You have to be living in Bin Laden’s cave not to have heard of the billion dollar franchise known as “Harry Potter.” This week, an advance screening of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I” benefitted Urban Prep Academies and brought out over 300 fans, friends and supporters to Navy Pier IMAX Theater. It was Potter mania not only for the Urban Prep showing at 6 p.m. but also for the sold-out midnight show. And, almost as good as the film, was seeing the fans (Muggles and Wizards alike) come dressed as their favorite characters. I saw Lord Voldemort with his snake around his neck (not real but believable enough!), two of the cutest Death Eaters, lots of Harry Potters, a few Hermiones, Snape at his most evil, some Dumbledores and even a girl dressed as the Golden Snitch! These fans were out to have fun and didn’t mind waiting around for hours to see the movie. They studied, shared Potter stories, videotaped and photographed each other and shared favorite websites like www.mugglenet.com and one just for Chicago Harry Potter fans at www.hpcwest.yahoo.com. Even Urban Prep founder, Tim King, got in on the action wearing a Hogwarts school gown and carrying his magic wand. His darling mother even came in a witch’s outfit! I can see this love of magic runs in the family! And let’s talk about those wonderful young men of Urban Prep Academies. Over 900 students hail from 137 elementary schools and live in 31 different zip codes on three campuses: Englewood, East Garfield Park and South Shore. This year 100 percent of the senior class is college bound! The film screening benefited Urban Prep’s summer program called “Study Up!” This program provides summer internship and academic opportunities for students to work in law firms, banks and government offices as well as studying at some of the world’s best universities like Cambridge, Cornell, Georgetown, Stanford and Oxford. These experiences help prepare students to succeed in college and life. Albus Dumbledore (Hogwarts greatest headmaster) once said: “It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow up to be.” This summer, 52 students participated in “Study Up!” on 17 campuses across the globe. These smartly-dressed young men shook each and every guest’s hand upon entering and introduced themselves. It was such an impressive display and warmed your hearts to know there is a school so dedicated to the mentoring and advancement of these fine young men. Before the Potter film was shown, Tim King gave a spirited address to the crowd and presented a short video on the wonderful things that they do. I must tell you though, this Potter film is not for the little ones or the faint of heart. I jumped in my seat more than once so just beware when you go. The franchise has gotten a lot darker and a lot scarier! After the film, guests were invited to a VIP reception at Harry Caray’s where they indulged in butter beer shooters, pumpkin juice martinis and jumping frog sweets from Honeydukes Sweetshop. It was a magical night from beginning to end! Oprah had this to say about Urban Prep: “I love this school...they are the school with the “Little Obamas.” :) (To view ALL event pics, please visit my Chicago Now site. Additional pics by Michael Kardas.)
And what a perfect segue to my next fun story! Our town is rocking the celebrity scene big time! Last week, I saw Kate Winslet, director Steven Soderbergh and Carson Kressley all in the Peninsula Bar. (As you know, Chef Curtis Duffy of the restaurant at the Peninsula, Avenues, just received TWO Michelin stars—the only restaurant in this hotel’s chain to garner this many stars! And the food is AMAZING!) We talked to Carson and he was getting up early to prepare for Oprah. Apparently, she is planning a show around him on her network called “Carson Nation.” And then Rich Varnes mentioned that Gwyneth Paltrow had popped into RL for a grilled cheese sandwich. This weekend, I ran into my old friend and top female impersonator, Chilli Pepper, dining with HER old friend Oprah Winfrey at Chicago Cut Steakhouse!! And the best surprise of all, was that Oprah invited ME over to her booth!! I almost fainted! Chilli had brought some fabulous gifts for Oprah (in addition to be an amazing performer, she is a GREAT gift giver and very thoughtful). She had found a carved African mask, an antique bronze slave bell and a great book of vintage photos of Oprah with bold-faced names including Mayor Daley, former Mayor Harold Washington and Tom Cruise among others. Oprah was thrilled! Guests on this night included her Chief-of-Staff Libby Moore, Robert Eisenberg, Cole Stolman, her longtime hairstylist Andre Walker and Chilli. She said one of the best dishes she’s had in years was Chicago Cut’s jumbo lump crabmeat and avocado appetizer with tarragon and mustard vinaigrette for $16. She couldn’t have been more gracious and took photos with all of us. I will sure miss this global icon when she leaves Chi-Town...hopefully, she will return often for visits with her old friends like Chilli! (To view ALL party pics, please visit my Chicago Now site!)
Town & Country’s Editor-in-Chief Stephen Drucker was a star attraction at a wonderful fashion soiree called the “Haute Launch Party” in the Gold Coast last week. Co-hosts Lynne Bredfeldt, Hollye Jacobs and Whitney Lasky presented the launch of the House of MAM by designer/friend/tastemaker and all around cool chick, Mary Ann Murphy. With offerings including home furnishings and custom women’s clothing, Mary Ann plans to expand with accessories and boutique travel experiences in 2011. Alexandra Knight also presented her contemporary custom handbag and accessories collection which included clutches, wallets, totes and bags in exotic skins such as python and ostrich. Graff jewelers showed their exquisite jewelry line to this by-invite-only crowd. The Entertaining Company catered the “Hot Lunch” theme complete with waitresses dressed as they would be in a diner or cafeteria wearing powder blue dresses and red lipstick with monogrammed MAM hankies in their pockets. They served chocolate milk martinis, old school bottles of Coke plus crustless PB&J triangles, mac and cheese muffins, veggie sliders, petite chicken pot pies, tater tots and Mary Ann’s favorite, orange cubed Jell-O with Cool Whip. What a fun party with fashionable friends! Mary Ann’s collection is chic and small but very complete with gorgeous gold and black sequined separates and perfectly tailored tops, slacks and skirts. Stephen Drucker couldn’t have been sweeter and greeted every guest with a smile. A portion of the evening’s proceeds benefitted co-host Hollye Jacobs’ favorite charity, the Dream Foundation, a non-profit fulfilling dreams for adults battling life-threatening illnesses. Congrats to everyone involved! A fun evening with a feel good and worthy cause...all good! To view ALL event pics by Joseph Storch, please visit my Chicago Now site!)
