LESLIE'S ITALIAN ODYSSEY; KRISTEN WOWS THE SYMPHONY CROWD; BOB RIDES OFF INTO THE SUNSET; JIMMY PRESENTS AT TENNIS HALL OF FAME; KRISTINA HONORED BY LIGHTHOUSE; BIG (ROYAL) NEWS FOR BEACH POLO FANS; SCARJO SPEAKS; CHICAGO'S BAUHAUS & BEYOND AT ELMHURST ART; ELI'S CHEESECAKE CELEBRATION; GENE & GEORGETTI'S TASTY 75TH PLANS; ELDA'S BAAACKKK; MY DUCK DUCK GOAT REVIEW; CHICAGONISTA LIVE!; SC'S DAY AT THE RACES; NAVY PIER'S 100TH; RITZ-PARIS' GRAND REOPENING; VIDEOS TO MAKE YOU SMILE AND SO MUCH MORE!
Eversight Illinois, a non-profit dedicated to restoring sight and preventing blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research, celebrated the 18th Annual Gift of Sight Gala at The Peninsula Chicago on June 23. The special
evening honored Dr. Marian Macsai as the “Gift of Sight” honoree and yours truly as the 2016 “Woman of Vision." The Parisian-themed gala, “Love at First Sight,” was emceed by ABC-7’s Linda Yu and co-chaired by Dr. David
Donnersberger and Eileen Howard-Weinberg. Brilliant decor by Michael Caputo and Mary Ann Rose's Tamar
Productions brought the Parisian theme to life, complete with a mime who greeted guests. The Stanley Paul Orchestra performed brilliantly, as always. A crowd of over 300 of Chicago's fashionable notables packed the Peninsula for a cocktail reception followed by dinner, dancing, an exclusive silent and live auction, all while taking
in the beautiful views of downtown Chicago from the Grand Ballroom and Shanghai Terrace. Guests heard inspiring stories about those directly affected by
Eversight Illinois. A brilliant retrospective montage and speech was delivered by last year's "Gift of Sight" honoree Dr. Jonathan Rubenstein on behalf of the doctor. He spoke about her leadership in the
eye banking community with more than 30 years of experience. Dr. Macsai is the Chief of Division of Ophthalmology for North Shore University Health System, and Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Chicago
Pritzker School of Medicine. In addition, she serves as President of the Cornea Society and an Honorary Member of the Eye Bank Association of America Board of Directors. Whew! My heart was so full
seeing the audience filled with so many wonderful, supportive friends like those who spoke on my behalf. Mary Pat Burns' speech brought tears to my eyes as she stood onstage with my "girl squad", Sharyl Mackey, Sheila O'Grady and Jean
Antoniou (Tracey Tarantino, Dr. Stacie McClane and Sheryl Dyer didn't appear onstage due to space constraints but are most definitely "squad members"). At the end of Mary Pat's speech and on her cue, friends in the audience
stood and held up masks that featured my Playboy "Eyes" cover. (omg) In another touching moment, longtime friends Helen Melchior and Leslie Hindman made me tear up again during their thoughtful comments. A wonderful video montage created by Kurtis Productions (Donna LaPietra and Josh Bowen) preceded the speeches. I'm so thankful to
Eversight Illinois for this great honor and for all the good they do in this community and globally. In 2015 alone, the organization facilitated more than 2,500 sight-restoring corneal transplants worldwide. All proceeds from the event, over
$150,000, will directly support the programs and services of the deserving, sight-restoring non-profit. The gala was founded 18
years ago by beloved Beverly Blettner. There are so many people to thank--all the guests/friends who allowed me to torment them with multiple invites and donation requests, the generous sponsors and
donors, those who couldn't attend but kindly donated, Greg Hyder and Maria Zec who made Peninsula magic happen, the Gala Wizard Kevin Sullivan and the Eversight Illinois executive director Diane Hollingsworth, staffers Brittany Wright and Soni Sinha. It was a night I will never, ever forget. Ever. Never.
