The Crowd: Fight Night alright for raising money

A reporter from a competing news outlet walked up to a woman, who requested anonymity, and asked her why she was attending the Fight Night at the Marconi Automotive Museum in Tustin.

She replied, "I don't love the fights, but I love the men that love the fights that come to this event."

The 13th annual Fight Night at the Marconi Automotive Museum on March 4 raised an astonishing $360,000 benefiting the Marconi Foundation for Kids and the Starkey Hearing Foundation. The event was a gathering of the well-heeled and the high-heeled.

It drew a young and cool crowd spending $600 and more for admission to the Orange County version of Christians versus the Lions. And I'm referring to the guests in the crowd, not the fighters in the ring.

This was one hot competitive night on the town. Christian Louboutin was the shoe designer of choice — the higher the heel, the shorter the skirt, and they all looked drop-dead gorgeous.

Local entrepreneurs Dick and Bo Marconi have produced this event for the past 13 years and, in addition to monies raised at Fight Night, the philanthropic couple contributes some $1 million annually to assist so-called "at risk" children through their foundation.

Among the dedicated local citizens who support the Marconi mission are Newport Beach jeweler Lula Halfacre, Mark Bogh, Navin Narang, Torin Pavia, George Peterson, Ivo Tjan and Stuart Wallach.

Fight Night XIII, sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, featured multiple rounds of professional boxing interspersed between rounds with six dudes break-dancing to the pulse of the music.

The Marconis welcomed a bevy of celebs, including actor Holt McCallany, who appeared in "Fight Club," four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr., along with Johnny Rutherford, ranked fifth on the all-time Indianapolis 500 win list.

Also front and center was heavyweight boxing contender Joe Hanks. The ladies in the crowd reverted to giddy 15-year-old chatter when introduced to Hanks, as the men were off smoking a cigar, only slightly jealous of his female attention.

From the movie "The Dark Knight," actor Tommy Lister pressed the flesh with the O.C. beautiful people along with Benji Russell Radach, martial arts expert and boxer who has been named the corporate director of instruction for LA Boxing.

The party would not be complete without the star-studded appearance of former "The Real Housewives of Orange County" star Lauri Peterson, who attracted plenty of attention. Moments later, from the cast of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," Taylor Armstrong appeared wearing a multi-colored sequined mini dress, keeping with the Mardi Gras theme.

When she moved, the dress flashed like a beam of laser light. Of course, she was wearing her Louboutin 5-inch heels. A twenty-something woman in the crowd named Sarah Oxblood screamed out, "OMG … she's my favorite!"

Armstrong is known to legions of fans across the country for her enormous smile, thanks in part to a little help from Dr. Lip Injection. You might say this was not your typical Orange County conservative philanthropic evening.

Not to be overshadowed by all the glitz, the enormous financial success of the night will also provide much-needed funding for the Starkey Hearing Foundation. Founded in 1984, its mission statement reads: "Alone we can't do much. But, together we can change the world."

Founded by William F. Austin, the foundation's objective is to deliver hearing aids to people all over the world suffering from hearing loss. In addition, Starkey also supports research and education in the field.

Here's another interesting factoid concerning the silent auction at the event:

Producers supplied the guests with an iPhone programmed with all of their personal data, including credit card information, which enabled them to compete anonymously in the silent auction bidding. Guests would enter their bid on the phone and the data concerning the status of the pricing would come back to them instantly, letting them know where they stood.

No more hovering over pieces of paper, checking one's bid. Another indication of life in a rapidly changing world entering the age of unbridled technology.

Local celebs spotted in the Fight Night crowd included Newport glam gals Pam Paul, Iris Frankel, Tami Cahn and Patti Edwards. Christina and Bill Lyons of Lido Isle were spotted with entrepreneur Glenn Stearns and his beautiful bride, Mindy. Fish Taco king Wing Lam was ringside with Kelly Paul and buddies Jack Cancellieri, Mike Etchandy and David Belfore.

For more information on the work of the Marconi Foundation for Kids, visit, and for the Starkey Foundation, 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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