Gary Sinise “Inspiration to Action” Dinner Raises Over $300,000

By Dana Getz

The Gary Sinise Foundation hosted its first-ever local Chicago event Saturday, June 15 at the Montgomery Club by Gibson’s. An “Inspiration to Action” dinner, the foundation partnered with sponsors Michigan Avenue Magazine, Josh Cellars, Reyes Holdings and Moet Hennessey USA to raise over $300,000 for the foundation, whose many programs provide assistance and support for our nation’s defenders.

Guests enjoyed a live performance by Katherine McPhee, American Idol breakout and star of NBC’s “Smash,” as well as appearances by comedian Tom Dreesen, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Sammy Davis and actor, musician and Steppenwolf Theatre co-founder Gary Sinise. The private dinner also included a VIP cocktail reception and a “Raise Your Paddle” pledge for EOD2 Taylor Morris, an Explosive Ordinance Disposal Tech who lost all four limbs after stepping on an improvised explosive device while leading a team in Afghanistan.

Sinise started the foundation in 2011 as an expansion of his individual efforts to aid our nation’s servicemen and women, including the formation of his band “The Lt. Dan Band” in 2004 to entertain troops serving at home and abroad. According to Sinise, his passion developed through a “long process” that began with veterans in his family and grew through his involvement with local veteran groups in Chicago during the 1980s. After playing a concert Thursday, June 13 with his band at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, Sinise’s old friends from Steppenwolf offered to host the event if he stuck around for a few more days, the actor said.

“It’s Gary’s hometown so of course that holds significance,” said Davis, the evening’s honored guest, on the importance of the dinner, “but Chicago is also a ‘do it’ town, and all they had to do is become aware.”

Davis said his favorite part of the night was “to have a group of likeminded people coming together for a purpose” and to inspire others to lend a helping hand.

All proceeds from the evening will go toward building quadruple amputee Morris’ smart home as part of the foundation’s “Building for America’s Bravest” program, which will expand its efforts from 10 to 13 homes this year according to executive director Judy Otter.  The foundation will also extend its arts and entertainment outreach to the Geffen Theater in Los Angeles, as well as add USO Las Vegas, San Diego and Dallas/Fort Worth to its Serving Heroes program. Though Sinise said he will be “keeping plenty busy” with his foundation and band, since CSI:NY’s end in February he’s been hoping to work on some new acting projects as well.

“It was a great run—nine years— I can’t complain,” Sinise said, “but I’m looking forward to something else down the road.”

Sue Wong’s The Great Gatsby Soiree

On Friday, April 19, Sue Wong, fashion’s grand diva designer of Hollywood glamour, launched her “The Great Gatsby”-inspired Fall 2013 Collection with a rollicking Jazz Age soiree at her palatial home The Cedars. The season’s social highlight drew a cavalcade of leading celebrities and artists, as well as entertainment and fashion industry insiders to celebrate Sue’s glittering array of evening dresses designed to reflect the effervescent exuberance of the Roaring Twenties. Photos by Joyce Chow, Robert Kovac, and Adriana Mendiola.

Photos by Joyce Chow & Robert Kovac

Snaps by Adriana Mendiola

Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala

By Dana Getz

The 26th annual Alzheimer’s Association Chicago Rita Hayworth Gala recognized the newer, younger face of early onset Alzheimer’s last Saturday, raising over $1.5 million for medical research and care giving programs.

A record-breaking 900+ guests gathered at the Hilton Chicago for the event, enjoying cocktails, dinner, dancing, auctions and a special live performance by Grammy award-winning artist Richard Marx.

Led by an entire family for the first time ever, co-chairs Debbie Mendelson Ponn, Sharon and Scott Markman and Blythe and David Mendelson followed in their parents’ footsteps, who co-chaired the event in 1997.

“Like so many others, our family has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, and we are honored by those who choose to stand with us and join our passion for the cause,” David Mendelson said. “We are determined to recruit new advocates and educate generations about this devastating disease. Together, we fight as a family and an Association to live in a world without Alzheimer’s.”

Mendelson Ponn said that originally her brother David and his wife were approached to co-chair the gala, but after talking it over they agreed they wanted to organize the event as a family.

“It’s a great party that’s bringing awareness to those who may not know about the disease and it’s raising vital funds for the Alzheimer’s Association,” Mendelson Ponn said. “We’re dancing for a good cause tonight.”

