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Seen The 2002 Elsie Awards

Monday, February 25, 2002

By Marylynn Uricchio, Post-Gazette SEEN Editor

Correction/Clarification: (Published Feb. 26, 2002) In yesterday's Seen, former Pennsylvania Gov. Dick Thornburgh's name was misspelled in the story about the Elsie Awards.

The turning point for Barbara Bush came several years ago when she was voted Biker Babe of the Century by Outlaw Biker Magazine "because my old man kicked butt in the Gulf." The Bushes decided that was just one award too many and vowed to retire, declining all honors in the future. Then Elsie Hillman called. "Have any of you ever said no to Elsie Hillman? It's just not possible, even if you are the mother of the president," quipped Mrs. Bush. And so it was that she came to be onstage in Carnegie Music Hall last Thursday, accepting an Elsie Award from Elsie herself.

Elsie Hillman as Peter Pan and George Miles as Tinkerbell. (John Heller, Post-Gazette photos)

Fred Rogers, beloved by millions of children through the years as the creator of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," was also honored with an Elsie Award. In his gentle way, he thanked the crowd of 650 guests and asked for a moment of silence so everyone could remember those who had helped to shape their lives.

The Elsie Awards are presented by Mrs. Hillman and WQED Pittsburgh, this year to benefit children's programming. The award statuette designed by the Hillmans' artist son, Bill, represents courage, compassion and community. Possession of and service to are the requisites for being honored (past recipients in the crowd included Pat and Dan Rooney, Suzy and Jim Broadhurst and Frieda Shapira).

Another Event

The Heart of America Ball 2002


The biennial event very much reflects the character of its host. Generous, fun-loving, irreverent and Republican. That was especially true Thursday, with some special Republican guests in attendance including Pennsylvania's first lady Kathy Schweiker, her predecessor Michelle Ridge, former Gov. Dick Thornburg (unrecognizable as Captain Hook) and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman. Another Republican, Jim Roddey, claimed that Mister Rogers had greeted him with "Jim, if you don't lower my assessment I will not be your neighbor!" All of which led Mayor Tom Murphy to introduce himself as the lone Democrat.

In true Elsie style, gentlemen were requested to wear sweaters, and ladies, pearls. The evening began with cocktails and heavy hors d'oeuvres in the Hall of Architecture and Music Hall foyer, which had been transformed into springtime by George Griffith and Tom O'Brien of The Flower Barn (they donated the lavish displays of forced quince and magnolia, potted pink tulips and magnificent weeping cherry trees on the buffet, and gave the women yellow rose of Texas corsages). The effect was breathtaking and welcome on a cold night. Jack and Rick Purcell played as guests mingled, waiting for Mrs. Bush to be escorted in by Henry Hillman. Her jaw dropped in amazement when the doorman and two waitresses just happened to be her best friends, Bertie Bell and Jack and Shelley Jansing (who is also George's first cousin). Flying them in and dressing them up was Elsie's idea of a surprise.

Michelle Ridge, Christine Todd Whitman and Kathy Schweiker.

Mister Rogers' surprise was Francois Clemmons, the opera singer better known as Officer Clemmons, who performed several songs. The Civic Light Opera provided the storybook characters who reflected the literary theme, which explains why Elsie chose to come as Peter Pan this year. Tinkerbell ("on steroids") was WQED president and CEO George Miles, making an hilarious appearance that wife Janet should be able to get some mileage out of for years. The show was written and stage directed by Charles Altman, and the evening was produced by Nancy Byrnes Events. WQED board chair Tom McGough (with Becky) welcomed the crowd, which had to be difficult considering they all wore bobbing antennae on their heads.

Enjoying the dessert buffet afterward as they helped to raise $250,000 were WQED's BJ Leber, Lilli Mosco, Carolyn Wean, Rick Sebak and Chris Fletcher, Tim and Audrey Hillman Fisher, Ellsworth and Dorothy Brown, Ron and Ann Wertz, Ann and Marty McGuinn, Max and Peggy King, Bill Trueheart, Richard Armstrong, Francine and Jim Abraham, Lee and Issy Foster, Bill and Carolyn Byham, Syl and Lu Damianos, Kevin and Kristen McMahon, Dolores Bold, Mary Lou McLaughlin with daughter Mary Beth Leech, Pete Bernardo, Jared and Maureen Cohon, Henry Simonds, Nadine Bognar, Phillip Bucci with Janet Ferrell, Stephen Klein, Hilda Fu, Josh and Farley Whetzel, Maria and Maury Burgwin, Russ Kemmerer, Sophie Masloff, Chuck Cohen, Tom and Audrey Hilliard, Mabon and Sally Childs, Bill and Minette Bickel, Eva Blum, Bruce Crocker with daughter Amanda, Marcia and Stanley Gumberg, Henry and Helen Posner, Molly and Peter Blasier, Ruthie and Bill King, Connie and Benno Bernt, Judy and Ron Davenport, Ceci and John Haughwout, Ellen and Jay Brooks, Brenda and Dave Roger, Joe Negri, Tom Detre, Karen Feinstein, Van Kaplan, Aldona and Diane Zilinskas and Chuck and Connie Gregory.

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