Beyond the Neon – Charity Galas Sparkle

By Marilyn LaRocque

Don Snyder, Chairman of the Smith Center Board of Directors, and his wife Dee, recipients of the 2012 “Diamonds Are Forever” Award. Photo courtesy of the Las Vegas Philharmonic.

Not all that glitters in Las Vegas is neon.  Two of the city’s most brilliant performing arts charities are launching social fireworks in January 2013 with spectacular black-tie fundraisers.

On January 18, the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 14th annual “Diamonds Are Forever” gala will sparkle at the opulent Augustus Ballroom of Caesars Palace to raise funds for the orchestra’s varied programs, with much of the money destined to support music opportunities for children and youth throughout the community.

With a theme of “A Night in Vienna,” the festivities will feature haute couture fashions for both men and women from Saks Fifth Avenue accented by dazzling jewels from Graff Diamonds. Silent and live auctions will supplement the evening’s fund-raising.  A performance by members of the Philharmonic will mirror the evening’s Viennese theme.  In the audience will be special guest The Honorable Karen Proidl, Consul General of Austria, Austrian Consulate General, Los Angeles.  After a cocktail reception, partygoers will enjoy a sumptuous multi-course dinner.  Libations are being provided by Wirtz Beverage of Nevada.

Highlight of the Philharmonic’s gala is its annual “Diamonds Are Forever” Award, a magnificent tribute designed this year by sponsor Graff Diamonds.  The award recognizes those who have made a significant impact on the quality of life in Las Vegas.  In 2013, the honorée is the Caesars Foundation, chosen for its “wide-reaching support of community groups and services” and its objectives of “improving the quality of life” in communities where its properties are located.  Accepting the award will be Jan Jones Blackhurst, former Las Vegas Mayor (1991-1999), the first woman elected to the office, and current Executive Vice President, Communications and Government Relations, for Caesars Entertainment Corporation.

“The Las Vegas Philharmonic is very grateful to have been on the receiving end of Caesars Foundation’s support,” said LV Philharmonic Board President and CEO, Jeri Crawford.  “However, beyond our own experience, we recognize the vital impact the Foundation has on our community.  We felt it was appropriate this year to shine the spotlight on the Caesars Foundation and its essential role in our city.”

Reservations for “Diamonds are Forever” range from $500 for an individual ticket to $10,000 for a “prime” table for 10.  Information and reservations are available by phoning 702.258.5438, Ext. 221, or at

Caesars Palace Las Vegas is the spectacular setting for the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s 2013 “Diamonds Are Forever” gala. Photo courtesy of Caesars Entertainment.

Shimmering with sequins over lace, this Carmen Marc Valvo gown from Saks Fifth Avenue will sparkle at “Diamonds are Forever.” Photo courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Sparkling diamonds by Graff Diamonds will add glitter to the Saks Fifth Avenue fashion presentation at “Diamonds Are Forever.” Photo courtesy of Graff Diamonds.

Fur complements glittering diamonds from Graff Diamonds, sponsor of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s “Diamonds Are Forever” gala. Photo courtesy of Graff Diamonds.

The “Diamonds Are Forever” Gala caps a week of concerts that highlight the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s focus on young people, its Youth Concert Series. The orchestra and guest conductor Taras Krysa will present eight free concerts—twice daily on January 11, 14-16—in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center to an audience of over 13,000 Clark County fourth and fifth graders.  The Youth Concert Series has been a part of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s community out-reach since its founding in 1998.

Continuing this youthful emphasis, the Philharmonic’s January 12 Masterworks “Rising Star” concert showcases violinist Elena Urioste performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with Grammy Nominated Maestro Alastair Willis, Music Director of the Illinois Symphony, on the podium.  The Las Vegas Philharmonic is currently searching for a new music director, and this season’s concerts feature nine guest conductors.

Elaborate table décor is a signature of the Cartier-sponsored NBT Black and White Ball. Photo courtesy of Nevada Ballet Theatre.

