Randy Vannatter, president and CEO of City Passports, with a bevy of Hawaiian-themed attendees, boarding the Clefs d’Or charity boat cruise.

(click on photos to enlarge)


It couldn’t have been a more beautiful evening for the eighth annual Les Clefs d’Or charity boat cruise aboard Harbour Cruises’ MV Britannia, supporting the worthy Dreams Take Flight and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Seafood Program. This year the Hawaiian-themed cruise and dance party, hosted by the hotel concierges and industry professionals, raised more than $20,000 to be divided between the two causes. The Dreams take Flight charity assists in making dreams come true with a trip of a lifetime for deserving children to Disneyland each year in October.

What a successful night it was for the Fairmont Hotel Van’s Yuki Fournier and her fellow Clefs d’Or members, together along with Sutton Place’s Geoff Argue, Pan Pacific’s Miriam Edwards, Horse and Carriage Tours owner Gerry O’Neil, Visitor’s Choice Magazine’s Randy Vanatter to entertain Vancouver’s tourism industry, who were out in full force.

Gourmet food stations were set up throughout the ship with tasty samplings provided by Eli Brennan’s team from the Water Street Cafe, along with other great food offerings from The Sandbar, the Vancouver Fish Company, the Donnelly Group, Mahony & Sons and the Lift Bar and Grill — to name a few. It could not have been a better event.

Adding a little exotica to the evening were the gorgeous and oh-so-fluid Hawaiian hula dancers...


Still on the water and dealing with charity, some 35 fishers gathered at Joe’s Salmon Lodge in Hakai Pass for five days of fishing, fishing tales, relaxing and camaraderie at the 5th Annual Charity Fishing Derby. With $11,000 worth of prizes at stake and an equal amount going to their chosen charity, B.C. Children’s Hospital, the competition was keen. By the time the contest ended at 6 pm on the first day, more than 725 kilos of fish had been caught. The winning salmon, a 9 and a half kilo Spring, was hooked by Jamie Windsor who took home the $5,000 first prize.

After a sumptuous dinner, there was a spectacular fireworks display donated by Mystical Fireworks, repped by Ray “Mr. Fireworks” Greenwood.

There were auctions for the following three nights with the monies added to the fundraising for Children’s Hospital. The lodge’s co-owner Doug Stuffco, assisted by ex-NHLers Dave and Wayne Babych, Jurki Lumme, Kirk McLean and Dana Muryzns made each evening event entertaining and rewarding.

When the final bids were in, the total came to $111,000 . That’s when Bracewell Marine Group’s Lance Bracewell, an active bidder every night, generously topped off the total to $130,000.

In the past five years, Joe’s Salmon Lodge has raised more than $400,000 for Children’s Hospital...Good on the fishers...

Vicki Gabereau, Dana Weekes-Bourne (chair) and Pamela Martin


It was a magical event on Southwest Marine Drive as elegantly-attired guests in beads, rhinestones, feathers and boas arrived at the fairytale destination of Casa Mia.  Casa Mia is the former Reifel estate, a magnificent mansion with spectacular ballrooms, oodles of bedrooms, tennis courts, swimming pools and long dark tunnels where such A-list movie stars and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Count Basie, Sammy Davis Jr. Lena Horne, Frank Gorshin and Jack Benny held court.

Corinne Zajac and Theo and Chantal Sanidas at Casa Mia’s toast to Mel Zajac

This was Langara Fishing Adventures’ Dana and Rick Bourne’s tribute to and fundraiser for Vancouver’s unsung humanitarian, Mel Zajac and his worthy Zajac Ranch for Children. Mel has always been in the background, a busy builder doing his thing for various charitable causes, beginning eons ago with his Zajac Mens’ Golf Classic when he had the Pacific Palisades Hotel on Robson. The Palisades was Bob Hope’s favourite Vancouver hotel to bed down in as it was for Katherine Hepburn, Leslie Neilson, the darkly handsome Anthony Quinn, and Tom Selleck who stayed for three months.

The tragic death of his two sons in separate sporting accidents eight months apart gave Mel even more impetus to continue his charity work, focussing especially on kids. That’s when he launched the Mel Jr. and Marty Zajac Ranch for Children in the Fraser Valley, a place of peace, tranquility and healing as well as a lasting tribute to his two boys. The ranch is also a family affair with his wife, Wendy, and his three daughters helping in every way possible.

