Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Designer Trina Turk coming to Charlotte

Designer Trina Turk, known for her colorful graphic print clothes and her love of mid-century modern architecture, is the speaker at the Mint Museum Auxiliary's Fall EnrichMint Forum from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Mint Museum uptown. 
Titled "Mid-Century Modern Musings," Turk's talk will focus on what influences her designs for her women's, men's, jewelry and home decor lines.
The evening also features a fashion show and live auction of a two-night stay in an oceanfront villa the Grace Bay Club in the Turks and Caicos.
In conjunction with the fundraiser for the Mint Museum, a Trina Turk trunk show is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 15-16 at the Duke Mansion that's open to the public. Turk will make an appearance at the trunk show from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 15. 
Tickets to the evening forum are $100 for auxiliary members; $110 for guests. Attire is Mod Chic. Tickets must be reserved by Oct. 1. Details: 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Backstage with Real Housewife Teresa Giudice

I was in the thick of covering the DNC when Marilynn Bowler of Southern Shows sent me an email inviting me to introduce Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice during her appearance Sept. 24 at the Southern Women's Show.

It was the only thing during that intense time that managed to leave me saying, DNC? What DNC? I was so excited because I'm a major Real Housewives/Andy Cohen/Bravo TV fan.

Teresa entered pop culture history when she flipped that table during RHONJ Season One. Although there are some things I find shocking about her behavior, I've also noticed some things that deserve to be admired. But I did want to think about it before I said yes.

Public speaking is not something that comes naturally to me, and I wasn't sure if I should out myself in front of an audience that I'm such a Real Housewives fan.  I called my mother to see if she thought it was a good idea. "Do it, it will be fun," was her advice.

My fellow Real Housewives fan Susan Triantafyllides was my partner in crime for the event. We got our first glimpse of Teresa, or Tre as we like to call her, during a private pre-show event. It's odd to look over and see in person someone you've watched for years on TV.

My first impression of Teresa was that she's gorgeous and tiny. I look enormous standing next to her. The TV cameras don't do her striking features justice. Her eyes seem more Jackie O on TV than they are in person, and they're incredibly beautiful. She has that flawless Italian olive skin and glossy long black hair. She looked very New Jersey/New York chic in a black jacket, black leggings and flat black boots that came up to her knees.

She has a charismatic personality. Fans clapped - some even stood - when she walked by them to get backstage. Susan and I hung out there with her, which was a lot of fun. I found her to be perfectly nice although absorbed in her smart phone, but I was too because I was trying to Tweet and remember what I had planned to say to the packed audience.

I did find out she had flown in right before the show and was flying back right afterward. She always likes to be home at night to tuck her children in bed, and take them to school in the mornings, so she doesn't schedule overnight trips unless her family is with her.

The only awkward moment came when Teresa's assistant made a joke that maybe the sound guy would play On Display (the song by Teresa's estranged sister-in-law Melissa) when Teresa came on stage. Teresa kept a complete poker face - but that said volumes about the ice between the two former friends.

On stage, I was surprised when she saved her harshest comments for another cast mate and former friend, Jacqueline. They definitely aren't reconciling anytime soon. Moderator Jenn Wallin (in the photo below) did a fantastic job of focusing Teresa's thoughts and fielding questions from the audience all while getting in a few clever zingers herself.

During the Q&A session, someone asked who her favorite Housewives were from the other cities. She likes Lisa Vanderpump and NeNe. She's not a fan of Vicki or Tamara from the O.C. Housewives.

Several of the audience members urged her to reconcile with her brother and his wife, but Teresa stood up for herself, which is one of the things I like about her. She said that instead of constantly trying to fix the problem, which was making her sick, she has had to step back for the moment and move forward with her life.

Here are links to video from the event:

Follow Olivia Fortson on Twitter @oliviafortson.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Sip & Savour on Saturday

Sip & Savour, a fundraising gallery crawl through Myers Park, is from 6 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22.

Tickets cost $25 and check-in is at Allison Sprock Fine Art, 600 Queens Road. Proceeds go to Melissa's Voice (, a nonprofit with the mission of giving a voice to those with eating disorders. It's named for founder Lynn Dreyer's late sister Melissa who killed herself after a longtime struggle with bulimia. (The photo above is of Lynn Dreyer and eating disorder survivor Katie Brumley.)

From 6 to 8:30 p.m. you can crawl through the four participating galleries with their offerings of art, wine provided by the Wine Sisterhood, and food from area restaurants. From 8:30 to 11 p.m. there's an after-party at nearby FABO with music from Simplified. Wine and beer will be for sale during the concert with a portion of the proceeds going to the cause.

The participating galleries are Allison Sprock Fine Art, 600 Queens Road; Providence Gallery, 601 Providence Road; Shain Gallery, 2823 Selwyn Ave.; and Renee George Gallery, 2839 Selwyn Ave.


Friday, September 14, 2012

The connection between art and fashion

I attended the Art of Fashion event at Neiman Marcus last night and it was so much fun I think I Tweeted more from that one party than I did during the whole DNC.

Just walking into Neiman Marcus is uplifting for me. The displays, the merchandise the sales people - they're all quality and are presented in such a creative and beautiful way that you can't help but feel happy and inspired.

