Inside the Mid-Winter Gala 2009

Marie Louise Hom and actress Connie Nielsen

There are two gala evenings each year that more-or-less define the San Francisco social world: the opening of the San Francisco Opera in September, and in March the Mid Winter Gala, which benefits the Fine Arts Museums.

Of all events, the Mid-Winter Gala is the evening which seems to invoke the most excitement. Yours truly began hearing mutterings toward the end of 2008 of who was going and, more interestingly, who was not.

By January, high-end stores throughout the City like Neiman-Marcus and Susan, or designers such as Lily Samii, Joseph Domingo and Azadeh, had already set aside gowns for their favorite clients. Should one wear long or short, formal or fun, big gems or costume jewelry?

Diana Britt, Zem Joaquin and Claudia Ross wore long.
Hillary Armstrong and Kimberly Sesnon did short.

Trusted fashion advisors, like Neiman’s Vicki Winston, ensured none of her ladies bought the same dress. John Hadeed of Torso Vintages scoured his sources for the most rare vintage pieces to guarantee that his clients were unique. And Vanessa Getty wore the most exclusive design of all — her own! Fashion is important at this event — it’s the place to be seen, but only if one looks fabulous!

(For our list of the evening’s “Fifteen Fabulous Looks” click here.)

John and Lucy Buchanan, with Kathryn Lasater and Alexis Traina

Fashion fun aside, it’s ultimately an evening of great importance to the enrichment of San Francisco’s cultural life, for the money raised supports programs of the Fine Arts Museums. We are told that this year’s event, chaired by Trevor Traina and Vanessa Getty, raised approximately $250,000.

Kathryn Lasater, Trevor Traina and Allison Speer
William and Vanessa Getty (earrings by Bulgari)

Generous sponsors, including First Republic Bank, Sotheby’s, Bulgari and PG&E, donated $80,000, thanks to the tireless work of gala co-chairs Allison Speer and Kathryn Lasater. In this economic environment, it’s not easy to get corporate sponsorship, so it’s a testament to their belief in the Fine Arts Museums that they lent their support.


Aubert Vanderlinden, Marcy Karpowitz, Kelly Grimes, Keylee Sanders, Sobia Shaikh, Justin Fichelson

Lia Aaron, Kimberly Miller and Andrea Schnitzer

This glamorous and fun event brought together 400 of the Bay Area’s young art patrons and leaders, including Lars Ulrich, Stephan Jenkins, Maxx Traina, Nicola Miner and Robert Anderson, Damion Smith, Kate Harbin, Jennifer and Doug Biederbeck, Juliet and Andre de Baubigny, Jeana Toney and Boris Putnanec, Becca Prowda, Daniel Lurie, Kendall and Gardner Robinson, Victoire and Owsley Brown, Christina and Jad Dunning, Summer Tompkins, Kelly Phleger Johnson and Don Johnson, Vandy Boudreau, Elizabeth and Paul Touw, Lisa and Jim Zanze, Amber Marie Bently, Lisa Sardegna, Allyson Jackson, Brad Harrington, Brian Wilsey, Stanlee Gatti, Peter Svennilson, Kim Miller and Michael Polenske, and Dr. Jordan Shlain, among others.

Drew Altizer and his team of photographers were there to take the exclusive shots from the evening, which you see here.

Stephanie Unger and Maxx Traina
Shannon Bavaro with Co-Sponsor Jordan Shlain, MD
Co-sponsor Amber Marie Bently in Pucci
Kate Harbin, Evie Simon and Cynthia Pillsbury
Kathryn Lasater, William Freeman and Kathryn Freeman
David Carrillo and Lisa Sardegna
Donna Hoghooghi in Lily Samii
Lindsay Bolton
Patrice Lovato and Kate Chung
Taylor Nagle and Jennifer Nagle
Melissa Barber and Alan Malouf
Lisa Grotts andKelly Shuda
Brad Harrington and Alyson Jackson
Steven Hawthornthwaite with Erin Hawthornthwaite in Isaac Mizrahi
Matt Paige and Katie Schwab
Sobia Shaikh with Lisa Alexander in a dress of her own design
Shell Cardon and Craig Cardon
Helene de Baubigny and John Golob
Isha Abdullah
Dawn Dzedzy of Saks Fifth Avenue (right)
Daniel Diaz, Katherine Banks and Alan Malouf
Trevor Traina, Don Johnson, Summer Tompkins Walker
Victoria Reiser and Alex Chases
Ricky Serbin and Lucy Buchanan
Fred Moll and Allison Speer
Monica Maduro and Simon Cheffens
Andre and Juliet de Baubigny (in Azzedine Alaia), with Trevor Traina
Marie Louise Hom and Marc Hom
Kelly Phleger Johnson and Don Johnson

The dinner, catered by Taste, had a Warhol-themed menu, in keeping with the de Young’s “Warhol Live” exhibit: “Campbell’s” tomato soup with little grilled cheese sandwiches, followed by Cornflake-crusted fried Fulton Valley chicken, organic Yukon Gold potato & buttermilk mash, Bloomsdale spinach, baby french carrots, parsley, lemon & caper jus. Waiters wore wigs in homage to Andy Warhol.

Donald Van der Marcke and Summer Tompkins Walker
Afsaneh Akhtari with Joel Goodrich (in Chanel’s mens collection)
Fariba Rezvani, Jorge Maumer and Isha Abdullah

Allison Speer said that “The most memorable part of the night was when the whole party hit the dance floor for Wonderbread Five. They are a fantastic funk band! I have never seen our group get up so fast.” Another partier told us she especially enjoyed the music, which was from the Studio 54 era of the 1970s and ’80s. “It was like prom, seriously, since there were no Gen ‘Y-ers’ and all the Gen X-ers were present,” she said. “It was great rocking out to the 80s!”

Patrick Barber of Sotheby’s (the Event Sponsor), with wife Melissa Barber
Rexanne Martin and Jill Hetherington
  • Further Reading: Fifteen Fabulous Looks [sfluxe.net]
  • Honorary Chairs: Vanessa Getty and Trevor Traina
  • Co-Chairs: Allison Speer and Kathryn Lasater
  • Premiere Event Sponsor: Bulgari
  • Event Sponsor: Sotheby’s
  • Co-Sponsor: Amber Marie Bently Jewelry
  • Co-Sponsor: Bentley San Francisco
  • Co-Sponsor: PG&E
  • Co-Sponsor: Private Medical Services by Jordan Shlain MD
  • Alcohol Sponsors: GREY GOOSE Vodka, and Swanson Vineyards.
  • Music: Wonderbread Five
  • Photography: Drew Altizer