The Valley Line: Playing catch-up before the New Year speeds away

Happy New Year! I want to know where 2013 went. It passed by in a flash, just like a speeding bullet. Isn’t there some way that we can slow down this train?

My grandchildren are bemoaning the fact that they have to wait for an entire year before Santa Claus comes again and it takes forever to do that. At the rate that 2013 passed by, maybe I should start my Christmas shopping now!

I’m writing this column a few days before the new year actually arrived, so I can’t babble about how our adorable Rose Parade float “Dog Gone!” looked Wednesday. I did wander over Pasadena way on Saturday and the crowd was already beginning to gather. Of course the weather is showing off its best side. The air is so clear that you can see forever! We love to show off for the millions of television viewers who tune in to watch the parade, don’t we?

Anyway, I hope all of you have a healthy new year ahead of you.


As usual I’m playing catch-up on the social news. This has been a very busy holiday party season so I want to tell you all about it.

Los Altos Auxiliary of Hathaway-Sycamores Children and Family Services members, Sandi Mellin and Karen Sellergren, sisters who have a beautiful home in La Cañada Flintridge, recently hosted the Auxiliary’s annual Christmas party.

With all the decor, both inside and out of the house, in full splendor, it was a very festive place to hold a party. A life-size statue of Kris Kringle greeted guests in the foyer before they entered this Christmas wonderland.

Also greeting the more than 50 guests were Pam MacDonald, chair of the event, and co-presidents Laurie Rodli and Jennifer Herzer.

Gourmet A Go Go catered the party and guests sampled beef brisket sliders, crab cakes, crudities with mango chutney torta, coconut Macadamia nut crusted chicken skewers and a variety of desserts. Of course there was plenty of liquid Christmas cheer to sample also.

Members of Los Altos are wonderful women who work throughout the year to bring extra help for Hathaway-Sycamores children on the El Nido campus in Altadena. Later in the month, Los Altos members personally delivered holiday gifts and homemade treats to the youngsters who reside there.


More than 300 guests, all festively dressed, gathered at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel’s stunningly beautiful Crystal Room to take part in the 27th annual Charles Dickens Dinner presented by the USC Thornton School of Music.

The Dickens dinner is one of the most lovely, music-filled parties held in the L.A. Area during the Christmas season.

This year’s event honored Glen Frey, founding member of the Eagles, with the John C. Argue Dickens Medal of Honor. Later in the evening’s program, Frey took up his guitar and sang “Desperado” to the wild applause of the audience. In his acceptance speech for the John C. Argue Medal of Honor award, Frey hinted that one day he would like to teach at the university. We shall see.

Master of ceremonies for the dinner was opera and musical theatre baritone Rod Gilfry who opened the evening of music by strolling among the tables singing, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

He then stepped to the podium to begin the story of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Thornton School of Music Dean Dr. Rob Cutietta then welcomed the guests and introduced Julie and Doug Gam as dinner chairs.

Liz Argue, a longtime resident of our city, welcomed to her table that evening La Cañadans Maxine and Ed White as well as Lorna and Chuck Reed, Connie Grey, Ginny and John Cushman, Dick Van Duzer and Janice Boswell. Liz and her late husband, John, chaired this event in 1995.

Dick and Bonnie Cook invited fellow La Cañadans Susan and Bill Baribault as well as Leslie and Dan Dawson, Bonnie Gregory, Catherine Paura and Meg and Cary Bahle, to join them at their table. The Cooks have also previously chaired the Charles Dickens Dinner, in 2002.

Throughout the evening there were musical surprises by USC Thornton School of Music students from the many departments within the music school, including sacred and choral music, classical guitar, early music, jazz studies, keyboard studies, popular music, strings, vocal arts and opera, and winds and percussion. By the way, Terry Cravens, an LCF resident, is chair of the winds and percussion department.

The young star of the evening was Brett Fromson, a singer, writer, and musician from the prestigious popular music program, who performed his composition, “Burnin’.” He was presented with the Glenn Frey Scholarship. His first album, “Heartbeat Like a Train,” was just released to the public this week. Guests at the dinner each received an advance copy of the album.

Dean Cutietta and his lovely wife, Mary Beth, who looked beautiful in a form-fitting black slip dress, visited each table to thank people for coming to the event that raises funds for music scholarships. More than $5.5 million in scholarships are awarded annually to support students who are among the most talented worldwide.


JANE NAPIER NEELY covers the La Cañada social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.

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