There are a lot of fun events coming up for kids (and kids at heart!) including Kris Kringle’s Kandy Kane Ball on Saturday, December 11th, beginning at 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. It will be a winter wonderland at Joe’s, located 940 W. Weed St., for this eighth annual holiday toy drive. Tickets are $40 until December 1st and $50 per person starting December 2nd at the door. The party will include world class entertainment and an open bar with appetizers. A new toy donation is required as well as cocktail attire. This event sold out last year and will hopefully do so again this year so get your tickets now! Chris Draska and Paul Iacono both gave me a heads up about this event and we know how cute they are, so I’m sure all of their cute friends will be there too! Tickets can be purchased at Ticketweb or Joe’s located at 940 W. Weed St. Visit them on Facebook, too! Proceeds benefit Chicago Children’s Charities.
The Joffrey Ballet’s annual Nutcracker performance and dinner at the Palmer House this year will be filled with magical surprises too! Co-chairs Suzette Bross Bulley and Odele Hawkins have cranked the fun factor up a lot of notches with the addition of all kinds of cool kids’ activities. Check out these “Creation Stations” which will fill the Palmer House’s State and Grand Ballrooms: The timeless doll company Terri Lee will be on hand to help decorate your very own tiara or snowman and then play games to win prizes; CircEsteem is a Chicago non-profit which will teach our young guests how to walk a tight wire and spin plates while their young performers entertain with stilt walking and peacock feather balancing; there will be dessert decorating; face painting; popcorn stringing courtesy of Garrett’s; snowflake creating to use as table décor or to take home for your tree; create Lego Nutcracker characters and last but not least, a photo opportunity with characters from the Nutcracker as well as a mini performance at the dinner. Guests will have the option of attending the matinee or evening performance of Robert Joffrey’s “The Nutcracker” and enjoying a traditional family-style meal beginning at 4:45 p.m. with a mini scene from the Nutcracker. Wow, this is going to be amazing! I’m going disguised as a child so I can partake of all of these fun activities! :) The evening will begin at 4 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Palmer House with holiday carolers, magicians and Nutcracker characters strolling throughout the venue. Courtesy trolley service will be available from the theatre to the Palmer House, too. Each child will also receive a goodie bag—I hope my disguise works! For tickets and more info, please call Julia Doherty at 312-386-8921 e-mail NutDinner@joffrey.org. For Nutcracker performance info, please click here.
The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus will be performing “Christmas Follies Unplugged” on December 3rd, 4th and 5th for its annual mirthful, merry, carolin’ holiday celebration at the Athanaeum Theatre, located at 2936 N. Southport Ave. So don your gay apparel and come out for a laugh-filled romp through holiday music as you’ve never heard it. You will hear traditional tunes as well as new smashes like “The Christmas Can-Can” and “Wishing you a Drag Queen Christmas.” Quenten Schumacher will be there for every performance and everyone knows Quenten, right? Hope you can come out and support this worthy organization and have some holiday fun, too! For tickets, please call 312-902-1500 and for more info, please visit www.cgmc.org.
The 2010 Chefs & the City Holiday Brunch benefitting Vital Bridges will be on Sunday, December 5th, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. in the Grand Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel, located at 120 E. Delaware. This brunch, co-hosted by Bill Lasche and Kathy Saddemi, is in its 21st year and has raised over $1.5 million to provide nutritious food, safe housing and counseling for low income people living with HIV/AIDS in Chicago. Each year, nearly 500 guests come to enjoy the delicious wines and spirits, a fabulous brunch, upscale silent and live auctions and an amazing $10,000 cash raffle! Tickets are $250 per person. For more info, please call Andrew Seibert at 773-271-5117, e-mail him at email@example.com or visit www.vitalbridges.org.
And last but certainly not least, mark your calendars for this year’s World of Chocolate extravaganza benefitting the Aids Foundation of Chicago, on Thursday, December 2nd, from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Hilton Chicago, located at 720 S. Michigan Ave. Sample decadent chocolate creations from dozens of Chicagoland’s finest restaurants, caterers and chocolatiers. This World AIDS Day commemoration will also include a light buffet, open bar, chocolate martinis and music by DJ/Producer Mark Picchiotti. Tickets are $100, $125 at the door, and can be purchased by calling 312-334-0917 or by visiting www.aidschicago.org.
That’s all for this week! I hope you and your family and friends all have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Goodness knows, we have much to be grateful for! Candid Candace will return on Tuesday, December 7th. In the meantime, gobble gobble gobble!
P.S. I hope you remember the wonderful six-year-old spokesman for Ronald McDonald House Charities, Max Herrick. Well, during the groundbreaking ceremony he was very sick but no one knew it because he is such a little trooper! This is the post his mom, Liz, made the day after. If you have a minute, please click on his Facebook page (Maximillian Vaughn Herrick) and let him know you’re rooting for him! :)