San Francisco Social Diary: Social Season 2014

Performer Amber Riley sang against a lovely backdrop of the San Francisco Bay at sunset during the star-studded benefit for UCSF Medical Center, a highlight of the city’s spring social season.

San Francisco seems to be the center of the world right now, and here are just a few more of the events happening around the booming city.


This spring, San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall played host to an evening of star-studded entertainment to raise money for both The Painted Turtle camp for chronically ill children and UCSF Medical Center, whose Benioff Children’s Hospital is ranked one of the top children’s hospitals in the nation by U.S. World News & World Report.

Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center, with award-winning actress Renée Zellweger.

Titled “A Starry Evening of Music, Comedy, and Surprises,” the ambitious event was attended by such celebrities as Annette Bening, Danny DeVito, Kathy Griffin, Josh Groban, Randy Newman, Bonnie Raitt, Amber Riley, and Renée Zellweger.

Anyone who has chaired this kind of event knows how difficult it can be to get the stars to travel the distance and show up. Those who attended the benefit showed a true commitment to the cause.

Singer and actress Amber Riley, comedienne Kathy Griffin, record producer and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Lou Adler, and actress Renée Zellweger.

Actor and director Danny DeVito.

Oakland Raider Taiwan Jones.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott with his wife Karen Lott.

Baseball player Barry Zito.

Philanthropist and reality star Kiptyn Locke.

Teressa Morgan and her husband, Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Morgan.

Kimberly Scurr, Executive Director of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital.


The evening was to support The Painted Turtle, in Lake Hills, CA, one of Paul Newman’s renowned SeriousFun Camps. Founded by the Hollywood legend in 1988, SeriousFun is a network of free year-round camps that provide a joyful haven for children with chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

The Painted Turtle works in partnership with UCSF’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, named after founder and CEO Marc Benioff, who in 2010 donated $100 million to help build the facility. Subsequently, Barron’s named him one of the Top 25 Most Effective Philanthropists.

The late Paul Newman with a group of SeriousFun campers.

SeriousFun camps have touched the lives of more than 440,000 people in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa since 1988.

For children unable to attend Painted Turtle Camp, its outreach program brings the fun and spirit of the program to hospitals and community events throughout California.


What a clever idea for a charity event! Instead of same old salmon/chicken sit-down dinner, participants could enjoy a musical show and meet friends for a private dinner before or after.

My friends and I dined at Jardinière, across the street from the symphony hall, and it was packed with a lively and glamorous crowd headed to the performance afterward.

Jeanne Lawrence, Dick Kramlich, Stephanie Lawrence, and Pam Kramlich.

The entertainment was sentimental and emotional at Davies Symphony Hall. Tears were shed as speakers talked about the UCSF Medical Center and Benioff Children’s Hospital and the stories of its young patients. In the end, the event raised more than $1 million.

Comedienne Kathy Griffin opened the show and walked amid the audience, interviewing the professional athletes and celebrities in attendance.

A big surprise was a moving performance by children currently receiving treatment at the hospital.

We were astounded by the incredible talent of the young patients; it was a night none of them or us will soon forget.

Singer-songwriter Josh Groban.

The audience was wowed by Josh Groban’s duet of “You Raise Me Up” with a camper from The Painted Turtle, who showed so much talent he may have found his future career.

Randy Newman performed “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” the theme song he wrote for the 1995 movie Toy Story.

Newman and Grammy Award-winning blues singer Bonnie Raitt jammed together on “Guilty” and “Feels Like Home.” Newman told the audience, “These kids are a tough act to follow.”

Raitt and Newman first performed together 25 years ago, and this was the first time since. “Isn’t it something to bring all these people together?” Raitt exclaimed on stage.

With actor Danny DeVito’s help, a UCSF patient thanked the audience for its support.

One especially touching moment was the story of Monica and Rachel, two Benoiff patients who became close friends in the hospital: Monica sang a song she had written for Rachel, who responded with heartfelt thanks to her “sister.” “What would I do without you?” she asked.

Actress Annette Bening introduced inspiring patients Monica and Rachel.

Much of the audience was in tears when Monica performed the song she wrote for her friend and fellow patient Rachel.

Amber Riley’s final song was a moving rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High,” for which she was joined onstage by the kids, who despite their illnesses displayed great spirit.

The evening finished with “fireworks” on stage and smiles all around.


One evening, friends and I stopped by Casa Acanto, the recently launched showroom of San Francisco-based interior design partners Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher.

