Who: Minneapolis's most powerful and most powerfully dressed
What: Bash for Nash 4
When: Saturday, October 25
Where: Café Lurçat
Why: Raise more than $1 million for the Nash Avery Foundation's search for a cure of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD)
Tom and Angie Wicka are as close as the Twin Cities will ever come to having our own version of Posh and Becks. Angie is a former model (as "former" as a six foot Glamazon with a skin tone reminiscent of dulce de leche ice cream can possibly be). And Tom is a handsome publishing mogul with a taste for flash cars and flash clothes. They live in a mansion on Lake of the Isles, and their annual party, Bash for Nash, has become a stone-cold-platinum-pipe-lock on Twin Cities society's collective iCal.
These two understand how to throw a party. While seemingly every party in this town has the Hollywood floodlights and the red carpet these days, few can afford to ante up a couple Bentleys. There they were, right on the carpet, two of them--le rouge et le noir--buffed beyond showroom shine, ready for the live auction later.
"Hollywood," came up quite a bit throughout the course of the evening, actually. The first familiar faces I saw were Kim and David Valentini's, my friends from Smile Network. I hadn't seen David since he was seated in the luxury suite directly behind press row for John McCain's speech at the RNC. (Earlier, before I noticed him back there, I fear he might have caught me nodding off through Tim Pawlenty's speech.) The Valentini's were impressed by the caliber of the crowd. Kim introduced me to Smile Network's newest chairman, Greg Frankenfeld, and his wife, Marissa. Marissa surveyed Lurcat's crowded bar. "Very Hollywood," she cooed. Meanwhile, David arranged a picture with fellow Italian-Americans Frank Vascellaro and Tino Lettieri. "C'mon, Steve, get all of us together," he laughed. "They'll have to investigate."
Just then, Amelia Santaniello made her entrance. In a midnight blue ballgown, bangles on her arms, and lavish hair extensions tressed up and cascading down her shoulders, Amelia looked like an Arabian princess. In other words, dramatically hotter than at 6 and 10. This isn't the first time I've noticed this phenomenon. What's with these poor beauties, anchored to a particleboard desk and forced to don this disingenuous 1970s school principal gear--is that really still the formula for local TV? Hasn't everybody seen Anchorman at this point?
While Amelia was chatting with the second and third place peacocks in the room, master stylist Jason Deavalon and his boyfriend, former professional dancer Michael Sward, I made my way across the bar, bumping into power-philanthropists Desiree Abele and Blythe Brenden. That word came up again. Desiree and I both argued whether it was a compliment or an insult. My position is that H-wood's a place filled with some of the most progressive thinkers on earth, whether businesspeople or artists--damn the inevitable vapid assholes, at least they're up-front about it out there. Desiree was wary that "Hollywood" connotes a "stereotypical" view of the beautiful people. There was no argument, in any case, that Angie and Tom qualify for "beautiful," but Desiree pointed out another attribute. "Angie Wicka has the best hugs," she said. "The best."
Across the room, I saw a guy whom I've seen at these types of things all the time but whom I've never met. I finally shook his hand and asked him what he does for a living. Todd Fliginger personal shopper at Neiman's! Look, I'm not Bob Woodward, but I had to ask--$75,000? Did he see any of that Palin-cake? He laughed nervously and made his way to the bar refill his drink. But not before complimenting me on my scarf.
There was Dale Kivimaki. He's the man for these big technical lighting and audio and visual events, (and he always helps get me backstage for the big State Fair grandstand concerts). He took me to the tent outside and showed me what his company, Freestyle Productions, had done--it had donated all its time and effort, since 8 a.m., and it wouldn't be until 4 a.m. that it would have this all torn down before getting on the road to Chicago by noon on Sunday. Dale told me he donates all this sweat because, back when he was kindergartener, he got into a fight with a girl who was teasing his friend, Jackie Lesch. Jackie had Duchenne's, the same disease Tom and Angie's son Nash has, and Jackie was having some trouble, running around playing duck duck gray duck. "This girl Debra wouldn't stop teasing him," Dale remembers, so he pushed her and got sent to the principal's office. "Now Tom and Angie are a lot more well off than most of us," Dale says, "But even with all their money, they're powerless against this disease. It doesn't discriminate--whether Roseville or Kenwood. They need our help with this thing because this disease kills little boys."
Back inside, there was Richard Moody and Sara Rogers. Both friends of Angie's, Sara was wearing "some old dress" that she reconfigured with what looked like an Egyptian-style breastplate of costume gemstones, and Richard was wearing a healthy mix of Polo and Roberto Cavalli. Then I bumped into Rob Hanson. His wife, Melony, passed away this last spring. Melony was the biggest Cavalli fan in the city--she was buried in a Cavalli dress--and it was strange to see Rob by himself at one of these parties after seeing them together so many times. I asked him how he was doing. "I'm taking care of myself, man."
There was mega-author Vince Flynn and his wife, Lysa. It's Lysa Flynn, right Vince? "What, you think I'd marry a woman who wouldn't take my last name?" Haven't seen Vince since the Act of Treason book party at the Minneapolis Club a couple years ago, and tonight Mr. CIA seemed a little more jacked--not quite to Jack Bauer-levels, but close enough. He introduced me to his friends Jon Steadman and his wife, Anne. "They're the Big Horn doubles ping-pong champions of Palm Springs," he crowed. OK, then.
There was my colleague Jayne Haugen Olson and her husband, Curt. Jayne wanted to go to the silent auction and make a bid on a bag for Curt. There was our friend Mr. Flinginger, and he still wouldn't talk Palin, but he would talk about the bag. He liked it. With only minutes before Frank and Amelia were about to start the live auction, Jayne locked in on the bag. And finally, there was Angie Wicka. After Jayne and Angie hugged like they hadn't seen each other since third period study hall, Angie broke down the beautiful off-the-shoulder yellow dress she was wearing, by local designer Carole Bruns. "Oh, I've been wearing her for years," she said. "She's right up there off Hennepin, by Sudz." Angie wanted to know what I'd eaten. "Well, I had the empanadas," I said. "Mmm, hnmm," she said. "And the hangar steak and potatoes." "Mmm, hnmm." "And the ceviche." This excited her: "Hi." "And the Thai meatballs." "Oh hi! Hi! Aren't those good?"
Out in the tent, Frank and Amelia were on stage. I was sitting right behind the table of James Steele Construction ($25K per table, btw), the contractors who are building Tom and Angie's new "house" in Edina. There wasn't any Jay Mohr or Wayne Brady like in other years, but this room was doing fine. In fact, before bringing live auctioneer extraordinaire Karen Sorbo to the stage, Frank joked about Wall Street, "I know there's a rumor going around out there that the economy is in trouble . . ."
My cell was blowing up. It was my web editor, Maura Ryan. "You won an Emmy!" What? "For online writing." But wait, Frank and Amelia were here. They wouldn't hand out regional Emmys with the Twin Cities' own Sonny and Cher absent, would they? "No, I'm serious," Maura texted. "Come to the Chambers." Karen had just sold three Smart Cars for $15K each, and this auction was just getting started. The last three Bash for Nash's have raised a cumulative $2.7 million, and this one was going to be no different. Bad economy or not.
And the Smart Car was the only thing I wanted anyway.
An Emmy isn't too shabby a consolation, right?