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Hottest Sale? It's a Shoe-In

Folks rise very early for a designer footwear event benefiting women's clinic


There aren't many things in life that motivate women to roll out of bed at 3, 4 or 5 a.m., slide into their cars in the dark predawn chill and drive someplace to stand in line for hours.

Count shoes--the hottest designer shoes at impossibly cheap prices--among such motivators, for shoes are what inspired hordes of women to arrive Saturday morning at the seventh annual Shoe Frenzy at the Veterans Memorial Building in Culver City. The event was a benefit for the Women's Clinic & Family Counseling Center in Los Angeles. Shoes were donated by designers of some of the most pricey and artistic fashions for the foot: Jimmy Choo, Taryn Rose, Bally and Salvatore Ferragamo, among others.

There were 3,000 pairs of shoes retailing for up to $395 a pair, but here they cost a mere $5 to $50.

"I've been here since 3:30 a.m. since they are designer shoes," said Erin Frigo, an actress who brought a friend with her and arrived early enough to jockey for a top-of-the-line spot in hopes of being among the first to enter when the doors opened at 9 a.m. "Maybe next year I will get here by midnight."

The combination of sacrificed sleep and shoe madness made for a testy line, where the women who had the audacity to try to line jump got their comeuppance when the crowd loudly berated them. The women who tried to cut the line were stopped by three sales-goers who had appointed themselves pseudo security guards, standing as sentries at the entryway, looking authoritative if not official.

"We have taken it upon ourselves to do crowd control so people don't cut in the line," said Theresa Uhrig, a 35-year-old from Brentwood who works in sales. "There are some women up here we have had to repeatedly kick out. They asked me if I worked here and I said we were volunteers." Another self-appointed security guard, Michael James, who in a profound show of love arrived with his wife shortly after 5 a.m. to queue up for shoes, described the line this way: "The Lewis-Tyson fight is happening tonight, but that is nothing compared to this. This is a riot. There was tugging and brawling.... This is the most fun I've had in awhile."

In some cases, the scene was just as chaotic inside. "People were grabbing Jimmy Choos to barter for other shoes," said Desiree Luccio, 30, an administrative assistant who left her Manhattan Beach home at 4:30 a.m. Luccio hit the mother lode: She had two pairs of Jimmy Choos and two pairs of Ferragamo. "I just have to get a social life to go with these shoes," she said, holding a sling-back pair of champagne satin Jimmy Choo heels with a beaded fringe dangling from the ankle strap. "These are a hit. I have nowhere to wear them though. I'll tell my husband these are our sex shoes."

There was even shoe envy as women left the fund-raiser, boxes in hand. Some still standing in line begged to see what women leaving had scored. "It was like I had met Sting or something," said Luccio, who said women were congratulatory and envious. "It was as if I was returning from a hunt."

Not everyone was so lucky. There were women who were distressed that, after all that effort and waiting, there was not a better selection in their size. "It wasn't worth it except that the money is going to a worthy cause," said Wandachristine, a single-monikered actress from Studio City who arrived at 5:30 a.m. with a friend. She and her friend each bought a pair of Aerosole sandals for $15, but that did not satisfy their shoe-shopping urge. "I was not going to be denied, so we got in the car and drove to [outlets in] Camarillo and there was nothing there. I felt that the universe was saying, 'Just save your money.' "

Despite the disappointments and crowds, people seemed happy to help the Women's Clinic, which offers low-cost and even free health care and psychological counseling for the uninsured and working poor.

"There are no words to describe women's love for shoes," said Else Duff, development director for the Women's Clinic who reported Monday that the fund-raiser brought in $50,000, a record. "Some women describe shoe shopping as therapeutic or a way to bond with girlfriends. To us, the event is not just about our love of shoes but our love of women. Each pair sold will in turn provide a vital service for a woman in need."

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