Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA)
April 10, 2006
Column: Seen at the Scene
Author: Shirley Wild
“Rain, rain go away — come again another day!” And sure enough it did! The Grand Prix magic held true to form and a lovely race day emerged from a week of gloomy weather. It was a perfect sunny day for racing and partying. The merrymaking atmosphere was everywhere at Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Without a doubt one of the “best of the best” was the elegant and fun event at the law offices of Keesal, Young and Logan , high atop the Union building, with a fantastic view of the Long Beach Harbor, the race track and the happening below. The nearly 1,000 guests were greeted by a phalanx of gracious staff who offered champagne, mimosas and a photo op with KYL partner Terry Ross by a race car. Up to the 14th floor where consummate host and hostess, Skip and Beth Keesal , posed with co-hosts from Sea Launch Kristi and Rob Peckham for another photo. Much needed earplugs and a commemorative T-shirt or hat were given to the excited party-goers. The brunch bunch dined in style on white-clothed tables, with black and white checkerboard napkins and crossed racing flag centerpieces. Beautiful red and yellow ruffled tulips were featured in an abundance of floral arrangements. Among the throng were Jane Netherton, Gayle and Jim Gray, Leo and Judge Judy Vander Lans, Jean Smith, Bar! bara Blackwell, Julie and Rocky Suares, Linda and Doug Drummond, Linda and Dick Landes, Evan Braude, Bonnie Lowenthal .
One of the most exciting places to be at the start of the race is in a Pit Row Suite. The energy of the crowds, the roar of the engines and the thundering speed accelerates the adrenaline of everyone who witnesses it.
It has, as do all of the suites, the excitement of birds-eye viewing of the pit crews in action. It’s fascinating to watch these men as the cars come roaring in for fuel and a change of tires. The tasks are completed in barely more than a blink of the eye — an awesome accomplishment. And, if the viewer is sharp of eye, he may catch a glimpse of actor Paul Newman , who owns NewmanHaas and is more often than not in the pit.
In the Long Beach Grand Prix Association suite one usually finds, up close and personal, one or more of the celebrities who enjoy the privacy of the great place to watch the race. This year it was Bo Bice , from “American Idol,” who sang “The StarSpangled Banner.” Jim Michaelian , there with his wife Mary , presented Mayor Beverly O’Neill with a lifetime pass to the race. From the get-go, Rick DuRee has been a behind-the-scene, get-thejob-done supporter of the race and of the LBGP Foundation, of which he is now president. Rick was there with his wife, Joey , and Dr. Frankie Grover .
Another stand-out venue was the pit row suite of the Press-Telegram where the celebration continued with publisher Mark Stevens and his wife, Trish , Executive Editor Rich Archbold and Advertising Director John Bennett greeting their guests. Judy Lawrence , president of Howard’s, enjoyed the excitement of the race with the crowd that included John and Michelle Molina .
The Ocean Club, in the Convention Center, was the place to be for guests of the city of Long Beach and many city officials. They had a great Hollywood theme, “Fast and Furious” with a megaphone, directors chair, set lighting and a “Quiet on the Set” entrance vignette. Inside the dining room there were black and white with gold accent balloon columns, huge movie camera balloons, gold oscar balloons, table favors of necklaces of gold and silver stars and scene clapboard keychains. In greeting guests Mayor O’Neill commented on the huge contribution the Long Beach Grand Prix has had on the 12 year renaissance in the city. Also in the Convention Center was the Founders Club, with nearly 1,000 people enjoying a feast of pork chops, salmon, roast beef, salads and desserts galore. Featured on the tables were pail and shovel centerpieces with florals of sunflowers, carnations and anthuriums. Race devotees Joan and John Knight were just back from a month in Africa.
Then it was off to the Committee of 300’s humongous revelry, held al fresco, off-track near the hairpin turn. Paddock Director Susan Lincoln said there were around 1,200 people in for the dancing and dining on Friday, with 750 Paddock packages for Saturday and Sunday. The Blue Steel Band kept the dance floor hopping on Sunday. C-300 President Lisa Viets spoke of “the great partnership between the students who are interested in racing.” This year they enlisted college engineering students who belong to Student Association of Engineers. The students had a competition to design and build small race cars, two of which were on display. The students had a behind-the-scenes exposure to the real world of racing and they, in turn, helped in the C-300 grandstands. “They had a first hand look how a race works on this level and they are a great help to C-300,” Viets said.
There was a lot of interest in seeing the race in more detail on the 60-inch plasma. Getting electricity to run the TV in a lawn area is no easy feat. For the past six years Matt “Fish” Robinson has been responsible for providing power for all of the venues. “It’s the equivalent of 38 miles of cable, clear to the Aquarium — every item of electricity anyone uses in the route. It takes two months to accomplish.”
The Paddock Club was awash with red umbrellas and surrounded by paintings of race murals. These are flatboards (with holes to put your face in for a photo), which have been painted for the past eight years by the volunteer artists Steve Pennington, Bill Love and Dave Dratwa . Enjoying the sun and fun were Julie Nemechuk , C-300 president-elect, Judie Johnsen, Danielle Orman, Penny Ferguson, Stephanie Davis, Jacquie and Herb Wetenkamp, Claude Covington and Ed Klotz .
The past C-300 presidents are very supportive of this one fundraiser of the year, which supports the activities of the organization. Contact: (562) 799C300 to get on the waiting list for Paddock tickets. Among the past leaders were Larry Case, Dave Tisthammer, Derek Brown, Amy Zitko, Kelly Pierce, Dan Lowe, Carolyn McClellan, Gordon Getz, Peter Holman and Phil Tondreault .
At the Harbor Tower, along Seaside Way, genial host Len Lovett opened his beautiful home for some 75 friends for his annual Prix Party. What a panoramic view from the 21st floor! Imagine all of the residences in every building along the race route from ground level to penthouse repeating the fun and festivity. It is Party Time in capital letters! Many of Len’s guests are supporters of Musical Theatre West, including Tommye Jurak, Char and Fred Gamm, Bev and Cecil Cook, Carole Brennan — she’s president of the MTW Guild; Mary Lu Hauser — past president of Footlighters; Joan Wells – current president of Footlighters; Jann Whisenant; and Jerry Wulk .
Post-race, “the beat goes on” at the Keesal, Young and Logan bash, with food and dancing to the sounds of the Soul Divide band. The checkered dance floor was filled with many of the highenergy crowd attending. A highlight of the festivities was the presentation made by co-hosts Skip Keesal and Rob Peckham, representing Sea Launch. Skip spoke glowingly of the grace and dignity with which the mayor has accomplished so much for the city. He recognized her can-do, positive attitude in turning so many negatives into positives. He presented a beautiful cake saying, “You’ll notice it has Tiffany color icing!” He then presented a inscribed silver tray. Rob presented a Sea Launch jacket. Mayor O’Neill thanked them and commented on the role Sea Launch and Skip O’Neill has contributed to the city. She concluded with the enthusiasm of the race, “This is the best day for any city, any place, anywhere in the world! There are photos of Long Beach broadcast all over the world showing t! he sun, the water, the harbor, the marina, the beauty that is Long Beach.”
The party continued for more dining and dancing. Seen among the throng were John and Donna Papadakis and daughter Angel , with John’s mom Angie Papadakis . George Clark and Sherry Cole were among the race enthusiasts: “We love the race. We came in from D.C. to be here,” George said.
And the beat goes on.
All of the attention to detail of the party crews paid off with another race day perfect-party happening! There’s no better place to see and be seen than the Long Beach Grand Prix!
Copyright (c) 2006 Press-Telegram
Record Number: 0604100163