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Celebrity Waiter Dinner

They also serve who only stand and wait - tables that is.

Posted: February 26, 2008 12:11 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Good times were had and good money was raised for a good cause at the annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner held at the Valencia Hyatt Friday night to benefit the Respite Adult Day Care at the SCV Senior Center. George Chavez, backed by Canyon Theatre Guild dancers, sings "Viva Las Vegas."

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It was Viva Las Vegas, baby, at the Hyatt Valencia Saturday night, as the annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner gave a number of our local notables the opportunity to serve, and the rest of the lively crowd the opportunity to party and exercise their alter-egos. The variety of takes on the Las Vegas theme ranged from a table full of Elvis-es to female-impersonation to the Renaissance. Anything worked as it was all for fun and a good cause - raising money for the Respite Adult Day Care at the SCV Senior Center.

As usual, the red-carpet interviews at the door were done Academy Awards-style, and they still worked, though the guests had to schlepp themselves from distant parking lots because the convenient one was blocked off for the Amgen thing - half-a-day in the future.

Once inside folks were steered toward the registration table and directed toward the script table, where they purchased the script with which they would "tip" their waiters. At the end of the evening, the waiter having garnered the most script would be chosen the champion and named the Celebrity Waiter of the Year.

Since raising money via the script (and live auction) was the purpose of the evening, the "directing" to the script table wasn't even subtle. Costumed dancers from the Canyon Theater Guild, who would later perform, were strategically placed for this purpose. In fact, co-chair and co-emcee Myles McNamara placed Joy Norton where her wide-splayed peacock feathers would block the doorway into the main ballroom and give folks the hint.

Also in the lobby area, guests had the opportunity to sample some "Vegas" action right away. Two blackjack tables, operated by J.T. from J & M Entertainment, were ready and waiting, with chips to be purchased by script.

McNamara said that this was the fourth year he and Bob Kellar had co-chaired the event, and explained why it is so popular. "You can have a great party and raise money for the seniors at the same time," he said. "It says a lot for our community that they support our event each year." And he complimented the numerous sponsors, as well. "We have repeat contributors and new companies this year," he said.

Kellar said that, though this was his fourth year co-chairing with McNamara, he'd been an emcee many more. "It's one of the most action-packed, fun events of the year," he said. "The whole city comes out to benefit the Senior Center. I'm pleased to be part of it."

Last year's SCV Man of the Year, Greg Nutter, offered a little bit of history on the dinner, noting that, initially, it had been a Zonta event and that he'd helped transition it into a benefit for the Senior Center. "It gets bigger and bigger every year," he said.

As guests worked their way into the ballroom and mingled at their tables, it was obvious no one was holding back. The Rotary Club had brought in a couple antique slot machines that would still take your nickels and dimes. And it was rumored they had a case of wine hidden under their table, too - though Loose Goose had the wine angle well-covered.

Costumes ranged from the conservative to the crazy. The Elks Lodge table had gone totally medieval. Rick Dalton, the incoming exalted ruler, was a knight, and Gail Dewhurst, soon-to-be-outgoing exalted ruler, was elegantly attired with a golden-chain head piece (and underlying wrap) that hid her normally noticeable hair completely.

TimBen Boydston roamed the room as Liberace, and the Poole & Shaffery table had a number of Elvis-es, with waiter Brian Koegle done up the most completely, including a cape. "I got the bling, baby," he Elvised.

Ovington Michael Owston and Mikee Schwinn, of the Repertory East Playhouse, said their (Wolf Towing) table was "Vegas under construction," and they had both undergone quite a bit of construction, themselves, being done up as very tall and busty females. They were quick to strike poses that Schwinn, himself, admitted were "scary."

With everyone seated and dinner in the offing, the Canyon Theatre Guild kicked things off. George Chavez, as Elvis, backed by the aforementioned costumed dancers, sang "Viva Las Vegas."

Kellar and McNamara then welcomed everyone and introduced sponsors and many of the people responsible for making the evening a success.

Just before 8 p.m. renowned jazz saxophonist Everette Harp took the stage. He explained that he usually doesn't perform solo, but was taught early in life to never say "no" to the mayor - in this case Kellar, who had asked him to perform. Harp's music, including "All Jazzed Up with Nowhere to Go," got the audience clapping, and a couple of them dancing.

Kellar and McNamara got the live auction underway at about 8:30 p.m. and, as usual, Kellar worked the crowd like a pro, making sure every item got the maximum. A few examples: A ride in a sheriff's helicopter sold for $600. Dinner for eight at a fire station sold twice for $1,100 each time. A cruise on Mike Lebecki's yacht sold for $2,000, and a week at a Maui beach estate got $4,600.

At the close of the auction, McNamara presented a video featuring seniors discussing what the Senior Center means to them. Then he informed the audience that it takes $500 for one senior to have a full month of respite adult day care and asked for people to stand if they would donate $500 to the cause. Many did and were acknowledged for their generosity. Then McNamara asked for two-week sponsorships of $250 and more generous volunteers stood.

As the waiters' script was totaled, entertainment was provided. First up was Steve Arklin in a zoot suit, playing blues harmonica, accompanied by Joe Caseo.

Mo Davis took the audience back in time as Phyllis Diller. Bill Lively and Leslie Berra then performed "This Could Be the Start of Something Big."

The table awards were then offered up, followed by Lively, as Bobby Darin, singing "Mack the Knife."

Finally, the results were in and Mike Dunkle was named Celebrity Waiter of the Year, having brought in just under $4,000 in script.

Joy Norton took the stage and channeled Liza Minnelli in song and dance. After that it was open mike for those who just couldn't quit partying.

As they say, a great time was had by all, and, on Monday, McNamara said the event had brought in a net of more than $70,000.

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