The Crowd: Lighting up for a good cause

The 19th annual Gentlemen's Smoker and Lobster Clambake welcomed 150 handsome men in blue blazers and khaki trousers for a summer beach event beyond compare. It was the major men's fundraiser for the Balboa Bay Club's annual 1221 Scholarship Fund benefiting students from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

The 1221 fund, established some 15 years ago, grants annual scholarships exceeding $100,000 to help high-performing local students meet their college financial needs. The Smoker, considered one of the last bastions of the male-dominated social gatherings, was originally the brainchild of hotelier Henry Schielein, now in retirement after serving the Balboa Bay Club for nearly two decades.

Schielein's tradition, which he originally made famous at Boston's Ritz-Carlton hotel and later at international locations in Europe and Asia, was adopted and updated by the new ownership of the Balboa Bay Club, led by the Richard Pickup family, including its executive board consisting of Todd Pickup, Kevin Martin, Tim Busch, Steve Arnold, Kory Kramer, Joe Moody and Rick Weiner in addition to Richard Pickup.

The men in charge worked with event organizers Malcolm Smith, Aaron Trent, master of ceremonies John Wortmann (chairman of the board of governors of the Balboa Bay Club) and Peter Buffa (Costa Mesa-based businessman and former mayor) to produce a very special evening that raised close to $50,000 net from live and silent auction proceeds earmarked for the 1221 Scholarship Fund.

As the jazz orchestra played on, a lavish dinner of filet and lobster was served to the men at sunset at round tables covered in white linen set on the beach lawn fronting the main channel of Newport Harbor. Cigars from many of the world's exclusive makers were continuously distributed throughout the night. It was all part of a $275-per-person ticket to be a part of the fraternal gathering.

The VIP crowd included a cross section of local influence peddlers. Among the smokers were Tony Wilson, PBS SoCal's Rick Reiff, artist Michael Bryan, Richard Moriarty, John Daniels, R.J. Brandes, Mike Lawler, Gregson Hall, David Chou and world famous cigar impresario Nash Patel. Also in the crowd were Lynn Caswell, Michael Rodriquez, Alex Lukoff, Sam Nichols, Glenn Schmitt, Bill O'Rourke, Balboa Bay Resort's Dieter Hissin and Schielein.

The sixth annual Oceana's SeaChange summer party will take place Aug. 18, starring special guest and Grammy-winner Sheryl Crow. Corona del Mar's "hostess with the mostess" Eve Kornyei Ruffatto will lead the charge, bringing in the social crowd and the major donors to benefit this very important charity focused on ocean conservation.

As in years past, this major event of the summer will unfold high above the Pacific on the grounds of an ocean-view estate in Laguna Beach, welcoming a star-studded attendance including Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Anne Heche, James Tupper, Angela Kinsey, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Jenna Ushkowitz. Other famous names on the roster include Rachael Harris, Oscar Nunez, Emily Osment, Jesse Spencer, Anna Torv and Leonor Varela.

Following cocktails, dinner and auction, Crow will complete the evening with her personal musical set. The crowd will then be invited to a post-party lounge for dancing under the stars. For more information, go to the Oceana website at

Newport Coast's celebrity Chef Jamie Gwen is set to front the annual American Liver Foundation's Flavors of Orange County dinner to be held at the Fairmont Newport Beach on Aug. 25. Twelve stellar restaurants, among them Charlie Palmer, Roy's, Paul Martin's, Il Barone, Pizzeria Ortica, and the Loft at Montage Laguna Beach will be among the culinary participants at the Fairmont dinner.

Gwen will appear as a contestant Sunday night on the television premiere of "Cutthroat Kitchen" on the Food Network. This new competitive reality show focused on the kitchen features an entertaining sabotage edge and will be hosted by Alton Brown.

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

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