The Crowd: Tales of high, Hollywood-style fashion

It was an afternoon of food, fashion and gossip, as celebrity stylist George Blodwell dropped in at the trendy AnQi Gourmet Bistro & Noodle Bar in South Coast Plaza to dress a few style-conscious local gals and share a little of his life history with some 100 "all ears" and "all eyes" fashionable divas. Sponsored by the Fashionable Women of Chapman University, the afternoon at AnQi was a super success led by co-chairs Donna Calvert and Donna Bunce.

A late-morning champagne reception welcomed Fashionables president Adrienne Brennan, one of O.C.'s most glamorous women. Brennan was also one of Blodwell's makeover subjects. It's tough, even for a celeb stylist to remake an A list-dressed woman. How do you improve on perfection?

In addition to Brennan, George took on Rachel Jackson-Smith, marketing director for Saks Fifth Avenue, Jacqui Penner, design wardrobe consultant in the Nordstrom Collection department, and Kirsten Prosser, owner of On Que Style, Corona del Mar. All of his subjects, shall we say, know fashion, live fashion, and are each stylemakers in his or her own right. The crowd could not wait to see George's results.

Chit-chatting a little morning dish in the au currant AnQi dining room were many of Newport's best-dressed women. On the top 10 list were the always-tasteful Pat Allen, the classic Fran Cashen, the exquisite Sarah Corrigan, the Old World moviestar glamorous Karen Hardin-Swickard, the alluring Laurie Rodnick, the luxurious Valaree Wahler and the always-fashionable Joan Riach-Gayner, Grace Thelen, Sally Crockett, Leslie Cancellieri and, most especially, Mona Nesseth, a major Fashionables supporter and consummate fashionista at large.

Lunch was served at noon in AnQi's main salon. Ladies and a few gents sat at the long banquet tables, Chinese-style, on the silk upholstered chocolate-brown fabric banquettes. Gracious hostess Elizabeth An, a high-energy, petite porcelain-skinned beauty and businesswoman, welcomed more fashionable guests including Tracey Bowie, Linda Lamitie, Adam Neeley, Jim Murphy, GM of Bloomingdale's, Dorcas Preston, former Mrs. America beauty queen, Mary Norberg, Sue Hook, Mary Pon Sullivan, Carrie von Hemert, Miriam Smith, Sheri Nazaroff, Zee Allred, Ramona Bernamonti-Morrissey, Carol Lee and Newport's classy Irene Mathews.

Mid-luncheon, guest of honor George Blodwell took the stage, turned on the PowerPoint and began an insider's look, behind-the-scenes peek at dressing Hollywood. As the photos flashed, a decade by decade evolution of high style influenced by the stars of the screen was revealed on the arm of Blodwell from the Oscars to the Cannes Film Festival and everywhere else in between, including some of the private homes, yachts and playgrounds of the stars.

Blodwell, an English rogue who began his fashion career in earnest as a young man in London at the on trend house of Brown, later dealt fashion in Beverly Hills for the likes of Jerry Magnin on Rodeo Drive representing a then-fledgling line known as "Polo" by Ralph Lauren. Blodwell dressed the stars for Maxfields as well, catering to Streisand and others, including his most favorite customer composer/musician Leonard Cohen, creator of the anthem "Hallelujah."

He captivated his audience with dish on the temperamental Faye Dunaway.

"I was dressing Faye for a photoshoot. Her hair and makeup were done. She put on her dress. I placed her shoes on the floor for her to slip into them. One of them, the left one, was slightly askew. Faye tumbled a bit trying to put on the crooked shoe and flew into a rage. She screamed and pulled apart her hair, throwing a tantrum," shared Blodwell, adding, "I suppose she expected me to get down on my knees and put the pumps on her feet."

The man with the shoulder-length brown hair parted in the center — wearing an English-tailored blazer, French-cuffed shirt and tie, a large diamond-encrusted ring and a patterned silk shawl transformed into a sling for his injured left arm — who was a former fashion editor at large for important European-style journals and Italian houses of fashion, ended the afternoon introducing his four women of the hour, dressed to impress.

The ladies took their bows and beamed with approval. The crowd cheered. And everyone sauntered out of AnQi returning to the real world of work for some, children, husbands, and the rest of everyday duty for still others. And a few more, the lucky ones, went home for a nap recovering from an exhausting day of food, fashion and gossip on the Orange Coast.

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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