serenading diners around Johnny Angel 's table. And for mo' better bidding, there was a silent auction in the cocktail tent.

A tip of the toque to such other panhandlers who even auctioned the aprons off their backs for our kids' sake: Public Theater's Ted Pappas ; WTAE-TV's Sally Wiggin , Mike Clark and Shiba Russell ; Patrice King-Brown and Dr. Paul Nemiroff of KDKA-TV; Judge Kim Clark ; Recorder of Deeds Valerie McDonald Roberts and Ted ; Jodine Costanzo of WPXI-TV; KQV's Elaine Effort ; Pirates' alums Frank Thomas and Grant Jackson ; B-94's Bubba , Giant Brian , Aimee Angil and Melanie Taylor ; Izzazu's mane men Gino and Emilio ; Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh's Catholic Diocese; WAMO's Sly Jock and Vickie Hill ; Biotechnology's Dr. Tim Heffner ; Scott Hollander of KidsVoice; TRAC director Jackie Wilson ; County Controller Dan Onorato ; crooner Walt Maddox ; STAR 100.7's Kate Harris and J.R. Randall ; and Dr. Ted Steliotes of his namesake dental spa.

Among the grateful fed: TRAC board chair Eugene Beard ; Jan and Ernie Meade ; Betsy and Tom Teti ; Barbara Bettwy ; Lauren Tillman in from Arizona; Jerry and Rhonda Wade-Lopes ; Wieda Tucker and Jim Richardson ; Lauren Trocano ; Bridget Clement ; Ruth Ann Pappa ; Patty and Paul Kress ; Maryann and Bill King ; Cecilia and John Astarb ; Dana Rofey ; Marilyn and Tim Reed ; Marcella and Rev. John Leftwich ; Chris and John Gongas ; Norm and Martina Gardner Woods ; Marlene and Fred Galovich ; Danielle Cisneros ; Erin Pohland ; Rick Towcimak ; Benihana's Melissa Fronstin up from Miami and Casey Cohlmia ; and from Wendy's came Dennis Farrow , Ron Walker and Glen Comer .

Speaking of Wendy's, the brain behind this flame was its dearly departed big guy, Dave Thomas, who was adopted as a child. His work to find a home for every waiting child continues through his foundation and celeb cookoffs at Benihanas around the country. Like this one that raised $51,400 for TRAC.

Soy to the world.

Artistic Angel

Let's face it. Those 15 minutes of fame will never stop ticking for Farrah Fawcett . Just when the clock seems to be winding down for the sexy Texas lass, she reinvents herself in a way that that surprises all. From Charlie's angelic pinup poster girl Jill Munroe to her critically acclaimed big-screen and off-Broadway star turns, this American icon proves she has timeless appeal. And now she breezes into town during the "Summer of Andy" to display her artistic side at the Andy Warhol Museum.

While a throng of fans queued up in a line that stretched around the block halfway to PNC Park, the petite center of attraction quietly slipped in the side door with her artistic collaborator for Saturday's opening of the self-titled multimedia exhibit "Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett." The pair agreed to sculpt each other after Edmier invited her to join the project and explained that she was his muse since childhood. Yes, the revealing bronze life-size figure of the male member of the creative duo did catch the attention of a few, but nearly all eyes focused on the classically inspired reclining nude study of the actress chisled from white Italian Carrara marble.

Notables at the VIP reception included friends and admirers from Los Angeles, New York, Vegas and Pittsburgh such as Lynn and Paul Zelevansky of the LA County Museum of Art; Doreen Remen and Steven Weiner from the Big Apple; AWM director Tom Sokolowski ; Carnegie Museum Director Richard Armstrong ; New Zealand artist Billy Apple ; Sara Seagull ; Karen Spellings , Farrah's pal since grade school; Laura Hoptman ; Ray Ryan ; Judge Christine Ward ; Peggy Atkinson ; Audrey Alpern ; Amy Hicks ; Bob Davis ; Farrah's clothing designer Elizabeth Bryan ; Colleen Russell Christ ; Bea and Don Carter ; Tim McVay with mother Mary ; Cynthia McCormick ; Gina Fry ; Lois Pruitt ; Minette Seate and Ken Lawton ; Wendy Gill ; John Smith ; Erin Cunningham ; and Jessica Sahene .

Heavenly.

-- John Altdorfer

Racy Number

Gigi Saladna got our motor running Saturday during the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix BlackTie and Tailpipes dinner at the Fox Chapel Golf Club . The soiree opened a weeklong lineup of events leading up to Sunday's 21st annual race in Schenley Park. For a up-close look at the winner's circle party and more, see next Monday's Fanfare .

-- John Altdorfer

Ring in the New

For those music lovers who've been there, heard that, it's-run-don't-walk time to catch a performance of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble , which opened its summer season with a benefit gala at the Mattress Factory.

The name speaks for itself ... everything about PNME is new as in today, here and now. It's about the joy of performing music of our time by young, attractive artists who are more than musicians: they sing, they act and sometimes even dance. Thursday, the polished, irresistible performers included six musicians, a lighting designer and conductor/artistic director Kevin Noe , who tore the place apart with style and wit while mining fresh musical landscapes.

