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Originally published February 25, 2013 at 8:30 PM | Page modified February 25, 2013 at 9:51 PM

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Poncho honcho recalls arts org’s glory days

Poncho rides into the sunset; former grunge goddess on “These Streets”; and ladies who lunge at the Gather consignment sale.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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Llewelyn “Llew” Pritchard’s phone has been ringing off the hook ever since Poncho announced that the party was over.

The “big magilla” of Northwest philanthropy — its formal name is the Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations — announced its own passing the other day. After 50 years and some $35 million donated to 218 arts organizations, Poncho is packing up and folding into The Seattle Foundation as a legacy fund.

It’s the end of an era for Seattle society. Every April, founders Paul and Margery Friedlander, Kayla and David Skinner and Ruth and William Blethen drew a crowd that included Bagley and Ginny Wright and Herman and Faye Sarkowsky, to snap up auction items that no amount of money could get you otherwise.

Want the Garfield Marching Band to play in formation in your backyard? Raise your paddle. Want the Pacific Ballet corps to serve at your dinner party? Cut a check. You could drink gin martinis and eat tuna sandwiches in front of the fish at the Seattle Aquarium. Just give us your credit-card number.

Best of all, you didn’t even feel it, thanks to the late, great auctioneer Dick Friel egging you on.

“The jewel of all auctions!” Pritchard crowed the other day. He started with Poncho as a volunteer in 1968 and joined the board in 1969.

“I have seen the glory days,” Pritchard glowed. “Some have died and gone to heaven,” he said. “But everybody had a story.”

Bobby Arnold riding home on a scooter he bought. “Poncho pesos.” And, oh, the animals.

“Little ponies and dogs and cats that people paid $10,000 for,” Pritchard said, “and always named Poncho.”

Howard Wright used to stay up late to see what his parents bought at Poncho. One year, they bought a hippo they kept at the zoo. Another year, it was a fire engine.

“We wanted to go out with some change in our pocket, not having run it into the ground,” Pritchard said. “But it leaves a little hole in my heart.”

Life on “These Streets”

Come on back to Seattle, Carrie Akre, and talk to us about failure!

Ever the good sport, the singer/songwriter was game the other night, when she sat before a small crowd at The Project Room to talk about her music career, which started in the frenzied days of grunge (ugh, hate that word), and never managed to scale the fickle fortress of national fame.

Akre’s story was woven into the plot of “These Streets,” a theatrical love letter to the women who rocked Seattle in the early ’90s. The show opened at ACT last weekend and runs through March 10.

Akre, who moved to Minneapolis 18 months ago with her husband and son, came back to Seattle for the play’s opening, and to give a talk at The Project Room, which was opened by visual artist Jess Van Nostrand in 2011 to host themed presentations by artists of all stripes.

She talked about the ad in The Rocket that led her to a house in Greenwood (“I could have been killed!”), and to the formation of the band Hammerbox. Record deals emerged and fell apart; Hammerbox broke up; Akre formed another band called Goodness, and when that ended, she went out on her own. She married, had a baby and when she was offered a job at Target’s corporate offices, she went.

“I was feeling isolated and depressed,” she said. “I needed to be new, whatever that is, and I couldn’t do it here.”

Ever the rocker, Akre strains against corporate life. She makes wisecracks, and sits in meetings and wonders how she got there.

“In Minneapolis, where no one knows (anything) about me, I’ll think, ‘I used to be a rock star! But it’s all right, because the schools are really good here, right?’ I feel like Jim in ‘The Office,’ ” she said. “Ask me about order-management systems!”

Fashion frenzy

Fill a Georgetown space with fashion-loving women, ply them with wine and cheese (and salami; there is always salami), put racks and tables of shoes, pants, dresses and coats behind yellow caution tape ... and make them wait.

Then pull down the tape and get out of the way.

Such was the scene the other night when Megan McCabe and Dan Walter, partners in the Gather consignment store in Columbia City, held a fundraiser for Powerful Voices, a nonprofit that builds the self-esteem and skills of adolescent girls.

The couple collected eight months worth of dormant consignments that would have been donated to charity and sent a note to customers, alerting them to the event at Harper Studios. Each woman made a $20 donation at the door to grab as much as she could stuff into a shopping bag. If it didn’t all fit, plunderers could buy another bag for $20.

“It’s a good way to give back to the customers and have a fundraiser,” McCabe said before the tape came down. “I hope everyone leaves with one piece that they need and love.

“Dan thinks it will be like Ross Dress for Less on steroids.”

They were both right. Some grabbed and bagged, others found a corner to strip down and try on.

McCabe tipped me off to the location of the size 10 shoes (so?) and said she wouldn’t be joining the running of the broads.

“I’m a size 12-and-a-half,” she said. “Make sure you put that in there. I have yet to see a pair of 12-and-a-halfs come into the store.”

When the smoke cleared 20 minutes later, there wasn’t much left on the racks — but Walter had plenty of cash to count. I was going to ask how much, but I let him drink his well-earned vodka soda instead. Poor guy. But lucky girls.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

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About Nicole Brodeur

My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper. nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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