The siblings, however, decided to take a different approach than their parents did 15 years ago, focusing on exposing the increasingly younger face of Alzheimer’s. An estimated 200,000 under the age of 65 are now living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Alzheimer’s is growing at a faster pace than anyone could have imagined,” David Mendelson said. “This is not your grandparents’ face…the face of Alzheimer’s today is the face of your entire family.”

With the help of Scott Markman’s team at The Monogram Group, Inc.—whose $20,000 creative transformation was completedfree of charge—the siblings aimed for an energetic and youthful theme for the gala.

“We wanted it to be tied to Rita but in a very different way,” Scott Markman said. “We had to find a way to evolve her person but not make it about her as much, and make it about the cause and a very good evening.”

The result was “Step On Board,” a call to action for both the committee and the rest of the room. Scott Markman said while the event was originally about family and tradition, this year’s gala invited guests to “step on board with an old, elegant, retro-hip kind of thing,” featuring images of train travel and the glory days.

For Scott Markman, who has attended the event for the past 20 years, the gala has become a part of his life, though co-chairing the event for the first time brought special meaning to his presence.

“To be one of the guys to work so hard on this and to stand up on that podium looking out at the crowd was so frickin’ cool. It was just awesome,” Scott Markman said.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Rita Hayworth, commended the committee’s hard work, as well as the contributions of honorees including Civic Award acceptors the Moscow Family, Alzheimer’s Association Corporate Award receivers the Guggenheim Partners and Alzheimer’s Association Medical and Scientific award recipient John C. Morris, MD.

Gabby Wild: Meshing Fashion & Conservationism

By Gemma Follari

When Gabby Wild was 20 years old, she traveled to Thailand where she met a baby elephant “who fell madly in love with me.” The elephant, who had been stolen from his mother in the jungle, wouldn’t take milk from anyone and was expected to die until Wild arrived and got him to drink from a bottle.

After Wild left Thailand to continue her undergraduate studies at Cornell University, the baby elephant passed away. “He stopped eating, became very depressed, broke one leg, broke the other, and then died. It was horrific. Absolutely horrific.”

Wild said after this experience and seeing “how horrible the plight for wildlife is today,” she decided to start The Gabby Wild Foundation, which she founded in October of 2011 with a mission to “to raise awareness and funds for various threatened animals,” said Wild.

“One fourth of mammals, half of amphibians and an eight of all bird species are at risk of extinction and that’s a very scary fact.”

Gabby with baby Asian elephant, Khun Chai.

Today Wild, now 23, is the president and face of The Gabby Wild Foundation. As well as a student pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine at Cornell Veterinary College.

The foundation brings together conservation groups that have similar goals. “We’re uniting them all together, so that way we’re stronger in numbers,” said Wild.

Currently, Wild is working with several different amphibian groups on a campaign called Metamorphosis, which is not yet online. National Geographic photographer Robin Moore, who is also a project manager for Conservation International, took photos of Wild transformed through makeup into a variety of amphibians and posing with live amphibians.

“It was an honor being transformed into creatures so physically & intrinsically beautiful & precious,” said Wild about the process.

The makeup and prosthetics were done by Academy Award winner Brian Sipe who has done makeup for movies including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Star Trek, and Emmy Award-winning makeup artist Jennifer Aspinall.

“Together they changed me, metamorphosized me, into a bunch of amphibians to raise awareness for them and also to raise funds which we’re doing at the moment and it’s going very nicely,” said Wild.

Vietnamese Mossy Frog Metamorphosis. Photo by Robin Moore. Makeup by Brian Sipe & Jennifer Aspinall.

Since its inception in 2011, The Gabby Wild Foundation has done a lot of photography campaign work. The foundation’s work has been featured at New York Fashion Week, Art Basel in Miami, and in major publications including the New York Times and the Huffington Post.

The foundation has done multiple campaigns and Wild is now focused on expanding the interactive part of her foundation.

The “Create Your Own Campaign” section of the website, which will not be on the website for a few months, will allow people and companies to design their own wildlife conservation campaigns. The Gabby Wild Foundation will guide them and help promote the campaigns. Wild’s foundation will also provide materials to help companies promote their campaigns on their own networks. Each campaign will set a monetary goal but “there’s no pressure to reach that goal, as whatever is made still gets donated to their animal of choice,” said Wild.

