Black Tie Fun-Raisers Boost Ballet and Philharmonic

By Marilyn LaRocque

Photography by Cashman Studio and David Becker, Wireimage
(Nevada Ballet Theatre Annual Black and White Ball)
Photography by Cashman Studio
(Las Vegas Philharmonic Diamonds Are Forever Gala)


Nancy Houssels, Mitzi, Honorary Chair fashion designer Bob Mackie, and Wendy Plaster

Nevada Ballet Theatre’s annual Black and White Ball rolled out the red carpet for song and dance superstar Mitzi Gaynor, their 2013 Woman of the Year.  The Bellagio Ballroom glittered with elaborately gowned and bejeweled ladies escorted by their debonair tuxedoed companions.  Sparkling floral arrangements centered the elegantly draped tables, while cascading crystal chandeliers softly illuminated the scene.

For the VIP reception, Mitzi wore a slit-skirt black Bob Mackie-designed gown with low-cut décolletage edged with brilliants.  For the dinner and awards presentation, she changed into another Mackie creation, a sleek, sophisticated long-sleeved black figure-hugging velvet gown also with a deep slit. A wide band of rhinestones bordered the plunging neckline, slit, and hem while a diamond necklace and earrings added dazzle. A fanfare announced the ballroom arrival of the honor guest escorted by two dapper dancers in white tie and tails.

Mitzi with Cartier pages.

In the spirit of the evening, Nevada Ballet Theatre dancers entertained on an elevated platform during the cocktail reception. At dinner, the company’s Mary LaCroix and Grigori Arakelyan performed George Balanchine’s Pas de Deux from the “Rubies” segment of Jewels.  What brought down the house, however, was a fun and funky rendition of Let’s Go danced by energetic youngsters of NBG’s Future Dance and Dance Discovery Scholars clad in jeans and red shirts.

Nevada Ballet Theater Dancers with Bobby and Audra Baldwin

The kids also contributed to the financial success of the evening as calls for contributions from $500 to $5,000 brought in $71,500.  A live auction of lots ranging from cosmetic surgery to the National Finals Rodeo and Shania Twain experience, capped by a 10-day Mediterranean cruise onboard Oceania’s Riviera, raised $79,500.  Pia Zadora drew the winning raffle ticket which gave the lucky ticket holder a new Infiniti Park Place each month for a year.

Future Dance

In his introduction of Mitzi, Bob Mackie, honorary chair of the event and Mitzi’s long-time couture designer, revealed he was “barely making (his) way” in 1966 when Mitzi approached him about designing her gowns.  “She opened the door for me,” he said.

Grand Finale

Film and video clips showed Mitzi with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Ethel Merman, Bing Crosby, on the Ed Sullivan Show, and, of course, in her famous hit “South Pacific.”   Red-jacketed Pages from CARTIER, sponsor of the Black and White Ball, ushered Mitzi to the stage to receive the graceful ballerina statuette award, presented by NBT Co-funder and Co-chair Nancy Houssels, NBT Co-chair Wendy Plaster, and Mariam Afshai, Regional Director of Cartier, West Coast.  Famous ballerina Cynthia Gregory also joined in the congratulations.  Beverages were provided by Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada.

Accepting the honor, Mitzi remarked, “I started dancing at 13, and I’ll dance until I can’t dance or move any more.  Everything goes so fast when you’re young, and even faster when you’re older.”

At Nevada Ballet Theatre's 29th Annual "Woman Of The Year" Black & White Ball at the Bellagio on January 26, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Dancers from the Arthur Murray Studio performed at the LVP gala.

“Diamonds Are Forever,” the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s annual gala, spotlights not the glamour and glitz but the “gold” that helps fund the city’s charities—the individuals, organizations, and businesses whose deep pockets provide critically important funding for the performing arts.  For this year’s Fourteenth annual gala, the recipient was the private Caesars Foundation, funded by a percentage of operating income from Caesars Entertainment’s resort.  The Foundation is a major contributor since it focuses on projects of $10,000 or more.  Its objective is “to strengthen organizations and programs in the communities where our employees and their families live and work.”

Models presented stunning fashions from Saks Fifth Avenue.

Appropriately, the festivities were held at the Augustus Ballroom at Caesars Palace.  Entitled a “Night in Vienna,” the evening featured a performance by members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and dancers from the Arthur Murray Dance Studio.  Saks Fifth Avenue, a long-time participant in and supporter of “Diamond’s Are Forever,” presented formal fashions for women and men with models posed on pedestals.  In keeping with the theme, special honored guest was The Honorable Karen Priodl, Consul General of Austria, Austrian Consulate General, Los Angeles.  In addition to Caesars Foundation and Saks FA, sponsors included Wirtz Beverage Nevada, which contributed the libations for the evening, and distinguished international jewelers GRAFF DIAMONDS.

Elegant white décor prevailed at “Diamonds Are Forever.”

A silent auction helped raise funds for the Philharmonic.

Graff designed and created the fabulous diamond-solitaire-style award.  Dorothy Flagler, Manager of Graff Diamonds, and Tony Ramondo, General Manager of Graff Diamonds, presented the spectacular award to Janet Beronio, Chair of the Caesars Foundation.

Dorothy Flagler, Manager of Graff Diamonds, center, and Tony Ramondo, General Manager of Graff Diamonds, right, present the Diamonds Are Forever award to Janet Beronio, Chair of the Caesars Foundation, left.

Toni Carpenter cradles adorable Bichon Frise “Teddy,” the live auction leader. He sold for $3,300.

Fafie Moore, Ted Rexing, and Joyce Imparato Beard, from left, joined Las Vegas Philharmonic President and CEO Jeri Crawford and her husband, Rick.

Joe Essa, Vice President of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Board, and his wife, Laura, enjoying the party.

Coincidentally, this year’s ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ Gala topped off a week of Youth Concerts, one of the Las Vegas Philharmonic’s most valued and wide-reaching programs for young people.  The orchestra presented eight concerts over four days in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center to an audience of over 13,000 Clark County schoolchildren, many of whom had never been to a concert hall or heard a symphony orchestra.  Funds raised by “Diamonds Are Forever” provide major support for this long-standing program which pre-dates the orchestra’s first formal concert.  At the Youth Concerts, young musicians chosen by competitive auditions are featured in an excerpt from a concerto.    Two of those young artists Emily Richardson, 12, violin, and Artem Aleksanyan, 17, piano, performed at the gala, ending the evening, and the week, on a high note.

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