By Shirley Wild, Special to the Press-Telegram
She’s 35 – she’s at her prime – she’s glamorous, she’s beautiful, she’s alluring! Her most ardent escort through thick and thin (she has sped through a gamut of wooers – from the Formula series to CART and finally to IRL) has been majordomo Jim Michaelian.
Through it all, Jim still weaves his magic spell to meet her every whim, so that she shows in all her glory. Everything from the structure to the weather is made perfect for her by her passionate presenter.
And does she know how to strut her stuff. Race aficionados know all about the anticipation and excitement of the race; the exhilaration of the roar of the engines; the thrill of the speed, the noise, the crowd, the pageantry, the colorful setting, the celebrities, the weather. It’s all there.
Ahhh, and then we watch the prima donna arrive at the parties given in her honor. Immaculately groomed, sleek of form and commanding in presence – she has center stage! She is, after all, the largest street race in the United States.
The preparations for her appearance have been set for months: invitations are sent, caterers prepare and the audience of more than 100,000 arrives. Every party seems larger and even more enthusiastic than the previous year.
There were 1,200 guests at the Keesal, Young and Logan party. Beautiful floral arrangements by Romance, Etc., with checkered flags mounted on walls pageantry-style, set the ambiance. It is the warmth of the staff and the organization that sets a standard of party excellence. Everyone has fun. Whether they’re dancing or dining, they seem to be having a wonderful time. They are treated to a morning and afternoon repast of delicious fare prepared under the direction of Executive Chef William Hall. Lox and bagels, eggs benedict, waffles and fresh fruit started the day following mimosas and photo ops. Tri-tip and pulled pork sandwiches and scrumptious buffalo fries, lamb chop hors d’oeuvres and shoestring potatoes provided energy for afternoon dancing to the David Sparkman band.
Representing party co-hosts Skip and Beth Keesal, Steve Young, Blake and Vicki Christian, Jim and Leslie Carlin of Holthouse, Carlin and Van Trigt. Also among the throng were Pat West, Jim and Gail Gray, Gary DeLong, Val Lerch, Suja Lowenthal, Bonnie Lowenthal, Beverly O’Neill, Congresswoman Laura Richardson, Nancy Gaines, Laura Doud, Becky Cool, Mario and Gloria Cordero, Martha and Tino Bernadett, Jim and Diane Amormino, Denise Winn with Peter Arkley, Parnelli Jones, Jim Harn, John Hancock, Randal Hernandez, Kjell Karlsen, Dr. John Kashiwabara, Geraldine Knatz, Paula Korn, the Hon. Ted Lieu, Sen. Alan Lowenthal, the Hon. Dan Lowenthal, Sergio Alfonso, Gary Green, John Calhoun, Vern Schooley, Jerry Schubel, Jean Smith, Barbara Blackwell, Rocky and Julie Suares, Trish and Mark Stevens, Don and Cindy Rodriguez, Doris Topsy-Elvord, Patrick O’Donnell, the Hon. Judith and Leo Vander Lans, Mike and Arline Walter, Susan Wise and Sen. Roderick Wright.
And more: Jane Netherton, Cam Killingsworth, Henry and Julie Toboada, Dan Gooch, Larry Jackson, Scott Dionne, Dave Zanata, Josh Lowenthal, Michele and John Molina and their children Antonia and Giovani, Steven Keesal and Melanie Ronan, Meg Westland, Sandy Mayuga, Jodi Cohen and Steve Chesser, Cookie Braude and Greg Perrault, who remarked, “It’s been great weather, more crowds, more energy, more everything! Indy has helped.”
Jim Michaelian, with wife Mary, was beaming with pleasure at the Long Beach Grand Prix Association Pit Row suite. “It’s a great day, we couldn’t ask for anything more,” he said. Jim presented a plaque to Alma Hill and her son Derek Hill in memory of racing great Phil Hill, who passed away in August. The suite was packed with some 200 or so enthusiastic racegoers. They enjoyed the new layout of the lounge area adjacent to the grandstand pit row view. The traditional lobster fare was a hit as always.
Seen at the scene were Michael Johns from American Idol, Mayor Bob and Nancy Foster, Becki Ames, LBPD Chief Anthony Batts, Robert Garcia, Steve and Lisa Goodling, Joe Prevratil, Randy Gordon, Jay and Linda Oxford, Bob and Vi Leslie, Supervisor Don Knabe, Valerie and Rick Di Martino, David and Cathy Gordon, Lou Mirabile with Corky, Marilyn and Ethel Severson.
At the Committee of 300 Paddock Club, Chair Phyllis Covey said, “Despite the challenges of the economy, we have been able to maintain our terrific attendance. There were around 2,500 people over the three days. On Friday it was standing room only.”
Jill’s Gourmet to Casual Catering served fare from tri-tip to barbecue chicken, spinach quiche for breakfast, scrambled eggs and chorizo.
The Party Jones band on Sunday kept the dance floor hopping, as did the Bel Airs on Saturday. Phyllis added a few extra things this year, including artists La Mont demonstrating dot painting and Simon demonstrating airbrush.
“We offer closed-circuit TV in a tented area, concessionaire stand and a cash bar. But, the piece de resistance is the ladies bathroom – you have to see it!” she said.
Black and white checkerboard curtains provided privacy and decorated the basin, as well as toiletries, including sunscreen, were a big feature.
Among the crowd were President Vivian Tondreault, past presidents Lisa Viets, Tom Jordan, Phil Tondreault and his daughter, Peter Holman, Kelly Pierce, Amy Zitko, Carolyn McClellan and Derek Brown.
Among the volunteers were Cheryl Portugal, Pam Camfield, Bob Albright, Hal Mankau, Donna Estrin, Cheryl LeMmon, Susan Lincoln, Ruth Barnes, Jim Barnes, R.L. Jones, Dodie Soto, Patti Maude, Linda Holcomb and many credential volunteers.
Art Levine was there celebrating his birthday and his “first-year anniversary” with Diane Cole, said, “It seems like the crowds are bigger and there’s a good mix of race enthusiasts along with the partiers.”
At the Lagoon party of the Press-Telegram, everyone was wilting from the heat, but enjoying the camaraderie and excitement of the day.
Among the throng were Joe Brenneman, Rich Archbold, Tonia Reyes Uranga, Sima Patel, Larry Allison and Sharon McLucas.
The parties are over for this year, but we can count on our beauty making another star appearance next year!