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Scene & Heard

oscar buzz

A tip of the Hats in the Garden to superstar designer Oscar de la Renta, who brought a special buzz, elegance and charm to this year’s event at the newly opened Naples Botanical Garden. What excitement! It was quite a coup to lure him to Naples—he’s said to make only two personal appearances a year—and our Marissa Hartington gets the credit. The longtime Third Street South boutique owner has been his friend for years, and she and her son Jay showcased de la Renta’s latest designs in spectacular fashion.

The Garden itself also had a starring role as a dramatic background for the jewel tones of the de la Renta Collection. A great September day all around… and a special thank you to Scott Kapnick (whose family put up $15 million for the project), not only for being such a devoted supporter, but also for filling in for me as emcee. My hat’s off to you.

matchmaking parents

Speaking of Naples blooms, we have a love story blossoming before our very eyes. Last February, two Naples couples, Dr. and Mrs. Nicholas Rendziperis and M. and Mr. Richard Galliford, introduced their daughter Nicole and son Rick at the Moorings Country Club.

The sparks flew and just a few months later, the young couple got married at the swanky new Elysian hotel in Chicago. The scene may have been the Windy City, but some of the fashions were, yes, Marissa’s. She outfitted the mothers of both the bride and groom. The bride’s accessories came from Thalheimer’s, her favorite local jeweler. Nicole’s a management consultant and Rick’s a full-time philanthropist, and they’re truly into commitment. Says Nicole, “We’re both committed to giving 30 percent of our income to charity.” Bless your marriage and your souls.

great turnout

The PACE Center for Girls in Lee County drew an impressive crowd of 300 for its annual luncheon at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in November. Credit Chairwoman Gail Markham and her board for corralling so many civic- and professional-minded woman (and a few men). The event raised $62,000 to provide teenaged girls a better future with education, counseling and support. A big congratulations to Executive Director Debbie Webb, who helped start PACE in Lee County and is now moving on to other ventures. She set the PACE admirably.

women who shop

Now for some shop talk, girls. Nearly 80 women got together in September for a spectacular after-hours shopping event at Saks Fifth Avenue in the Bell Tower Shops. The deal was champagne, snacks and a 25 percent discount—and the action was fast and furious. Hosted by community philanthropists Amy Gravina, Carol Hudler, Lou Pontius and Robbie Roepstorff, the event raised more than $4,000 for 36 Lee County charities. Store manager Carole Stockard donated some spectacular auction items, including a designer handbag. Wasn’t it nice that it went to Sara Owens, executive director of Community Cooperative Ministries’ The Soup Kitchen? Sara gives so much in feeding Lee County’s hungry.

Now she can cluck over something for herself. Beautiful.

proud mom

Well, why wouldn’t Simone Lutgert be a proud mother? In last September’s issue of The New Yorker, there’s a large picture on p. 61 of Kelly Wearstler, the presiding grand dame of West Coast interior design, at her desk with an expansive painting behind her. It is the work of Lana Gomez, a large-format abstract painter—and daughter of Simone. Lana landed a job with the well-know designer and has some of her artwork featured in HUE, Wearstler’s new book.

Lana and good friend, comedian Sebastian Maniscalco, came to Naples to see the family in November. Fresh from an appearance on Jay Leno’s show, Sebastian performed on Marco Island. The large Lutgert entourage was part of an enthusiastic audience.

memphis rocks

Broadway producer Patty Baker and her husband Jay—two of our favorite Neapolitans—are hoping they have a hit on their hands with Memphis, a show about the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The music is by David Bryan, Bon Jovi’s keyboardist. Patty says, “It’s the best thing I’ve seen on Broadway since Jersey Boys. The only difference is that this score is totally original and is a knockout.”

zany costumes

Matt and Jodi Hanson get the award for most fabulous Halloween party. Matt and his dad, who own Salty Sam’s marina, secured the pirate ship that docks there for an amazing night at sea. Guests came aboard in some fantastic costumes. Jay Scanlon was a dead ringer for The Joker, Cathy and Dan Lubner showed up as the Flintstones, but the best costume award goes to the two handsome guests dressed as soldier monkeys from The Wizard of Oz.

super bag lady

Talk charity event, talk live auction, and you have to say that Betty Bireley is a woman who makes a difference. With great, great respect, you may want to call her The Bag Lady, too. She bought four bags at Island Coast AIDS Network’s Handbag Happy Hour in late October at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa. Betty went home with the pièce de résistance, the Liz Taylor bag. It’s the third Taylor bag she’s snagged from the event in the past five years! This year, thanks in part to Victoria Black from Saks Fifth Avenue, the organizers added a fashion show that wowed the crowd. Bags and duds… a happy hour for all.

great taste

There was joy aplenty at Sea Salt restaurant in November as Fabrizio Aielli and his staff invited guests to a special celebration of the Third Street South eatery’s first anniversary. The occasion was ever more sweet in light of Esquire magazine’s designating Sea Salt as one of the nation’s best new restaurants in 2009.

What exquisite good taste.  

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