The category's the thing at the annual "Gentlemen's Haberdashery" benefit for the Sisters of the Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart. The nuns operate a Santa Ana retreat center for county youth and write religious education materials.
For the past seven years, powerful male business types have strutted, pirouetted and generally flung their sartorial stuff at a panel of women judges to win nods of categorical distinction. All for fun and charity, of course.
Thursday's benefit was no exception. Nearly 50 men boarded the ramp before 18 judges and 450 guests at the Irvine Hilton to compete for awards as "Man Most Likely to Hold a Power Breakfast at McDonald's," "Man Most Likely to be on a Best Customer List at Mima's Lingerie," "Man You Would Like to be Marooned With on Fashion Island With His New Credit Card," "Man Most Likely to be on the 'In' List in Newport 714" (a society tabloid distributed in Newport Beach) and "Man Most Likely to Skipper America's Entry in the next America's Cup Race."
Backstage before the show, five-time participant Antonio Cagnolo, owner of Antonello's restaurant in Costa Mesa, admitted that he was scared. "It's like parachuting from a plane. They just push you out there." Cagnolo didn't think he'd ever been selected as a category winner, but he wasn't sure.
First-time model Don R. Roth, Orange County supervisor, said he wasn't nervous "because nobody's told me what I'm doing yet. When they tell me, I'll get nervous."
Model Ron Soderling, a real estate developer, called the show "the highest-priced body show in the county. If you took all these successful men and weighed them by the pound, they'd be worth a fortune!" Soderling said he'd done the show for three years and never won.
First-timer Art Birtcher, also a real estate developer, said he'd been nervous until a committee member told him that a lovely woman would assist him when he walked down the ramp. "Then I calmed down," he said. Birtcher said he chose his palm-tree-print suspenders himself.
The Most Rev. Norman F. McFarland, invested last month as bishop of Orange, was among the guests. "This is something new for me," he said, entering the ballroom. "I hope they don't expect me to perform."
After the men had taken the spotlight--some jauntily, others frozen with fear--the winners were announced: Supervisor Roger Stanton won the McDonald's nod, artist Aldo Luongo the lingerie customer distinction, Art Birtcher the Fashion Island nod, Cagnolo the "in" award and John Crean, recreational vehicle manufacturer, the America's Cup skipper spot.
Volunteer Nora Lehman said the models paid $125 to participate. "And that's on top of the $100 they pay for the luncheon. The women judges pay an extra $125 as well."
Proceeds would be more than last year's $47,000 figure, she said.
Kitty Leslie and Paul Salata were show commentators. For their dedication to the philanthropy, Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley and his wife, Emma Jane, and Melinda and Anthony Moiso received Hearts of Gold Recognition awards.
Society founder Sister Ida Peterfy welcomed guests. Judges included Gayle Anderson, Alice O'Neill Avery, Gaye Birtcher, Dot Clock, Jolene Fuentes, JoAnne Mix, Dottie Stillwell, Mary Ann Miller and Barbara Harris.