Guests: Easier to honor than roast Hazel Barr

May 3, 2011
Chicago Sun-Times


The Apparel Industry Board honored one of the social scene’s most enduring fashionistas, Hazel Barr, at last Thursday’s Stanley Paul-Raelene Mittelman Scholarship benefit at the Casino, a small, private club nestled among the towering buildings of Streeterville. The sold-out event welcomed 300 of Barr’s closest friends and family to celebrate her long-standing stint as Chicago’s society grand dame and subject her to a toast/roast by a specially selected panel of her peers.

But during the program — emceed by Bill Zwecker, who was honored at last year’s event — there was barely a rib toward the evening’s honoree as the entire panel (which consisted of Bunky Cushing, Candace Jordan, fashion designer Mark Heister, Myra Reilly and Mary Pat Burns) seemed only to be able to sing her praises.

The problem was perfectly summed up by Jordan before the program when she quipped, “Who could say anything bad about Heavenly Hazel?”

A favorite designer of Barr’s, Heister gushed, “Hazel, you have a bewitching way of taking a film noir world and turning it into Techni­color,” while Burns added a bit of self-deprecating humor, saying, “She has a gene for style that I didn’t get.”

Many of her Service Club of Chicago society sisters came out to support the onetime board president, including Vonita Reescer, Jean Antoniou, Dusty Stemer and current President Sherrill Bodine. There also was a bevy of Barrs that filled her table, including her husband, Warren, and sons Warren III and Robert Owen, who attended with his wife, Holly.

After the program, partygoers enjoyed an expansive buffet dinner, complete with prime rib carving station, smoked salmon and spring asparagus. All proceeds from the event will go toward the scholarship fund, which provides local aspiring fashion design students tuition for the design school of their choice.


A black Lincoln Town Car with darkly tinted windows waited in the loading zone in front of the Auditorium Theatre last Saturday night. It was the evening of the Joffrey Ballet’s spring gala, and more than 1,000 black-tie-clad guests were pouring onto the sidewalk after enjoying a special performance of the famed ballet, waiting to board trolleys to whisk them away for dinner and dancing at the Palmer House Hilton.

“You have to move the car; you’re blocking the trolleys,” an attendant yelled to the driver. No movement. A few seconds later Rahm Emanuel, flanked by security, exited the theater and got into the car, which sped away bound for the Palmer House.

The mayor-elect once was offered a scholarship to the Joffrey, which he declined to attend Sarah Lawrence College. Perhaps he was scoping out his could-have-been alma mater?

The annual gala attracted not only Emanuel but also quite a few of Chicago’s most generous philanthropists, including M.K. and J.B. Pritzker, Anne Kaplan, Linda Johnson Rice, Neal Zucker and King and Caryn Harris. Other bold-faced names spotted among the crowd were Joffrey executive director Christopher Clinton Conway and artistic director Ashley C. Wheater, Women’s Board President Christine Ott, socialite Sugar Rautbord and former WGN-Channel 9 anchor Merri Dee.

Guest sipped champagne and snacked on smoked salmon canapes during the cocktail hour following the show before retiring to the ballroom for dinner of grilled filet of beef. Pink crepe linens and towering centerpieces filled with pastel flowers adorned the tables, and pink tulle created a tutu effect for the stage that was positioned in the center of the room.

A ticket to the event (chaired by Wendy Chronister and Courtney Thompson) began at $600 and in all, a whopping $1.3 million was raised for future Joffrey programming and educational initiatives.