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Strings and things

September 27, 2009|Ellen Olivier

"If you have any brains, you pick your school by your teacher," said Elizabeth Pitcairn, a violin soloist who studied with Robert Lipsett at L.A.'s Colburn School. She said she started playing at age 3 and, at 16, her grandfather bought her the legendary Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, which was handcrafted in 1720 and then disappeared for 200 years, inspiring the film "The Red Violin."

She played that violin at "Conversations With Colburn," an intimate dinner earlier this month at Jennifer and Royce Diener's historic home on Santa Monica's "Gold Coast." Silent-film star Norma Talmadge and her sisters built the house, which was later owned by Cary Grant and Barbara Hutton and restored to its 1930s splendor by the Dieners.

Jennifer Diener said she hoped to raise awareness for the school, adding, "We know how music is made, but how many of us know how musicians are made?" By way of answers, she cited the Colburn School and its renowned teachers, such as Lipsett.

They give ballet a lift

Across town in San Marino, Eva La Rue of "CSI: Miami" said that as a teenager, she attended an L.A. ballet school where the superstars of ABT, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova, used to drop in for classes during their West Coast tours. To dance alongside her ballet heroes, she said, "was the thrill of my life."

La Rue numbered among the sponsors of "Stars Under the Stars," a Sept. 14 fundraiser for American Ballet Theatre. Held on Avery and Andrew Barth's spacious lawn and tennis court, the dinner and ABT dance performance attracted 300 guests and raised more than $200,000 for the ballet company.

Mila Kunis of "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" said she came to watch in preparation for her role in the movie "The Black Swan." She is not a trained dancer, and said, "The director just asked if I was coordinated." Her schedule now includes ballet classes seven days a week.

Before dinner, Andrew Barth announced ABT's fall schedule, which includes Beijing and Orange County in November. He added, "Some people think Orange County is as far away from here as Beijing, but I promise you, it is not as far to get to Orange County to see ABT as it is to fly to Beijing."

Assisting children

As co-chair of Aviva's Platinum Associates, Susan Casden sought something special for the group's annual luncheon and, in the process, snagged the American premiere of Chanel's 2010 Cruise Collection. So rather than settle for a simple fashion show, she re-created the seaside setting in Venice, Italy, where Karl Lagerfeld first presented the collection to the international press.

"I love that she trucked in the beach," said Lisa Mindlin, an Aviva board member, as she surveyed the backyard boardwalk at Casden's Beverly Hills home. While some women happily dug their toes in the sand, others took another route: Larissa Sabadash, for one, tied on booties.

Larry Bruce, general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue, Beverly Hills, teamed with Chanel to sponsor the event, saying "in this day and age, in this economic climate, it's a challenge to decide which cause to support." Aviva Family and Children's Services, which treats abused and neglected children, filled the bill, he said, because Saks cares about women: its customers, as well as young women in need.

Proving the adage that people give to people, more than just to causes, Mi Ahn said she first became involved with the charity at Casden's suggestion. "But now I go there and see what I can do," she said. "There are some really good success stories. Aviva helps adolescents and young women to get on their feet and get going."

Joining the 160 guests were board members Robin Broidy, Linda May, NancyJane Goldston and Sandra Milken, plus Ginnifer Goodwin of "Big Love" and Perrey Reeves of "Entourage."


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