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On the Town: Dinner event brightens campaign to replace starburst on Alex Theatre’s tower

On the Town: Dinner event brightens campaign to replace starburst on Alex Theatre’s tower
Toasting the Illuminate Dinner and Wine Auction are, from left, Jose and Monica Sierra and Toni and Vince Espinoza, Glendale Arts Chairman. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

There are roughly 30,000 people who drive or walk by the Alex Theatre every day.

On display is the world-recognized tower and marquee lighting up the city’s landscape. Glendale Arts’ Illuminate Fund was created in 2015 at the time of the theater’s 90th birthday.

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Glendale Arts is the nonprofit organization that manages the Alex.

The fund was established to restore the Alex Theatre’s 100-foot Art Deco tower and marquee. With the community’s help, $75,000 was raised. But more is necessary.

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According to Elissa Glickman, chief executive of Glendale Arts, the organization’s goal is to raise $25,000 this year to repair the starburst on top.

This past Saturday, a projected $10,000 may have been raised through the sold-out third annual Illuminate Dinner and Wine Auction at Pirch at Brand and Broadway in Glendale.

Seventy Alex supporters and guests sat down to a sumptuous dinner, during which each entree was paired with a particular wine.

Sommelier Sean Van Straatum described the pairings in exquisite detail.

“Stuffed mushrooms are paired with a bordeaux blanc wine because it has a high level of acidity that cuts through the cheese in the mushrooms,” he said.

Van Straatum is the sommelier and food and beverage director at the Oakmont Country Club.

The rest of the dinner included grilled chicken breast, ricotta, beef gnocchi and pork belly — each accompanied with its own unique wine.

The wines came from the Wine Vault in the old Beacon’s building in Glendale. Wine curator for the event was Nancy Hathaway, who is an active civic and business leader in the city.

Dinner was prepared by Bacari GDL at the Americana at Brand.

Wine curator Nancy Hathaway, left, receives her own miniature marquee presented by Nina Crowe, director of General Arts Fund Development and Community Partnerships.
Wine curator Nancy Hathaway, left, receives her own miniature marquee presented by Nina Crowe, director of General Arts Fund Development and Community Partnerships. (Ruth Sowby Rands / Glendale News-Press)

Among those enjoying the feast and wines were Betty Porto of Porto’s Bakery and Café. She was accompanied by her sister, Margarita Navarro.

Also attending were Peter Rusch, Vardan Stepanyan, Scott Halloran, Arlene Vidor, Ellyn Semler, Velvet Rhodes, Susan Hunt, Denise Miller, Adrianna Smith, Helen Yee and Janet Buhl.

Glendale couples included Debbie and Bruce Hinckley, Jose and Monica Sierra and Miryam and Lou Finkelberg.

As dinner was winding down, Vince Espinoza, chairman of Glendale Arts, reminded the audience that the Alex’s spire, which includes the tower and starburst on top, must be maintained for years to come.

“That’s why you’re all here tonight,” Espinoza said.

He then introduced Nina Crowe, Glendale Arts’ director of fund development and community partnerships, who reminded guests that the 100th anniversary of the Alex will be celebrated in 2025.

As the final speaker, Glickman announced that Alex’s tower is the “beacon of this community.”

Referring to the top of the tower, she said, “The little starburst is flickering. It’s like the little engine that could but doesn’t really want to.”

Following dinner, a spirited live auction of fine wines was held, with Van Straatum as auctioneer.

Two more prizes were inscribed seats at the Alex Theatre. One seat inscribed with the winner’s name went for $750 to Richard and Susie Dell. A second inscribed seat went for $650. That lucky winner was Mark MacCarley.

There were more winners, as Phil Kubel’s lucky card was drawn. It answered the question: “With an eye on the future, what do you envision for the Alex Theatre by its 100th birthday?”

Kubel received a bottle of Veuve Clicquot that lit up, symbolic of the Alex, when a button on the bottle was pushed.

As a big thank-you for her efforts, Hathaway received a miniature marquee with her name on it. Her name will also grace two Alex seats in perpetuity.

The rainy evening ended with a stroll through Pirch’s appliance showroom for more wine, coffee and a selection of fancy sweets from Porto’s.

Ruth Sowby Rands may be reached at ruthasowby@gmail.com.

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