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H'Art of Healing

| Monday, Sept. 22, 2003

Correction Proceeds from Power Play, the black-tie opening of the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, will benefit the six arts organizations in the Cultural District of Pittsburgh. Monday's Fanfare column was incomplete in some newspapers. (09/23/03)

Granted, the H'art & Soul of Haiti is a hot numero. But on Friday night, the scene was even hotter than usual with a mix of BPs, young hipsters and old guarders who were surrounded by Haitian art that sizzled on walls, tabletops and even in the loos.

Reprising the last two Haitian party turns, the eve was hosted by man-about-town, Francois Bitz , in the penthouse of his namesake building above Dowe's on 9th, Downtown. Thanks to Hurricane Isabel's hasty retreat and the balmy weather in her wake, the party spilled outdoors onto the floor's huge terrace with its wowsa views of the North Shore. Speaking of wowsa views, it's amazing what beautifully dressed, beautiful women can do to brighten spaces that are still under construction.

Organized by the Friends of Hopital Albert Schweitzer/Haiti , the eve was about music and art ... art from modest to masterful. And priced accordingly. No apologies here, because every sou goes directly to HAS. A $1,000 painting pays for a village of vaccinations at 15 cents each in the poorest country in the Western hemisphere.

HAS has a powerful Pittsburgh legacy. Founded in 1956 by the late Dr. Larimer and Gwen Grant Mellon, this remarkable hospital provides care for nearly 258,000 in the Artibonite Valley. And the night raised over $300,000 to continue their dream.

Tom Tom Club rock stars Chris Frantz (a homeboy) and Tina Weymouth 's exhilarating fusion of techno-funk attracted a second wave of the young and restless who showed just for the concert. The seven-piece band donated their all (bless their hearts) and had us MTVing to the gritty vibe. Equal parts art and heart, HAS is near and dear to many in the crowd of 600 who, after visiting or volunteering there, return home with a passionate dedication to its mission.

Let's name drop: Friends' Prez Lucy Rawson and Ian (Gwen's son) with stunning director Robyn Hollingshead in a fab Haitian gown; Susie and Roy Dorrance (her ever-grand mother, Emma Ochiltree Sharp, was honored at the party!); top sponsors George Medved with Sheldon Bonovitz of Duane Reeves LLP and Mellon Financial's Marty McGuinn; co-chairs Debbie Dick, Judy and Ron Davenport, Jerry and Rhonda Wade Lopes; Donna and Dr. Henri Ford; Ranny and Jay Ferguson; the Desmones: Jeannie, Luke, Lynn and Chip; Alec Mellon with brother David Grubbs; Esther Bush; Lisa, Tom and son Toby McChesney; Terry and Ted Sheets; AGH's chairman of medicine Dr. Rick Shannon (with Dr. Barbara Clark ); and Stanford U's chief of surgery Dr. Ralph Greco (they've been treating patients at HAS for years).

As well as Chris' mom Sue with Marcy and Rod Frantz; Dr. Bill and Natalie Taaffe Hoffman; Rachel and Peter Stephaich; Henry Simonds and Karen Shakoski; Joanie and Sam Kamin; Barbara Barry; Betsy Wotherspoon; Lois and Klaus Bron; John Tippins; Mary Caroline and Tod Hunt; Fran and Jim Abraham; Laura and Bill Dawson; Melanie Affinito and Bill Steitz; Tricia Kassling; Tim Condron and Glenn Charest; Susan Nernberg, a work of art in a knockout Stella McCartney number; Joel and Mia Hallett Bernard; Dr. Jim Dill; Susie Perelman; Beth and Mike Kuhn; Steve Robinson and Sara Hargreaves; Maria and Maury Burgwin; Idamae and Jim Rich; Drs. Kim and Glenn Cockerham; Toni Scarlata; Alan and Barbara Ackerman; and Jan and Michael McSorley with their beautiful lass Devon .

And the revelry went on 'til reveille.

Power Play

Come all ye lightful was the clarion call for Power Play , Saturday's electrifying black-tie opening of the new David L. Lawrence Convention Center. It's an architectural wonderment, the crown jewel on the once tumble-down banks of the Allegheny. And a creative triumph for New York architect Rafael Vinoly , the first runner-up in the competition to rebuild the World Trade Center. He's given us graceful waterfalls to walk through, pristine exhibit spaces and sculptural rooftop views that will knock your stilettos off. By far, Downtown's most spectacular addition since PNC Park ... and it's big, very big.

Talk about a party. Something our town's been doing for weeks now. It hasn't been happy talk and we know why. That said, I can also add that the party was perfection, off the Richter scale in dazzlement (two top event planners were led by chair Ann McGuinn ) ... and it was big, very big. A sophisticated troupe of half-virtual characters and robo-stiltwalkers amused, amazed and then led the cocktail crowd into the ballroom. Breathtaking• Walking into that space was like entering a movie set. Each table, a fuchsia round, glowed in the dark with under lighting and overhead pin spots that also illuminated floating glass bubbles of pink roses. The kitchen was at the top of its game and delivered an appealing, delicious menu. While our stunning cityscapes flashed by on huge screens lining the walls.

There was absolutely no speechifying ... just a fast one-two welcome by Ann and Marty , her fave Mellon banker. Pulitzer Prize-winning David McCullough narrated a captivating video on Pittsburgh's renaissance. Then it was showtime with our own towering jazz luminary George Benson in a rocking-the-rafters performance that was out of this world. As for the who's who, fuggedaboudit. Too many asked not to be mentioned, and there were notable bold-faced names who turned thumbs down on the party. But think business, industry, the arts, sports, foundations, universities, medicine and politics, and chances are those power players were among the 1,600 guests. Proceeds will benefit the six arts organizations in the Cultural District.

