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SO SOCAL: The Best...The Beautiful...And the Bizarre
: PETAL PUSHERS

Imagine a Rose Parade float. Now Imagine it on Top of Your Head.

May 23, 1999

For 61 years, the philanthropic group Las Floristas ("Sharer of Flowers") has raised money for children's causes in Los Angeles by hosting a true happening: its annual Floral Headdress Ball. The first balls started modestly enough: dinner at Victor Hugo's in Beverly Hills, with members modeling what amounted to oversized flower hats. It's since added a Las Vegas choreographer, scores of stressed-out florists and a band louder than a space shuttle liftoff.

Today's head-wear extravaganzas are limited to 25 pounds, 5 feet in height and 6 feet in diameter, which makes them tall enough to scrape against chandeliers at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where this year's ball, "Las Floristas Sizzles," was held last month.

While headdress-wearing is considered an honor--the models, or mannequins, as they call themselves, are voted in by Las Floristas members--it's no cakewalk, either. To help support the headdresses, the women are cinched into corsets equipped with a back pocket into which a metal headdress stay is secured. In addition to rogue chandeliers, models must look out for wayward music stands, carpet bumps and pretty much anything--or anyone--within a four-foot radius.

So pretend it's New Year's morning--grab a doughnut, curl up on the couch and acquaint yourself with four of this year's eight "Las Floristas Sizzles" models.

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Mandy Viole

(Judges' Trophy winner)

headdress theme: "Disco Inferno," designed by Kevin Claywell

non-mannequin occupation: Mom

Memorable Mannequin Moment: Her 103-year-old grandmother showing up at this year's event in a mini-headdress.

quote: 'We grew up with headdresses. My mom was a mannequin seven times."

Christine Fine

headdress theme: "Hot Stuff," designed by Frank Garcia

non-mannequin occupation: Medical rehabilitation

memorable mannequin moment: Watching people's expressions when she steps into a crowded hotel elevator in full gear.

quote: "My kids don't believe it's me."

Susan Sutter-Welch

(President's Trophy winner)

headdress theme: "The Sizzling Rain Forests of Brazil," designed by Kelly Burke and Clark Jellison

non-mannequin occupation: Retired real estate manager

memorable mannequin moment: Discovering the dance she'd been practicing actually worked with 25 pounds of flowers on her head.

quote: "This is the opposite of carpooling."

Anna Dulcich

headdress theme: "Wild, Wild West," designed by Gerry Forsbeck, Angie and Ray Bohannan

non-mannequin occupation: Mom

memorable mannequin moment: A miffed florist some years back throwing a non-winning headdress into the hotel's pool.

quote: "You can't prepare for this. You just start feeling the music, then just get out there and do it."

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