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Full House

They’re always on the move. They have moved 18 times over the years. Each time they relocate, they start out with nothing. Just an empty house with great bones in a good location … but a Cinderella in need of an extreme makeover.

“They” are the fairy godmothers of the Junior League of Pittsburgh and a team of 25 designers for the wand-waving metamorphosis called Designers’ Show House that debuted Friday night (through May 13). To provide children in deserving neighborhoods with a new playground..

It takes an industry to prepare a Show House — the shelter industry — as well as an intrepid army of volunteers to coordinate its breakneck schedule. Designers took three weeks to transform the century-old brickpile that had been vacant and neglected for two years into an utterly dazzling domicile.

The 17-room Colonial Revival in Squirrel Hill was once the family home of Pat and Pirates pitching great Bob Friend, who wanted to buy it back after their tour! Celebrity carpenter Andrew Dan-Jumbo , from the cast of of The Learning Channel’s “While You Were Out” TV show, spoke of the home’s “elegance and majesty that doesn’t exist in modern architecture.”

We saw rooms that combined old-money style with a smart modern temper. Drama and impact, rather than chic understatement, were the watchwords. Here are but a few standouts:

* The knockout mirrored image and Hollywood glamour of the living room designed by Angela Nolfi with Richard Lawrence.

* Walls covered in Murano glass beads echo the pale sophistication of the Mackins-Morton salon.

* Today’s Home takes dining to the nth degree in a Venetian fantasy on a Persian masterpiece rug valued at $85,000.

* Ethan Allen’s sumptuous master suite that opens to a terrace with comfy wicker furniture.

* A chandelier of mussel shells that brilliantly reflects on the ceiling of Weisshouse’s luxuriously masculine study for a globe-trotting bon vivant.

* Milady’s how-near-heaven dressing room by Perlora in shades of lavender that glow in the sleek wall-mounted fireplace.

* The colorful exuberance of Molto Bella Ceramica’s tables and pottery that surround the swimming pool.

* Hardly a mud room, Wellie Interiors’ gaily striped green-and-white space is the ultimate indoor garden.

After a walkabout, 400 black-ties filled the party tent and pool patio for cocktails, tiny butlered bites by Aromas and a boogie beat to deejay spins for such as Show House chairs Kimberly Kisner with Lewis Regan and Christie Smith with Scott ; gala chairs Lorraine Marks and Kelly Morgans Schraven with Dan and David ; JLP prexy Linda Hartman with Andy ; honorary chair Michelle Wright of WTAE; Leslie and Bob Friend Jr. ; Mary Adele and John Krolikowski; Julie and Mike Dever; Julia Gleason; Barb and Tim Hollihan; Heather Chronis; Allison Burgan; Cecile Usner; Stacy Weiss; and Michael Bonidie with sister Susan Bonadie-Seman .

As well as Lora and Perry Sigesmund; Cordelia Jacobs; Betsy and Lee Deiseroth; Annie and Dennis Cestra; Beth Wainwright and Russ Kemerer; Dr. Leslie and Steven Latterman; Heidi Ziegler; Jenn and Ed Tribble; Jean Novak and Ron Barber; Kathy and Bob Dax; Loretta and Chris Benec; Louise Kay Woodside; Adrienne and Alan English; Tacy Byham; and Margaret with Dr. Daniel Boyle of New Jersey, the home’s present owners who have just listed it for $1.3 million.

Singular Sensation


Shakespeare told us: “The play’s the thing.” But he failed to mention: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swinging support.” On Will’s 443 natal day, the Pittsburgh Public Theater honored good citizen supreme and its star patron, Nadine Bognar , as One Glorious Lady.

‘Twas a fundraiser, of course, that began in the lobby of the O’Reilly over cocktails with celebrated actors who jetted in from all over for a tribute of pure ambrosia to the Public’s angel.

Because everyone there has a special relationship with the glorious lady who truly deserves the label, it was also a flat-out love-in. How else to explain 330 guests turning out on a Monday night?

After dinner, the Public’s Ted Pappas staged a high-water mark in entertainment on the set of “The Glorious Ones,” with the musical’s Tony Award-winning (think “Ragtime”) team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens in the first row. Consummate performers like Tari Kelly, Harris Doran, Lisa Harrow, Avery Saltzman, Matt Morgan, Billy Porter, Lenora Nemetz, Gary Racan and young Lara Hillier either recited or sang showstoppers. And Ted picked their material like prize roses for a camera-ready vase. What a thrill! What songs!

Then, with a smile as wide as Shubert Alley, Nadine Bognar brought an entire theater to its feet in her delicious remarks. Which included her daughter Cynthia Beemsterboer with hubby Steve and son Ed Bognar with Chris Adams; Kristen and Kevin McMahon; Elsie Hillman; Audrey and Tim Fisher; Andy Masich; Dr. Stan Marks; Dana and Franco Harris; Jean and Lou Astorino; Ann and Marty McGuinn; co-chairs Marsetta Schweiger and Heather Hillier with Dick and Randy; Marina and Ken Lehn; Hilda and Dr. Freddie Fu; Linda and Tony Bucci; Athena and Frank Sarris; Carolyn Byham; Karen and Jim Paras; Steve and Helen Hanna Casey; Drs. Jean Anne and Brack Hattler; Diane Meakem; Laura Kronk; Catherine Loevner; Veronica and Lou Guarino; Linda and Stu Miller; and Richard Rauh, also celebrating his b-day.

