The Carl Sandburg Literary Awards Dinner was originally scheduled to be at the Harold Washington Library, as it was last year, but this year’s program attracted so many people (800!) that it had to be changed to fit the sell-out crowd at the Forum at the University of Illinois campus. I am not surprised since the award recipient was Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author, Toni Morrison, who was interviewed by none other than Oprah! Cocktails and dinner were served inside a gymnasium and I’ve never seen any gym look this good. The bleachers magically became an amazing light installation and the towers of flowers were at least 10 feet tall. In other words, it was gorgeous! Even the table décor had little library lamps and books by the authors for all of the guests. Co-chairs Cheryl Mayberry McKissack and Jim Tyree welcomed guests and awarded the 21st Century Award to Eula Biss. Her book, “Notes From No Man’s Land,” takes a look at racial identity from multiple angles, during major events in the culture. It recently won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Biss said, “This honor (21st Century Award) is a drop in the bucket for what I owe to the libraries.” President of the Chicago Public Library Board, Jayne Thompson, then introduced Mayor Daley, who was greeted with a standing ovation. The Mayor said, “The spirit of Chicago is not of big shoulders, but of big hearts.” He dedicated his 54th library as Mayor of Chicago last month! (I sure will miss this guy!) After Toni Morrison received her Carl Sandburg Literary Award, presented by co-chair Jim Tyree, Oprah came onstage to interview her. The questions were thought provoking and informative. Morrison had been rejected 12 times for her first book, “The Bluest Eye.” Oprah asked what kept her going. She said, “Arrogance. I wrote this book so I could read it. I saw a gap and I filled it because of this very reason.” She went on to say, “Reading is the beginning of being in the world. It’s how we know things.” She began writing at age 39 and has been writing for 40 years now. She is the author of nine novels and three children’s books. Her novel, “Beloved,” was awarded the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and in 2006, was named by the NY Times Book Review as the best novel of the previous 25 years. Winfrey produced and starred in the 1998 film based on the book and calls Morrison her “favorite author of all time, living or dead.” Morrison became a professor at Princeton University in 1989 and in 1993 received the Nobel Prize in Literature, making her the first African American to be so honored. The event raised $1.1 million for Chicago Public Libraries. To learn more, please visit www.ChicagoPublicLibraryFoundation.org and click here for more photos.
Bunky Cushing’s Handbags & Halos Luncheon introduced us to yet another fascinating speaker! Judy Lewis is the love child of Clark Gable and Loretta Young. Her story riveted the 150 ladies in the Palmer House’s Empire Room for 45 minutes as she spoke from the heart about the remarkable life she’s led. She began her talk by saying, “I first heard the term ‘love child’ from my daughter Maria in 1971. We were in the car when she asked me who her grandfather was. I had taken her to see ‘Gone With the Wind’ and she fell in love with Gable like the rest of the nation. My mother was single and 22 when she met Clark Gable on the set of “Call of the Wild” at Mount Baker in Washington State. There was a blizzard and everyone was snowed in.” This is when Judy was conceived. You can see from the clip below how much in love they were. In those days, every star had a morality clause and, had the pregnancy become known, both stars would’ve lost their jobs. After the baby was born, Gable disguised himself to visit his child who was sleeping in a bureau drawer at Young’s house in Venice Beach. Gable had always had a fear of being poor so he always carried a wad of cash in his pocket. He peeled off $400 and said to Young, “Please buy her a decent bed.” Loretta Young had to take the baby to an orphanage early on but made them promise to keep her until she could come back to “adopt” her after the pregnancy rumors died down. At age 7, Judy had her ears pinned back. She had inherited her father’s famous ears and her mother never let her go out without a bonnet. Young never admitted Lewis was her real daughter. Judy married, had two children, appeared on Broadway and in the soap, “Secret Storm,” worked on the “Loretta Young Show,” received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University and worked with foster families and adoption agencies after her own heartache. When her mother finally told her the truth about her father, she threw up first and then said, “Now, you must promise not to tell anyone.” What a courageous and charming woman! This event raised over $150K and benefitted the Howard Brown Health Center which is the Midwest’s largest lesbian, gay and bisexual health organization. It is a home for many who feel isolated and where everyone is welcomed. For more info on this worthy cause, please visit www.HowardBrown.org. (Please click here to hear Judy’s story in her own words and click here to view more event photos!)
“Aviators’ Night Out for Sight,” benefitting the Midwest Eye-Bank, was held recently at the Chicago Executive Airport. Co-chairs Franco LaMarca and Anthony Contrucci planned this inaugural event which featured Marquis Jets from the Netjets fleet, exotic cars from Lake Forest Sportscars, live entertainment by world music dance band Vagando, fabulous food, gaming tables and luxury raffles. Designers Horacio Nieto, Akira, Mark Roscoe, Sittar by Gibeon Tolbert, Anastasia Chatzka and Bolani Custom Clothiers presented dazzling collections for men and women. The models strutted their stuff in front of a magnificent G-4 priced at $38 million and seating for 13. Not bad! The gaming tables were filled and I saw beautifully presented food from several restaurants including one of my favorites, RL. Over 200 people came out for this fun party and everyone was dressed to thrill. It was a great night for a wonderful cause! The event raised over $25,000 for Midwest Eyebanks, which is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the restoration of sight. For more info, please visit www.mebtc.org. Please click here for ALL event pics!
