Happy Anniversaries

Missives From the Jet Set

The Gecko from GEICO Would Be More Impressive

(Left: Steve Maler and Susan Poduska at the Commonwealth Shakespeare gala; Middle: William Grote and Percy Fortini-Wright at the Commonwealth Shakespeare gala; Right: Performers at the Commonwealth Shakespeare gala)

Producing free, world-class Shakespeare on Boston Common for 20 years is no small feat, so
it was no small fete when Commonwealth Shakespeare Company hosted its 20th anniversary gala at the Mandarin Oriental.

The Midsummer Night’s Dream-themed evening began with cocktails and a killer silent auction and continued with dinner, dancing and general mayhem. Prominent among the throng: co-chairs Susan Poduska and Sam Mazzarelli, the soignee Diana Rowan Rockefeller, éminence grise James Cannon Boyce (wearing boots made out of springbok), Brazilian glamazon Sinesia Karol, the aptly named Caesar Belbel with the stunningly lovely Leah Talanian, the absurdly handsome Frank Amelia and his smoldering husband, Stephen Labuda, redheaded arts booster Kate Shamon and her adoring other half, Andy Rushford, bejeweled brunette Lori Sullivan, the inimitable Doris Yaffe, South End hotties Kurt Gress and Samuel Parkinson, Boston’s answer to Martha Stewart, Liz Georgantas, and the dashing Peter, and one woman who said, “This dress is Dolce & Gabbana, but I’m telling all my gay friends it’s Valentino.”

Throughout the evening, artist Percy FortiniWright painted an original work that was auctioned off at the end of the night by news cutie Janet Wu, while the dance floor had even a certain octogenarian shaking her groove thang.

The award for worst attempt at name-dropping, meanwhile, went to the person who said, “A friend of a friend knows Flo from Progressive.”

Beats a Whalebone Corset

(Top Left: Paul Perfetti and Bruce Hall with Vocal Arts Program singers at the Society Ball; Top Middle: Anne and David Gergen at the Society Ball; Top Right: Wat and Jane Tyler with Harry and Veronica Christophers at the Society Ball; Bottom Left: Cecily Tyler, Anthony Savini and Emily Reed at the Society Ball; Bottom Middle: Bob and Debbie First at the Society Ball; Bottom Right: Cathy Stone and Marie-Hélène Bernard at the Society Ball)

Pop quiz: What’s the oldest continually performing arts organization in America? Answer: The Handel and Haydn Society, which celebrated its 200th—yes, 200th—anniversary at the Society Ball, transforming Symphony Hall into a setting as grand as the occasion called for.

Cocktails were served in the Cabot-Cahners Room, and then guests filtered into the hall, decked to the nines. Ringed around the first balcony was a chorus who kicked off an evening of stellar performances that included maestro Harry Christophers conducting the period instrument orchestra and solo violinist Aisslinn Nosky, after which society band leader Bo Winiker got things percolating on the dance floor.

The strictly A-list crowd included former presidential adviser David Gergen and his brilliant therapist wife, Anne, musical patron Bill Achtmeyer with the flawless Alli, Beacon Hillions Wat and Jane Tyler, Chestnut Hill lovebirds Adam and Michael Oliveri, the sister act of Pam Martin and Liz Raddock with their other halves, Jonathan and Dan respectively, the irresistible duo of Michael Tilley and Peter Griglik, WGBH sex symbol Jared Bowen, investing oracle Peter Lynch, force of nature Enid Beal and her main squeeze, Alan Wolfe, 2016 campaign bigwig Mark Walsh and his glittering other half, Bryan Rafanelli, MFA curator Frederick Ilchman, the always dapper Michael Forrester with his delectable cupcake, Courtney, and one woman who said, “It’s amazing that she has such nice shoes; she lives in Vermont.”

However, the evening’s funniest comment was “If I pass out, please pull my Spanx off so I regain circulation.”

Requiem for a Friend

29 Newbury was not just a bar and restaurant. It was a clubhouse, a meeting place, an institution. It was a salon as much as a saloon. For its entire 32-year run, it served as the de facto Back Bay living room to everyone who walked through its doors—and everyone who was anyone walked through those doors at some point, from rock stars and royalty to the motley crew of regulars who could dependably be found crowded around the bar. I was one of them. I started going there with a fake ID in the ’80s. There was even a period of time when my mail was delivered there. An ex of mine was once traveling in Nepal and met two women who were going to be passing through Boston. He gave them a bag with a tag that said, “Please deliver to 29 Newbury St. for Jonathan Soroff.” Inside was a gift I still have. I ate dinner there with Julia Child and Jacques Pepin and another time attended the only drag baby shower I’ve ever heard of. If a bar like Cheers ever existed, it was 29. And if everybody didn’t know your name, they’d quickly saddle you with an appropriate nickname—Auntie Chianti, Robbio, Pedro de Refreshment. It was one of the few bars where no one felt awkward walking in alone. And now my Honeycomb Hideout is gone. On April 18, the last martini was shaken and the lights were turned off. So long, old haunt. I might have forgotten a lot that happened there, but the memories I do have are priceless.

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