I was barely inside when the wine came around, when my coat was whisked off, someone was handing me an iSomething to bid with and the inner doors of the Paramount Theatre opened to a crowd that keeps Seattle steeped in music and dance and history.
This was “Doors,” the Seattle Theatre Group’s fifth annual fundraiser, which raised $691,000 — almost $200,000 more than last year — for performing arts and education programs.
“I don’t like fundraisers,” I heard someone say, “but this one is fun.”
The stage was packed with people perusing the silent-auction items while auctioneers Sharon Friel and Fred Northup threaded through, pointing out people like Sherry and Larry Benaroya; state Sen. — and mayoral candidate — Ed Murray, with his spouse, Michael Shiosaki; Sasquatch Festival head Adam Zacks and his wife, Lynn Resnick; Chris Friel and Kim Virant; Sellen Construction President Scott Redman; and the amazing Ida Cole, who helped bring the Paramount back to life in 1994 with a $37 million renovation.
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“I didn’t build it, all I did was stand up to it,” Cole said. “It is incumbent upon us to pass this forward.”
And somewhere backstage was Jeff Bridges, who would perform with his band, The Abiders, near the end of the night.
Actor Tom Skerritt, his signature hair short, and sporting a beard, remembered meeting Bridges when he was 18 or 19.
“He’s a big teddy bear,” Skerritt said.
Not a big stoner?
“Nah, he’s always like that.”
Once the silent auction closed (a Prince package was hotter than Hades), people took to their tables on the theater floor and ate, family style, from a Tom Douglas menu. They were entertained by artists including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; 15-year-old phenom Emily Randolph, who channeled Janis Joplin; and Jherek Bischoff, who led an über-hip orchestra that included his father, Kurt, and his brother, Korum, both on drums.
“I’ve walked past this theater my entire life,” Bischoff said, “and always hoped I’d get a chance to play here.”
Once the live auction started, it was clear these people weren’t messing around.
Jim Kraft and Dominique Posy, and Jan and Ken Block donated a progressive dinner in their amazing historic homes. Eddie Vedder donated a signed ukulele and songbook. The Recording Academy donated a trip to the Grammy Awards, and STG donated a “golden ticket,” good for access to every show (with a guest) at its three venues for a year. Each went for about $10,000.
The night also served as the swan song for STG director of development Kate Becker, who this week started a new job as a strategic adviser to the mayor’s office.
“I am sure I will be here as a donor, a supporter and a volunteer,” Becker told me — and then tried to smile.
The honors just keep coming for Jack and Leslie Hamann, whose 2005 book, “On American Soil,” cleared the names of 43 African-American soldiers accused in the 1944 lynching of an Italian POW at Seattle’s Fort Lawton.
The book led to the reversal of the convictions of 23 soldiers and to legislation — signed by President George W. Bush — that ensured the surviving defendants, or their estates, receive compensation with interest.
Last week, the Innocence Project Northwest gave the Hamanns its first Innocence Champion Award at its 15th anniversary dinner.
The Hamanns just returned from Poland, where they followed women’s volleyball star Courtney Thompson for a documentary that will premiere in December as part of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four, to be held in Seattle.
“The working title is ‘Volleyball: The Documentary,’ ” Jack Hamann quipped. “We’ll think of a better name.”
They shared honors that evening with Brian Banks, who spent more than five years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit. His accuser later recanted, and the California Innocence Project helped get him exonerated last year.
Just days before the dinner, Banks realized his lifelong dream of becoming a professional football player by signing with the Atlanta Falcons. (Seattle coach Pete Carroll was the first to give Banks a tryout after his release.)
“We are the survivors,” Banks said, fighting back tears, and with a nod to the fellow exonerees in the audience. “There’s a fight within us that’s a special kind of fight.
“God wouldn’t put us through nothing that we couldn’t handle.”
Cap and “clown”
On the morning of his inauguration, Seattle Pacific University President Daniel J. Martin was headed into the church across the street for his commissioning ceremony when a group of preschoolers started streaming out.
One girl took in Martin, dressed for the day in his academic regalia, and stopped.
“It’s a clown!” she screamed.
“Another reminder,” Martin told those gathered later that day at McCaw Hall, “not to take myself too seriously.”
At 46, Martin is SPU’s 10th president, and its youngest. He has taken the Socratic approach to his job (which he actually started last year) by taking copious notes (on paper, no less!) and eating lunch in the cafeteria, where he peppers students with questions about how things are going.
“He’s way up here and we’re way down here,” senior Jessica Trace, 21, told me in the McCaw Hall lobby after the ceremony. “But he’s flipped it. We are his first priority.”
Martin recalled walking through an Arizona airport and being stopped by a man who noticed the SPU logo on his jacket.
“I work there,” was all Martin would tell him.
The man dropped his voice to a conspiratorial tone: “How’s that new president working out?”
Said Martin: “I told him, ‘He’s absolutely fabulous.’ ”
The room laughed, but Provost Jeffrey Van Duzer is a believer: “He’s open, transparent and winsome. That’s exactly what we need.”
Last dance for a while
Lest you think that the Seattle Dances fundraiser for the Plymouth Housing Group was just another night of cocktail tipping and paddle raising, well, not so fast.
Competitor Ernie Pino worked so hard to win the dance competition last month that he injured his calf muscle and ended up “performing” from a chair. The “dance” — which ended up being a seated twist on the tango — won him a Spirit Award.
It also won him weeks of pain and, finally, a trip to a sports-medicine doctor who found Pino had danced a 3.5-centimeter tear into his left calf muscle.
“My first official sports injury!” Pino told me. “So butch.”
Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or email@example.com.