This new component “allows the public to see what any person can do to protect animals,” said Wild who added she is very excited to launch “Create Your Own Campaign.”

Wild said the most rewarding part of the work she has done has been people’s responses.

“I think the most impact has been when people send messages or emails about what they have learned and how that influenced their daily lives.”

People from places as far away as Japan and Taiwan send in small donations with messages telling Wild about what they’ve learned.

“I think that’s the most beautiful part, when someone say ‘I never even knew what the Chinese Giant Salamander’ and you hear them go ‘I’m going to try to help you save it.’”

For more on Gabby and this year’s Campaign, visit GabbyWilde.com.

Chinese Giant Salamander Dress by Luis Valenzuela. Photo by Ken Kawamoto

Chinese Giant Salamander Dress by Luis Valenzuela. Photo by Ken Kawamoto

Chicago’s First Martha Stewart Wedding Party

By Gemma Follari

For the first time ever, Chicago brides-to-be were able to experience Martha Stewart’s Wedding Party, an event that has been held annually in New York City for over a decade.

About 365 soon-to-be brides, grooms, friends of engaged couples and wedding planners enjoyed cocktails, live music and a showcase by top Chicago wedding vendors in a ballroom at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel on Sunday, March 10.

The event was brought to Chicago for the first time because “Chicago is a great market for weddings. There are lots of brides, lots of talented vendors. We don’t have an event quite like this.” Said Meghan Andalman, owner of Lovebird Wedding & Event Styling. She added, “Martha Stewart Weddings has a lot of very loyal fans in Chicago, so it just seemed like a very good fit.”

Andalman co-produced the showcase with Claudia Hanlin of The Wedding Library, a wedding planning company, who has been producing the event for Martha Stewart Weddings in New York for several years.

“I think the event was a huge success. You know we had terrific vendors, we had great brides, everybody seemed to be mingling and interacting and gathering information. The energy in the room was fantastic so I’m really happy with the final product,” said Andalman who hopes to make this an annual event in the Windy City.

The event had over 100 vendors from all parts of the wedding industry. Each business set up elaborately decorated tables to display their services. The array of vendors covered every aspect of a bride’s special day, from photography and food to honeymoon destinations. “We have so much talent here [in Chicago], so we invited some of our favorite vendors and it just sort of grew from there,” said Andalman.

The Radisson Blu where the event was held is a relatively new hotel in Chicago.

“The minute that I heard that Martha Stewart Weddings wanted to do their first bridal show in Chicago, since we’re a new hotel, we opened November of 2011, I knew this had to be the place,” said Noemi Lopez, catering sales manager at the Radisson.

For vendors and guests alike, the Martha Stewart name drew attention to the event and was a big reason why many decided to attend.

“We love the Radisson Blu and Martha Stewart,” said Carli Milstein of HMR Designs when asked why the company chose to be in the showcase. HMR Designs does custom design work for special events including weddings.

HMR Designs, like many of the other vendors, set up an elaborately decorated table in the ballroom to display their services. “We did this tablescape just to give brides an idea of how they can have a luxury beautiful event,” said Milstein. “Everything is catered towards the bride and what it takes to make her special day.”

Tina Anderson, owner of Gem Events, an event planning company, attended the event not as a vendor, but as a guest.

“We love Martha, we follow everything she’s doing, we actually know quite a few vendors here, and wanted to see firsthand what they’re doing next, and it’s just a fun way to spend a Sunday,” said Anderson, listing why she decided to purchase a ticket, the prices of which started at $65 per person.

Alicia Blumer, senior sales manager BBJ Linen, was another vendor at the event. BBJ Linen is a table fashions company that specializes in table accessories including linens, overlays and napkin rings.

Blumer said her favorite part of the event was the way it was set up.  “It’s a little bit more like a lingering atmosphere instead of your traditional bridal show.”

Guests could be seen mingling, eating and admiring the different displays through the five-hour party.

Besides the vendors, food, drinks and music set up in the ballroom, upstairs in the hotel’s junior ballroom there was a lecture series on weddings that included a slideshow of different events and suggestions for how to make a wedding special, followed by a question and answer session with a panel of wedding industry experts.

