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THE CROWD:Gentlemen enjoy the finer things in life

August 09, 2007|By B.W. Cook

At 6 in the evening last Friday the stream of automobiles started pouring into the porte-cochère of the Balboa Bay Club & Resort on Pacific Coast Highway.

As the beach crowd of young mothers with children in tow were leaving behind another summer day on the sand, getting into their vans and SUVs to head for home, the arriving phalanx pulled in and out came some 150 gentlemen. They were all dressed in navy blue blazers and white slacks at the direction of Henry Schielein, host of the 13th annual Gentlemen's Smoker and Lobster Clambake.

The $250-per person Friday night fraternal gathering is a mixture of old world social camaraderie, new world charitable purpose, and plain old Friday night fun. It comes in the form of unlimited cigar sampling from some of the world's finest brands, combined with an assortment of open bar service and food to rival the finest cuisine found anywhere.

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For the 13th annual event in Newport Beach, no expense was spared, and no amenity overlooked.

On one side of the lawn fronting the beach, a Chopin martini bar flowed through an ice luge, while on the opposite end a 4 Copas Tequila bar had waiters mixing hand-created margaritas. A group of gentlemen who call themselves the Gremoli Dixieland Jazz Band set the tone for the evening as the crowd gathered and began to share war stories.

The lawn fronting the beach had been set up with round tables adorned with orchid centerpieces and a lineup of crystal stemware at each place setting to accommodate the multi-courses of the fermented grape to come.

The crowd is a mix of just about every walk of life on the Orange Coast and beyond. Peter Buffa, former mayor of Costa Mesa and Daily Pilot columnist, was charged with the task of emceeing the party. Buffa joined the dapper Joe DeFranco, former close friend and business partner of the late John Wayne, father and son Tykye and Dean Camaras, Fletcher Jones executive Kirk Dawson, hotelier Randy Zupanski of the Fairmont Newport Beach, former Orange County supervisor Tom Wilson, another father and son duo Robert Wellbourn III and Robert Wellbourn IV.

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