Splendor in the Glass


The headiest rush of last week’s Pittsburgh Wine Festival was popping the cork on $500-per-guest grand-cru dinner parties that paired distinguished vintners with top chefs in the swelegant abodes of such gracious hosts, the darlings, as Dara and John Henne, Laura and Claude Kronk, Lisa and Mark Pasquerilla, and Tracy and Dr. Ken Melani (for those who collectively donated $1 million toward UPCI’s Dr. Stanley Marks Endowed Research Fund). To benefit the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Add hosts Ken and stunning Marina Persic-Lehn (he’s a chaired finance professor at Pitt’s Katz Graduate of Business and former chief economist at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission) to the list for Wednesday’s soignee dinner party that will have cell phones ringing for days. Guests swept past the breathtaking French gardens of splashing fountain, pink azaleas in first blush, ornamental parterres lit to a fare-thee-well and into their staggeringly beautiful Gilded Age domicile in Shadyside. A pianist held sway at the baby grand in the two-story, white marble foyer where winemaker Rick Sayre was pouring Rodney Strong Vineyards’ red carpet wines. And our cups runneth over.

Surveying that resplendent, richly paneled dining room with its coved ceiling in high-relief plaster and gleaming tables laid for 20 guests that were covered in celadon silk, lit by dozens of candles and topped with blush bouquets of the knockout variety was like walking into Cartier’s. Nothing failed to dazzle. Except for chef Bob Sendall ‘s outdazzling menu and those reserve wines.

I swooned. Under the circumstances, any other response would be bad manners. As for the guest list, mum’s the word. Or is it Dom Perignon?

Car Talk


The waiting game was over and we were ready to kick tires at Thursday’s Pittsburgh International Auto Show in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where several hundred partygoers and the public at large were in stop-and-lust traffic over the sweetest rides to set tires on the tarmac.

We naturally checked out the stats on power, handling and mileage. But then we considered the really important issues: which wheels will make us look thinner, our legs longer and lips poutier• Hey, big spender, that gray Rolls will set you back $340,000. But it’s loaded and bad to the bone.

Meanwhile in the upstairs ballroom, the Back Up & Back On gala was all about styles and smiles, grazing stations, watering holes and music as orchestrated by Strategy First’s Susie Franklin .

Sticker price• Thanks to the terrific Greater Pittsburgh Automobile Dealers Association , the benefit raised $300,000 for Family House and the dealers’ own family of charities.

At the wheel were Auto Show chair Jim Smail; GPADA prez Mike McWilliams and director Denise Brennan; Bud Smail; Mick Wolcott; Gregg Semel; Richard Voelker; FH chair Gregg Troian with Judy; Leah and Louis Lipps; Jim Duratz; Debbie and Sean Flaherty; Elda and Bill Numerich; Christina and Rob Cochran; Jim Graham; Paul McMillen; Erin and Matt Burger; Chris and Jim Kutka; Pat and Alan Siger; Bill Morris; FH director Christie Knott; Alice and Peter Leone; Jeanne and Al Vallano; and April with David Curley.

Golden Girls


A yellow forklift truck in the middle of a gallery at the Carnegie Museum of Art • Turns out it was the least glamorous, yet most essential acquisition project of the Women’s Committee, those remarkable Pittsburgh socialites and first ladies of art who are cherished by the CMA. It was also a wink at the irrepressible Babs Widdoes , who had commandeered a forklift to install concrete blocks at the first Three Rivers Arts Festival, which the WC founded in 1959.

For grading the way and still paving it with high-dollar works of art and a half-century of gifts that continue enriching the museum and the community, the founders received a splendid salute at Thursday’s Gala in the Gallery. Rightly so, since they also throw the best bashes in town.

Although the eve’s biggest hits were the posters and tabletops that had been laminated with early photos of the founders, they were only a glimpse of their volunteer efforts that make art accessible to everyone in our town.

Before you could say fabulous 50th — as planned and flowered ever-so-grandly for some 300 guests by WC co-chairs Ranny Ferguson, Gail Murphy, Janet Hunt and Georgianna Hillenbrand — these living treasures were showered with accolades and gardenias: B.G. Alexander, Mernie Berger, Sally Childs, Rita Coney, Lowrie Ebbert, Audrey Hilliard, Jean McCullough, Poosie Orr, Liz Schoyer, Ann Schroeder, Ann Wardrop, Babs Widdoes and Margot Woodwell. The late great artist Minnette Bickel was represented by her family, as was the ailing Sherley Blaxter.


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