Author Lisa Birnbach was recently feted with a launch party to celebrate her latest book, “True Prep.” Sugar Rautbord planned the cutest party requesting that guests dress “preppy” and most of them did since you never say “no” to Sugar! Lisa’s book was excerpted in Vanity Fair magazine and is a follow-up to her bestselling “Preppy Handbook” written 25 years ago. And even though President Obama’s motorcades were wreaking havoc with the traffic, lots of “preppy” guests showed up including Consuelo Pierrepont, Connie and David Coolidge, MK Pritzker, Trish Rooney Alden, Suzette Bross Bulley, Quentin and Diane Primo, Maureen and EB Smith Jr., Howard Tullman, Tom Gorman, Bill Zwecker, Suzie and Ross Glickman, Richard Weinberg, Patti Lambrecht and Larisa and David Kronfeld, John Walcher, Patrick Plante, Scott Bobek, Kerry Bowler, Andrea Schwartz, Karen Williams, Stanley Paul and Ralph Hughes among many others. The event was held at the newly remodeled Mity Nice Grill at Water Tower Place and was co-hosted by Rich Melman and his restaurateur sons RJ and Jerrod. The party also singled out a few Chicago charities as well as some national charities including the Joffrey Ballet, Maggie Daley’s After School Matters, The Primo Center, Chicago Botanic Garden Harvest Ball, The Evergreen Horse Show benefitting women’s programs at Northwestern and the Rush Pres St. Luke’s Fashion Show. As a special treat, Sugar brought in Broadway singer Merrill Grant who cracked up the guests with her animated rendition of two original songs, “When Muffy Gets Blue” and “It’s Mity Nice to be a Preppy” co-written by Sugar. Even the food carried on the theme with éclairs in the shape of Stubbs and Wooton loafers—the ultimate Preppy symbol! As always, Sugar’s party rocked! Congrats Lisa AND Sugar for a creative and fun-filled party! (To order “True Prep,” please click here!) Extra pics by Mitch Canoff...click here!)
The “Inspiring Chicagoans 2010” awards were recently held at the Dana Hotel and presented by TCW and Charles Ifergan Salons. I had forgotten how cool this space is…the outdoor terrace is unmatched with the fire pit and amazing views of Chicago. These awards were given to 19 women who "exude self-confidence and inspire others to strive to better themselves from the inside out, from overall health, fitness or style, to mentorship, charitable work and entrepreneurial edge." They included Karyn Calabrese, Lindsay Avner, Cassandra Gaddo, Melissa Gamble, Sarah Levy, Andrea Metcalf, Angela Rose, Kelli Zink, Ashley Zisook, Jessica Zweig, Marion Simon, Jenn Gibbons, Stephanie Neely and moi among others. It was a wonderful honor and my sparkling crystal award is displayed proudly in my den! It was a fun evening with women who have big dreams and are pursuing and achieving them! Congrats to all of the honorees! To view ALL event pics, please click here! (Pics by Caitlin Saville)
Chicago Cut Steakhouse’s grand opening was a smashing success! It was a perfect night to showcase their beautiful restaurant with its dramatic 100-seat patio at 300 N. LaSalle to the fullest. The views of Chicago and the river are some of the best in the city. The food was to die for and included first class everything and plenty of it. Everyone was oohing and aahing all over the place. The dramatic 6-foot-tall floral displays spilling over with massive red flowers (by Tom Kehoe) matched the red carpet that stretched all of the way to LaSalle Street. I am so thrilled and proud for owners David Flom and Matt Moore. These guys, and their proud investors, have worked tirelessly to make sure that every single detail is perfect and they have succeeded in spades. I’m also thrilled to have the “Hostess with the Mostest,” Meggan Flom, back in her natural role as charming daytime hostess. The menu is a wonderful mix and has something for everyone including their famous steaks which are USDA prime, cut and dry-aged on premises. The restaurant even has a “secret entrance” for workers at the Merchandise Mart and will be open for a “power breakfast,” lunch and dinner. Congrats on a GREAT opening and a wonderful restaurant! Click here for more photos!
My friend Ann Dwyer recently hosted a fun party at Satan’s home, the Jimmy Choo store on Oak Street. I can never go into this place without wanting each and every shoe! But, in spite of this tempting locale, I went to the party anyway and had the best time. The store donated a percentage of the proceeds to Ann’s favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. I was also going to add information about their upcoming "Dream a Little Dream" fashion show but I am happy to report they are completely sold out! Marlo Thomas, Danny’s daughter, will be making an appearance and I know the event will inspire all who attend like it did me last year. For more info on this wonderful cause, please click here.
A decades-old institution is coming to an end. The Van Cleef Hair Studio, which has been around forever, is up for sale. Owner Michael Flowers is an internationally-known hairdresser and one of his biggest clients is First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been coming to Michael since she was 18 years old! He has styled her hair for the biggest events in her life including her wedding, election night and the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. This super cool 8,500-square-foot space at 56 W. Huron has been a chapel, a restaurant, a photo studio, theater and a jazz club owned by Julius Monk. Michael and his partner have purchased a little piece of paradise in Costa Rica and plan on commuting. They are a delightful pair and other clients include Kerry Washington, Marilyn McCoo, Nancy Wilson and Regina Taylor, to name a few. Good luck with your new path Michael! (For info about the space, please call Mitch Serrano at 312-981-2562)
I hope you’ve enjoyed all of this fun news! I found this little video that made me laugh. This walrus looks like I feel when I’m exercising…who knew we had so much in common!
P.S. Another delightful birthday celebration was held at RL last week for beautiful friend Jan Flanagan. As it turned out, another friend, Dori Wilson, was there celebrating her birthday with friends as well! And on top of all of this excitement, who should show up, fresh from his Chicago International Film Festival Award win, but versatile and charming actor Alan Cumming! What a fun-filled night, as usual, at RL! Happy Birthday, Jan and Dori!!!!