Add in the party atmosphere and outrageously chic guests and I'm in style heaven.

When I walked into the event through the Men's department, I saw such a commotion over in the accessories area that I thought maybe a famous menswear designer was making a personal appearance. But it was even better: JJ's Red Hots, the new gourmet hot dog joint on East Boulevard, was serving up their delicious dogs. They could not put them out quick enough to stem the rush of well-manicured and bejeweled hands politely waiting to pluck them from the trays.

Then it dawned on me that the music I was hearing in the background must be from a band playing nearby. A really good band performing classic rock and blues. I couldn't wait to track them down. I was so surprised when I saw it was one guy, Owen Poteat, known as the One-Man Band. Owen, you rock.

I breezed through the makeup department where almost every chair was full of guests getting makeovers and trying out cherry lip colors, which the experts say is a big trend this season.

Upstairs, more stylish men and women drank wine and champagne while nibbling hors d'oeuvres from Delectables by Holly. I stopped to talk to Erica Hanks of QC Exclusive magazine, one of my favorite style experts. She was on her way back to her style pop-up store where she curated and displayed top trends for guests to try.

The runway show was about to start so guests who had paid a $50 donation to the Mint Museum of Art were already in their seats. Before the models came out, Jay Everett of Wells Fargo shared his meaningful thoughts about the connection between art and fashion. We all need to be reminded of that because there's a tendency among some to think of fashion as frivolous, but it's an important outlet for self-expression and creativity. And a well-designed piece of clothing is equal to a work of art.

Neiman Marcus manager Kristine Ottens Matthews singled out super chic arts patron Dana Davis. Then the incredible clothes were shown off as the models strutted down the runway. Afterward, Kristine reminded me that more than 100 original works of art are displayed throughout the store, another beautiful example of how art and fashion go hand in hand.

This is nothing new for Neiman Marcus - they've promoted this philosophy for more than two decades with their annual Art of Fashion campaigns combining top fashion designers, photographers and artists to create a cutting-edge "book" of the best of Fall fashion. It's just nice to see the message hitting home with so many now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Red alert: get in on this first-time gala

Jonathan Brown called to let me know about the Young Professional Society of the Ronald McDonald House hosting the inaugural Red Tie Gala.

The fundraiser is from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at Levine Museum of the New South. The host is WBTV's Molly Grantham. Instead of black tie, men are encouraged to wear red ties, and the organizers are hoping women will wear red gowns or dresses.

The $60 per person tickets include an open bar from 7 to 9 p.m. (it's a cash bar after 9 p.m.), heavy hors d'oeuvres, dancing and a raffle. The after-party is nearby at Fitzgerald's Irish Pub where the bar is donating a portion of its special signature drink for the evening - a Mai Red Tai - to Ronald McDonald House.

As Brown explained it to me in an email, The Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for families of seriously ill children from across the Carolinas receiving medical treatment at area hospitals Families are stronger when they are together, which helps in the healing process. By staying at a Ronald McDonald House, parents can also better communicate with their child’s medical team, and keep up with complicated treatment plans as needed.


To add to the gala buzz, Lipp boutique at the Metropolitan is hosting a special event this Friday, Sept. 14, from 5 to 9 p.m.  It will have a cocktail party atmosphere with Young Professional Society members pouring wine. Lipp will donate 20 percent of the proceeds that evening to Ronald McDonald House. 

I can't resist the stylish and philanthropic fun, so I plan to be at Lipp taking photos of guests. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A festival of fashion do's and don'ts

Now that the DNC is over, let's talk about what Charlotte is normally known for in September - festivals.

Pride magazine's Coca-Cola Sunset Jazz Festival just took place Sept. 8 at Symphony Park at SouthPark mall.

Coming up are the Yiasou Greek Festival (Sept. 13-16 at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral on East Boulevard); Festival in the Park (Sept. 21-23 at Freedom Park); and Festival of India (Sept. 22-23 at Knight Theater uptown).

One of the attractions of festival season is that they're great places to have fun while seeing and being seen. In that spirit, a group of stylish event organizers sent me their do's and don'ts when it comes to festival fashion.

Accessorize to the nines: You can’t go wrong with designer shades, handbags and shoes.

Wear colors that match your skin tone and your body style.

Try to have a fabulous, flawless look.

Get that mani and pedi.

Wear comfortable shoes. Wedges or cute sandals always work wonders.

Wear something you hate (it will worry you the whole time).

Wear something too tight (people will stare).

Wear something inappropriate (people will talk).

Overdo the makeup (it will melt off in the heat).

Wear heels too high (your feet will kill you). 

Friday, September 7, 2012

DNC: Best and worst

Wow, what a party. My iPhone camera and I had a blast. All of us who experienced a part of the DNC have great cocktail party talk stored up. I can't wait to hear all the stories.

In the meantime, here's my personal Top 5 Best and Worst list for the week:

The sense of accomplishment I feel knowing I'm a cog in the wheel of the well-rounded DNC content the Observer produced nonstop in print and digitally this week.