Surprise of the night! Mel crooning Frank Sinatra’s songs!.

The evening was entitled the Last Big Event since the mansion has been sold and will be turned into a posh seniors’ home. Emcees for the gala gala do were celebrity ladies and former media stars, Pamela Martin and Vicki Gabereau while the B.C. Lions big Marko Ianuzzi did a great job of auctioneering.

Others in the happy crowd of 250 included Pace Group’s Norman Stowe, Theo and Chantal Sanidas, JoAnne Strongman, John Rainnie, Kevin Lorange, Christie Will Wolf and the generous Dr. Noya Madadi. The evening’s dollar amount has not yet been completely totalled – the generous hosts feel that it’s well over $80,000.

While the evening had everything going for it from the setting, the cuisine and the attendees, something very special and exciting was added.

The man of the moment, Mel Zajac stepped on stage and, backed by the popular Soul Purpose Band, sang all the old Frank Sinatra hits and did them perfectly! What a surprise! It brought the house down! Kudos, Mel!...


And speaking of fairytale places, there was another very special event this late fall in downtown Vancouver.

This was for the venerable Fairmont Hotel Vancouver which was celebrating its 80th year in business. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, and to mark their annual Chef’s Apprenticeship Gala at the Fairmont Pacific Rim, the evening’s overall theme was Dinner through the Decades with each of the B.C. Fairmont properties assigned a decade. It began with the Empress Hotel’s Dungeness Crab, Chateau Whistler’s Berezen Shrimp, the Waterfront’s Duck and Foie Gras Terrine, Hotel Van’s Bone Marrow Crusted Short Rib, Vancouver Airport’s Golden Ears Jemma, Pacific Rim’s Coconut Mango Egg for dessert topped off with The Sky is Falling, a Red Bull after-party cocktail.

Happy 80th to the Grand Dame!...


And still with that all-important substance called food, food will be the focus when the executive director of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation officially launches the 16th annual Passions fundraiser with gala co-chairs Nathan Fong and Michael Barker Fyfe. Food is important to every human being but especially to those suffering from AIDS and its devastating effects. The $1.5 million dollars raised will go exclusively straight to the kitchen.

With a stellar line of chefs from such award-winning Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar and first-timers like Cantina Norte, Hydra, Ancora, L’Abattoir and the Fanny Bay Oyster Company joining the other generous cuisine purveyors, it’s bound to be a winning gala gala do. Emcee is Global TV’s Kasia Bodurka with the media’s Fred Lee doing his best as auctioneer. Talented Fred always gets everyone going! You can get your tickets here.

SHORT SHOTS …                                                                   

Short shots...Big Bill Good will be one of the special awardees at the 33rd annual Jack Webster Awards at the Hyatt Regency on Thursday, November 7. And for the first time ever, the three local TV stations will take part. There’s Scott Roberts and Mi-Jung Lee from CTV,  Global TV’s Neetu Garcha and Sophie Lui and Gloria Macarenko and Mike Killeen from CBC. Sounds like an ideal combination.

Should be a fun night as Papi’s Seafood and Oyster Bar’s chef Max Straczek welcomes former Top Chef Canada alumni contestants Mark Singson and Wallace Wong to create a fantastic feast on October 5 for the very reasonable $79.

A vintage late-60s photo of Alex MacGillivray with then Westin Bayshore executive chef Xavier Hetzman.

Very sad to learn of the passing of the erudite and debonair editor of the Vancouver Sun’s weekly Leisure magazine, Alex MacGillivray. Leisure was an upscale magazine full of articles and listings on the arts, book reviews, theatre, dining and travel. Alex was always so fussy and demanding that I, as a PR person at that time, had to crawl on my bleeding knees to get him to agree to have one of his minions cover the opening of whatever show I was promoting.

Despite this, everyone admired and respected him. In fact, as he grew older and less intimidating, you couldn’t help but become quite fond of the old guy. Rest in peace, Alex...More on the recent passing of my good friend, the remarkable Beryl Wilson next time.