Larky yet lyrical, playful but chic, their first piece, composer Thomas Albert's "The Devil's Handyman," was inspired by the modern sculptures shown in an accompanying video.

Lucca Restaurant catered (and donated, the darlings) the killer buffet of crab cakes, beef, pasta, hors d'oeuvres, sushi and much more, that was as elegantly presented as it was sumptuous. With wine, of course.

Mixing and mingling, we spotted PNME managing director Jeff Nytch ; composer Roger Dannenberg ; Lucca's Tom Chianelli ; Leanne Sheplar ; Lisa Siranovich ; Pitt's Ken Manders ; Jodi Katsafanas and Betsy Wotherspoon , both bedecked in divine shell necklaces; Sandy and Bob Sheplar ; WQED's Jim Cunningham ; Kendra McLaughlin ; Mitchell Schwartz and daughter Gracie ; Dan Kelly ; MF's Jessica Coup ; Dr. Donald Doherty ; Laura Hastings and Wolfgang Schloer ; Denise Whittkofski ; Anne Martin ; Nick Bonesso ; Kimi Kawashima ; Luc Savage ; PNME musicians Ines Voglar , Lindsey Goodman , Kevin Schempf , Jakub Omsky , Jason Hardink , Ross Williams , Brett Mitchell and dancer Rudolfo Villela .

Forget the video store that's already sending you thank-you notes, and rush to the Hazlett Theatre (formerly home to the Public Theater) on the North Side for the Saturday concerts (until Aug. 9). And you don't have to empty your pockets to enjoy them. Tix are priced $16 for adults and $8 for students. Or call (412) 889-7231 for info.

What a night.

Staying Afloat

Call it shore leave. But some 450 investors, venture capitalists, techies and those who love 'em headed down to the Web site of the week ... a beach bash at Tequila Willies on the Boardwalk in the Strip. Beach balls and sun screen aside, they came to bask in the rays of Pittsburgh Venture Capital Association , the leading voice of private equity investors in our region ... where the rubber meets the road for techies with promising new ideas in search of bucks to get them up and running. And spirits were higher than the Dow Jones Average.

A joint venture between PVCA and Innovation Works, Friday's fourth annual Startups Celebration connected funders with founders and aspiring entrepreneurs with pros who do deals for a living. How's it going• To get a feel for the market, there are 40,000 people employed in area information technology clusters earning $2.1 billion annually. Click on that feeling.

Among the beached set blowing out the candles on a 6-foot-long birthday cake were such as Carl Cohen of Buchanan Ingersoll; Sean Sebastian ; Innovation Works' Florri Mendelson ; Andrea Joseph ; Bernard Cambou ; Alvin Katz ; Carolyn Green ; Kelly and Tom Szejko ; Don Casturo ; Paul Vittone ; Patrick Rooney ; Janice and Jim Colker ; Wolfram Malzfeldt ; David Kalson ; Ramesh Mehta ; Andrew Hannah ; Delia and Tim Parks ; Gary Glausser ; Jeannie Bixel ; Ted Glyptis ; Damien Schorr ; Mark Uminski ; Peter Johnson ; Heather Cunko ; Robert Lindesjeld ; Lori and John Buchman ; and Bill Perry .

Close encounters of the Web kind.

Showing their colors

The grand glam gang of the Pittsburgh Opera Association wrapped their splendid summer soiree in stars and stripes in A Salute to America . Longue Vue Club in Verona was the posh setting that saw patriotic swells in blacktie or white dinner jackets and the ladies in mostly soft feminine numbers ... the better for wafting at cocktails to the delightful pianissimos by Shirley DiIanni on Friday's weather-perfect eve.

Every heart beat true to the red, white and blue as the color guard of the Korean War Veterans Association of Western Pennsylvania presented their colors for our National Anthem. And these strong voices not only hit all the high notes but could stop traffic on the Fort Pitt Bridge.

Speaking of high notes, apres dinner, soprano Anna Singer -- accompanied by pianist Ray Blackwell -- set the ballroom aflame with aria after glorious aria of love and seduction. Which brings us to yet another round of raves for Longue Vue's kitchen and impeccable service.

Tripping the light fantastic to Clem Rolin's band were such as benefit chairs Rose and Dr. Joe Roarty with co-chairs Erik and Yvette Lawson ; POA prexy Kathleen Reshmi and Dr. Chandra ; Marjorie Hughes ; Gloria and George Ley ; Rose and Dr. Mike Kutsenkow ; Anita and Ross Dacal ; Nancy and John Traina ; Pearl and Dave Figgins ; Dolores Wilson Smith and Dr. John Barber ; Dr. Joe Trompeter and his beautiful daughter Julie ; Virginia and Arthur Kerr ; Yoko and Dr. Isamu Sando ; Edith Hughes ; Loretta and Ed Crum ; Sally Buchanan ; Ann Connelly and Jim Gray ; Barbara and Rod Norris ; Heidi and Dr. Joe Novak ; Isabelle Andrews and Joe Contosta ; Jerry and Judy Tornese Winters in from San Francisco; Louise and Robert Baird ; and Violet and Judge Robert Gallo .

Long may they wave.

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