THE CROWD:Gentlemen enjoy the finer things in life

At 6 in the evening last Friday the stream of automobiles started pouring into the porte-cochère of the Balboa Bay Club & Resort on Pacific Coast Highway.

As the beach crowd of young mothers with children in tow were leaving behind another summer day on the sand, getting into their vans and SUVs to head for home, the arriving phalanx pulled in and out came some 150 gentlemen. They were all dressed in navy blue blazers and white slacks at the direction of Henry Schielein, host of the 13th annual Gentlemen’s Smoker and Lobster Clambake.

The $250-per person Friday night fraternal gathering is a mixture of old world social camaraderie, new world charitable purpose, and plain old Friday night fun. It comes in the form of unlimited cigar sampling from some of the world’s finest brands, combined with an assortment of open bar service and food to rival the finest cuisine found anywhere.

For the 13th annual event in Newport Beach, no expense was spared, and no amenity overlooked.

On one side of the lawn fronting the beach, a Chopin martini bar flowed through an ice luge, while on the opposite end a 4 Copas Tequila bar had waiters mixing hand-created margaritas. A group of gentlemen who call themselves the Gremoli Dixieland Jazz Band set the tone for the evening as the crowd gathered and began to share war stories.

The lawn fronting the beach had been set up with round tables adorned with orchid centerpieces and a lineup of crystal stemware at each place setting to accommodate the multi-courses of the fermented grape to come.

The crowd is a mix of just about every walk of life on the Orange Coast and beyond. Peter Buffa, former mayor of Costa Mesa and Daily Pilot columnist, was charged with the task of emceeing the party. Buffa joined the dapper Joe DeFranco, former close friend and business partner of the late John Wayne, father and son Tykye and Dean Camaras, Fletcher Jones executive Kirk Dawson, hotelier Randy Zupanski of the Fairmont Newport Beach, former Orange County supervisor Tom Wilson, another father and son duo Robert Wellbourn III and Robert Wellbourn IV.

Jimmy Ulcickis was in the crowd, as was Steve Slater of Southern Wine and Spirits, Marty Rakowitz, Dr. James Pierog, South Coast Plaza executive Eugene Moriarty and his son Richard Moriarty, restaurateur Dan Marcheano of The Arches, Richard Leuhrs, Palm Springs television executive Mitch Sussman, Newport Beach banker and investment broker Noel Hamilton, and in from Malibu, longtime Schielein friend and fellow gastronome, Joe Girard.

Beyond the fraternal purpose of the night was the larger goal of raising money for the 1221 scholarship fund (named for the address of the Balboa Bay Club), which benefits local Newport-Mesa youth each year with grants to be used to support their college goals. Over the last 14 years the fund has raised and granted more than $400,000 to benefit local youths.

Schielein and staff pulled together a live and silent auction that included some 50 very generous donations from hotels, restaurants, vintners and vendors associated with the travel, hotel and dining industries. In between courses of the dinner all of the items were put up for bid and ultimately raised in excess of $50,000.

Included in the live auction were trips to Hong Kong, with stays at both the Conrad Hotel and the Park Lane. The Fullerton Hotel in Singapore offered a deluxe suite, as did the Captain Cook Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska, the Boulders Resort and Spa in Carefree, Arizona, the La Quinta Resort and Club in La Quinta, and Cabo Villas Beach Resort in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

The dinner began with a service of baked escargot en cocotte, paired with a Fume Blanc Ferrari Carano wine from the Napa Valley.

The escargot was followed by a wedge of iceberg lettuce with heirloom tomato carpaccio, served with Vine Cliff Chardonnay from Carneros. The main course of the evening was seaweed steamed three-pound Maine lobsters with mesquite-grilled filet mignon, steamed Littleneck clams prepared in chardonnay and fresh herbs, and more side courses and trimmings than there was room for on the table. Roth Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley was poured. A trio of sorbets with tropical fruits and berries concluded the dinner.

Special VIP guest in the crowd was local artist Michael Bryan, known for his drawings and paintings of celebrities. Throughout the evening premium cigars were passed out to patrons including a selection of products from Bering Dom Churchill, Arturo Fuente Cuban, Punch Delux Royal, Siglo, Trinidad Maduro, MacBeth, Monte Cristo, Excalibur, and many more.

Also spotted in the crowd were John Borger, Paul Cahill, Enrico Caruso, South Coast Plaza executive John Daniels who was also one of the generous bidders. Another generous bidder was Tom Dallape, golf pro Perry Dickey, Sonny Jensen, Lynn Jackson, Chris Melendez, John Wortmann and Blake Young.

  • THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays.

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