The Crowd: Putting on those dancing shoes

Cuban heartthrob William Levy, one of the dancers on the current season ofABC's"Dancing With The Stars," was not there.

He was, however, overshadowed by Newport's Brett Lawrence, voted "Best Male Dancer" at the recent 2012 Assistance League of Newport-Mesa's major fundraising event, billed as "Dancing for Tomorrow's Stars."

Lawrence, the tall lanky, cowboy son of the much-loved Jeannie Lawrence, had all the ladies' hearts aflutter in the audience. The competition was serious.

Lawrence joined "Best Female Dancer" Sara Guggenheim Jarrett, "Most Debonair Male Dancer" Mike Sanchez, "Most Sparkly Female Dancer" Ashley Hickson, "Most Elegant Dancer" Heidi Miller, and finally "The Most Wow Dancer" Adam Aldrich for a spectacular show that truly rivaled the professional version watched by millions every Monday night.

All the contestants took their assignments seriously, rehearsing for countless hours with professional dance partners. The acts were choreographed to challenging music and the costumes were on par with the best Hollywood wardrobe handlers could muster.

The March 24 dinner show was the fifth annual "Dancing for Tomorrow's Stars" event, which also heralded the 72nd anniversary of the Assistance League Newport-Mesa in Orange County. The venue of choice was The Grove of Anaheim, a World War II-era showroom with a massive band shell-like stage that faced classic tiered nightclub seating.

The local crowd, dressed to impress, filled The Grove to the rafters with both a contingent of longtime Assistance League supporters and a huge crowd of young professionals turning out to get involved with a charitable effort, which has been a mainstay of assistance to disadvantaged children in the Newport-Mesa community.

The evening was fronted by League President Judy Weightman and co-chaired by the very chic Jill Ayres and Jim McAleer, who was voted "Best Male Dancer" at the 2010 event and wanted to lend his talent to producing this year's spectacular show. Emceed by the Newport Coast's celebrity Mindy Stearns, a contributor to PBS SoCal's "Real Orange," and entertainment journalist George Pennacchio of " Eyewitness News," the event had all the "zing" and the "zang" of a real live television dance competition.

Kudos must also be offered to the three judges. Len, Bruno and Carrie Ann had better watch out inasmuch as their jobs could be in jeopardy. Christina Lyon, David MacInnis and Leigh Steinberg could not have been more charming, offering both positive and humorous critiques following each number.

The evening began with a cocktail reception in the grand foyer of The Grove. Event committee members enjoying a well-deserved glass of bubbly included Karen Treaccar, Diana Thomas, Kimberly Feinberg, Mimi Barker and Marie-France Lefebvre.

Show producers Michael Anderson and Christopher Sepulveda were scrambling backstage with last-minute details as major underwriters arrived, including Mary Lynn and John Rallis, Sue and Dan Guggenheim, Jill and Bruce Ayres, Don Ayres Jr., Julia and George Argyros, Heidi Cortese, Janet Curci, Jan and James Murar, Mary and Peter Ree and Barbara Roberts.

Also supporting the Assistance League were Olivia and Howard Abel, Sandra and Don Ayres III, Patti and Jim Edwards, and the super-generous Lula Halfacre, representing Traditional Jewelers and attending with her daughter Natalie, a recent bride.

A three-course dinner was served beginning with a baby spinach salad followed by an entrée of petite filet and vegetable Wellington. For dessert, it was a bittersweet chocolate pot de crème and a lemon curd tart with almond frangipane and crème fraiche.

Guests tabled-hopped between performances. Assistance League donor George Schreyer was a showstopper in his bejeweled tuxedo jacket. Assistance League President-elect Judith Longyear greeted the crowd, including Barbara Mayberry, Joanne Johnston, Eileen Shitanishi, Ann and Bob Lucas, Carol and Walt Boice, Cindy and Peter DeBaun, and Peggy and Frank Listi.

At the end of the night, the crowd voted that their "Fan Favorite" for 2012 was the lovely Sara Guggenheim Jarrett. The votes translated into more than $100,000 in support for the Assistance League and the Las Reinas, Virginia Castle and the La Marisa auxiliaries. For more information about the Assistance League of Newport-Mesa, go to

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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