Caroline Phillips’ Around Town


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Debutantes and cavaliers dance Strauss’ Wine, Women and Song at the 16th anniversary of Ottawa’s Viennese Opera Ball, held Saturday, February 4, 2012, in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Canada. (Photo by: Caroline Phillips)

OTTAWA — Ladies and gents dressed in their finery glided gracefully across the dance floor to romantic waltzes like Strauss’s beautiful Blue Danube during the 16th anniversary of Ottawa’s Viennese Opera Ball held in the Great Hall of the National Gallery on Saturday.

As part of the evening’s cultural tradition, the crowd watched 30 young men and women from area schools perform rehearsed dance numbers. The debutantes, dressed in billowing white satin gowns, were accompanied by cavaliers in black tie as they demonstrated the Polonaise and Strauss’ Wine, Women and Song.

Debutante Meghan Boyd, 17, of Ashbury College, later waltzed with her father, Jeff Boyd of title sponsor RBC while Suzanne Geerts, also of Ashbury, did the same with her dad, Netherlands Ambassador Wim Geerts.

The honorary patrons, Austrian Ambassador Werner Brandstetter and his wife, Leonie, were dazzling on the floor together. Later, the ambassador waltzed effortlessly with former prima ballerina Veronica Tennant.

Also seen were Supreme Court Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, Chief of Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk (undeniably dashing in his mess uniform, all the way down to his spurs) and the ball’s committee chairman, Frequentis Canada president Jim Hall.

Nordion CEO Steve West was among the 250 guests to attend. He referred to the ball as his “coming out” because it was his first time in a large social gathering since finishing his cancer treatment.

This year saw a return of the Thirteen Strings Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Kevin Mallon. It played throughout the evening, alternating with The Stevens & Kennedy Band.

The ball included singing by cardiac surgeon and tenor Fraser Rubens, a dance by Olympian Liz Manley with Fred Astaire’s Dan Labelle, and a performance by Arminè Kassabian and David Lafleur from Opera Lyra’s Opera Studio Program. It, with the OrKidstra music education initiative, were the charitable beneficiaries.

After the meal by Thyme & Again, MC Rob Clipperton auctioned off a dinner for 10 at the Austrian ambassador’s home, a Boston weekend from Porter Airlines, and a shot at being the maestro. Fred Astaire’s Melissa Krulick bought the baton for $600 as a birthday gift for her mom, Monique, who had a blast conducting the orchestra to Radetzky March.


It was a funny couple of un-billable hours at the 3rd Annual Reach Canada Comedy Night, held Thursday at Library and Archives Canada.

Around 350 people — mostly lawyers — filled the auditorium for a night of har-de-har-har humour.

Justice Colin McKinnon was back as MC and memorable star of a hilarious movie made by filmmaker and lawyer Graham Murray (the flick has McKinnon pushing to host the comedy night in character as Winston Churchill).

Criminal defence lawyer James Foord from title sponsor Foord Davies, assistant Crown attorney Kevin Phillips and Mark Ertel, past president of the Defence Counsel Association, were among the legal eagles to perform their comedy shtick.

Ertel poked fun at senator-in-waiting Vern White over his appointment but the Ottawa police chief was a good sport, and even hopped on stage for a cameo role in a singing spoof by Justices Robert Beaudoin, Jonathan Brunet (on piano), Giovanna Roccamo and David Wake. White, by the way, is expecting a baby in June with his wife, Sari.

The lineup also included lawyer Paul Francis, mediator Steve Gaon and psychiatrist Kathleen Howell, but the real pro was headliner Darryl Lenox, an American comic who’s visually impaired. He remained in town for the weekend to perform at Howard Wagman’s Yuk Yuk’s.

Renette Sasouni and Ernie Tannis were back as event co-chairs. Also seen at the Vittoria Trattoria-catered reception were Reach Canada’s honourary chairman, John D. Richard, board president Chantelle Bowers, and lawyer Bob Houston, who’s being honoured at The Advocates’ Society dinner in Ottawa next month.

The evening grossed $25,000-plus for Reach Canada, a lawyer referral organization that helps people with disabilities.


Laureen Harper, Nepean-Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre, Ottawa Senators players and even Popeye the Sailor Man were among the 300-plus attendees of a gala aimed at keeping kids active.

The gala, held Thursday at the Château Laurier, was in support of fitness guru Tony Greco’s pledge of up to $25,000 toward the construction of a new fitness playground. It’ll be built in Overbrook’s Carson’s Road area, where Ottawa Community Housing is adding another 26 homes.

After speeches, everyone was on their feet for a toast to Dean Martin’s That’s Amore. Sens’ Nick Foligno got into the spirit, as did Swede Erik Karlsson. “Only at a Greco event,” celebrity auctioneer Stuntman Stu said of the ballroom of galagoers singing and swaying to the music.

Poilievre, who brought Harper as his date, had been up at the crack of dawn that day to work out at a Greco Lean & Fit Centre. Also seen were CTV’s Graham Richardson and Kurt Stoodley, who co-MCed, and event organizer Susan Gray. She’s married to Bell Media V-P Richard Gray.

As for Popeye, he was there in mascot form for Popeye’s Supplements’ public donation of nearly $5,000.


It was festa night at Fresco’s on Wednesday as the Italian bistro on Elgin Street threw a 20-year anniversary bash that raised $10,000 for the Ottawa Food Bank.

Fresco owners and brothers Jim and Matt Bickford invited about 130 guests to celebrate the milestone (the bros cleaned up nicely after a hard day of setting up).

The original owners, Dave Leith, now an owner at Strone Restoration, and Dave Mangano, a partner at The Empire Grill, Métropolitain and The Grand Pizzeria, helped with bartending. “There couldn’t be two better guys to take over,” Mangano said of the Bickford brothers, who’ve owned the place for six or seven years. They’re looking at maybe opening another Fresco in Kanata this summer.

Guests included loyal customers Kevin Newman of CTV’s Question Period and Mayor Jim Watson, who brought a framed letter of congratulations. Years ago, Watson sat on city council with the Bickfords’ dad, former deputy police chief Jim Bickford. Sens player Chris Phillips and his wife, Erin (they’re former partners in the restaurant) and the food bank’s Peter Tilley were also there.

Among the staff with strong ties to Fresco are chef Brent Pattee and prep chef Bunchhoeub Som (known as “Chef Ny”). Som is originally from Cambodia. He fled the Khmer Rouge regime to a Thai refugee camp before immigrating to Canada in 1981. He’s worked at Fresco’s for 20 years.


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