(Fab photos by Mila Samokhina)
For the Gene Siskel Film Center benefit, I lost my ability to speak. Scarlett Johansson, or ScarJo, as she asked me to call her (kidding) accepted the prestigious Renaissance Award
from the Film Center on June 30 and I had the chance to interview her. We reporters were stacked up like cordwood on the Red Carpet waiting to talk to this award-winning star who, only
moments before, had been named the highest grossing movie actress in history with ticket sales amounting to over $3.3 billion!!! When she turned the corner (see this exciting moment here), there
was a collective gasp from the select number of guests who were allowed in The Salon of the Ritz-Carlton before the dinner and program began in the Grand Ballroom. I spoke to film critic Richard Roeper and he called ScarJo a "throwback to an old-time
movie star" and that she definitely has that IT quality. I couldn't agree more. As a matter of fact, when she stepped in front of me, I completely forgot all my questions (momentarily). She was
breathtakingly beautiful in her pale blue Oscar de la Renta cocktail dress, even better looking in person if this is even possible. She told me she and Woody Allen were great friends (she's done 3 of his movies so far) and that she would do his "craft service" if he asked her too. She ended with, "My job blows my mind all the time." She also said she loved Chicago. (she worked
here at age 11 doing "Home Alone 3"), a movie she didn't seem too proud of since she was hoping it wouldn't be included in the film clip retrospective that was going to be shown during her 45 minute Q & A with Roeper, who was fabulous, btw. She said she loved
Chicago's "house music scene, its architecture, art and people." Awwwwww......Who knew she loved house music? (See this clip here!). During the conversation, she thanked the Film Center for the honor and remarked that the wonderful
work the Film Center does "might only be possible in a place like Chicago" and that she wished there was something like it in New York, where she lives with her 2 year-old daughter Rose and French hubby Romain Dauriac. She revealed her favorite film role so far, playing Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow. (see this clip here). She said, "It's a very enigmatic character that has an amazing origin story and it's not bad company to be playing opposite those boys (Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans) and girls now too!" If you want to read/see more about this exciting night for ScarJo and the Gene Siskel Film Center, check out my Candid Candace column in the Chicago Tribune here!
The League of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA) presented its 27th annual Corporate Night Benefit on June 20, with its annual fundraiser, this year featuring special guest artist Kristin Chenoweth. This Tony and Emmy Award-winning artist performed with members of the CSO, led by conductor Mary-Mitchell
Campbell. The concert was attended by more than 2,000 patrons including 150 Chicago area music teachers and students, whose admission was underwritten by Corporate Night sponsors. Corporate Night
2016 was chaired by CSOA Trustee Thomas F. O’Toole, United Airlines CMO and chaired Barbara Zutovsky for the League of the CSOA. The evening included dinner in the historic Grainger Ballroom, The Thomas Club
(with its dramatic views of Michigan Avenue) and Buntrock Hall, as well as Tesori restaurant. Elegant floral and décor designs for the multiple event spaces were created by Virginia Wolff. The program opened with
members of the CSO performing symphonic impressions from The Music Man. The program continued with a full set of Chenoweth’s hits from stage and screen including “Popular” from Wicked, “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz and “Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady. The
event raised more than $825,000 for the CSOA artistic and educational programs. Popular artists joining members of the CSO on stage
for Corporate Night over the past 27 years have included Dave Brubeck, Elvis Costello, Melissa Etheridge, Michael Feinstein, Herbie Hancock, Audra McDonald, Sarah McLachlan, Dianne Reeves, Sting, Frankie Vallli and the Four Seasons and Nancy Wilson.
Service Club of Chicago’s 7th annual Day at the Races was held on July 10 at Arlington Raceway's Governor’s Room and Terrace. It was an elegant afternoon filled with horse-racing, a luncheon, raffles, silent auction and camaraderie at Arlington Park. Veuve Champagne and lush centerpieces by English Garden adorned the
beautiful tables where over 140 guests wearing derby attire enjoyed a perfect summer day. Beautiful co-chairs Kathy Piccone and Sherrill Bodine helped the organization raise over $25,000 to support SC grants in 2017. Richard Duchossois, the owner of Arlington Park,
stopped by to greet the guests. Models wore fashions from Contessa Bottega with purchases donated to the SC. Prizes were rewarded for best hats and the winner of women’s best hat was Sheree Valukas, runner-up was Rhonda
Liesenfelt, Best men’ s hat award went to Thomas Lange and runner-up was Kurt Muller. Raffle items included an overnight stay at the Langham, and and a behind-the-scenes tour of the
primates at Lincoln Park Zoo (won by Eleni Bousis), A party for ten at The Cabin on Old Irving was won by Marcie Holzer, Dinners for two around Chicago was won by Vonita Reescer and an
Hermes scarf and a vintage accessory from Lulu’s was won by Marguarite Hark. The SC is an all women’s philanthropy founded in 1890, now celebrating 125 years of giving! It is the oldest women’s charity in Chicago with every dollar raised going into the
organization for its grant giving programs.
