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Lake Stevens, Man About Town

This Just In!

By Lake Stevens, Man About Town
August 8, 2004

Murder as Black as an Opal

Erika Kane This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend an exclusive charity engagement hosted by Ms. Erika Kane and the Wing and a Prayer Foundation. Well, perhaps it can't really be called good fortune, per se, since a gala event isn't really "gala" if I, Lake Stevens, am not on-hand. Either way, it was my turn to "get involved" for the less fortunate. The "wife," incidentally, loves charity events. "She" says they make "her" feel spiritual. I merely consider them an opportunity to show off my vast wealth and status...while gaining some positive PR if you know what I mean. Anything for the little people, I always say. One thing is for certain, the little people can never appreciate the delicate craftsmanship of my imported Salvatore Ferragamo Italian calfskin slip-ons and hand-dyed silk ascot from the Orient. Just because a little person in Singapore or some other dreadful place made it, doesn't make her a bon vivant of high art.

The dinner convened at The Chateau Restaurant in the exclusive community of Pine Valley. It had literally been years since I last made it to this enclave of wealth and power. What a breath of fresh air to have nary a beggar or anyone wearing Gap in sight! Pine Valley, the stoic New England town that has roots to our earliest forefathers, is famous for the summer "cottages" and estates of the United States' most well connected and long-established families. Perusing the local white pages is like reading the passenger list of the Mayflower itself.

New England

Upon my arrival in Pine Valley, I immediately hired a driver for the "wife" and myself and instructed the good man to take us to the Pine Valley Inn on the double. We were only staying one night because the "wife" had a mani-pedi scheduled at Elizabeth Arden the next day. For whatever reason, "she's" convinced "herself" that "she" will meet Oprah there one day! I desperately hope not, for I would never hear the end of it.

After a refreshing nap and dip in the pool at the adjoining health club, we dressed for dinner and headed down the oak-lined street to The Château. Our driver would not stop complaining during the entire two block ride. I was trying to adjust my ascot, but his ramblings about wasting petrol or Iraq or some bloody thing kept distracting me. Iraq? Didn't we take care of them in the 80's? The poor man must have a screw loose. Not playing with a full deck, I imagine. I smoothed my lapels as the "wife" fussed over "her" lipstick.

Erika Kane Jeremy The Wing and Prayer Foundation dinner was to honor donors who had given in excess of $100,000. The Foundation tirelessly helps the less fortunate of some kind. It has something to do with cleft palate babies or collecting fabric for burqas for poor Afghani women. I really just can't say for certain. All I know is that it was definitely the place to be seen. The Foundation is spearheaded by venerable doctor and plastic surgeon, Philip N. Thrope. Surprisingly, Philip was nowhere in sight when I made my entrance...which I found decidedly rude.

Once inside the respected restaurant, I was amazed to find Erica Kane chatting up Jeremy, the internationally renowned French artiste and gallery entrepreneur extraordinaire! Jeremy was dressed smartly in black Prada with mink and Erica, draped in head-to-toe Dolce & Gabbana, sported tresses worthy of the brunette lioness that she is. They were flawless.

I helped myself to a glass of Viognier and the circulating platter of crostini and antipasti (I just adore a good crostini). I made my rounds and met all the A-list guests: wealthy industrialists, celebrity lawyers and a fellow reporter colleague of mine, whom, if you're wondering, I can tolerate because the rag she writes for is, and always will be, sub-par to anything that appears in my column.

Opal Cortland By far the most colorful attendee was Opal Cortland, wife of wealthy industrialist, Palmer Cortland. Her dress was the most hideous shade of aquamarine and I distinctly spied perspiration stains under her arms. (She later told me that Gaultier had made it expressly for her. As my "wife" has several such gowns, I was not duly impressed.) Opal's story is widely known: she came from the wrong side of tracks, worked her way up the social ladder and then, somehow, managed to snag Palmer Cortland. As far as I'm concerned, even when you remove the trash from the trailer, it's still just trash.

We took our seats, ready to enjoy our $1000-a-plate meal. Everyone was still waiting for our host, Philip, to make his welcoming remarks. He never showed up! Instead, Detective Dasher, from Pine Valley's Boys in Blue, paid an unexpected visit. (I do love a man in a uniform. I feel so...protected. Especially when I can see his big gun.)

The dinner party The Detective delivered the most distressing news. Philip was found dead in the Pine Valley Health Club. The very place I had enjoyed a relaxing swim and sauna earlier that afternoon! I suddenly felt dirty all over. After hearing this pronouncement, I frantically tried to change hotels but was dismayed to find that the Pine Valley Inn is the only four-star auberge in town. I wouldn't be caught dead staying at anything less. What a dilemma!

We were all declared suspects. Bad business dealings, illicit affairs and embittered artists were all possible motives for murder. I failed to see how this differed from the tensions at any given Hollywood party.

The first course But murder schmurder, let me digress for a moment in order to delight you with the details of the exquisite meal! We started with a lovely salad studded with prosciutto-wrapped pears. Salty-sweet, just the way I like it. A cleverly stuffed tomato soon followed. (I must confess that I purposely dropped my fork several times in order that Trent, the serving boy for my table, would be forced to bring me another. His little white jacket and black bow tie were just too precious.) Despite Trent, the real star of the evening was an impeccable fettuccine bathed a delicate cream sauce. Heavenly! Wine pairings of the highest order accompanied each course. Just when I swore I couldn't eat another bite, the dessert arrived. The luscious berries, draped over a lemon-essence scone, bespoke of the hot summer nights I spent exploring the Hamptons as a boy. I finished off the last dab of hand-whipped cream (firm, but not too stiff) as I sipped an imported Brazilian coffee.

Opal Cortland As everyone finished the last nibbles of dessert, the Detective returned. We were free to go, he announced, the killer had been fingered! An anxious murmur rose up amongst the Pine Valley elite -- especially when we found out that murderess was sitting among us. It was Opal Cortland! It seems little Miss Wrong Side of the Tracks was a bit upset that her husband might lose his wealth to Philip through a miscalculated stock market venture. That Opal would resort to murder surprised no one. It is common knowledge that she would be loath to return to the world of gold lamé, brassy high-lights and faux leopard. If you look at it that way, who can blame her? She'd been tolerated to date only because of her husband's tremendous assets. In the end, her heart proved to be as black as her namesake. Pine Valley was again free of such social blemishes. Like I said: trash is trash is trash.

By this point, I'd had enough of this Old Money tomfoolery and wanted nothing more than to retire to my chambers with my nightly snifter of Rémy Martin Cognac. Despite "her" heated objections, I pulled the "wife" away from Jeremy and made haste to my waiting car. I couldn't wait to be home in West Hollywood. At least people there know how to be discreet.

-Lake Stevens, Man About Town
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