Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Wishful Shopping

A peek at items in PONCHO's gala arts-benefit auction Saturday at the Seattle Sheraton is like a look at a Neiman-Marcus' holiday catalog on steroids.

PONCHO treasures include the bronze sign off the Bon Marche flagship store (value: ``priceless,'' say auction gurus).

Also up for bid: two tickets for the 2006 British Open Golf Championship (value: $1,800); dinner for 10 at the Schwarz's, with film stars Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, plus blue-topaz-diamond earrings (value: $8,500), and a guitar signed by rocker Elvis Costello (value: priceless).

You may have to battle Mercer Island billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen for that one.

'Home with a Heart' effort shows valley's good soul

In these uncertain times when negative stories seem to dominate our television and wonderful human interest stories about good people doing good things seem to fall into the cracks - right after the weather and sports - it has been incredibly rewarding to witness so many of our valley businesses stepping up for a common good.

We have been very active in this valley for many, many years. Our company, Family Development, has experienced unprecedented success - building homes for families all over the valley. We have been so grateful to our homeowners. Their expression of confidence in our mission has been humbling.

When we named our new home building company, we knew that the name we chose carried with it a big responsibility. We needed to build homes that families could be proud to call their own. We needed to select locations that would maintain their quality for years to come, and we needed to provide caring customer service. In other words, we were going to build homes as if we were building them for our own families. We believed that the word "family" would guide us, and if we were fortunate enough to be successful, we would find ways to give something back to the community.

About a year ago, the idea came to us; "Home with a Heart" was born and now the time has finally arrived. On Friday, May 20 to Monday, May 23, with a great deal of help from volunteers, we will be orchestrating a four-day, 'round-the-clock home construction, from foundation to completion at our Shadow Ranch community in north Indio.

On Monday, when the home is complete, we will donate all of the proceeds from the sale of the home, a minimum of $300,000, to two local nonprofit organizations. We selected the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and the Family YMCA of the Desert because they do so much for families and children in the valley.

We hoped that we could get people and businesses to help us with the home construction, but we never expected the outpouring of participation that we have received.

The Coachella Valley definitely has a heart for helping others. It started with our subcontractors readily volunteering their time and services and now we have an extended family of over 40 businesses throughout the valley taking part. Local restaurants are donating food, local entertainers are donating their talent; we even have local physical therapists coming out to keep the workers loose and in shape.

In addition, many of our country's finest celebrities have joined the cause. Kirk Douglas, Gerald Ford, Yogi Berra, Jerry Vale, Robert Wagner, Tony Danza and so many more have graciously donated personalized artwork.

As each day passes, bringing us closer and closer to the event, more an more people are coming aboard.

It is our hope that valley residents will come out during the event to witness what can happen when a lot of people come together for a common good. We hope the event proves to be exciting and inspirational.

We want to offer a "sincere thank you" to the community for all their support in the last couple of years and a special thanks to those who will be participating during the four-day construction event. Your enthusiasm for "Home with a Heart" says something great about what can be accomplished when a community works together to make a difference.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Couple revives art of letter writing

In the age of faxes, e-mail and on-the-run cellular connections, playwright A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters," starring Robert Wagner and Jill St. John, remains a welcome homage to the intimate, intensely personal and admittedly old-fashioned art of letter writing.

"Love Letters" will be at the Rialto Square Theatre for a dinner/theater engagement at 6 p.m. May 7. Very limited seating is available. Tickets also will be sold to the show only. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $65.50 for the dinner and show or $32.50 to $42.50 for the show only. Tickets can be purchased at the Rialto box office, 102 N. Chicago St., Joliet; by calling (815) 726-6600 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or between 9 a.m. and noon Saturdays; or online at On performance days, the box office remains open until the completion of intermission. Tickets also may be purchased through all Ticketmaster outlets by calling (312) 902-1500 or online at

Gurney's charmingly crafted acting exercise, which takes the form of reading, traces the lifelong correspondence between two friends and sometime lovers. And it suggests that the sound of a pen scratching on paper and the secretive folding of a letter into its envelope may foster relationships that are deeper and more meaningful than those dependent on modern technology.

Since its premiere in 1988, "Love Letters" has become a favorite vehicle for show-biz couples. The latest pairing is between Robert Wagner and his wife, Jill St. John, veterans of film and television.

