STILETTO HEELS, SINATRA & STYLE

“An Evening with the Rat Pack in Las Vegas: The Best is Yet to Come” was the theme of this year’s “Night for Sight” event, benefiting SEE International. The outdoor rotunda of the DoubleTree Resort was the setting for the re-creation of Las Vegas circa late 1950s and early ‘60s.

In traipsed the gals teetering on high heels, and va-va-voom Vegas glamour: Laurie Bolt, Josie Gower, Jeney and Jim McCoy, Bob and Karen Kolarczyk, the “dancing Petlows” – Mike and Jennie – Bill and Sylvia Redding, Bob and Cindy Perlis, Mandy Starr, Elaine Grinnell, Bob and Mary Dibley, and Sasa and Rick Feldman (of the Santa Barbara Eyeglass Factory). Rick, an amazingly generous man, effusively and happily donates hundred and hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses every single year for local programs – and naturally he donated hundreds more for SEE’s local Vision Care Program. (A lot of kids can see the world more clearly thanks to him.)

The shindig was the 32nd annual fundraiser gala to benefit SEE International, which helps send volunteer eye surgeons out worldwide to perform sight-saving surgery (cataracts, primarily) to the disadvantaged blind. Amazingly, the physicians are not only unpaid for their work, but they have to pay all their expenses out of pocket to perform their humanitarian work. So here’s to our local eye docs who started it all.

This year SEE (Surgical Eye Expeditions) International honored another local non-profit Direct Relief International. There is a special kind of bond between these two non-profits. Both are the only two humanitarian international organizations based in Santa Barbara, and both were founded by local doctors. Both are well respected nationally and supported locally. DRI was listed in Forbes as one of only eight national charities with near 100% efficiency. The poised and well-spoken DRI President Thomas Tighe saluted SEE and cited (or should I say sighted!) its achievements. More than 300,000 people have had their vision restored in countries worldwide due to SEE’s efforts. (Now if they could only do something to open the eyes of Congress – ha!)

Board President and CEO, Dr. George Primbs, made the shortest speech ever for a CEO at a local black tie event – but everyone “saw eye-to-eye” on his points. Stephanie Boumediene, SEE’s gracious executive director, shared the vision of the original doctors and founding "civilians" – some of whom were in attendance: “founding father” Dr. Harry Brown, Dr. William Coulter, Dr. John Crowder, Dr. Glynne Couvillion, Dr. Walter Hogan, Dr. Francis “Tock” Kanofsky, and Don Tim, David Sever, Fred Lemere, Richard Achey, Robert Rufsvold and Peter McGowan. Bailey Brown was also acknowledged for her longtime leadership of the organization.

Live entertainment was provided by the “Rat Pack Tribute show,” a Las Vegas group that has performed nationwide. One of the actors backstage told emcee John Palminteri that the group started out in Las Vegas, but made more money taking the show on the road. Their act, jokes, singing and demeanor delightfully captured the mannerisms, sound and style of the Sammy, Dean and Frank.

Playing to his audience at one point, “Dean Martin” quipped to “Sammy,” “You know there’s a guy in the audience here who could do something about your eye…”

Birds of a Feather

“Flights of Fancy” was this year’s theme for the annual Zoofari Ball – the biggest Baby Boomer bash around. Yes, of course, younger and older are there, but the funky music and casual attire clearly befit the Me Generation as they benefit the Santa Barbara Zoo operation.

So Betsy and Chip Turner, Valerie Williams, George Burtness, Lynda and Rusty Fairly, Bruce Arden, John and Mary Romo, Stephanie Ortale, Diana Starr Langley, Jon and Martha Bull, Chris and Gwen Kallman, Barbara Burger and Peter and Gerd Jordano were all part of the sold out crowd that flocked to the zoo for the avian-themed event.

The zoo is a private non-profit corporation – meaning nooo tax-based support here. All capital improvements are done through the support of individuals, corporations and businesses. So events like this help pay for its programs. One of the sweet programs is the summer “Zoovies” series of family films shown on a big screen at the zoo’s scenic hilltop.

The fun part of Zoofari is watching the outfits – all cleverly constructed around either a “formal jungle safari” dress code, or something thematically inspired – so there were plenty of “birdbrains” around as well. Nothing fowl about that comment, by the way, as many of the costumes were just ducky. And the women weren’t too chicken to show off their plumage, just as long as it didn’t ruffle too many feathers.

The other great excitement is when we’re called to dinner and walk to the top of the grassy knoll to see how it is decorated. But first – suspense builds – we start out at the lower area where the siren call of silent auction lures us to the tables filled with all kinds of good stuff, including a display of birdhouses decorated by local hoo-hahs like Bonnie Campbell, Bud Bottoms, John Cleese (he’s more of an international hoo-hah) , Scott Hogue and KEYT’s Debby Davison – hers will be a collectible cuz she’s leaving our town – sniff!)

Then a wild oral auction ensued with very unusual items – travel packages to the Cayman Islands, to the Galapagos Islands and hand-painted animal zoo-brellas.

OK, now we are ready for the trek up the hill to see how the dinner area will be decorated. It’s always a clever creation. For instance, the year when the theme was “Passage to India” the area featured a tent constructed to look like the Taj Mahal, another time the entire interior of a gigantic tent was draped and decked out like the interior of a rainforest. This year was the setting was a sort of open-air tropical pavilion with arbors and tables.

Each year, the bar at this event is named in honor of some illustrious lass involved with the Zoofari Ball. The first year starting off this tradition, naming rights went to the zoo’s PR whiz Julia McHugh. This year – a big surprise to the recipient – the honor went to honorary chair Ginni Dreier as she was presented with a large colorful “Ginni’s Bar” sign. The evening finished off with the rockin’ robins filling the dance floor to the tunes from Jana and the One.

This event sold out big time – 500 fair-feathered folks! A little birdie told me that the zoo is going to add just 50 seats next year, so if you want in peep up now and make sure you are on the invite list.