The showroom is at 1760 Stockton in the colorful North Beach neighborhood known as Little Italy, across from Washington Square Park. Once the primary hangout for beatniks, today it’s one of the city’s nightlife districts and a fun place to visit.

Interior designers Jeffry Weisman and Andrew Fisher recently opened their Casa Acanto showroom in San Francisco’s North Beach Little Italy district, where beatniks once roamed.

Next door is the historic Liguria Bakery (est. 1911), run by the third-generation Soracco family, which some say produces the best focaccia in town.

Weisman and Fisher also have a second gallery and studio (and a second home) in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

The Casa Acanto showroom is an intimate tent-like space with burlap-draped walls, leopard-print carpet, and a profusion of pieces from the furnishings collection.


A stack of the design duo’s book, Artful Decoration: Interiors by Fisher Weisman (Monacelli Press, 2013), was on display at the store’s entrance. The lavish tome showcases 13 design projects, including a Nob Hill apartment, a Napa Valley stone winery transformed into a contemporary living space, a Sonoma County tree house, and a Moroccan-inspired retreat in Palm Springs.

Artful Decoration: Interiors by Fisher Weisman (Monacelli Press, 2013), which illustrates Fisher Weisman’s flair for exquisite design, was placed next to objects crafted by Andrew Fisher.

Artful Decoration features projects around the U.S. as well as an intimate look at the designers’ home in Mexico, Casa Acanto, for which the store is named.

The store’s framed wall art includes tapestries made by Fisher from unorthodox materials such as burlap, paper, brass wire, and 24-karat gold leaf.


Andrew Fisher, Jeanne Lawrence, and Jeffry Weisman.

Interior designer Paul Wiseman, Joy Venturini Bianchi, Eric Petsinger, and event designer Riccardo Benavides, of Ideas Events.

Pamela Babey and Paul Weaver.

Guests enjoyed snacks set up on the store’s furniture, suggesting how the pieces can be used.

In keeping with the Mexican theme, we sipped single-estate, small-batch Tequila Ocho.

George Jewett, Leslie Schemel, and David Schemel.

Pedro Carriedo and Ian Stallings.

Amelia Ross, author Nelson Bloncourt (holding his latest book, Fanny the Flying French Bulldog), and Dawn Ruggeroli.

Rolando Beramendi, Jeanne Lawrence, and Jeffry Weisman.


Casa Acanto—Spanish for “House of Acanthus”—is the name of the design duo’s second home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a 16th-century Spanish colonial town. Located in the city center, the sprawling home is an 18th-century tannery they transformed into a stunning residence.

Inspired by their home, the Casa Acanto collection features unique, handcrafted furnishing and accessories, from burl-wood desks and outdoor dining tables to objets d’art and artwork. Naturally, the acanthus (acanto) leaf motif is used often.

The designers maintained the indigenous architectural style when they transformed historic Casa Acanto into a spectacular home.

Often used for entertaining, Casa Acanto’s outdoor living room, with its wood-burning fireplace, is filled with comfortable seating from the designers’ Arcadia Collection for Michael Taylor Designs.

The dining terrace, under the jacaranda trees, showcases the cleverly designed Veracruz outdoor dining tables, which come in different interlocking shapes.

The Veracruz dining tables can be arranged as a single, double, or triple-width table, or in any combination. Shown here is the triple size for larger dinner parties.

I like a desk in every room in my home, so I particularly liked the stunning Acanthus Major Desk; its sculptural legs are hand-cast from recycled aluminum.

The delightful home, offering a perfect spot to watch the sun set over the Mexican village, is available for a vacation rental.


The influence of the late legendary designer Tony Duquette can be found in Fisher’s whimsical, baroque designs and the use of various metals and exotic wood.

Fisher’s whimsy is complemented by Weisman’s more classical approach, which he developed during stints at architectural firms Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Gensler before founding his own firm.

Weisman explained that the collection reflects a “unique, artistic, and decorative sensibility informed by world travel, a keen appreciation of nature, and a love for both whimsy and structure.”

In the Casa Acanto showroom, hand-decorated Midas table lamps were placed alongside a candelabrum and handmade jewelry.

This elaborate Midas Plank Chandelier is handcrafted with steel, papier mâché, and Dutch metal leaf with clear lacquer.

At five feet tall and four feet in diameter, the Midas Grand Tier Chandelier requires a room matching it in scale and opulence.

A candelabrum made of hand-cast recycled aluminum with bronze patina.