One of the most popular and successful stars in the entertainment industry, Robert Wagner has had a career highlighted by three hit television series, "Hart to Hart," "Switch" and "It Takes a Thief," and a portfolio of movies for film and television. In summer of 1999, Wagner recreated his role of "Number Two," the villainous henchman to Dr. Evil, a cryogenically revived special agent who squares off against the title character in the sequel to "Austin Powers," starring Mike Myers.

He also was in the Sony release, "Crazy in Alabama," directed by Antonio Banderas and starring Melanie Griffith; and TBS's first original movie, "Fatal Error," starring Antonio Sabato Jr. and Janine Turner. In 1998, Wagner was in "Wild Things," starring Matt Dillon and Kevin Bacon, for Mandalay Films, playing attorney Tom Baxter. In 1997, he co-starred in New Line's box-office hit "Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery," starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley.

Jill St. John is known throughout the world as a film and television star. At the age of 10, Jill appeared in the first TV movie ever made, the Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol." She made pictures with Frank Sinatra, such as "Tony Rome" and Neil Simon's "Come Blow Your Horn," and acted with Dean Martin in "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed." She also played Tiffany Case in the James Bond film "Diamonds Are Forever" with Sean Connery.

She was the host of "Good Morning America's" cooking segment for three years. She is now writing a series of three new cookbooks.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Director to attend opening

South Texas man will appear at 'El Padrino' showing

Damian Chapa, director and star of the new film "El Padrino," hopes his film, which is layered with gunfights, explosions and car chases, captures the reality of gangster life.

Chapa, who is from South Texas, will sign autographs at 7 p.m. tonight at Cinemark 12, 7806 Navarro St., in Victoria. The new gangster/action film opens here on Friday.

The R-rated movie, also starring Academy-Award winner Faye Dunaway, Jennifer Tilly and Robert Wagner, had its debut in El Paso on April 6. The independent film also features Gary Busey and Brad Dourif and showcases Latin actors Sal Lopez, Emilio Rivera, Ileanna Simancas and Ismael "East" Carlo.

The film, set in Los Angeles and Mexico, chronicles the life of a fictional gangster, Kilo Vasquez, played by Chapa. A young Kilo watches his father, a small-time gangster, and as he emulates him, becomes a powerful underworld figure. After Vasquez marries and has children, he questions his choices and finds that getting out of the business is more difficult than he had imagined.

"There are people like this who exist in my community and I express it because I've known people like this growing up," said Chapa of his gangster and drug-dealing characters. "I express it especially to young people so they understand what it's really like to be a gangster."

Chapa said he recognizes that being in gangs and dealing drugs can be profitable and appealing to youngsters at first, but that they may find unexpected and unpleasant consequences of their choices.

Chapa describes his film as a crossover movie that would appeal to those who liked "Scarface" or "Traffic."

Though he was born in Ohio, the 42-year-old Chapa moved to Robstown when he was young.

"I really love it down here," Chapa said. "It's where my whole family is from. I'm very proud of being part of the Tejano group."

Chapa dropped out of high school to do theatre in New York when he was about 20. Later, he moved to Los Angeles and film roles.

For one of his first parts, he captured the lead in Taylor Hackford's "Bound By Honor." The 1993 movie also featured Benjamin Bratt and Billy Bob Thornton. The film, also known as "Blood In Blood Out," became a cult classic.

Chapa also acted in movies such as "Under Siege," "Street Fighter," and "Money Talks." About four years ago, Chapa launched his own production company. "El Padrino" will be his first theatrical release as a director.

Chapa said it was difficult doing triple duty as actor, director and writer, but that it allowed him to better capture his vision.

"I think this is a violent film for intelligent people," Chapa said. "This is done to show the realistic life of a gangster. Sooner or later, the only place for gangsters is the pen or the morgue."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Thousands Participate in the 24th Annual Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- The 24th Annual Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon, hosted by Robert Wagner and sponsored by Lexus, was held on Sunday, April 17, 2005 at Griffith Park.

One of the largest five-person relay races in the United States, the relay marathon is comprised of numerous divisions, according to age, gender and corporate/industry affiliation. Race teams are comprised of five people, with each individual running 5.2 miles before passing the baton. There are also special categories for the very young -- like the Diaper Dash and the Children's Race and the second annual media invitational relay challenge.

