Hope is high as fund-raiser honors Clarisse Mechanic

THE BALTIMORE SUN

MARYLAND'S first lady of theater, Clarisse Mechanic, was among those honored at the annual Partners in Hope dinner, which coincidentally was held on her birthday, May 22. Not only is she the president of the Morris Mechanic Foundation, but she was once the president of Ford's Theater in Baltimore, and remembers booking such stars there as Jerry Lewis, Carol Channing, Betty Grable, Edward G. Robinson, Melvyn Douglas and Henry Fonda.

The dinner, a benefit for the American Cancer Society and the Baltimore County Conference and Visitors Bureau, was held at the USF&G; Life Building in Mount Washington.

Diamond Comics' CEO Steve Geppi was the emcee of the event. William J. Crowley, managing partner of Arthur Andersen, was the other Partners in Hope honoree. A media recognition award was given to Chris Ely, WJZ-TV sportscaster, who's donated so much of his time to helping with American Cancer Society events.

Co-chairs Louise Borden and Sharon Swackhamer are hoping the dinner will net $25,000 -- 70 percent of which would go to cancer research, and 30 percent to the county's Conference and Visitors Bureau.

Lawn party

"Lemonade on the Lawn" was a good, old-fashioned way for Church Home and Hospital to celebrate its 140th birthday. J. R. Bobb, president and CEO of the hospital, and Bill Opfer, hospital VP, greeted doctors, nurses, board members and neighborhood people who stopped by for the party. All seemed to enjoy the 1850s ambience -- people in period costume sipping lemonade amid the East Baltimore hospital's lovely terraced gardens.

Tropical fiesta

Members of the FiestaBall Committee, chaired by Sam Llanio, selected a tropical theme for the first gala fund-raiser for Baltimore's Hispanic community center. The Belvedere ballroom was brought to life with palm and orange trees, tropical plants, bird of paradise flowers and live tropical fish. Guests danced to ,, the music of Mambo Combo and ate Latin delicacies like Caribbean jerk chicken and whole roasted suckling pig.

In addition to Llanio, others who worked on the affair included center president Antonio Salazar, center executive director Libby Arcia, Lola Alban, Manuel Alban, Gloria Brennan, Patricia Flores, Dorothy Katzenstein, Lillian Lazlo, Olda Mondragon, Elizabeth Murray, Marcos Pineyro, Rose Seaman, Susna Silesky, Patricia Tasher and Manuel Toledo-Lopez. They were hoping to raise $50,000 for health-related projects at the center, which is located at 2720 Pulaski Highway.

Have you heard ...

That the wedding of PR exec Gwyn Willis, president of Chesapeake Communications Group, and Severna Park businessman Philip Walcoff, literally went to the dogs and cats? The newlyweds requested that in lieu of presents, their guests make donations to either the Greyhound Pets of America or the Greater Annapolis SPCA. Seems Gwyn has been rescuing ex-racing greyhounds for years. Two that she saved became her own pets: Blue and Ming. And Philip has a particular love for the Annapolis SPCA, from which he adopted his cats, Charlie and Carly.

That the Baltimore-based Grant-A-Wish Foundation landed Nancy Kelleher as a board member? She's the wife of Doubletree Hotels founder and president Richard Kelleher. Doubletree is one of Grant-A-Wish's national charity partners. Although Mrs. Kelleher lives in Arizona, I'm told she plans to be actively involved in Grant-A-Wish programs. Of course, she has a neat Doubletree hotel, the Colonnade, to stay in while in town.

That Tony Danza, of the sitcoms "Taxi" and "Who's the Boss?" will be onstage at the Meyerhoff on June 21, with comedian Howie Mandel? These two Vegas stars will highlight this year's Celebrity Benefit for the Save-A-Heart Foundation. Call 410-653-3131 for tickets.

That the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival honored Miss Wheelchair Maryland, Suzanne Richard, by donating a portion of the box-office proceeds from its May 21 performance of "Macbeth" to the Miss Wheelchair Maryland Society? Richard, a talented young lady, performed in the production.

Pub Date: 6/01/97

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