The Crowd: Organizer provides best of the best for scholarship fundraiser

Congress may find it impossible to agree on funding priorities, but 200 men in blue blazers and white slacks recently joined forces in Newport Beach to raise $60,000 benefiting the annual Balboa Bay Club & Resort's 1221 Club Scholarship Fund.

The 17th annual Great Gentlemen's Smoker & Lobster Clambake, presided over by international "cigar goodwill ambassador" and hotelier Henry Schielein, was in fact the most successful event in recent years.

"The guests bid generously on the auction," said Schielein, who assembled a roster of dining, travel, art and fine jewelry offerings — all of which raised funds that benefited the student scholarship fund.

Significant donors included Hotel Captain Cook, Anchorage, Alaska; Montage Deer Valley, Park City, Utah; the St. Regis, Dana Point; Fairmont Hotels International; the Conrad, Hong Kong; Cap Juluca, Anguilla, British West Indies; the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel; Cabo Villas Beach Resort, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; The Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, Colo.; The Boulders, Carefree, Ariz.; and The Grand Del Mar, San Diego.

Also generously sponsoring the evening were Mardo Fine Jewelry, Newport Beach; artist Michael Bryan; and other fine restaurants and hotels, including the Capital Grille, Five Crowns, Ruby's, the Beachcomber, the Ritz, Piero's, Las Vegas, and many more. The list of donors reads like a "Who's Who" of both local and international travel and dining.

In grand old-world tradition, the men's club evening began at dusk with a cocktail reception on the bayfront lawn at the Balboa Bay Club. Butler-passed hors d'oeuvres included fine beef tartar crustini, smoked salmon with caviar and Medjool dates filled with aged Stilton cheese. One of the hottest new European-imported vodkas on the American scene, YES offered a flowing martini bar. Champagne came from Nicolas Feuillatte, New York.

The evening moved into high gear as comedic emcee Peter Buffa, a former mayor of Costa Mesa, and John Wortmann, board of governors chairman for the BBC, joined forces in a routine interspersed with a full-throttle auction pitch that helped sell the massive roster of goods.

Gorgeous gals moved between the tables, offering fine cigars from a collection that encompassed everything under the sun from Argyle Madura to Hoyo Excalibur No. 1, Macanudo Duke of York, Olivia Serie O, San Cristobal and Urbano, to name a few.

The cigar girls joined the bartenders pouring the best libations of rum and tequila — Patrón XO Cafe, Montecristo 12 Year Old Rum, and Don Julio 1942 Tequila Añejo. Schielein demanded, and got, only the best of the best of everything for his crowd paying $275 per person for the dinner event, in addition to donations made at auction.

The BBC's award-winning culinary team, led by Executive Chef Josef Lagader, prepared and served an impressive dinner under the stars. It began with a crab and avocado cocktail followed by an iceberg wedge on heirloom tomato carpaccio. The entrée of filet mignon, steamed Maine lobster and saffron clam chowder was a rave.

For dessert, Grand Marnier bread pudding à la mode with french vanilla ice cream. Wine pairings with each course were generously provided by Chateau Ste. Michelle, Jordan and Levendi wineries.

Gents celebrating in the crowd were Mike Russell, Tony Sarducci, Mardo Ayvazyan, Fred White, Max Rogers, John Garten, Dave White, Andrew Obermeger, Glen Schmitt, Tom Ryan, Jeff Wetzel, Brent Campbell, Dave Klover, Danny Thomas, Bill Nasikas, John So, Wally Hickel, Bruce Brainerd, Bert Cutino, Paul Olm and Arlis Parkhurst.

Also supporting the scholarship fundraiser were the Robins family — dad Bob and sons Dave and Jim, Dean Camaras and dad Tykye Camaras, Brad Hinman, Griffin Hoover, Nicholas Samios, Dave Wooten, Lee Rahn, Howard Ahmanson, Joe De Franco, Chris Dubia, Chris Gialanella, Bob Hall and son Gregson Hall, Mitch Sussman and Bob Waltos.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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