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Daily Pilot

The Crowd: Big numbers for the 1221 Club

By B.W. Cook

2:44 PM PST, December 20, 2012

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More than 100 women dressed in their finest holiday attire came together in the Grand Ballroom of the Balboa Bay Club & Resort for a Christmas luncheon benefiting the 1221 Club student scholarship fund sponsored by the Balboa Bay Club.

Carole Pickup, the matriarch of the Pickup family, who are the new owners of the Coast Highway landmark, hosted the event created around a fashion show that was all about color and style for the season. Carole was joined by her daughter, Devon Martin, and son-in-law Kevin Martin, along with daughter-in-law Natalie Pickup and son Todd Pickup, greeting the upbeat crowd that has over the past 15 years raised and donated in excess of a half-million dollars in student grants for Newport-Mesa high school seniors headed for advanced studies in universities all across America.

The holiday event was a "friend-raiser" with the intention of initiating new members into the organization, which takes its name from the iconic street address of the Balboa Bay Club on Coast Highway.

Glamorous women in the crowd included the classy Anne Wortmann, wife of John Wortmann, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Balboa Bay Club; Kathy Hamilton, local community philanthropist and activist, wife of banker Noel Hamilton; newly appointed Balboa Bay Club Governor Jane Rivera, wife of entrepreneur Arthur Rivera; leading Newport philanthropist Catherine Thyen, respected columnist Link Mathewson with her stunning gal pal Donna Pickup, and the wife of the former president of the club, Marilyn Wooten.

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We love Liza

Liza Minnelli came to town last week, appearing in a two-night sold-out concert performance in Segerstrom Hall. The diva joined Southern California's MenAlive chorus, led by artistic director Rich Cook, in what was billed as a "Winter Spectacular" concert. Minnelli poured her heart and soul into the performance, delivering a tour de force experience that had members of the audience on their feet offering standing ovations throughout the show.

We have become accustomed to what I hesitatingly label "mediocre entertainment" delivered by multiple television talent shows that fill the airwaves with the work of performers who might more suitably be found in high school singing contests.

Having the chance to experience the unique star quality of a performer like Minnelli underscores the realization that there is a vast difference between talent and superstardom. Her rendition of Charles Aznavour's "What Makes A Man A Man?" was a brilliant piece of musical performance that was nothing short of awe-inspiring.

Other highlights included songs such as "But the World Goes 'Round" and her signature, "New York, New York," which she shares with the late Frank Sinatra. Interaction with the MenAlive chorus had moments of excellence.

Minnelli's close affinity with the gay and lesbian audience, exemplified by the performance with the gay men's choral ensemble, has been part and parcel of her successful decades-long career, and it was clearly evident that they still adore her magic.

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A Head for fashion history

The glamour of old Hollywood came back to life last week as actress Susan Claassen recreated the legend of fashion designer Edith Head for three nights of sold-out one-woman show performances benefiting Working Wardrobes in Orange County.

Debra Gunn Downing, executive director of marketing at South Coast Plaza, was charmed by the concept of rediscovering fashion history, so she organized a fabulous luncheon event at Marche Moderne, inviting fashion press and society hostesses to join as she dressed and acted as if she were the late Edith Head fronting the party. Working Wardrobes founder and CEO Jerri Rosen joined Downing in welcoming Sally Crockett, Suzan Paek, Irene Martino, Leslie Cancellieri, Kate Eastman, Michelle Rohe, Jamie Gwen, Ann Crawford, Delphine Lee, Dana Agamalian and Lana Sills to the party.

Following lunch, the crowd moved into the showroom of Valentino, where members were greeted by manager Vicki Beador and Valentino executive Kathy Gohari, in from Beverly Hills.

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Six courses for the new year

One of Orange County's most celebrated dining rooms, AnQi, led by the incredible culinary talents of the An family, is planning an amazing feast for the evening of Dec. 31.

Ring in 2013 with an unforgettable New Year's Eve six-course prix fixe menu served from 8:30 p.m. on (5:30 to 7:30 p.m. seatings feature an a la carte menu). The creative fusion menu from Chef Helene An showcases osetra caviar, Australian lobster, Hawaiian opakapaka, veal rib, Wagyu beef ribeye and winter citrus parfait.

Cost is $152 per person, with a wine or champagne pairing for an additional $53. For reservations, call (714) 557-5679 or visit http://www.anqibistro.com.

THE CROWD runs Fridays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.