The Crowd: Fashionable women contribute to Chapman's success

They did it once again.

The amazing Fashionable Women of Chapman University presented Christmas at The Ritz. It was the 25th anniversary of the ultra-glamorous holiday luncheon that attracted a who's who crowd from high society, dressed to impress and prepared to donate significant funds to the O.C. university.

Chaired by Anne Manassero with support from Kathy Hamilton, president of the Fashionable Women, and a committee of dedicated fundraisers — including Sue Hook, Charlene Prager, Donna Bunce, Adrienne Brandes, Barbara Eidson, Nora Jorgenson Johnson, and Chapman's Joanne Jurczyk — an impressive $237,500 was raised by the close of the holiday gathering.

It took place at Newport's venerable Ritz Restaurant, where the event began and has remained for 25 years. Ritz host and Managing Partner Ray Jacobi was on hand to greet dignitaries, including Chapman University president Jim Doti and his wife Lynne along with major benefactors Julianne and George Argyros, Christy and Lou Marlin and Marybelle and S. Paul Musco.

Major luxury brand sponsors of the event included Fendi and Lugano Diamonds. Lugano's Moti and Idit Ferder, two of O.C.'s most charming and talented transplants, were front and center for Chapman, placing their jewelry designs on a parade of models. The event was sold out, with nearly 400 guests sharing holiday hugs.

The 25th-anniversary celebration paid special tribute to Charlene Prager, widow of the late Ritz founder and much-loved man-about-town Hans Prager, Dori de Kruif, and Nora Jorgenson Johnson and Jim Johnson, who are among Newport's long-time philanthropic stand-outs.

President Hamilton received a rousing hand when she announced that the Fashionable Women were very near to fulfilling their $1-million pledge to The Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman earmarked for the student filmmaker endowment fund.

In grand tradition, the classic Ritz luncheon was served, beginning with the famous Ritz caviar egg and followed by wild mushroom cappuccino soup and an entrée of seared tournedo of filet mignon in sauce Diane. For dessert, the warm winter pear cheesecake, baked in crispy phyllo with caramel sauce, put a smile on the faces of some 400 revelers in the crowd.

Among the VIP guests were Shelly and Steve Hupp, Kim Smith, R.J. Brandes and his new bride Adrienne, Zee Allred and Drago Gligic, Janet Curci, Scot and Suzanne Ellingson, DeeDee and Don Sodaro, Noel and Kathy Hamilton, Donna Bianci and Dan Avidan, and Sandra Brodie.

Also supporting Chapman were Donna Calvert, Jan Salta, Leslie and Dino Cancellieri, Irene and Bill Mathews, Cerise and James Casello, Pat and Dick Allen, Carole and Robert Follman, Karen and Jack Swickard, Valaree Wahler, Grace Thelen, and Bob and Carolyn Waltos.

The anticipated highlight of the fashion luncheon and fundraiser is the annual raffle. It is possibly the most lavish charity raffle on the Orange Coast.

Prizes are valued in the thousands of dollars, and there are 20 drawings with a $10,000 grand prize donated by Lula Halfacre and Traditional Jewelers. Also among the generous donors are South Coast Plaza, Fashion Island, David Yurman, Saks Fifth Avenue, the Balboa Bay Club & Resort, Bloomingdale's, Fendi, Lugano Diamonds, The Island Hotel and Neiman Marcus.

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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