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Originally published October 2, 2012 at 5:02 AM | Page modified October 24, 2012 at 10:54 AM

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Sweet visit to Fran's Chocolates, and a look at the 'Seattle look'

Nicole Brodeur's weekly column about philanthropic and social events includes visits to the Fran's Chocolates factory; Jet City Stream; and Fashion Week at the Bellevue Collection.

Seattle Times staff columnist

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OOOOHHHHH Fran's Chocolates...I'm just coming from there, and enjoyed a hot chocolate. ... MORE

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No one wants to see how sausage is made, but when Fran Bigelow invites you over to see how her caramels come together? Gimme a hairnet and step aside.

Bigelow, whose salted caramels are the First Candy (President Obama has them shipped to the White House in special three- and seven-piece boxes bearing the presidential seal), is celebrating 30 years of chocolate making, for which she received a commendation from the city of Seattle, and a lifetime achievement award from the Northwest Chocolate Festival this past weekend.

Bigelow used the occasion to announce that she is planning to move from her longtime space on Capitol Hill to a larger facility in Georgetown.

A few fun Fran's facts:

Every caramel is individually salted, by hand, by blue-gloved ladies with the precision of surgeons. (I'll post video with this story at seattletimes.com so you can see the magic for yourselves.)

They make 525 pounds of chocolates a day, six days a week, five months of the year.

One more thing: Bigelow's family — husband Peter, son Dylan and daughter Andrina — is surprisingly thin.

That might be because Bigelow (who is partial to the bittersweet dark chocolate truffle) taught them to savor every part of the chocolate-eating experience. Not just stuff them into their cheeks, like well ... , anyway.

"You want to stop and enjoy it," Bigelow instructed me. "Open the box and take your time to eat. You want a nice snap, a seamless mouth feel and let it melt on your palate.

"Do that, and one is enough."

Maybe for her.

Broadcast love

Two generations of Seattle radio history got a room the other day for their own little lovefest — and those listening in got an earful, in the best way.

Pat O'Day and Marco Collins took over the Internet radio station Jet City Stream for a Seattle-themed Top 20 playlist that drew from both their eras — O'Day from the '60s, Collins from the '90s.

The list was topped by The Wailers' "Louie Louie" and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and included The Viceroys ("Granny's Pad"), Temple of the Dog ("Hunger Strike"), Little Bill and the Bluenotes ("I Love an Angel") and Jimi Hendrix straddling both eras with "Purple Haze," which just never gets old.

O'Day is in fine form after surgery for a brain tumor and recalled managing Hendrix and the British Invasion of Lake Washington by Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and Peter Noonan.

"He's an inspiration to me," Collins said of O'Day. "It was Pat's passion that helped him create what radio is today."

Break out your boots

There was no better place to ponder the "Seattle Look" than during Fashion Week at the Bellevue Collection.

"I don't think there is a 'Seattle look,' " said Jennifer Leavitt, vice president of marketing for Kemper Development. "It's a quiet luxury."

Quiet — and maybe a little wet.

Designer Banchong Douangphrachanh created a jacket made of neoprene and pants and shirts made of ripstop for her Bd Homme line.

"If it rains, you just squeeze it and hang it," she said.

The Independent Runway Show on Wednesday night featured 10 local designers, including Carole McClellan, who won the $5,000 Fashion Fund donated by the Bellevue Collection (read: Kemper and Betty Freeman).

Mark McGuire came on crutches to see his wife Patricia Raskin's handbag line. (Her mom, Irene, showed off one of her daughter's clutches.)

And local designer Lizzie Parker, fresh from NBC's "Fashion Star," told me she has sold to Macy's and Nordstrom Rack, and is in talks "with a large, home-based TV network."

"The 'Seattle Look' is a cross between where you came from and how you deal with the weather," Parker said, then paused. "You know what? It's what people wear, everywhere."

Free at last

Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three was at Town Hall the other night to talk about his new book, "Life After Death," a chronicle of the 18 years he spent in prison for the murders of three young boys. (Echols was released last year after agreeing to an Alford plea, which denies wrongdoing, but acknowledges a jury would likely convict.)

"I was dying very quickly (in prison)," Echols told moderator Luke Burbank. "I know if I didn't take that plea, I was going to die there."

He got out — and resettled in Massachusetts with his wife, Lorri Davis — with the help of Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, and Danny Bland and Kelly Canary, who worked at The Northwest Innocence Project.

Echols spent much of his prison time in solitary confinement, where he could only move a few steps in any direction. He didn't see sunlight for 10 years.

As a result, he has trouble walking and can only see 4 inches in front of his face without prescription sunglasses.

"This isn't fun for me," he said of his book tour. "Imagine the worst thing in your life, and having to talk about it five times a day. But we have to do it. The public is what makes up juries."

Parting words

From Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., who delivered the keynote speech at Plymouth Housing Group's annual "Key to Hope" luncheon:

"Courage is not exhibited in one act. It is an ability to persist beyond discouragement. In your heart beats, 'I'm here. I'm here. I'm here.' Then you stand up tall and start another day of fighting that fight."

Names in Bold appears Tuesday. Reach Nicole Brodeur at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

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About Nicole Brodeur's Names in Bold

On Tuesdays, I tell you about my travels through some of the week's social and philanthropic events — not just the ones for the swells, but those for work-a-day folks who care about making this region move and improve.
nbrodeur@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2334

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