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Originally published March 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 18, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Auction city: Nobody does it better

The theme was James Bond, but the 18th Annual JDRF Dream Gala last Saturday felt more like Oscar night — particularly when auctioneers...

Seattle Times columnist

The theme was James Bond, but the 18th Annual JDRF Dream Gala last Saturday felt more like Oscar night — particularly when auctioneers Dick and Sharon Friel appeared onstage in silhouette form, brandishing martini glasses behind white screens as the speakers blared "One Night Only" from the soundtrack to "Dreamgirls." Would they twist themselves into the shape of a VW bus next, I wondered. They didn't.

"It's a coincidence that the theme tonight is 007," announced KIRO-TV's Steve Raible, who co-hosted the fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with wife Sharon, "... which is the number of receptions I had as a Seattle Seahawk." He played wide receiver from 1976 to 1981. Wikipedia.

The centerpieces were 3-foot martini glasses with floating candles and cymbidium orchids. They reminded me of a Britney Spears concert I once saw in which she writhed in a giant martini glass, or maybe it was a clear bathtub. Who knew one would ever long for the good old days when Britney shocked us with her onstage antics.

Upon being introduced to Sherry Benaroya, I asked her to please point out her husband. I had somehow managed to have a conversation with him earlier without ever getting his name and wanted to confirm his identity: Benaroya ... Larry Benaroya. "He's the one not wearing a jacket," Sherry said. "You can always recognize him because he always takes off his jacket. He doesn't mind the tie, but ... " James Bond would certainly not approve.

The Benaroyas helped start the Seattle Guild of JDRF; their son, Michael, has diabetes. Larry told me of the enormous generosity of the people of Seattle, "an auction town," and I got to see it firsthand when $1.5 million was raised during the live auction in a matter of minutes. Then came the dessert course. By the time LeAnn Rimes took the stage to close the evening, the packed ballroom at Sheraton Seattle Hotel had raised a record $4.8 million for diabetes research. By this time the line at the espresso cart in the lobby was longer than the one in the women's restroom. It was here — near the coffee, not the restroom — that I ran into Tom O'Keefe, founder of Tully's, who showed off his black cowboy boots, which he wore in honor of country singer Ms. Rimes. The last time he wore those boots, he told me, he lost a bet involving a Lyle Lovett song. And in case you were wondering, the coffee cart was serving Tully's. ...

A RADIANT Diane von Furstenberg, speaking at Nordstrom's SRO Spring Fashion Ovation on March 6, recalled the hospitality of John and Sally Nordstrom during a time in her career when she was a bit down on her luck and unsure of her future in the fashion industry. They invited her over to their home on the lake. "They were very nice to me at a time when I was feeling a little small and a little insecure.... Today, I am feeling less small and less insecure, and they are still nice to me." The designer showed her spring collection at a sold-out show at the Paramount Theatre, where she sat at the head table next to Pete Nordstrom....

OVERHEARD AT THE Bellevue Club: Ted Baseler, CEO of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, shared a funny story about his experience on a Holland America Caribbean cruise with wife JoAnne. Seems there was another passenger onboard claiming to be the owner of Chateau Ste. Michelle. When Ted confronted him, the imposter changed his tune and said he was actually the vice president of marketing at Boeing. Strike two! Ted's brother, Randy Baseler, has held that post for a decade. Said the source, "I guess the guy just wanted to be a Baseler."

Girl About Town appears every Sunday in Northwest Life. Pamela Sitt: 206-464-2376 or psitt@seattletimes.com

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