Katie Jackson-Meara’s Rise to the Top of The Event & Bridal Industries

By Vanessa Bisetti

What does it take to be labeled one of Refinery 29’s Hottest 30 Under 30 in one of the biggest cities in the country?  Ask Katie Jackson-Meara, who made this prestigious list this past year in Chicago for her entrepreneurialism and success within the event and bridal industries.  Katie, who is a planner, stylist and founder of So Dressed Up, hit the ground running after graduating college.  Her career began working for Jam Entertainment where she had the opportunity to take on huge projects, such as an over-the-top gala at the Chicago Theater with celeb Stevie Wonder.  “It was a lot of work and I was really young, but they trust you implicitly right away,” describes Katie of her time there, “…I was really, really lucky to have had that job.”  After her work with Jam Entertainment, Katie took a job with Modern Luxury Media, where she contributed to events involving a variety of demographics.  “I could be working on an interior designer showroom event one day, then a cocktail party at a new residential building the next day,” explained Katie of her experience.  Only in her twenties Katie was working with the city’s best chefs, restaurants, stores and designers.

Photo 2 Credit Fig Media

However, that was just the beginning for the ambitious Chicago native.  In 2009, an underpaid Katie began a company called So Dressed Up that served as a side business to make extra money while being employed fulltime.  Her inspiration stemmed from her careers with Jam Entertainment and Modern Luxury Media where she realized her true love for planning events and eye for detail.  For So Dressed Up, Katie began freelancing for Macy’s, taking on whatever projects she could.  Macy’s events were centered on fashion, which she found intriguing.  “That kind of sparked the idea of focusing more on events where people really have an appreciation for style.”  Katie’s concentration on style landed her noteworthy opportunities.  Her first real experience with styling professionally came when she helped style a photo shoot for the 10th anniversary of Oprah Magazine.  In the midst of the grind between side work and being fully employed, Katie came to a realization that it was time to take a risk and dedicate all of her attention to So Dressed Up.  “While it was great,” referring to her fulltime job at the time, “I just felt like it was a good time to make the leap.”  With that, she went from the stability of a two-week paycheck to facing the challenges of being small business owner.

That leap landed her on the fast track to being an extremely prominent entrepreneur.  Her now fulltime career started out with a bang as the So Dressed Up launch party was held at none other than Kate Spade.  “To have something at that caliber for my kickoff party was really exciting!”  From that grand entrance until now, So Dressed Up has exceled as one of Chicago’s top wedding and event planning businesses.  In recent work, Katie was honored to be the planner for the first birthday party of wedding dress retailer BHLDN.  BHLDN only has two locations in the United States, so she was flattered to have had the chance to work with the team from the Chicago store.

Photo 2 Credit Dean Thorsen Photography

Weddings are part of her everyday work, so it was only natural for Katie to take on the task of planning her own wedding when that time came over a year ago.  Katie had a strong sense of style and knew exactly what she wanted for her big day.  With her knowledge of all the vendors as well as her personal connections, she didn’t feel the need to pass the work onto someone else.  “I think by nature, I had high expectations on myself and I think I felt like other people might have had those expectations of me because it was also my job…but it was a lot of fun and went so fast!”  Her beautiful and well thought out wedding was topped with an amazing dress by Priscilla of Boston; the dress fell low in the back and had a classy front held up by elegant straps.  Katie laughed when describing the long process to find her perfect dress, but that special moment occurred, “The moment that they say you have when you put it on, it did finally happen!”

Discussing all the glamour of Katie’s wedding brought about the recent glamorous nights in Hollywood.  In light of award season, I was curious as to which award show she would most want to contribute to the planning of.   “The Grammy’s!” exclaimed Katie, “I love, love, love music.  And it’s such a fun show, from the fashion to the performances!”  As for celebrities, she would love to throw a “fab fete” for First Lady Michelle Obama who has been a part of award season herself, presenting Best Picture at the Academy Awards this past Sunday.  “She is so classic and graceful…and I always have extra love for ladies from my hometown!”  Though Katie worked on styling for Oprah Magazine years ago, she would love to plan a party for Oprah who to her is an inspiration.

