The Valley Line: Rio de Janeiro revelry brought to Pasadena for Hillsides event

Have you grown little webs around your toes yet? With all the rain we’ve had recently we find ourselves paddling as fast as we can. Some readers have told me they’re sick and tired of it while others are still reveling in the welcome sound of raindrops after our region endured such a prolonged drought.

Thanks to all of you who have asked me about the condition of my dining room ceiling, which collapsed when we had a big storm last month. Well, it’s not back together quite yet, but several contractors have been out to give me estimates. Hopefully, it will be repaired soon. In the meantime, I get out of the house as much as possible so I don’t have to look at it.


On Feb. 23 I attended the Hillsides gala at the Langham-Huntington Hotel in Pasadena. The theme of the evening was “Heart of Brazil” and it was a lively and colorful night of revelry.

It wasn’t as wild as Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, or so I’ve been told, but the samba dancers decked out in their skimpy costumes of feathers and sequins did set the ballroom on fire with their provocative dance steps. Not sure if this staid hotel has ever seen anything quite like this before. It might certainly have been an occasion to document in their gala history book.


Chairs for the evening were three longtime supporters of Hillsides, Edison Barbosa, who is Brazilian, Bill Eichler and Pamela Mahon.

More than $500,000 was raised that evening, the most a Hillsides gala has raised since celebrating its centennial in 2013, according to the organization’s officials. Hillsides president and chief executive Joe Costa said, “We are overwhelmed by the incredible support of our community.”

Upon entering the hotel’s reception room, the 400 guests were immersed in the sounds and tastes of Brazil. For those who wished to imbibe, the evening’s signature drink was the Caipirinha, a sweet and sour surprise and a lovely hot summer beverage. Brazilian-inspired hors d’oeuvres were passed to enjoy while bidding on an amazing array of incredible silent auction offerings.

The samba dancers and drummers beckoned the guests into the ballroom. Jacob Maarse Florists decorated the tables with exotic floral arrangements.

KNBC4 weathercaster Fritz Coleman once again was the emcee for the evening. He is committed to Hillsides mission. He is funny and enthusiastic — an exceptional guy!

Just one of the items on the silent auction was the chance to attend Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour in Las Vegas (with extra perks thrown in for good measure), a weeklong stay in New York City and also a very tempting Crystal Cruises trip in the Mediterranean.

Pamela Mahon’s husband, John, who is a percussionist and singer with Elton John’s band, stepped to the microphone to give an impromptu performance by singing,”Knock on Wood” and “Rocket Man.”

Actress Jean Smart gave a heartfelt and teary testimonial speaking about volunteering with the children in Hillsides’ residential treatment program.

Special speaker for the evening was Oscar Ventura-Castillo, who along with his wife Monica, adopted a little girl, Mia, through Hillsides affiliate, Bienvenidos.

“My family is now complete, and I want to thank Bienvenidos for all the help you gave my family,” Ventura-Castillo said.

It was not only a fun evening but such a successful one too!

Jane Napier Neely covers the La Cañada Flintridge social scene. Email her at with news of your special event.