The Valley Line: Fonda, Beethoven and spring fashion

The warm, sunny weather we had last week was a prelude to spring. The camellias are in full bloom in my own garden but there is an extravaganza of them at Descanso Gardens. One of these days it would be worth your while to take a meander through the gardens that have put La Cañada Flintridge on the floral map.

I’ve noticed some peach trees that are in bloom, iris and tulips appearing not only in community gardens but in florists’ windows too. My garden’s single rose bush got so excited about the warm sun that it produced three blooms.


The other night I went to the opening of the play “33 Variations,” now at the Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Center. Academy Award-winning actress Jane Fonda was nominated for a Tony Award for the role she plays in this powerful drama. All but one of the cast members who originated their roles on Broadway are in this L.A. production. The play is written and directed by Moises Kaufman.

Pre-curtain there was quite a buzz in the theatre as actress and singer Cher made her way to her seat. All eyes were on her and she was looking quite striking in her black leather jacket, which was accented by several not-so-subtle diamond bracelets.

For a town that is accustomed to seeing celebs, it surprised me that this theater crowd was absolutely mesmerized by the appearance of this superstar.

It was definitely a Hollywood night, as other notable celebs such as Anjelica Huston, Ben Vereen, Penny Marshall, Christian Slater and Colin Farrell were also in the audience. Fonda’s brother Peter came to see his sister on this opening night, as did Fonda’s son, Troy Garity.

In “33 Variations,” Fonda plays the part of a musicologist who has been diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). The character is obsessed with doing research, for what would be her last scholarly paper, about Ludwig van Beethoven, who was equally obsessed with writing his music while he was suffering from declining health.

The Beethoven piece being researched by Fonda’s character is known as “The Diabelli Variations.” To enlighten those of us who were not familiar with these variations, pianist and musical director Diane Walsh played snippets of them.

Although the plot of the play deals with heavy issues, it is peppered brilliantly with comedic lines that are engaging. The audience gave the cast a standing ovation as the lights dimmed on the stage. One would think that this plot line would produce a downer of a play, but it does not. It is surprisingly uplifting. I just thought it was so interesting how Beethoven’s life of 200 or so years ago blended seamlessly with the life of Fonda's character.

This is one of the best plays I’ve seen in a long time. The cast deserves all the accolades it has received. Just as I like to revisit some of my favorite books and movies, I would also like to see this play again before it leaves on March 6.


The Oakmont League, with LCF resident Nina Ratliff at the helm, presented an early-spring fashion show and boutique luncheon at the Oakmont Country Club. Expertly coordinating the event was longtime League member Linda Malmquist.

League members and guests arrived early in order to shop at the boutique presented by The Yearsley Company. Christine Ritchie, fashion designer and owner of The Yearsley Company, had gathered a dazzling display of clothes and jewelry that was very appealing to the early-bird shoppers.

After lunch was served, Ritchie coordinated and emceed a fashion show of clothing ranging from casual to elegant eveningwear. Models for the show — all League members — included Pam Spiszman, Carolyn Beaton, Jeri Benton, Yolanda Lopez, Mary Broerman, Mercy Velasquez, Lynn Dittrick and Carolyn Styler, joined by Ratliff.

A very special guest at the event was Jerry Sellers, who is the mother of La Cañadan Cheryl Rider. Jerry, who lives in Pennsylvania, was escaping the record-setting winter storms that have plagued the East Coast.

Jerry, 97, is an amazingly active woman who still does her own gardening, housekeeping and cooking. She loves to travel and is always off for a “look-see” to some exotic part of the world. I certainly hope when I’m 97 I’ll be just like her.

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