The Golden Toad Talisman, made of cast rubber coated in 22-karat gold leaf, watched over us.

Casa Acanto products are available online at; by appointment at 1706 Stockton Street, San Francisco; and at Sollano 16 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico,


On a balmy day in the city, some friends and I attended a talk by Bay Area artist and icon Ira Yeager as he discussed his involvement as part of theBay Area Figurative (BAF) Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

BAF marked a return to figurative imagery after the Abstract Expressionist movement. Practitioners included famed Bay Area painters such as Elmer Bischoff, Nathan Oliveira, and Richard Diebenkorn, who were not only Yeager’s teachers but counted among his personal friends as well.

Artist Ira Yeager in his San Francisco Powell Street studio in 1976.

Yeager in 1982, in his San Francisco Shotwell Street studio.


Yeager is one of the special characters for which San Francisco is renowned. Born in Washington State, he began painting in his teens. In 1957, he moved to the Bay Area to attend the famed California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, and later did a stint at what is now the San Francisco Art Institute.

Painter Ira Yeager discussed his life and work at the Antiques & Art Exchange (AAE), on Vermont Street in what’s known as San Francisco’s Design District.

The peripatetic artist has set up studios in England, Greece, France, Italy, New Mexico, Morocco, New York, and San Francisco, Since the 1990s, he has had one in the hills of Calistoga, in Napa Valley wine country, where he says he feels the most creative.

Artist Ira Yeager in his Calistoga studio in 2013.


Yeager’s good friend Gail Glasser organized the outing. “I’m an only child,” she told us, “but Ira, a good friend of 35 years, is like a brother.”

We attended two lectures by Yeager: “A Decade in Corfu: The Art & Life of Ira Yeager” in the morning, and “Life of a Bay Area Figurative Painter: Studies with Bischoff, Diebenkorn, and Oliveira” in the afternoon.

A BAF-themed window featuring Yeager’s work at the AAE.

Owned by Keith Dieterich and Howard Settle, AAE specializes in continental 18th and 19th-century furniture, paintings, and decorative objects.

Gail Glasser and Jeanne Lawrence in the Antiques & Art Exchange.

More Yeager admirers: Ellen Ungermann Coleman, Lucretia Carney, and Gail Glasser, wearing a jacket hand-painted by Yeager influenced by his Indian chief portrait series.

The artist recounted interesting stories about fellow Bay Area artists during the 1950s and 60s.

Yeager also showed the crowd his collection of letters from Bohemian author Paul Bowles, with whom he socialized while living in Morocco.


The prolific Yeager has produced works ranging from landscapes and abstractions to portraits of Native Americans and 18th-century subjects. His “Wine Vendor Series” remains a permanent exhibit at Swanson Vineyards and Winery in Oakville, California, open for public viewing.

An example of Yeager’s contemporary, highly abstract landscapes.

Some of Yeager’s more traditional landscapes, among which California features prominently.


During Yeager’s childhood, his sportsman father led hunting trips, sometimes accompanied by Native Americans. The artist produced his “Indian Chief” series of paintings after a sojourn in New Mexico in the 1960s.

A sampling of Yeager’s “Indian Chief” series, from a 2012 exhibit at the Napa Valley Museum.


The Swanson Vineyards “Sip Shoppe” features a jaguar painting by Yeager.

The winery’s charming salon is home to a variety of Yeager’s paintings.

Swanson Vineyards’ 2013 exhibition, Cirque a la Swanson, included smaller paintings and art objects by Yeager.


In 2012, the Napa Valley Museum hosted Ira Yeager: Modern, a solo show of the artist’s work.

The Napa Valley Museum exhibit showed a variety of Yeager’s pieces, including landscapes, watercolors, and painted furniture.

The show also displayed some lesser-seen drawings and watercolors by the artist.

Said AAE owner Howard Settle, “Ira was born with an innate ability to create. Some of his drawings are done while half-asleep/dreaming! He considers himself lucky to have not become as famous as Bischoff or Diebenkorn because he was always able to do what he wanted.”

This summer I hope to visit Yeager in his Napa Valley studio, to get his unique perspective on living in wine country. This man has led a most fascinating life and continues to do so!


Photos by Jeanne Lawrence, Steve Jennings/WireImage for The Painted Turtle, SeriousFun Network, Casa Acanto, Emily Lubahn, Brian Fuller, and Ira Schrank.

*Urbanite Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in San Francisco, Shanghai, and New York, and wherever else she finds a good story.

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