Happy 100th birthday to our beloved Navy Pier! Its big celebration on Friday, the Fifth Third Bank Centennial Celebration, opened
with welcoming remarks from Navy Pier president/CEO Marilynn Kelly Gardner. A 1,000-pound Eli's Cheesecake, created in the number "100," was handed out to lucky
participants while The Navy Pier Brass Band played. Children enjoyed games that included "Pin the Gondola on the Centennial Wheel" and musical
chairs. The Tony Award-winning Shakespeare Theater company performed "Twelfth Night" for free on its outdoor stage. Miller Lite hosted a "Toast to Navy's Pier's Second Century" and a spectacular fireworks display Friday night. The next big event for Navy Pier will be on July 27, when the "Pepsi Parade of Tall Ships" begins! (Photos by Heidi Zeiger)
expert Leslie Zemeckis recently traveled to Naples, Italy, to attend a spectacular party hosted by Dolce & Gabbana
to celebrate their hottest designs and honor their muse Sophia Loren. This is her oh-so exciting account: Gabbana festa in Napoli-- It was all beads and embroidery, soaring headpieces and gilt capes under the stars of Napoli at the Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda spectacolo. With suitcases stuffed with vintage
and new pieces from various collections of Dolce & Gabbana I descended into the seaside city for four nights of what would remind me that burlesque is alive and well in haute couture. After checking into the Grand Hotel
Vesuvio across from Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle and the oldest fortification in Naples) I ran down to the pop-up store to check out just how much Dolce & Gabbana was inspired by burlesque. Did they
even know they were? Overlooking the bay of Napoli were racks of Swarovski-embellished everything; purses, sandals, sunglasses, cell phone cases, scarves and tiaras. The Alta Moda clothes are part homage to D&G’s muse Sophia Loren and were adorned with roses (Loren’s favorite flower), Napoli (Castel dell’Ovo was embellished on at least one
piece), the gold of the church and saints. One cape I tried on was gold and entirely jeweled. It reminded me of a gown in my burlesque collection hand-sewn by Blaze Starr that took her 6 months to make. She told me because of the weight “As soon as I got on stage I couldn’t wait to strip. It was heavy.” On our first night under huge portraits of Sophia throughout
the years from Domenico and Stefano’s mood boards, guests mingled at the Villa Pignatelli, a neo-classic former museo, sipping over-sized saucers of Dom Pérignon that even Dita Von Teese could have fit into. The Alta Gioielleria collection featured refined jewelry with elaborate, colorful pieces that included
everything from tomatoes to ballerinas. Comparing Dolce & Gabbana jewelry to Harry Winston might be similar to comparing Broadway to burlesque. Via San Gregorio Armeno is in the heart of old Naples and the street is lined with artisans selling charming, elaborate nativity figurines. The area has a reputation for danger and tourism
but the Alta Moda show was well policed and safety was never an issue. Guests started the evening sipping Prosecco in Chiesa di San Gregorio Armeno’s courtyard among robed friars while awaiting the arrival of Sophia Loren who was being honored both by the designers and the citta of Napoli. Hours later, the Dolce & Gabbana clients watched as models sashayed down the narrow cobblestones where all enjoyed a front row seat.
