The Lobero Theatre Foundation honored and celebrated Michael Towbes and the Towbes family recently for their endowment to dance. The $1 million endowment kicked off the Lobero Endowment for Excellence’s fundraising campaign that stands on four pillars: dance, American music, classical music and theater. Each category has an initial goal of raising $1 million. Dance is the first to reach the milestone.

The Lobero Board, in direct response to Towbes’s gift, has pledged $500,000 for American music and $25,000 for classical. These bequests will enable the many performing arts organizations and artists to appear at the Lobero and should be a big treat for audiences. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Birnam Wood Country Club was the scene for the celebration. Bryan and Lisa Babcock of Babcock Winery were there with some of my favorite wines. Bryan told us, “I played football in college and I took ballet. The ballerinas were cool but I also thought it would make me a better football player. I got it. You have to practice to make perfect and that’s what I do with my wines.”

During cocktails on the terrace there was a dance performance by Nancy Colahan and Christopher Pilafian doing “Dream.” Dancing to Cole Porter music followed by Leila Drake doing another number. The Pilafians are on the UCSB faculty and Drake is with the State Street Ballet Company. Director and founder Rodney Gustafson was smiling proudly in the audience.

Among those going in to dinner were board member David Anderson and wife, Lyn, Sara Miller McCune, Leni Fe Bland, executive director and founder of SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara Dianne Vapnek, Lobero director of development Jim Dougherty, executive director David Asbell and Virginia Castagnola Hunter, whose great-great-grandfather Colonel William Wells Hollister lent money to the Lobero Theatre. Keynote speaker was Margaret Jenkins, who has her own dance studio and company in San Francisco. She began dancing at age 4 and studied at Juilliard. Jenkins’s credits and awards are many and her art form has led her as far away as India and China.

Board President George Burtness remembered, “This Lobero building has been here for eighty-three years but one thing was missing – there was never an endowment for the future. Giving opens doors. Towbes lives in a house of doors.” Besides wife, Anne, Towbes’s daughter Carrie and two children Zachary and Allison from Vienna, Virginia, and sister Carol Lee Skinner were there to share the big event. Lillian and Jon Lovelace underwrote the whole event but were on a trip, so they couldn’t attend.

Where did Towbes’s love of dance begin? In high school his passion was jazz. One of his classmates, Lianne Plane, joined the Ballet Theatre in New York. Later, out west, he asked a young lady named Gail for a date. When she turned him down he learned his old classmate Lianne was coming to town with the Ballet Theatre. After Towbes purchased two tickets, Gail couldn’t refuse. They married and had two daughters, one of them named (guess what?) Lianne. Forty-two years later he was widowed.

Gail was a dancer and actress and appeared many times at the Lobero. Even Towbes once “graced” the stage – one of six male cancan dancers for the Montecito PTA. He loved watching everything from opera to jazz at the Lobero. Before he and Anne were married, they took ballroom dance lessons and now you can’t get them off the dance floor. Who knew all this would lead to an endowment that gives a permanent legacy of dance for the Lobero and Santa Barbara? The inaugural endowment event was Hell’s Kitchen Dance with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Not a bad beginning.

Patio Prêt-a-Porter

Friends of the University Art Museum (UAM) held an artsy event with designer fashion and food to celebrate the traveling exhibition “Pattern Language: Clothing as Communicator.” We ladies and a few good men followed the pink balloons leading from a UCSB parking lot to the Art Museum where we donned pink I.D. bracelets and entered the exhibition.

Guest curator Judith Hoos Fox led us on a behind the scenes tour and interpreted the one-of-a-kind, edgy fashions inspired by fantasies and dreams. Clothing communicates, but above all it can be art. Among the 40 displays are works of 34 international artists and designers. One of the most interesting designs was a long black cone-shaped dress made of one continuous zipper. Did you know zippers come by the mile? The ends can attach to any length. Just unzip and you can have a formal, midi or mini blouse or be left with just a necklace at the top. One item was a 1940s housedress made of multicolored measuring tapes tightly woven together to symbolize restrictions put on women in that era.

There were oohs and aahs as we eyed a provocative exhibit, which had nude bodies imprinted on tee shirts and dresses so you would look naked even though clothed. My favorite was a truly wearable evening dress of white chiffon and satin called the Firefly Dress. The skirt had little lights that would spark each other as you walked creating the illusion of fireflies. The model in me could only imagine what an entrance that would be. Sadly the creation was a bit tired from its travels and wouldn’t twinkle for us.

When Fox was putting the exhibit together and inquired about a mannequin, the man asked, “Do you want a butt pole to hold it up?” Oh, no, Judith replied, “We can’t cut the garment. We’ll need a foot pole.”

Friends of the event committee Caroline Thomas, Lorie Porter and Lynne Sprecher had us pick up pink box lunches made by Lunch Box, pink cans of champagne and head for the lagoon patio where umbrella tables were set with pink napkins and centerpieces of pink hydrangeas.

Think more pink – even Susan Pitcher’s models for her Coast Village boutiques Dressed and Ready strutted a low pink runway. This is the Prêt-a-Porter part, a more glamorous and French way to say “ready-to-wear.” Audrey Adler, Antonia Burchman, Stephanie Caracas, Carole Fausset, Stuart McCormick, Natalie Sanderson, Caroline Thompson (daughter) and Pamela Vander Heider wore Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Chloe, Michael Kors and more. Choreography was by Julie Martin with music by Mike Ober. Helping were Lisa Daniels, Aimee Etters and Michelle Grinsel.

Acting director Ann Bermingham welcomed the crowd saying, “This is so much more fun than being a professor of art history, which is my usual job.”

You can still catch the show at the University Art Museum until August 27, open Wednesdays through Sundays, 12 pm to 5 pm. Phone 893-7564.

Casa del Herrero Farewell

Casa del Herrero (House of the Blacksmith) is a gem – an 11-acre estate on East Valley Road near the Upper Village open to the public for tours. Only the Steedman family has lived there since the George Washington Smith home was finished the day of the great earthquake, June 29, 1925. Now it belongs to a foundation. Diane Galt has been its executive director for the past seven years and has just accepted the director of operation position at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, a national design museum that used to be the Carnegie mansion in New York. It is connected to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

Casa docents, volunteers and board members got together for a garden party to say goodbye to Galt. President of the Board Bruce Glesby announced, “I hate goodbyes. I hate long speeches. You are going to get both.” Along with a replica finial from the Casa, Galt was presented with a scrapbook filled with photos of many Casa friends and all the nooks and crannies of the estate to help her remember. “I’ve been crying every day for three weeks,” Galt sobbed. “It’s so hard to leave Santa Barbara.” We know she’ll take a big bite out of the Big Apple. Bon voyage!

If you’d like a docent-led tour of Casa del Herrero at 1387 East Valley Road, call 565-5653 for a reservation.