COLUMN WOMEN’S EVENT SHOWS YEAR OF SURPRISES

BY LOIS CAPLAN

Pop Quiz Time: What is guaranteed to make you laugh, bring you to tears, tickle your funny bone as well as your palate and give you a chance to wear that red suit that’s been in the back of your closet since forever? It’s the Women’s Event, and this year it’s not just a woman’s event; this year it has been renamed “The Women’s Event…Not Just for Women Anymore!” Keep reading, and you will be one of the first to find out about several other exciting changes coming with this year’s Women’s Event.

So, pull out your calendar and write in the date now, because this is one event you will not want to miss, as the thousands of women who have attended this event through the years will attest. This special evening will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2007 and as always, will be at the posh Ritz-Carlton. The cocktail reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by a fabulous dinner and a not- to-be-missed program featuring comedy writer Alan Zweibel, who became close friends with Gilda Radner when he was writing for the original Saturday Night Live.

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The event committee, co-chaired by Dr. Madhavi Kandula, Ann Buck and Allison Weight (assisted by a committee chock full of heavy-hitting charity mavens) promises an evening that will not only make you laugh a lot, it will also send you off with new hope for cancer patients and their support circles. Alan Zweibel, the featured speaker, was part of the original Saturday Night Live creative team (back in the days when it was reeeally funny) before going on to write for the hit TV comedy shows It’s the Gary Shandling Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Alan Zweibel also collaborated on the Tony award-winning 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal as well as the 2007 Broadway hit Fame Becomes Me with funny man Martin Short. With the imprimatur of Crystal and Short, you know Mr. Zweibel has to be a funny guy.


The second highlight of this year’s event will be the presentation of the very first Spirit of Hope Award, being awarded to Dr. Robert Bergamini. Dr. Bergamini, a pediatric oncologist, will be honored for his many years of service to children diagnosed with cancer and their families. How fitting that in its inaugural year, this award be given to Dr. Bergamini, since according to Virginia McDowell, President of the Board of the newly founded Gilda’s Club St. Louis (the new beneficiary of the event’s proceeds but you have to read on to hear the juicy details), one of Gilda’s Club’s primary focuses will be on “…children and teens, through the establishment of a Noogieland and related programs.” (Remember noogies — ask any 55 year old)

So, now that the cat is out of the bag, I will tell you that not only does the event have a new name this year, it also has a new charitable beneficiary, as the proceeds from the event will go to fund the newly opened Gilda’s Club St. Louis, which is about to build (or rehab) St. Louis’s first Gilda’s Clubhouse. Named for Gilda Radner, who at 42 died (much too young) of ovarian cancer, Gilda’s Club will bring a new level of support to our community for cancer patients and their families and suppport circles. Gilda’s Club will be open to everyone whose lives have been touched by cancer — men, women and children, their families and friends at any stage of the cancer experience.

After Gilda Radner died in 1989 her widowed husband, actor Gene Wilder, established the first Gilda’s Clubhouse, in an attempt to fulfill his wife’s wish that all people whose lives are touched by cancer would have someplace to go to receive the same kind of social and emotional support she felt she received during her illness. That club, which opened its signature red door in New York in 1995, was the first of what has now become a network of 22 clubhouses across the United States and Canada.

The St. Louis branch of Gilda’s Club, along with seven other soon- to-be-opened branches, will welcome women, men, children and their families into a warm and supportive club-like environment. The club will offer a comprehensive program of free lectures, workshops, social activities, support and networking groups. Gilda’s Club Worldwide Medical Resource Council members also advocate not only for oncological needs, but for emotional and social support issues as well.

But just in case this isn’t enough to convince you to buy your tickets, perhaps you will be tempted by the raffle prize, a lady’s Austern & Pearl exquisitely styled diamond watch and a gentleman’s gold Rolex Cellini, which together retail for $10,000, giving you a handsome return on a $500 ticket.

Run to your phone and call 314-395-8200 (Gilda’s Club St. Louis) or go online to www.gildasclubstlouis.org for tickets, and I suggest you do it now, or your place might be taken by a man.