Razzle-dazzle shifts to the dramatic Bellagio Ballroom at Bellagio Las Vegas on January 26 when superstar Mitzi Gaynor will bask in the limelight as recipient of the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s “Woman of the Year 2013” Award at the NBT’s glamorous annual Black and White Ball.   Established in 1985, the spectacular event has, over the years, honored not only outstanding Las Vegas women but also entertainment celebrities, among them Debbie Reynolds, Chita Rivera, Carol Channing, Celine Dion, Ann-Margret, Paula Abdul, Twyla Tharp, Bette Midler, Marie Osmond and Priscilla Presley, with the 2012 statuette going to Eva Longoria.  Famous designer Bob Mackie, who has created many of Mitzi Gaynor’s fabulous costumes, is Honorary Chair and will be attending the Ball.

Sponsored by Cartier, the Black and White Ball, is a magnet for the social set, power players, and celebrities.  It raises money not only for the NBT’s performances of its eclectic repertoire but for its highly regarded Dance Academy and for programs which introduce students in at-risk communities to the art form of dance through its outreach program, Future Dance.  Artistic Director James Canfield, a talented choreographer, has created numerous original ballets for the troupe, the most recent an elegant and innovative interpretation of the iconic holiday ballet, The Nutcracker.

VIPs will hob nob at a special reception sponsored by Cartier, and all guests will enjoy a cocktail reception followed by a gourmet dinner.  Beverages are being provided by Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada.  A live auction will give guests the opportunity to bid on fabulous lots, from exquisite jewelry to cruises.

Single tickets range in price from $600 to $2,500.  Those who reserve tables for 10 at the Platinum ($10,000) and Diamond ($25,000) levels are invited to the Cartier reception.  Reservations may be made by calling 702.243.2623, Ext. 230, or by email:

Stage, screen, and TV star entertainer Mitzi Gaynor poses atop the piano. Photo courtesy of Polly O Entertainment.

Mitzi Gaynor’s amazing career of stage, screen (17 films—including Les Girls, Anything Goes, There’s No Business Like Show Business), and television (six Emmy awards) soared worldwide with the 1958 mega-hit movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, in which she mesmerized audiences as nurse Nellie Forbush.  She began starring in Las Vegas at The Flamingo in 1961, followed in 1966 by The Riviera, and then The Tropicana, where she opened the Superstar Theatre in 1972.

Her sizzling song and dance numbers have made headlines on several Academy Awards® broadcasts and on her own TV specials. Her awards are too numerous to mention, with the 2011 Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Entertainment Industry among them.  In March 2012, as President of the Professional Dancers Society, she hosted a star-studded tribute to Dame Julie Andrews.  She is also featured in the new PBS-TV special Oscar Hammerstein:  Out of My Dreams, hosted by Glee’s Matthew Morrison.

Food, wine, and travel writer/editor Marilyn LaRocque has visited the seven continents, experiencing not only sights and sounds but also foods and wines. In Paris in May, she was named Vice Chargée de Presse Nationale, Des Etats Unis, of Les Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, the world’s oldest and largest food and wine society. She was Senior Food & Wine Editor for LUXURY Las Vegas magazine for nearly 10 years and immersed herself in the cuisine scene in this over-the-top city. She knows and has written about celebrity chefs, their restaurants, and food and reported dining trends not only in Las Vegas but throughout the world, from South Africa to Scandinavia, New Zealand to South America. She knows master sommeliers and mixologists and has written extensively about wines and spirits, particularly California, as well as Oregon, Virginia, and Kentucky (Bourbon) and Tennessee (Whiskey). She has dined at globally celebrated restaurants such as Taillevent (Paris), Noma (Copenhagen), Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (London), Per Se (New York), and French Laundry (Yountville). She has served as a judge in culinary competitions, been guest lecturer at Le Cordon Bleu, Las Vegas, and served as PR consultant for the 2012 UNLVino, Nevada’s oldest and largest wine event. Photo by Jim K. Dekker