The clothes were perfection. There were elaborate headpieces (one in the shape of a shrine. The next day I tried it on and it was lightweight and I think made of paper), some were veiled, others silk and ribbon. Some of clothes were inspired by Loren’s film "The Gold of Naples." There was a gold-encrusted cape and a gold sequined dress among other multi-jeweled capes and gowns. As
the music swelled over our heads, models sailed forth on encrusted heels glimmering over the grey stones while artisans lining the streets cheered and neighbors hung off their balconies snapping photos. La Loren, deeply tanned and still incredibly alluring at 81 was ensconced on a red-velvet oversized throne. One of the shirts I wore this past weekend was from a former Dolce & Gabbana collection inspired by bullfighting and
discovered for me by Decades Founder Cameron Silver. With an after-party at the charming Borgo Marinaro among the trattoria serving seafood and pasta, Pink Martini crooned under the steamy night while a radiant Domenico Dolce charmed and greeted guests. The international crowd was attired in sparkles and roses and everything Dolce & Gabbana. Men too are having their moment in burlesque and the next night it was time for the Alta Sartoria held at the Castello dell’Ovo. Actress and friend Jennifer Tilly was cheered on the red carpet when she changed into a new pair of couture shoes. Dom Pérignon in hand, the blaring of that old
burlesque standard “Hey Big Spender” by Shirley Bassey got everyone in the mood. The night’s theme was James Bond meets the early Renaissance. I was greeted by chiseled-jawed actors portraying FBI agents and ladies wearing extravagant headpieces (one had a boat in her hair, very Marie Antoinette). The men’s collection was equally luxurious and beaded. Ninety-three men swung their slim hips and
teased with glimpses of hardened abs in looks that included iridescent tuxedos, a tailored suit – for scuba diving! – and tightly fitted motorcycle gear. The dressing gowns would have been the envy of Hugh Hefner with images of race cars speeding across the hunky models’ figures. One bejeweled jacket was decorated with the image of Mount Vesuvius. There were crocodile accents everywhere, including in gift boxes for guests delivered by the uber efficient Dolce & Gabbana team. At the end of the show, fireworks burst over the tuxedoed-shoulders of the models as guests hopped up for an orgy of selfies. Dinner was served under the stars at the castle, the first time
the City of Naples has allowed such an event, as Mr. Dolce told our table. He was effusive, happy, friendly and relieved the shows were over. The next day I managed a quick to Capri where Lili St. Cyr, the subject of my current book, “Goddess of Love Incarnate” honeymooned with Italian hunk Armando Orsini of New York’s former famed restaurant “Orsini’s” where Jackie O. and Anderson Cooper’s mother Gloria Vanderbilt dined and were charmed by the handsome Roman. The D&G closing night party had hundreds of guests dancing to the Gypsy Kings on the beach of Naples while the Neapolitan people cheered and watched a magnificent fireworks display over the water. Some guests were already dressed in their newly purchased couture. Appropriately, my friend Cameron Silver wore a Marilyn Monroe printed Dries Van Noten suit. As I looked around the hip-shaking, martini swigging crowd I couldn’t help but
hope that haute couture like burlesque, sees a revival and appreciation of the art that it is. After all who wouldn’t want to be like Bubbles Darlene and wear intricate headpieces like the horns she wore, or a giant upside down chandelier? Perhaps Domenico and Stefano have heard of her? (Leslie Zemeckis is an award-winning documentarian whose film “Behind the Burly Q” chronicles the history of burlesque. Her film “Bound by Flesh” is a Netflix hit about Daisy and Violet Hilton of “Sideshow” fame. She is busy writing her third book on burlesque and her next documentary on famed tiger trainer Mabel Stark will premier in the Fall of 2016. Zemeckis continues to
chronicle the vast untouched history of burlesque and has one of the largest collections of burlesque memorabilia).
Congrats to legendary Gene & Georgetti Restaurant, now celebrating its 75th year in business! To honor this landmark occasion, the restaurant will be offering a curated menu at both its Chicago and Rosemont locations from July 21 to July 23--three days only! Due to the high demand of the 75th celebration, the special anniversary menu
will be the only menu available at the restaurants during this time. The Menu for Two costs $75 (not including tax and gratuity) with all proceeds benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Illinois, which honored G & G with the inaugural Chicago Classic award for lifetime achievement at its 2015 Jean Banchet Awards. Love them! HAPPY BIRTHDAY G & G!
More congrats are in order for legendary tennis star, Jimmy Connors! He was a presenter at this year's
International Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Newport over the weekend. He introduced Russian player Marat Safin, one of this year's inductees. Monica Seles was also a presenter. Jimmy entered the Hall of Fame in 1998 and is my favorite player of all time. Natch!
Exciting news headed to Chicago on the polo front! The Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup with be coming to North Avenue Beach on September 9,10 and 11! A total of six polo teams from different parts of the world (including the British Royal Polo Team!!!) will go mallet-to-mallet competing over the three day tourney. The event will also feature exclusive parties, polo horse parades, a player presentation conference and other private social gatherings. The tournament is sponsored by Qatar Airways
and luxury brands including Veuve Clicquot, U.S. Polo Association, Hotel Lincoln, and The J. Parker. International supporters include HRH The Prince of Wales, and the Argentine Republic. Proceeds from the event will benefit Sentebale, a charity founded by Prince Harry of the British Royal Family and Prince Seeiso of the Lesotho Royal Family. (Sentebale supports orphans and vulnerable children, many of whom
are affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic). Tickets for the Qatar Airways Chicago Beach Polo Cup are $110 for VIP (includes a glass of Champagne and reserved area) and $60 for Club d’Elegance (general admission). Event schedule is Friday, September 9th from 11:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m., Saturday, September 10th from 11 a.m. -7:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 11th from 11:00 a.m. -7:00 p.m.
