By Olivia Tracey
Recently here on the West Coast the craic has been mighty, with the Irish party spirit alive and very much kicking.
First of all I was given the chance to don my Sunday best for the 8th annual Day at the Races, courtesy of the American Ireland Fund. So off I trotted to Hollywood Park, where I was greeted as warmly as ever by the Fund’s ever-dedicated right-hand woman, Pat Heirs, who was looking fresh and springlike in her ever-so-becoming sun hat, fuchsia print day dress, and matching lipstick. Trust me to notice.
Like the perfect hostess, she ushered me over to meet the fund’s new Western Regional Director, Dennis Koller, who was telling me about their ambitious plans to raise $100 million in the next five years. Then I was introduced to the consul general of Ireland, Kevin Conmy, and his wife, Siobhan Campbell, director of Wolfhound Press. Now just a year in San Francisco, the busy couple are settling in nicely along with their two kiddies, Amy (4) and Luke (2), with much appreciated assistance from their wonderful Irish nanny.
Meanwhile, over in the Murphy household, (as in restaurateurs Jimmy and Anne) there were indeed no nannies required for their towering sons, the more than manly Sean and Jamie. I sat alongside the delightful couple and their equally delightful daughter, Geraldine, who was looking very cool in a violent blue Donna Karen number, picked and purchased as a surprise from mom. The gregarious Geraldine may be younger than I am, but believe me, she is just as talkative, and so between the pair of us we managed to miss out on many a good tip. Nonetheless, in the midst of all the girl talk, we actually squeezed in one triumph with Ireland’s "Fiamma."
Also in our gathering was lawyer Bill Gould and his elegant wife, Maryann, the bodacious and bubbly Beverly Hilton hairstylist B.J. Shaw, Jamie’s glamorous girlfriend, Marika, and the very amicable Kildare lass Laura Ballesty, director of nursing at Santa Moncia’s Saint John’s Health Center.
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At the next table was Irish horse broker Billy McDonald, sitting like a healthy, happy Charlie among a trio of angels, all blonde and gorgeous. Among them was his goddaughter, Tipperary beauty Emma O’Byrne, looking quite the babe in body-hugging aqua and black. At age 25, Emma is one of Ireland’s top eligibles, with the poise and panache of a movie star. Of course, she is at present attached to the equally delectable James Quill, a Brad Pitt lookalike actor currently in Cannes for the launch of his latest movie, "Dark Summer." She proudly showed me his photo. I openly bemoaned his absence.
Meanwhile, I fell in love. The occasion was Sister Ada Geraghty’s Women in Recovery Gala Ball, the object of my affections being a 10-week old golden retriever puppy called Hope. But alas, it was love of the unrequited kind as the fluffy little darling, donated by Evening Star Kennels, was snapped up in seconds for all of $2,500 at the fund-raising auction. Believe me, she was worth every dollar.
Nonetheless, the event had indeed its fair share of compensations, most notably in the dignified form of Sir Anthony Hopkins along with his dear mother. On this occasion he was acting as honorary chairman, making a speech that was both honest and humorous.
I don’t know how I got into this," he said, laughing, adding that Sister Ada didn’t just kiss the Blarney Stone, she swallowed it. Though Welsh by birth, he considers himself "one of the Irish who couldn’t swim," assuming a perfect brogue on cue. Now celebrating 23 years of sobriety, he joked about how he "drank anything [he] couldn’t chew," especially if it was Tequila, adding wittily that he was glad to be an alcoholic, "I wouldn’t have missed it for the world," he said.
As you might imagine, he had the entire party in the palm of his hand, radiating charm, charisma, grace and indisputable aristocratic presence. Of course don’t you know that I gushed and gooed and gaad to him afterward, plying him with compliments that were lofty but sincere. And then, much to my delight, I was bestowed the grand prize — an exceptionally sweet kiss on the cheek. Definitely a moment to treasure.
It was indeed a stylish occasion, not excluding my own companion, herbalist nutritionist Tony O’Donnell. Widely known and revered for his life-changing "Emerald Greens" superfood ( 575-9606), the Donegal lad is becoming even more so with his countless countrywide television appearances from CNN News to "Good Morning Dallas." He was simply glowing after a week of detox and exercise at San Diego’s Optimum Health Institute, a steal at $400 – $700 per person for an entire week, including room, meals and classes.
Back in Hollywood, a great night was had by all at the premiere of the Quinn movie "This is my Father," thanks to Sony Pictures Classics and Trevor Murray and Paul Balbirnie of "The Irish Screen," not to mention Guinness and Bass for the post-movie reception. The occasion was truly Hollywood, complete with cardinal red carpet, at the newly restored Egyptian Theater. Fans lined the streets outside to catch a glimpse of the stars, who included the gorgeous and gracious Aidan Quinn, James Caan, Gabriel Byrne, writer/director Paul Quinn and the exquisite Tia Carrera. Also in the beauty stakes was my own escort for the evening, former "Glenroe" heartthrob Tim Murphy, who, bearing more than a passing resemblance to Aidan Quinn, was receiving numerous autograph requests. It’s that Irish blue-eyed twinkle.