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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on February 19th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 50 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 50

Hobnobbing with Helen

By Helen Thomas


“Passport to Vienna,” the Santa Maria Philharmonic Society’s annual dinner and fundraiser held at the Radisson on Saturday evening, Feb. 9— was truly wonderful. 

It was not exactly a night in Vienna: chocolat mit schlag, opera, a walk along the Ringstrasse, and all of that. But there were Strauss waltzes (think Blue Danube) bolstered by some Mozart, exquisitely performed during dinner by a string ensemble of seven from the Santa Maria Philharmonic. Very appropriate, because Vienna was and is known as an important center of classical music.

For cocktail hour, there were also make-believe wiener schnitzel hors’ d’oeuvres and fine wines—not to mention a sprinkling of glamorously gowned femme fatales with beaucoup bling accompanied by some spiffy-looking swells in black tie (Dennis Prescott, Victor Tognazzini).

The overall ambience was one of restrained elegance enhanced by exuberant energy exuded by all. Everyone in the crowd of 150-plus looked like they were having a fine time.   

Joni Grey, David Baskett, Minnie and Jim Anderson, Diane Aleman-Stevens, and Nancy Johnson were seen interacting with friends.  

Three ladies who don’t miss much in our social world—Sue Sword, Margaret Paden and Sandy Carty—did some mega-mingling. Playwright Diane Balay looked positively delighted with the goings-on: the harpist in the lobby; the open bar; and the silent auction tables overflowing with baubles, gift certificates, gift baskets, and art, many of which were lovingly collected by volunteer Ruth Ann Ontell.

Her Honor, Mayor Alice Patino, was at my table, along with new board member Gerald Motter and his wife Commissioner Denise Motter, and songstress, board member, and English tea expert Dr. Lynda Gantt with her gem of a husband, Jerry Stinn.

Violinist (and Philharmonic Concertmistress) Sharon Cooper and Bill Thompson rounded out my dining companions.

The Philharmonic Society’s executive director, George Majoue, looked magnificent in white tie and tails. His wife, Mary Alice, knows she can take him anywhere in that outfit—to a State dinner at the White House or to opening night of the San Francisco opera.

Between dinner and the live auction, Majoue took to the microphone and praised the new board president, Kristine Mollenkopf. “She has taken the Philharmonic by storm,” he said.

Whoops, almost forgot to tell you about dinner: filet mignon or salmon, spinach and raspberry salad, and an exceptional double or triple chocolate confection. It was all good.

The ebullient Jim Glines provided his customary lively live auction, after which, in a most courtly gesture, Majoue presented the event’s chairperson, Bo Cudd, with flowers.

Fred and Judy Sanders, George Crosby, the Fairpark’s Dennis Pearson, and Joey Wilson enjoyed the evening, as did the principal of St. Mary’s School, Michelle Cox, and her husband Lee Volker.

Everyone knows that, financially, the Philharmonic has been swimming upstream for a couple of years. The orchestra needs community support—and lots of it

“This community doesn’t know what it has in the Philharmonic,” said one person in the know. “This is top-flight musical talent.”

“Passport to Vienna” was a show of strength for the Philharmonic Society. This greatly revitalized annual gala with a healthy attendance showed that the Santa Maria Philharmonic has the right stuff.

So, mein freund, Herr Majoue, to you and your dedicated gala committee, a big fat bravo! It was truly wunderbar!

If you want to hobnob with Helen, you may contact her at

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