Showgirls Rally for Rice Revelry

She was one of Bob Fosse’s favorite dancers – appearing in his productions on Broadway and in his “All that Jazz” in Hollywood. And that’s precisely why her dance students all dressed up like showgirls for Cathy Rice’s surprise birthday party.

Cathy Rice runs a popular dance class, where devotees are the power women of Santa Barbara – and like their teacher, are independent, artistic and accomplished. Many have strong dance backgrounds, and others attend because their morning muse is always upbeat while keeping their hearts upbeat as well. (Cardiovascular dance fitness!)

The most interesting thing, however, is that the women in the class have developed a unique bond. Most only know each other’s first names, yet feel a strong sense of camaraderie and peer-respect. In between dance numbers, there is swapping of news, gossip and advice for health, career and kids – and ideas for a birthday bash.

Therefore, we were all in secret agreement that a surprise party was the essential thing when it came to Cathy’s upcoming birthday. After class, women would scurry down the street, gathering in little clandestine cliques to make plans. (So, what looked like a middle-aged drug deal going down on the corner of Chapala and Ortega was actually some Montecito mothers exchanging phone numbers and road maps to get to the party.)

Christie Gallagher served as our double agent, to purportedly take Cathy to dinner on Coast Village Road that night. As they pulled in to a parking space, Christie presented Cathy with a scarf and announced, “Put on this blindfold – you’re being kidnapped now!”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch Vicki Lindenauer, Mary Beth Myers, Sue Burr, Karen Kolb and other gals were helping to set the stage and get everyone in costume. Cathy theorized she might be taken to a small dinner party with a few friends. Surprise! She entered a house to find 50 women lined up like chorus girls – artistically arranged by height! – who put on the glam down to their gams: fishnets, and feathers, boas and beads. Then, with music from the show “Chicago,” they performed one of her own dance numbers as she entered.

I think it’s safe to say that Cathy was surprised.

After the initial cheers and toasts, a ubiquitous flutter of little digital cameras continually flashed about the rooms like indoor urban fireflies. In the meantime, some of the gals had even set aside an outfit for Cathy to change into, in order to dress the part and join in the fun. However, when Cathy slipped into the provided party dress, Cheri LaRocque disapproved. Local model Cheri (the Cheryl Tiegs of Santa Barbara) is a professional style consultant, and was in a stunning black fringed number. When Cheri saw Cathy’s outfit, she determined it was simply not glamorous enough for the Guest of Honor. Cheri graciously and thoughtfully insisted on exchanging dresses with Cathy (who was a former model herself).

Taa-Daa – now Cathy looked the part and the gaggle of girls giggled and cheered as Cathy re-entered into the great room. Une femme d’un certain age, Cathy looks about 40, moves like she’s 30, but she’s only a certain Je-ne-sais-quoi years old.

Gaby Hayum hosted the affair, and then did all the cooking too! (what was she thinking?) The cuisine was great, champagne and wine were exquisite, but most importantly – to this writer – was the rich chocolate birthday cake, also created by our hostess. By accident, I ate two and a half pieces.

The outfits and costumes were fun. Attention to detail was all there – hair and hose and accessories counted in the accoutrements: Linda Spann, founder of Fun Flopps, decided to forego her dance class ponytail and had her blonde locks in a stylishly upswept do, while Sepi Mashhoon flashed a gigantic gem (was that really 23-carat glass?) atop her white gloves. Catherine McDavid Smith (she’s got legs!) sported sensational stockings. Dorrie Powell, a former professional dancer herself, looked pure Fosse in black bowler and lacey top, while Trish Raphaelian – you look mah-vel-lous – even brought extra boas to share.

And the colors!! Dispensing with her emergency room green, nurse Cindy Coffey strutted très chic in elegant black for the evening. Denise Caracas found a brilliant blue sheath, local author Laurie MacMillan looked smart in silver, and university physics professor Barbara Levi almost stole the show in a dress that expressed thermodynamic potential.

Everyone got into the act with spangle and sparkle: Mary Lou Kravetz, Mary Jean Vignone, Jeannette Deconde, Karen Phillips, Christine Cote Gress , Amy Ramos , Linda Sener, Caryl Beadle, Barbara Potter, Jan Kelleway continued the theme in haute habiliments. All were a-twitter in their glitter.

And after happily over-indulging in an evening of fun and food – polishing off the champagne, and grazing at the counter of chips and dip – we all knew we’d be back in class in the morning to work it all off.