By Irene Lacher Posted October 4, 2007, 2:47 PM EDT
LOS ANGELES Once Claude Mann had settled on a Moulin Rouge theme for the annual gala benefiting her husband’s eponymous medical research foundation, there was only one Los Angeles event venue that was incroyable enough to carry it off: the 85-year-old Millennium Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles downtown. The property’s ornate frescoes, chandeliers, moldings, and interior columns provided a stately backdrop for the turn-of-the-century theme, and Inna Poncher’s team at Poko Event Productions upped the ante with elaborate decor that set the stage for a sumptuous evening. Poncher collaborated with Claude Mann, her daughter and event co-chair Cassandra, and Berna Ozlem, the Alfred Mann Foundation’s executive director of gifting and development.
When the 350 guests arrived for the Mann Foundation’s black-tie “Evening of Inspiration and Innovation,” volunteers tied black-feather bracelets around the wrists of the ladies entering the Tiffany Room for cocktails and the silent auction. Inside, auction tables and bars were covered with gold or burgundy fabric, and columns draped in both were tidily adorned with gold fleurs-de-lis. Large urns towering over the tables were filled with bordello-red roses arranged in a half circle resembling a fan, while black-and-red feathers—among the 1,500 gathered for the occasion—were scattered among the auction items.
Deep-red roses flecked with feathers were also used for centerpieces on the dinner tables in the adjacent Crystal Ballroom, where the main festivities took place. Black-and-white feathered masks were placed at the base of the centerpiece pedestals, which were surrounded by gold-rimmed glasses and dishes. But the most elaborate setting was reserved for the stage: It was decorated with a 40-foot-long flat of the Moulin Rouge—with rotating blades and red lights on its signature windmill—on a Paris street.
A dozen musicians sat side by side in front of the backdrop as they accompanied the evening’s honoree, Stevie Wonder, in an impromptu performance of “My Cherie Amour.” M.C. Debbie Allen choreographed three Moulin Rouge-inspired numbers, which culminated in a cancan, for more than 40 students of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. (A Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired image of a cancan dancer, removable from its die-cut sleeve, also adorned Creative Intelligence’s elaborate invitations and programs.) Later, Allen joined James Ingram in a duet, capping off the singer’s performance of a medley of his hits.
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly credited Inna Poncher's collaborators on the event.