Friday, November 16, 2001

“I presume this is what President Bush means when he says let’s get on with life as usual,” said a bemused R.W. (“Johnny”) Apple, looking over his spectacles at a roomful of Arena Stage supporters attending the institution’s second Best of Bacchus wine auction Saturday at the Organization of American States.

The irony in his words didn’t go unnoticed. The evening was a celebration of the good life for a good cause.

As celebrity announcer and bona-fide oenophile, Mr. Apple commented on the quality of the donated wine offerings while seated for the live and lively auction at dinner. The handsome foot-high catalog for the occasion, 161 pages long for both silent and live auctions, also contained tempting food and travel packages that helped boost profits at the event to a record high. Recession talk was left at the door. Arena raised a sum larger than before in spite of having fewer attendees.

Legendary arts patrons Gilbert and Jaylee Mead put in a winning bid of $6,000 for a dinner for 14 at the Netherlands ambassador’s residence, and Ambassador Joris Vos immediately rushed over to offer a congratulatory hug. Two bottles each of a Bordeaux first growth brought $5,500. A barge trip through Burgundy (anytime but June, July and August) went for $9,000.

An array of top area restaurant chefs delivered a festive meal made for stimulating appetites and generous impulses alike.”You only are half rational when you go to a wine auction,” one tuxedo-clad gent was overheard commenting during the champagne and hors d’oeuvres that fueled the silent auction.

Molly Smith, Arena’s artistic director, tried and failed to buy Lot 204 200 bars of Good Humor ice cream that she hoped to be able to use for treating her hard-working staff. Event co-chairwoman Michele Berman beat her to it. (Judy Lynn Prince and Simon Siegl also were co-chairs.) Everybody seemed to be in “good humor” at this benefit for the theater’s outreach and education programs. To top things off, Mrs. Berman said she would donate the ice cream to Arena staff members, including performers in the theater’s current production “Of Mice and Men.”

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