Marquee magic

This is star power. When word hit the streets that matinee idol Matthew McConaughey was the leading man for A Night of Rhythm and Hope , reservations for Saturday's ALS benefit jumped from 250 to nearly 600. And when the lucky guy who shared big-screen kisses with J.Lo and Kate Hudson strolled into Bridgeville's Rhythm House Cafe in a T-shirt and leather pants, it was definitely show time.

In town to help a pal, the star of "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" lent a hand in the battle against Lou Gehrig's disease -- a killer affliction without any treatment or cure. Not content with a cameo, the tall Texan mingled, posed, partied and manned the mike during a live auction to charm bidders into opening their wallets and hearts for the cause.

The guest list included co-chairs Dave Eltschlager , Kimber Waldorf , Faye Nodaros Mosco , Paul Furner and Stephanie Mosco; Jamie Heywood ; Jennifer Oken ; Dean Hallo ; WTAE's Mike Clark ; Tracy Rittiger ; Diane Schandolari ; Keith Nodaros ; Lori Simon and Gerry ; Connie and Jim Raspanti ; Dr. Robert Bowser ; Mae Sullivan ; Julie Trbovich ; Heather Toth ; Peggy Walther ; Kathleen Refosco ; Lori Miller ; Nancy and Cliff Miller ; Lisa Rotello ; Alicia Fronczek ; Roberta Dudzik ; Joleen and Jeff Wangler ; and Sally and Bryan Putt .

A blockbuster.

-- John Altdorfer

Drawing power

Harry Schwalb can basically draw anything, and the 22 exquisite drawings on paper at the Concept Art Gallery in Regent Square, his first show in five years, proves the, ahem, point again.

Still at the height of his powers at 79, his favorite watering hole must be the fountain of youth. His eye for detail is the envy of artists, and nothing escapes it. Native son, friend of the wits and famous, reviewer for the international ARTnews magazine and namesake of Pittsburgh magazine's prestigious Harry Schwalb Excellence in the Arts awards, he's merely adding luster to his reputation with this one-man show ('til Oct. 11).

Thursday was your quintessential gallery opening, and it throbbed with hundreds of artists and collectors who are wild about Harry. His handsome son Adam Dread flew up from Nashville, Tenn., for the opening. Of course, bookstaller Jay Dantry was there; as were Myrna and Bill Hackney; Toto and Jim Fisher; Mattress Factory's Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk; Audrey and Tim Fisher; The Carnegie's Sarah Nichols with Dr. John McSorley; Garth Massingill and Jim Stevenson; Greg Kavalec; Bob Bowden; Kathleen Zimbicki; Agnes Dodds Kinard; Sally Levin; Aaronel and Irv Gruber; Sydelle Kessler; Madelyn Warhola; Tadao Arimoto; Bill Widdoes; Fran Gialamas; Dr. John Waldman and Pamela Wertman (they're engaged!) with dad Morrie Waldman and sister Janey Israel in from L.A.; Chris Fletcher; Mike May; Amy and Jack Glasser; and Concept Art's dynamic duo Debbie and Sam Berkovitz .

The repast was a sumptuous graze, the bar bubbled champagne and 'tinis, and a trio played music to acquire art by. And at eve's end, most of the drawings were discreetly peppered with red "sold" dots.

What a guy.

Visions of hope

Career woman Joan Ulicny lost her sight at age 26 in a hit-and-run car crash that forever changed her life and nearly ended it. Her message of hope was the centerpiece of Thursday's wonderful Vision of Hope luncheon and fashion show at the posh Fox Chapel Golf Club. And the programs funded by St. Lucy's Auxiliary to the Blind were its beneficiary. Programs through Pittsburgh Vision Services that helped Joan communicate her new "greater vision" as author and speaker.

The fun part of the elegant ladies' day that had 218 style-setters suited up in polished fall looks was the clothes encounter, orchestrated by Vickie Pasula of Victoria boutique in Fox Chapel, which drew raves as models swanned by between courses. Four forks for the yummy menu as well.

Standouts: SLA prexy Patti Dolan, benefit chair Elizabeth McCarthy and co-chair Julie Giba; Julie Uram; Donna Wehrle; new bride Lynn Bainbridge; Peggy Snavely; Cara and Donna Delestienne (they donated the lovely bouquets!); Shelley Peconi; Judy Linaburg; Joyce O'Connor; Bonnie Anton; Lena Cammarata; Dottie Bechtol; Debbie Fiehler; Connie Bolanis; Dolly Ellenberg; Lin Getz; Katherine Freyvogel; Mary Anne Hanna; Pert Pivirotto; Joanie Siebart; Diana Bills; May Wang; Mary Nelle McLennan-Welsh; Regina Callahan; Shelley Stoechlein; and Michele Antonelli, who's chairing SLA's glorious Medallion Ball with assists by Patti McKee on Nov. 28 at the Hilton.

Hope floats.

Tee party

Stella McCartney (Beatle Paul's daughter) designed the tee and actress Nicole Kidman gave it attitude in the ad campaign for Key to the Cure , last week's nationwide shopping spree at Saks Fifth Avenue to benefit cancer research. Because compassion is always in fashion, Saks' Downtown emporium was brimming with women helping women ... and a portion of every sale is destined for the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the UPMC Cancer Centers.

Saks' charming new G.M. Larry Bruce was front and center greeting such as UPCI's Sally Golden, Gayle Tissue and Marina Posvar; Dana Harris; Marcia Weiss; Sibby McCrady; Joann Magestro; Suzanne Ross; Carole Neiberg; Susie Katz; Arlene Sokolow; Roberta Feldman; Joan Lakoski; Dr. Barbara Zawadzki; Christina Clemson; Kelly Aultz; and Phyllis Gastget .

Tee and empathy.

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