For more information and/or to purchase tickets, please click here.
I had the best time sharing my Playboy memories at the Elmhurst Art Museum, this time for a great group of people from Chicago's Bauhaus and Beyond led by founders Joan and Gary Gand. The afternoon event featured a tour of the museum's cool Playboy Architecture Exhibit (complete with memorabilia from my collection) as well as a
presentation by dynamic executive director Jenny Gibbs. Christie Hefner and her mom Milly, had toured the exhibit the day before.(Exhibit runs through August 28)
Eli's Cheesecake celebrated its 36th birthday in Millennium Park during Taste of Chicago with a 1,000 pound cheesecake and a sing-a-long with cast members from The SpongeBob
Musical and the Book of Mormon!! Congrats to owners Maureen and Marc Schulman, their family and amazing staff on this wonderful accomplishment!!
Great news for fans of fabulous designer Elda de la Rosa (and who isn't?!) Her new, swanky boutique opens in Wicker Park, at 1754 W. Division on Thursday, July 28!! I can't wait! Welcome back Elda!! We've all missed YOU!
Congrats are in order for beautiful philanthropist Kristina McGrath! She will receive the 2016 FLAIR Award from the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind at a luncheon/fashion show (produced by Tracey Tarantino, ZZAZZ Productions) at the Ritz-Carlton on Monday, October 17! For tickets and more info, click here! The organization supports programs for children who may be blind,
visually impaired or disabled.
I think we were the last people in the city to finally have dinner at Duck, Duck, Goat, the latest hotspot (at 857 W. Fulton) from the Boka Group Restaurant and Chef Stephanie
Izard. We went with dear friends Paul Iacono and Gayle Anthony and we all agreed the food was terrific and the place oozed charm. The decor, as in all their
restaurants, was a masterpiece. I loved the themes in each room too--one inspired by a Chinese tea room, one by a laundry, a social club and a poker room. We spoke to owners Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, who was sporting a mean black-eye from a softball game, "it got lost in the sun"...LOL) and they shared some really exciting expansion plans. It's on the QT for now, but trust me when I tell you, Chicago is very, very lucky to have them!
Congrats are also in order for Bob Mariano (and his Nina) who announced his retirement from Roundy's/Mariano's on July 12. He shared this with his staff: "Today I announce my retirement. I do so with mixed
emotions. While I've made this decision with great care, there is no doubt that I will miss my job, the customers and all those I've had the privilege of working with. For the past 14 years I've enjoyed my role of service as your Chairman, President and CEO. I want to thank each and every one of you for your dedication. Together we've
cemented Roundy’s and Mariano's in their rightful places as innovators in the grocery world, and I know that the continued growth of the Mariano's brand will surpass my wildest dreams... Look for me around the corner checking if the prosciutto is being sliced properly. That's where I'll be hanging out as I turn the page onto my next chapter." Awwwww.....He will remain on until September 1 when he will take on the role of advisor and consultant for the next 2 years. Love and congrats to Bob and Nina!
Chicago's Randolph Street Market, my favorite, returns on Sat/Sun. July 30 and 31st with over 200 dealers, awesome vintage finds, fabulous food, great music and MORE! Click here for more info and I hope to see you there!
Many thanks to Chicagonista LIVE! for having me back to chat about all things Chicago (and then some! LOL!) I love the dynamic hosting trio, MJ Tam, Beth Rosen and Nancy Loo! Their energy is contagious and they bring you news you can use! Check out their fabulous show here.
It’s been awhile, but the Ritz Paris is back in action. After a renovation that kept its doors shut for nearly four years, the Ritz Paris reopened June 6, a few days and 118 years after its original June 1, 1898, opening and almost three months later than intended because of a fire at the property in January. Watch this beautiful video by Zoe Cassevetes to celebrate this grand opening of one of the finest hotels in the world!
Lastly, I always like to be uplifting and bring you positive news but in light of all the tragedies throughout the world, I hope you'll take a moment to say a silent prayer. Whoever your God is, we all need help now. This madness just has to end.
Love, as always,
P.S. And now something to make you smile...click here!