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The Valley Line: Music, cuisine add 'la vie' to LACO fundraiser

It was one of those ooh-la-la evenings when more than 300 formally dressed guests arrived at the historic Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra's benefit. The event, which honored philanthropist and LACO board chairman K. Eugene Shutler for his dedication to the arts and civic engagement, raised $475,000.

Themed "La Vie En Rose: An Evening in Paris," the fundraiser celebrated the music, culture and cuisine of France. The décor and the richness of the hotel's furnishings were designed to make the guests feel like they had been transported to the City of Lights with beautiful music, auctions, and dining, not to mention energetic can-can dancers. Proceeds from the unforgettable evening that was chaired by Pat and Sandy Gage will be used toward LACO's artistic and education activities.

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The evening began in the Biltmore Bowl, which was bathed in rosy pink lights. The guests' chairs were covered in hot pink covers that could have come right from the showroom of the famed French designer Elsa Schiaparelli. It was she who introduced the color called "hot pink" in 1947.

LACO music director and renowned pianist Jeffrey Kahane led a vibrant program, bringing to life works by great French classical composers with LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer and principals Roland Kato, viola; Kenneth Munday, bassoon and Andrew Shulman, cello.

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A delightful surprise came when Anne Carrere channeled "The Little Sparrow" Edith Piaf, with emotional and authentic interpretations of classic songs of love and loss that, from the 1930s to the 1960s, made Piaf France's most famous chanteuse a star the world over.

Carrere, like Piaf petite in stature with a most amazingly strong voice, captured the hearts of the audience. She and her musicians were making their first visit to Los Angeles and they were thrilled. Flying in from France with her were her musicians Frederic Viale, accordion; Arnud Fuste, piano; Nicolas Luchi, double bass and Benoit Pierron, percussion. Gil Marsalla was the group's musical director and producer.

After the concert in the Biltmore Bowl, guests were invited into the beautiful Crystal Ballroom where they were seated for a magnificent French inspired dinner.

My charming dining companion for the evening was Frederic Viale, the accordion player. He lives in Cannes on the French Riviera where he began studying the accordion when he was 8 years old.

Only in L.A. for four days, he said that he was trying to make the most of this first visit to the U.S. He was able to take a special sight seeing visit to Santa Monica Beach that he thoroughly enjoyed.

Following the dinner, an after party was held in the hotel's Emerald Room, where different coffees, French chocolates, macaroons and liquors were offered. A jazz combo provided the music for the finale of this beautiful evening.

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The USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Women's Council hosted a fundraiser Mardi Gras themed evening in the Council rooms at the local hospital. Ruth McNevin, the organization's president, served as chair of the event.

The Mardi Gras Casino evening offered games of chance such as poker, craps, and roulette. The atmosphere was enhanced by live piano music.

The Mardi Gras menu included such Big Easy selections of red beans and rice served in a ramekin, mini muffulettas, jambalaya arancine with spicy roulade and smoked paprika glazed Andouille sausage.

Guests, some of whom were wearing carnival masks and bright beads around their necks, were invited to shop from a large selection of silent auction items featuring Dodgers tickets, Lakers-Clippers tickets and instant wine cellar.

Restaurant cards from restaurants such as Oakmont Country Club and Taylor's Steakhouse and a wide assortment of food and beverage baskets were hot items to bid on. Evening proceeds will go toward the next release of funds designated for the hospital's nursery for new equipment and decor upgrades.

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Well over 100 people gathered at a special reception last week to say farewell to Dr. Eiming D'Jang, who is retiring from his medical practice after more than four decades in Glendale and USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. Right by his side was his wife of 58 years, Ruby.

Dr. D'Jang has been my doctor for upward of 30 years and I can't even imagine him not being at the "1818" medical building or seeing him in the halls of the hospital.

What an amazing physician and human being he is. He brought doctoring to a old/new level in our hustle-bustle world. Believe it or not, more than one patient shared at the gathering that he actually made a house call to their home to check on them and also brought hot soup with him.

There was one time that he offered to pick up my meds and deliver them to my house on his way home.

The Council room at the hospital was filled with a great deal of love for this man who has given so much to our community — he will be greatly missed.

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JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at jnvalleysun@aol.com with news of your special event.

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