Photo Credit Fig Media

The sincere love Katie has for her hometown is evident.  When asked if she has considered relocating, she explained that it was not in the cards at this time mainly because she loves Chicago.  “I love so many things about this city!  Strolling Michigan Avenue, walks along the lake…I love just taking in the energy of the city.”  For those who have not had the chance to try out Le Colonial, she personally recommends it as one of her favorite restaurants for dinner.  She continued her list of her fave Chicago spots with Glazed and Infused donuts for those lazy Sunday mornings and the Signature Lounge located on the 96th floor of the John Hancock Building, a great place to enjoy a cocktail.

Katie’s passion and enthusiasm for what she does have led to her success.  It looks like this Chicago-grown lady will be running the city for a while!  To check out all of Katie’s services, customer reviews and more, visit her website: Sodressedup.com.

The Spirits of Southern Delaware

By  Terri Marshall

Southern Delaware is a popular beach destination in the summer, but spend a little time exploring off the beach and you will discover the true spirit – and spirits – that call Delaware home.

Nassau Valley Vineyards located just a few miles from the beach in Lewes, Delaware  produces award winning wines from estate grown grapes along with other high quality fruit sourced from local and regional growers.  The winery offers tours and tastings. An onsite museum chronicles the 8,000 year-old history of wine, but it is the spirit behind this vineyards that begs exploration.

When Peggy Raley decided to begin producing wines Delaware’s law prohibited the production and resale of alcohol.  Peggy drafted legislation and lobbied the Delaware General Assembly to create the Farm Winery legislation for the state.  The law passed in 1991 and Nassau Valley Vineyards opened in 1993 as the First Winery in the First State.

“In going through changing the laws, it was always our intention to see an industry grow,” says Peggy.  “If we wanted it to just stay us, we probably could have made that happen, but it was about trying to create things for the future.”

Peggy’s efforts paved the way for all other Delaware wineries and breweries.  “It was two and a half years of me laying that groundwork that set the formula, but what we did opened the door for everybody.  It’s gratifying to see that all of those efforts opened the doors for a lot of good people to come forward,” she says.    For more information go to Nassauvalley.com


Peggy paved the way for future spirited entrepreneurs like the founders of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Delaware.  Dogfish Head started out as the smallest commercial brewery in America brewing its first ale on three little kegs with propane burners underneath.  Today it is one of Delaware’s most popular brews and can be found nationwide. The creative brews developed by creative people with a very creative tree house on property for meetings is best understood by a tour of the brewery followed by samples of the brews – of course!

“Dogfish is an amazing place to work,” says Mark Carter – whose business card labels him Event Czar/Donation Dude/Sustainability Guy.  “The bottom line is we get to make creative beers with a bunch of off-centered co-workers, and in the tour world we get to share this experience with visitors from all over the country.”

Dogfish Head Brewery maintains a focus on sustainability.  For example, the grains used in the brewing cycle are recycled and delivered to local farmers to be used as feed for cattle – making for some very happy cows in Southern Delaware.

Those off-centered employees are pretty happy too.  “It’s not bad getting a payday case of beer with our paychecks,” says Mark.  Check out their craft brewed ales at Dogfish.com.


A bit further south on Fenwick Island, Dale Clifton, Jr. offers up some spirits of the sea at the Discover Sea Shipwreck Museum.  A more than avid diver, Dale has spent the majority of his last 30 years underwater exploring shipwrecks – many of them off the coast of Delaware.   “Each time a ship sinks, time stand still,” says Dale.

Dale’s exploration of these underwater time capsules has yielded a mind-blowing collection of treasures.   The continuously evolving exhibits on display at Discover Sea represent only 10% of his collection with the remaining 90% on loan to museums around the world.

During my visit I held gold bricks stamped by the King of Spain and viewed photographs perfectly developed from a camera which sank aboard the RMS Republic – the pride of the White Star Line prior to Titanic.

Dale’s collection also includes 30 bottles of rum discovered in the wreckage of a fleet of Spanish ships which sank in 1733.  When the bottles were discovered in the 1990’s, 18 of them were still sealed and drinkable.  Testing proved these were not ordinary bottles of rum.  It seems the Spanish aboard the now waterlogged fleet had overtaken a British Navy Ship prior to sinking –  pillaging everything including the rum.  When the rum was bottled in 1730,  the distillery lined the bottom of the bottles with coconut fiber, added 145-proof rum up to the base of the neck and filled the remaining space with water and two tablespoons of lime juice to prevent scurvy – hence the expression “he’s a limey”.

