NOTED wine expert Ian Blackburn has been hosting an ongoing series of Friday night wine and food tastings through his Santa Monica, Calif.-based company LearnAboutWine. The tastings are extremely popular and boast 200 to 300 participants, typically in a Beverly Hills, Calif., venue.
On Sept. 2, fellow sommelier/wine educator Tim Smith approached Blackburn about organizing a wine and food fund-raiser for Hurricane Katrina victims. Blackburn agreed something ought to be done, but felt a full-scale fund-raiser was out of his reach. Nonetheless, he and Smith formed LA Supports LA (Los Angeles Supports Louisiana), slated their event for seven days hence — Friday, Sept. 9 — and got busy. In 24 hours, Blackburn's staff made preliminary calls to 50 restaurants and 100 wineries. None turned down the request to donate their products to such an event. With that response and a generally escalating buzz, they knew they'd need a sizable venue.
Judy Barker, owner of Santa Monica (Calif.) Airport's Barker Hangar, got the call on Sunday, Sept. 4. That Friday night was available for the event, and Barker generously agreed to comp the venue, but there was a Ford Explorer photo shoot the next morning. For that, HSI Productions of Culver City, Calif., was building an enormous (80-by-50-by-15-foot) tiered stage. HSI immediately offered use of its stage for the fund-raiser. Blackburn, Smith and Barker met on Labor Day, Sept. 5, to put together the specifics of LA Supports LA.
Meanwhile, actor/comedian Harry Shearer of “This is Spinal Tap” fame signed on as master of ceremonies, and opera singer Brenda Jackson, singer/songwriter Judith Owen and cult disc jockey Paul Oakenfold came on board.
Webaxe, a Los Angeles-based interactive ad agency, created a stunning logo and Web site with all the new info in one day. And Barker said she never got permits so fast!
“Momentum and all the powers of the universe aligned, including some of the greatest volunteers and power players in Los Angeles,” Blackburn and Smith now say. “We all crossed the finish line together, and it was magic.”
The donated stage proved particularly effective for the entertainment and silent auction items placed around its perimeter, keeping them in prominent focus all night. Items included one month's use of a 650i BMW convertible, an $18,000, 4.75 carat Piranesi diamond bracelet, VIP passes for any Dave Matthews Band show in the country, Matisse and Picasso lithographs, magnums and 3-liter reserve bottles of wines, dinner packages, and designer clothing and handbags.
Some of the stellar wines poured throughout the evening were Beckman, Cobblestone, Bernardus, Flying Goat, Mauritson, Paige 23, Planeta, Talley and Torbreck. They complemented a variety of splendid foods from restaurants Campanile, Il Pastaio, K Chocolatier, Le Dome, R23 Sushi and Valentino, to name a few. Fifty original works of art, also for auction, were displayed on easels that sectioned off a VIP lounge in a corner of the hangar. Those who paid $1,000 per ticket mingled there with the entertainers and sipped champagne from VIP sponsor Moet & Chandon.
MAKING A MILLION
A total of 1,400 charitable individuals attended the event. Ticket sales and cash donations raised $100,000 for the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund. Another $100,000 from silent auction proceeds went to the Hospitality Workers Disaster Relief Fund.
Although $200,000 is a noble sum — particularly with seven days' effort — Smith and Blackburn had hoped to raise five times that. Committed to their $1 million goal, plans are under way for three more LA Supports LA events this fall. Many silent auction items received the day of the first event will be used in subsequent fund-raisers.
For more information, or to donate or volunteer with LA Supports LA, please contact Ian Blackburn at 310/451-7600 or [email protected]
LA SUPPORTS LA
HERE'S WHO HELPED
Author and Event Volunteer
Ann Rebentisch, CMP
David Doumang, production manager
3021 Airport Ave.,
Santa Monica, CA 90405