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The Crowd: Public television goes old school Vegas for fundraiser

The Rat Pack revival is alive and well on the 2015 society gala circuit in Orange County. PBS SoCaL's April 18 dinner fundraiser treated some 300 guests to a night in old Las Vegas by turning the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa into the old Stardust Hotel on the Strip.

Appropriately, organizers labeled the evening "Stardust Saturday Night." Proceeds are estimated to exceed $600,000 net helping to fund the local public television station that reaches over 16 million people in Southern California.

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It was the eighth annual party hosted by the very popular "Antiques Roadshow" personality Mark L. Walberg. The evening was a tribute to retiring president and CEO Mel Rogers who served PBS SoCaL and formerly KOCE-TV for the past 18 years. Among his accomplishments Rogers supervised the station transition to digital HDTV helping to build PBS SoCaL into an influential broadcast outlet for all of Los Angeles and Orange County.

The evening also recognized "Heroes of the Station" and "Community Champions" for their formidable support of the goals of the station. Among the VIPs were Henry and Susan Samueli, Bob and Sue Brown, Russ and Susie Leatherby, Phil and Mary Lyons, Martha Flour, Judi Garfi-Partridge, Joann Leatherby and Greg Bates, and Lido Isle's philanthropic Joel and Judy Slutzky.

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Also supporting PBS SoCaL were Dan and Gigi Werbin, Jerry and Judy Cwiertnia, David Pyott, Anne Earhart, Charmaine Jefferson, and Michi Fu. Among the most generous donors were John and Mary Tu, who in addition to their financial support also provided the evening's entertainment with their spectacular orchestra.

Organized by honorary chairs Sebastian Paul and Marybelle Musco who joined Jim and Kelly Mazzo, Phil and Mary Lyons, Jim and Vivian McCluney, Jo Ellen Chatham and Ardelle St. George all serving as co-chairs of the event.

A number of high profile PBS personalities offered tributes to both the retiring Rogers and the overall success of the station. Among the famous faces on screen and live on stage were Ken Burns, Peter Asher, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifell, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting President Patricia Harrison, and Paula Kerger, president of PBS.

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Tarantella Tacos for Only the Brave at Heart

The 22nd annual Wild and Crazy Taco Night benefiting Share Our Selves attracted 28 popular OC chefs feeding more than 700 taco-loving gourmands. SOS, a Costa Mesa-based agency that feeds the homeless and working poor 365 days a year, netted approximately $82,000 to help fill the SOS food pantry.

The food pantry operates six mornings a week with volunteers and staff members of SOS collecting retrievable food from restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries and caterers and repackaging it for distribution to Orange County residents in need. SOS packages approximately 215 bags of groceries for distribution daily.

Major sponsors and underwriters deserving mention include Bob and Anne Cress, Will and Annick Klatte, Christopher Blank, Robin and Linda Boyd, Dr. Richard and Sandra Haskell, Ursula Hoshaw, Karen Klein, Jim and Linda Pierog, Michael and Diane Stephens, the Thompson Family Foundation, the Thomas Family, and the Frome Family Foundation.

Among the generous people underwriting the party were James Akins, Jr., Jim and Diane Bailey, James Jaqua, Richard and Jane Taylor, Kevin and Linda Pitts, Allen and Kim Youman, and the Frank Robitaille family among others.

Among the most outrageous tacos served were Alessandro Pirozzi's smoked swordfish belly taco, Cory Rapp made a grilled octopus ceviche taco, and from Arti Anand a taco filled with mango cheesecake. Louie Jockson offered a blue crab ceviche taco with yuzu citrus.

One of the most popular taco stations came from Slapfish with chef Andrew Gruel serving a crispy lobster roll taco. Local celebrity chef Andrew Greeley from The Golden Truffle veered slightly off course offering a "Don't Be An Ass Butt Burrito." From David Mann at the Island Hotel a classic turkey taco with habanero molcajate salsa, and from Dustin White at Orange Hill a big jerk taco with smoked wild boar.

Share Our Selves is one of the most treasured comprehensive agencies providing for the needs of those living in poverty in this community. In addition to providing the vital food resources, SOS offers medical and dental care, behavior health counseling, individual case management, financial assistance and legal aid. To get involved visit http://www.shareourselves.org.

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THE CROWD runs Fridays 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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