Dale offered me a shot of the rum.  And with the burn that only aged 145-proof rum can provide, I drank down 300 plus years of history! Immerse yourself at Discoversea.com.


Lights. Camera. Cure: Hollywood’s Star-Studded Dance-A-Thon

By Ria Sardana

Hollywood may be known for its overindulgence and luxurious parties, but the city is no stranger to amazing charities. On Sunday, January 27, Lights Camera Cure, hosted by actors Devon Werkheiser and Gia Mantegna, held its second annual Dance-A-Thon at the Avalon in Hollywood to benefit Four Diamonds Fund. Celebrities that graced the red carpet to help fight pediatric cancer included Skyler Day of NBC’s Parenthood, Joe Mantegna of Criminal Minds and Brandon Routh of Superman Returns. The event included musical performances by Drake Bell, DJ Splyce, Bex and Vanjess.

A total of 170 dancers committed to standing and dancing for the entire six hours to raise a minimum of $250 dollars each for the charity. Vanessa Werkheiser, daughter of event founder Gary Werkheiser, stated the dancers ended up going above and beyond the required fundraising amount, raising an average of $500 each.  The event itself, which is based on Penn State’s 46-hour Dance-a-Thon, was planned by Penn State alumni at an event in Werkheiser’s backyard.

Actor and musician Drake Bell, who amazed the crowd with a standout performance, was just one of the many celebrities on hand with a love for charities and giving back. Bell worked with The Who’s Roger Daltrey and, when asked what it was like working with a rock legend, the very modest musician answered, “It was a dream come true. He was in one of my favorite bands of all time.” Along with enjoying The Who, Bell is quite fond of other timeless classic rock bands, such as The Beatles. “If I could perform on stage with anyone, it would have to be Paul McCartney,” said the 26-year-old former Nickelodeon star. As both an actor and musician, it seemed difficult for him to choose which one he enjoyed more. “I have been doing both for so long, but music is close to my heart.” The music industry has been treating him well, he says, and he’ll soon be touring and releasing a new album. Some of his current top hits include, “It Makes Me Happy” and “Found a Way”.

Bell also mentioned that he has a new show in the works. “I’ll be participating in this new ABC show called Splash.” The series has a total of ten celebrity cast members, such as Kendra Wilkinson, who will be trained to synchronize dive and compete in pairs.

Throughout the night Bell and other celebrities made an effort to talk to fans and even bust a few dance moves. Spirits ran high throughout the entirety of the event and every single person exuded passion and love for the cause. Tears were shed during speeches regarding Four Diamonds Fund and the unveiling of the total amount raised, $67,851.10.

Devon Werkheiser & The Smokey Knights

Life After The Bachelorette: A Chat with Chris Bukowski

By Allie Duncan

Chris Bukowski never imagined he would be a contestant on Season 8 of ABC’s The Bachelorette. A Bartlett, IL native, he grew up playing football, basketball and baseball and eventually attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He majored in Hospitality with a focus in Food and Beverage before eventually landing a job with the New York Islanders in New York.

“I moved out to New York for work and was happy there,” says Bukowski. “My friend Shannon from Bartlett nominated me for the show without my knowledge. She wrote a three-page letter explaining why I should be on the show. I didn’t get to see it until after filming wrapped.”

What happened next is history. The Bachelorette casting team tried to get in contact with Bukowski a number of times via phone and email to no avail, as Bukowski believed a friend was playing a joke on him. He ignored the team for two months before moving back to Chicago, where the casting team had said they would be conducting interviews at a nearby hotel.

“I figured I would just meet with them since it was near my condo,” says Bukowski. “I knew they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.”

After an action-packed season, Bachelorette Emily Maynard eliminated Bukowski from the show after his hometown date in Chicago. Although he did not win the girl, Bukowski still took away some lessons in love.

“I learned that love is possible,” says Bukowski. “I think what the show did was make me open up and realize what I’m capable of emotionally, insofar as expressing myself to a girl. Basically, The Bachelorette is a sped up relationship, a thousand miles per hour. It’s just you and her, and she’s the only girl in the world. If there’s not that initial interest or initial connection, then you won’t have a good time on the show.”