When I introduced myself to visitors, many of them complimented the Observer when they found out I worked for the hometown paper. Lots of them said they wished their town's newspaper was as well done.

Observing whole groups of people from different states. It's not often you're in a room with hundreds of people who you know are from one area. It's fascinating to observe the subtle differences in their behavior.

My appreciation for Southern ways is even more deep now, if that's possible. Although every single visitor I met during the DNC was nice and interesting, I quickly realized I would miss some of the small pleasantries I'm used to if I lived in another part of the country.

Getting kicked out of a party by the secret service right before the Vice President arrived. That thrilled my punk rock heart.

Standing on the sidewalk outside a CEO's house hoping to get pictures of guests arriving for a lunch he was hosting for dignitaries. I got a photo of a caterer walking up the driveway. A photo of a UPS driver walking up the driveway. And a photo of a security guard from Washington walking down the driveway on his way to ask me what I was doing.

Being so busy I didn't have time to watch a lot of the TV coverage.

Freaking my dog out  because I didn't play ball with her as much as I normally do.

Becoming overwhelmed trying to follow DNC news on Facebook and Twitter.

The surprising feeling of melancholy I have because it's all over.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I've hit the wall, y'all

This week has been a blast so far, but I think I'm on a collision course with the wall.

I and many others have willingly made 16 hour days our norm this week and we've enjoyed every minute. Charlotteans love to throw great parties and this one has been a doozie.

I will get my energy up for the late night. Thank you Mountain Dew. But right now I'm taking a moment to reflect on highlights of my favorite moments as of now:

  • My source who asked me if I wanted to attend a party with Vice President Joe Biden. Uh, yes. Thank you! 

  • Getting kicked out of the Biden event by the secret service moments before the Vice President entered the party. The agents didn't have to ask me twice. I have complete respect for them and what they do. 

  • After being shown the door at the Biden party, it was pouring the rain. There were two ambulances outside, about five black SUVs, 10 police officers on dirt bikes and numerous other police and secret service agents. The parking lot was small and all the hoopla was blocking the main entrance. I thought I would try a side street but when I pulled around toward the back of the building, my 1996 silver Mercury Sable came grill-to-grill with the Vice President's mega-car. It had the flags and everything. I truly did not think I would be able to squeeze by without hitting it. Under the gaze of a concerned agent, I made it and I lived to tell the tale. 

  • Being at Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge when the President arrived. Not that I ever saw him. But I did see the White House press corps come in and that was interesting to observe. I overheard a few of them wonder aloud if there was a good pizza place nearby.

  • I wasn't at the hotel specifically for the president's arrival. I was there because a year ago the Allegro Foundation booked the hotel for September 5 for its annual Allegro Golf Invitational tournament and awards reception. Who would have thought it would fall on the same day and time that the President would spend the night there. 

  • It actually made the fundraiser even more of a success. And it gave people a topic to have fun with. As legendary charity auctioneer Ernest Perry jokingly lamented, he couldn't encourage people to drink more (which equals bidding more) because there were too many secret service and police. 

  • The Ambassador from Monaco to the U.S., Gilles Noghes, was at the fundraiser. He told me Ambassadors are invited to the conventions - he went to Tampa - but for obvious reasons they stay out of taking sides. One of my favorite photos from the event is the Ambassador with Ernest Perry and beloved local TV personality Larry Sprinkle having a celebratory moment together. I think it reflects the mood in Charlotte at this point: Let's all relish the last few hours of  this spectacle and enjoy each other's company. 
  • I love James Taylor. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NYC's Cindy Adams takes a bite out of Charlotte

In her column today, longtime New York Post writer Cindy Adams ( expresses her biting opinions of Charlotte and North Carolina. Titled "Carolina in my mind," it opens with a zinger about how North Carolina is the home of nothing.

I have been a fan of the New York Post online for ages, especially its Page Six gossip column. And it's a paper that covers The City - I love knowing what's in the news there.

I always enjoy reading the places, people and parties that are part of Cindy Adams' world. Her breezy, funny and sometimes brutal writing style has made  her a legend on the New York scene.

I did get a little steamed when I first started reading her most recent post, but then she mentioned her hotel room is in Rock Hill. She is going to be grumpy all week. I don't blame her.

Honestly, the fact that Cindy Adams is writing about Charlotte at all is kind of neat to a longtime New York Post fan like me. OK, maybe that's a stretch, but I'm trying to be gracious and think of something positive to say.

I just wish some of the Charlotteans and North Carolinians posting comments online would try to be gracious as well. Honestly, some of the responses are so rude, it's making us look worse than anything Adams could write. The world can read what they're saying. I hope their grandmothers aren't tech savvy.

You can still say what you feel without crossing the line. Sometimes you can even be bawdy while you do it. Need an example? Here's one of my favorite responses:

"You can kiss Queen Charlotte's..."

I love that the woman from Charlotte who posted it didn't write out the last word. That would have been rude. In Charlotte, going out of your way to be kind, friendly and polite is highly valued. It's so prized here, we even try to hold onto those ideals while fussing at someone.

But  to all the North Carolinians going overboard in their online disdain for Adams' article, on behalf of your grandmothers I say please, mind your manners.