Poncho Lives Up To Expectations

It was the adult version of senior-prom night for Seattle's glitterati. The night when the dates, dresses and tux, lined up well ahead of time, made their debut. When you expected to shake loose the spare dollars for the arts, for your $350-a-plate ticket into the biggest, most spectacular fund-raiser around, a fund-raiser prominent even on the national gala circuit.


Those who were at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel & Towers Saturday night weren't disappointed. On Poncho's 30th anniversary, a record $1.3 million was raised by almost 1,000 people - a few less than last year. And the glamour and the elegance were all Poncho-goers have come to expect over the years.

Even Dionne Warwick, a friend of Carl and Renee Behnke, dropped in. Warwick, of course, was literally a showstopper, entering in the middle of dinner, climbing on stage to give a pitch for a Northwest AIDS Foundation benefit she'll do with Frank Sinatra here in October.

As the 1992 "Poncho Aboard the Orient Express" was off and running, this year's president Jim Costello accepted the praise for the final production.

The room was draped with panels depicting train scenes, a theme carried out from the menu to the foyer. And at midnight an ice-sculpted locomotive began to puff "smoke" above the buffet table.

"I'm feeling so good. It's euphoria," Costello said. "I thought I could make a difference for the arts and right now it looks like I have."

In the meantime, Pat Fearey acknowledged she has been losing sleep, contemplating her role as 1993 Poncho president. She'll be the first woman president to also maintain a job outside the home. "But with a board like this nobody can fail at Poncho," she added.

And while the organizers contemplated organizing, the rest of the crowd had a party:

There was a steady stream of fans trickling toward Warwick but out in the foyer there was a bigger happening. Two in the throes of passion commandeered a chair and for all appearances looked like they were about to re-enact love scenes from "Basic Instinct."

In full view of anyone passing, a woman who was with Joel Eisenberg straddled his lap and began. . . let's just say her slim, black, beaded gown slid to her waist and dozens of onlookers were mooned.

Nothing will ever compare to the look of shock from folks passing by, or the stunned crowd that gathered only a few feet away. As one observer said:

"Look at that cellulite."

And in much tamer action, a glance around showed that:

Poncho board member Chris Kosmos showed up with his wife Ann.

Kermit Rosen of Alaska Copper & Brass brought along his mom, Marion, as usual. But this time his friend Marlene McIntosh joined them. He and McIntosh were together at the Pike Place Market Foundation auction last month and were particularly cozy at Poncho.

Hotel investor Gordon Sondland (who often comes alone to things like this) brought along Katherine Durant.

Martha Harris, floral-design doyenne, was accompanied by Bill Exley. Significant others?

Seafirst's perpetual galagoer Martin Steele brought along Carolyn Doble, a frequent companion at this sort of event. And in the bidding wars: Marsha Stroum Sloan, who came alone, paid $23,000 for a $6,000 trip for two on an inaugural 747 flight to Hong Kong.

Morrie Alhadeff bought a 2-million-year-old concretion, a "natural sculpture" found in a quarry in France and valued at $4,850, for $9,000. And there were lots of people who bought party packages at each other's homes. For example, Vivian and Richard Weisman bought a cocktail party for 20 at the Medina mansion of Louvette and Richard Fowler.

Bob and Sally Behnke for the second year bought a progressive dinner at the homes of Jim and Peggy Costello, Herman and Faye Sarkowsky, Raymond and Jeannette Galante and Bill and Mary Ann Champion. The price, $4,860.

There were lots of out-of-town guests and outrageous bidding and kibitzing and table-hopping.

And the evening wore on.

About Town by Nancy Bartley appears Sunday and Monday in the Scene section of The Times.