Bukowski’s time on reality television did not end after being sent home on The Bachelorette. He then appeared on Season 3 of ABC’s Bachelor Pad, where he soon became known for being a womanizer.

“I’m really more authentic than I seem on TV,” says Bukowski. “And they didn’t show this on the show, but Sarah and I decided that if we won the money, we were going to give half of it to Habitat for Humanity. I do a lot of charity work now. We realized that there were people out there who need the money more than most of us do.”

Sarah Newlon was Bukowski’s partner on the show, where they competed against other Bachelor alums for $250,000. The two started a romance onBachelor Pad, much to the dismay of the other female contestants.

“Sarah is great,” says Bukowski. “She’s probably the most real girl on the show and the one I could relate to the most. She’s the one who would have been in my friend group back at home. But once you leave the show, it’s just tough. I went to D.C., and she’s in St. Louis. You have that relationship on the show, but after it’s all said and done, it’s not that easy when you’re in different places. But we definitely still talk.”

Newlon isn’t that only castmate that Bukowski keeps in touch with post-show. He cites many of his former cast members as being some of his best friends now.

“I keep in touch with Kalon, Jef, Arie, and Ed, who is a little crazy,” says Bukowski with a laugh. “I’m really good friends with Jaclyn and Rachel. Even people who weren’t on my season, I talk to a lot.”

Aside from staying friends with his former castmates, Bukowski plans to go into business with a few of them. He recently moved to Washington, D.C. to open a restaurant in Clarendon, VA.

“My life changed a lot after the show,” says Bukowski. “I always had dreams and goals I thought I’d reach in my early 30s that I’m reaching now because of the opportunities and publicity from the show. I always wanted to open a restaurant and now I am able to – it’s going to a be an upscale sports lounge with small plates, where you can go to watch the game during the week, too.”

Bukowski’s excitement about his restaurant venture is palpable, and he explains that it’s been a team effort with his friends and family being supportive in helping him. He’s shooting to open the restaurant sometime in the spring with the timing being around April or May.

Bukowski plans to eventually open a few restaurants on the east coast before returning to Chicago.

“I would love to settle down in Chicago, “ says Bukowski. “I miss it so much. Chicago is my favorite place. D.C. is great, too – it’s different, but I definitely love it.”

He says he’d love to try every restaurant in Chicago, and he roots for all of its major sports team. However, the Cubs are closest to his heart, as baseball is Bukowski’s favorite sport. He does note, though, that the Bears are fun to watch.

“If the Bears are losing, I’m throwing stuff in the house,” says Bukowski. “There are only 16 games in the season so it’s intense. But if the Cubs are in the playoffs, I can’t even watch. I’m a mess hiding in the closet.”

Bukowski will be back in Chicago for Christmas, which he plans to spend with his family. He’s still looking for that perfect girl, though.

“I don’t really know what the perfect girl is,” says Bukowski. “I’m still looking for her. As far as her personality, I like a girl who is confident, self-motivated, and someone that will lean on me – but not too much. She has to have her own thing going on, too. Physically, I notice the eyes first, and I love good eyes – they’re number one. A good smile is number two.”

But when it comes to dating, Bukowski says he doesn’t date much. He loves going out to different restaurants and trying new things, but he says dating is tough.

“It’s hard to know who I am going to enjoy having a first date with,” says Bukowski. “There’s a 50% chance that you’re not going to have a good time. But if you go out with someone you already know, then you’ll probably have fun. It’s hard to find someone new to have fun doing new things with.”

Bukowski should have no trouble finding a girlfriend, though, having been voted “Class Hottie” in a high school class of more than one thousand people. But it’s not his only priority.

“What’s next for me, aside from my new restaurant, is finding myself a wife,” jokes Bukowski. “I have all these good things going on so it’d be nice to share it with someone else. But you can’t go out there and make something happen – it has to happen naturally. So maybe I’ll go back on Bachelor Pad.”

Here’s hoping that we have another season of watching Bukowski on Bachelor Pad!

Betsy Stewart: Capturing the Microscopic Cosmos

By Robert Luce

Not many artists can say the specimens they draw inspiration from can fit into a petri dish, but then not every artist is Betsy Stewart. Her abstract paintings depict the microscopic life found in pond water. “In my new series, “Biocriticals”, I am interested in creating an ambiguity between micro and macro: what is happening in microscopic water as well as events in the cosmos,” she says. “If I am successful, my viewers will determine for themselves whether they are seeing particles/matter through a microscope or through a telescope.”

