Top parties of 2015
The Q Ball
Never mind the silk aerialists, the parting of 350 guests by a parade of throaty brass, the strategically applied body paint, the cheeky innuendos … how did Quantum Theatre manage to put all that crazy into one room, shake it and get what people were dubbing “The Best of 2015” a mere three months into the year?
The Quat’z Arts itinerary called for riffing on famous surrealist parties of 20th-century Paris. The dress code: Transparent. And the promise of nudes descending stairwells ensured a vibe that went from zero to what? in two seconds flat.
“Nudes? They don’t get naked at these things!” Patrick Jordan insisted.
Twenty minutes later, he was proven wrong.
“I knew there was a reason I came here tonight,” laughed Andrew Fouts .
Guests had barely put a dent into cocktail hour and already the Pittsburgh Opera party was leaving little room for debate.
“I don’t know what it is, but honestly, this is one of the best we’ve ever been to,” said Tim McVay.
Perhaps it was the “little idea” hatched by event chairwoman Gabriela Porges regarding the thematic decor. LUXE Creative’s Martin Potoczny had created an English manor garden in the parking garage. Included were 75 birdcages hung over a tiled dance floor, more than 30 trees ready to be donated to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and living pendants adorning a dining area that glowed under lush centerpieces from Hens and Chicks.
“It’s gorgeous, we’re dancing in the parking lot, I love it,” said Philip Ferland.
Heaven Returns to Pittsburgh
It seemed like everyone was buzzing about it. Tickets sold out weeks in advance. Panicked calls were made, begging for a way in. Final count clocked in at 700, plus a few who came from as far as Texas, California and Florida.
When the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel re-opened the pearly gates for one night only — as a benefit for the Community Liver Alliance — there simply was no coming back to earth.
“I’m spending all night in Heaven!” said Helen Wylie.
This was an urban family reunion decades in the making. The celestial Downtown nightclub, infamous by any standard, had reigned supreme as a must-go in the early ’80s with a second run a decade later.
Within minutes, MetroMix DJ John Hohman — one of the originals — filled every inch of the dance floor. Men wearing little more than six packs and angel wings appeared. A disco ball began to spin. And aerialists dangled over a crowd that swelled by the minute.
“I’m gonna dance until my hair falls,” said Rebecca Whitlinger.
Westmoreland Museum of American Art grand reopening
So much anticipation had been building around the museum’s two-year, $38 million renovation and expansion that a guest list of 830 ensured its grand reopening celebration was a sellout.
“It was so much worth the wait,” said Judith O’Toole, the Richard M. Scaife director and CEO. “We’re over the moon.”
As were the glitterati who crossed multiple counties to get there. A beeline was made for halls decked with three feature exhibitions by chief curator Barbara Jones: “A Passion for Collecting: Selections from the Richard M. Scaife Bequest,” “All About Color and Geometry: Selections from the Diana and Peter Jannetta Gift of Art,” and “Making the Westmoreland Museum of American Art.”
“This is another wonderful hidden secret of Pittsburgh,” said Bob Sendall.
60th Pittsburgh CLO Guild Ball
There was only one possible ending that could come from centerpieces consisting of actual, wearable shoes. “Don’t look too close at table 16, because the centerpiece is on my feet,” said prexy Kristen Lane.
What would have seemed odd for any other party was par for the course, where “Kinky Boots,” Broadway and Billy Porter were thrown together and whipped to wild abandon.
A teaser came from Civic Light Opera executive producer Van Kaplan.
“I don’t have any Kinky Boots on, but I will be dancing on the tables,” he said.
But the real kicker came from the man, the myth, the Pittsburgh son and Tony Award-winner himself. “I was 14 when I was introduced to the CLO,” Porter said. “These people showed me there was something different and something better for me. My life has never been the same.”
Pittsburgh Legends of Rock & Roll
They shook, they rattled, they rolled. And by the time Pittsburgh’s rock deities were finished on the Hard Rock Cafe stage, the only thing left for the audience to do was beg for more.
Barely an hour in, and the party — benefitting the Cancer Caring Center — was already living up to a reputation that had caused phones to ring off the hook as people clamored for tickets. Aerialists dangled upside down and painted ladies near the tented entrance to the VIP party outside braved the elements with little more than a smile to keep them warm.
Larry Richert couldn’t resist reminding former WDVE morning DJ Steve Hansen of his radio glory days, back when “they used kerosene-powered guitars,” before the introduction of this year’s honorees: Porky Chedwick, Donnie Iris and Lou Christie.
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix’s 10th Annual Tune-Up
The 150 hot wheels glistened on the deck of the Roberto Clemente Bridge and Federal Street, sparking plenty of interest in the art of hot-wiring.
“That’s what I’d like to do, if only I knew how,” said Stephen Shaheen .
It was a sentiment shared by a crowd of 800 pouring into the street, 400 of which guaranteed a VIP sellout right out of the gate.
It was well after dark before any engines started revving. And, for the few diehards who were still lingering close to midnight, it was music to their ears when honorary chairs and founders John and Dotti Bechtol put the pedal down on their 2003 Ferrari 360.
“What a show-off,” laughed Jake Zoller.
There was no shortage of conversation-starters once it became clear that the fellas had every intention of making an unforgettable entrance into this soiree, hosted by the Women’s Committee, Carnegie Museum of Art.
“This kilt has actually been hanging in the closet for awhile … it didn’t get used often enough,” admitted Jay Ferguson.
From there, it became a battle of seeing who could up the ante: namely, which gent was adhering to tradition with the presence of a sgian dubh knife tucked into their kilt hose, rumored to be for protecting your damsel — or some other equally important task.
“Making haggis,” joked John Peterman (with Donna ).
When the dinner bell rang, it was down to the Music Hall Foyer and up to the balcony, where a whimsy of tablescapes created by 16 architects, interior designers, fashion designers and florists from Pittsburgh, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Naples, Fla., dazzled the senses.
City Theatre’s 40th Birthday Bash
There was no turning back from a dress code enticing people to “shine brighter than a birthday cake with 40 candles.”
“At 11 last night, I thought these were a horrible idea,” admitted managing director James McNeel, pointing to his pink Converse kicks. “I almost chickened out, but the staff wouldn’t let me.”
With spirits high, the real entertainment came via zingers from “Late Nite Catechism’s” Sister Kimberly Richards, which epitomized her “bad habit” reputation.
“I’m feeling a bit weak right now because there’s not enough tissue in Pittsburgh to cover all the cleavage here tonight,” she began.
Where else would a woman of the cloth make such a keen observation?
“Only at City Theatre,” she laughed.
Forbidden Fruit: Chris Antemann at Meissen
It wasn’t ushered in with a swanky gala or over-the-top ball, but the Frick Art Museum hit it out of the park with a party that left guests swooning over a series of playful, hand-painted porcelain figurines by artist Chris Angemann that were so enchantingly naughty, they melted hearts.
The exhibit debuted with a private champagne preview party, which was curated with pieces from the Frick’s collection. Without question, though, it was Antemann’s pieces that endeared with their romantically coy nod to the dining culture of the 18th century.
Kate Benz is a contributing writer for the Tribune-Review. Send Fanfare news to [email protected].