Winners of the Relay Marathon were:

1st Place: Nike Team Run LA with a time of 2:15:57

2nd Place: Run With Us #1 with a time of 2:20:24

3rd Place: Spiros III Mexico with a time of 2:23:27

Winners of 2nd Annual Media Invitational 5 mile Relay
Challenge were:

Electronic Media Division

1st Place: KCAL-9/KCBS-2 with a time of 37:35

2nd Place: KNBC News with a time of 38:59

3rd Place: KEARTH 101 Radio with a time of 39:48

Print Media Division

1st Place: LA Sport & Fitness #1 with a time of 31:01

2nd Place: LA Sport & Fitness #2 with a time of 35:13

3rd Place: with a time of 38:44

All proceeds benefit programs and services at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica. Since the first race in 1982, the Relay Marathon has raised $8.5 million.

Monday, April 11, 2005

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!

Robert Wagner to Host 24th Annual Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon at Griffith Park -- April 17

WHAT: Join host Robert Wagner, community leaders, runners and
spectators of all ages in celebrating the 24th Annual
Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon at Griffith

WHEN: Sunday, April 17, 2005

Media Check-in: 7:00 a.m. - 7:30 a.m.

Relay Marathon: 8:00 a.m.

Media Invitational Relay Challenge: 10:30 a.m.

All media credentials will be available at the media tent
adjacent to the VIP/Sponsor compound on Sunday, April 17.
Please call Julie Watt at 310-656-4668 to obtain media
parking passes and event maps.

WHERE: Griffith Park

WHO: -- Marathon host Robert Wagner

-- Actors Faith Ford and Ted McGinley, stars of ABC
television's "Hope and Faith"

-- More than 10,000 participants including runners,
members of the media participating in the media
invitational relay challenge and spectators.

(Complete list of media participants follows)

WHY: All proceeds from the Marathon will benefit programs and
services at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica.
Since the first race in 1982, $8.5 million has been

DETAILS: One of the largest five-person relay marathons in the
United States, the Saint John's Jimmy Stewart Relay
Marathon is comprised of over 20 divisions, according to
age, gender and corporate/industry affiliation. Each
individual runs 5.2 miles before passing on the baton for
a total of 26 miles. The Relay Marathon has categories
for everyone including the Diaper Dash and the Kids
Races, as well as the second annual media invitational
relay challenge.

Teams Entered in the Media Invitational Relay Challenge













BBPR, Inc.
Julie Watt, 310-656-4668

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Celebrating Robert Wagner's Birthday

Robert Wagner celebrated his birthday in style at the Peninsula Hotel with his three darling daughters, Natasha, Courtney and Katie — and a surprise birthday cake presented by the still ravishing Charlie’s Angel, Jaclyn Smith. Unfortunately his wife, Jill St. John, was home recuperating from a terrible skiing accident that occurred in Aspen.

They were all at a cocktail reception to announce the Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon which will be held April 17 at Griffith Park. This is one of the largest marathons in the U.S., and all proceeds from the marathon benefit programs and services at St. John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica. Wagner has been hosting these races for 22 years, and spoke about carrying on the late Jimmy Stewart’s legacy.

Among the notables at the reception were Jimmy and Annie Murphy, and since it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day, most of the guests were attired in green. Since we spent the last 20 years celebrating at Jimmy’s famous eatery in Century City, we regretted the closing, but the talk on the street is that the Murphys will be associated with the Peninsula in some way. Can’t wait for these superb restaurateurs to be back in business again.

Michael Nathanson, president of MGM Pictures received the Sheba Humanitarian Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Nathanson, known for his strong business acumen and keen eye for talent, went from the mail room to the board room, and among the recent successes under his direction are Die Another Day, Walking Tall, and the Barbershop films. In that respect, Cedric The Entertainer (star of Barbershop 2) was on hand to present the award…and admitted he owes much of his success to his "boss.”

Others in the stellar line up included The Pointer Sisters, Jon Lovitz, Paul Rodriguez and Kathy Griffin, who presented an award to Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory. No folks, Michael Jackson was not on hand to congratulate Masada, who introduced him to his current accuser.

The money raised at the gala will fund a number of projects at Sheba Medical Center, the largest and most comprehensive healing complex in Israel and the Middle East. Bravo to all concerned for making this an evening of hope and compassion.