Stewart is one of several artists whose work will be on display at the Center for Great Apes Endangered exhibition in Miami, December 5 through the 9 at Miami Club Rum Distillery. “My work on view includes a piece from each of four different series that share a common theme,” explains Stewart. “I examine microscopic, mutually dependent life systems found in pond water. Giving these images a presence speaks to our fragile position in the cosmos.” In anticipation of the event, we chat with Stewart about beginnings, galleries and the Center for Great Apes.

When did you realize you were going to be an artist?

I have always felt I was an artist. From childhood through my junior year in college I studied modern dance. I particularly loved the movement and structure of dance. When I was introduced to painting through a studio arts requirement, I found the creative aspects of placing paint on a canvas to be reminiscent of choreographing a dance performance. My compositions to this day play with the elements of color, form and movement, choreographed in harmony with the natural world. The career change was seamless, and I have never looked back with regret.

What was the first piece you ever did?

I was, very early on, influence by Amedeo Modigliani who was a primary figure of modernism. His mask-like faces and elongation of form inspired me to create a head of a studio model that exemplified these tenants.

What is a typical day for you? Walk us through your process.

"Aquatilis No.12 (side two), 2010, 75"x 8"x4". Acrylic and sumi ink on wood.

“Aquatilis No.12 (side two), 2010, 75″x 8″x4”. Acrylic and sumi ink on

My morning is normally spent on art related work such as making arrangements for my future gallery shows. I reach my studio in the late morning where I work steadily until the end of the day. I work on one singular piece at a time, adding multiple layers of transparent acrylic paint imbedded with ink drawings. Like a composer hearing the overall composition, I have mapped out in my mind’s eye where all the key subject matter will be placed, but the rest happens in a very automatic intuitive way with each paint stroke leading to the next mark. My evenings also tend to be related to art given the fact that Washington, DC has many museum activities in the evening and there are endless gallery shows.

How do you describe your work?

The voice of my work is truly reminiscent of the philosophical writings of the great environmentalist John Muir who wrote: When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find that it is attached to the rest of the world.” I explore the connections in nature from a droplet of water to the vastness of the cosmos.

What type of person do you paint for?

I paint, first and foremost, to please myself. I would imagine that I am painting for an audience extremely sensitive to the forms I create and the colors I use. Since I have recently sold three major paintings to a corporation that employs molecular biologists and physicists, I may unconsciously be seeking an audience that can appreciate the science underlying my work.

What exhibition are you most proud of and why?

It is very difficult to single out just one exhibition, as each one has been challenging and satisfying.  Having said that I am quite proud of my latest exhibit at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver where I presented my recently completed 7’x4’ “Bioverse” series to an audience totally unfamiliar with my work, who expressed interest and appreciation for it with meaningful purchases.

"Metascules No.5", 20012, 67"x47". Acrylic and sumi ink on canvas.

“Metascules No.5″, 20012, 67″x47”. Acrylic and sumi ink on canvas.

What are some of your favorite museums and galleries? Why?

I am partial to galleries that select artists who have shared sensibilities and also employ great skill in mounting their exhibitions. I visit galleries that take chances on new media. I am as impressed with museums that have iconic collections as well as smaller museums that emphasize creative curatorial depth. For example, the exhibits at the Vancouver Art Gallery astounded me recently. Each floor featured shows with unusual, provocative themes; the art was installed with a flair for design including the use of unusual color on the walls. The wall text was succinct and informative.

What do you find to be your biggest challenge when painting?

My biggest challenge when painting is constantly to discover fresh and insightful new ideas while expressing my own voice.

How did you come to be involved with the Center for Great Apes? 

I first became aware of the Center for Great Apes through fellow members of the Explorers Club who had been active with the Center. Since I greatly admire the work of the Center, I was most pleased when I learned that Octavia Gallery, who are handling several of my paintings, was going to be exhibiting with them in Miami. I was delighted when I learned that proceeds from sales would go in part to the Center.

Why is it important for people get involved with the CFGA?

It is important to get involved with the charity and I strongly support their goals: the great Apes are in grave danger and their fragile environment must be protected.

For more information on Betsy, visit Betsystewartpaintings.com.