Happy 84, Mister 84 ... and the week in review

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John Heller, Post-Gazette photos
Christina Aguilera sings "Happy Birthday" to Joe Hardy.

The 500 guests invited to celebrate Joe Hardy's 84th birthday had no idea what was in store for them Saturday, and neither did Joe. His children planned the party with several elements of surprise, no mean feat with a father who not only knows best, but knows everything. The founder of 84 Lumber turned 84 at midnight, and that sort of serendipity happens only once.

Robin Williams makes a point.
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That sort of party happens only once, too. The best of everything that money can buy, nonstop from 2 in the afternoon until 2 in the morning, shot through with jaw-dropping amazement and pure, high-octane fun. It was the party of the century a scant seven years into it, and the culmination of both a life and a lifestyle.

Most important, it made everybody happy, especially Mr. Hardy.

Guests were given a simple agenda upon arriving at Nemacolin Wodlands Resort & Spa, the retreat owned by the Hardy family. "Light luncheon with an extraordinary celebrity feature entertainer." That turned out to be Bette Midler with a full orchestra, a fabulous repertoire and a rollicking sense of humor.

"I've entertained royalty before. Mostly queens," she quipped. She also targeted Mr. Hardy's virility (he has seven children aged 9 to 60), money ("it looks good at any age") and the resort: "When they told me I was going to Semi-colon naturally I said, 'Why? Am I being punished?'"

Laughing just as hard as Mr. Hardy were his tablemates, who included Gov. Ed Rendell, Tom Ridge, Troy Polamalu, Lord Peter Palumbo and an inconspicuous Robin Williams, who was the surprise after-dinner performer. Maggie Hardy Magerko, who now runs the companies, joined her siblings in toasting her father along with his close friends.

A short break led to cocktails in the ballroom, which had been converted into a stylish nightclub. It was time for guests to wish Mr. Hardy happy birthday. Leading the way was Christina Aguilera, whose brief appearance stunned the crowd and then mesmerized them as she sang "Happy Birthday, Mr. Hardy" and "Beautiful."

On to dinner in the fairy-tale white tent, draped in gossamer fabric and filled with the most magnificent flowers. Thousands of orchids created a spectacular springtime everywhere, thanks to the impressive talents of Neubauer's Florist in Uniontown, while Mosaic Linens changed the lumber-topped decor from lunch into elegant embroidery for evening.

Bette Midler was the surprise lunchtime entertainment.
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The cast of "A Chorus Line" sings "One."
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A video tribute made way for a special gift from employees -- a baby hyena! Also special was the announcement that the Connellsville Airport will be renamed the Joseph A. Hardy Regional Airport in recognition of his generous support. Seared filet of beef and grilled lobster anchored the impeccable dinner.Then a Broadway company of "A Chorus Line" took the stage.

Just when you thought things couldn't get any better, it was back to the nightclub for Williams, fresh out of rehab and machine-gun-fire-funny. One of Mr. Hardy's favorite entertainers, he gave a brilliant performance that left everyone exhausted from laughter and ready for bed -- except for those who wanted to dance to the D.J. And except for Mr. Hardy and Mr. Williams. They retreated to the near-empty cigar bar for a quiet chat, the last guests at a party that will become as legendary as the lumber baron himself.

Jack and Jill Presentation Ball

"Count on Me" was the theme of the Jack and Jill Presentation Ball held at the Omni William Penn on Dec. 30.

The more than 450 guests could count on being impressed by the academic, civic and social achievements of the 15 African-American young ladies and young men resplendent in their white ball gowns and white tails. Jack and Jill is an international, nonprofit, family-centered mothers' organization promoting the well-being of all children. Its local president is Martha Vasser.

Former Steeler Dwight White and his wife, Karen Farmer White, who are also former Jack and Jill parents, served as grand marshals for the biennial charity event chaired by Ruthie King and benefiting The Sickle Cell Society.

The teens recognized at the elegant gala were Jasmine Marie Anderson, Sarah Elizabeth Barnes, Robert Daniel Bennett Jr., Antwan White Carter, Louis William Finley, Lindsay Victoria Hayes, Blayre Lyn Holmes, Jocelyn Anita Johnson, Edward Maya Kaikai, Amanda Dian King, Morgan Kristina Moody, Theodore Redie Vasser, IV; Eric Charles Yanders, Brett David Yanders and John James Wilbert Young.

Service Academies Ball

Cathy Berger Reese chaired and Becky Zukowski co-chaired the 2006 All-Academy Ball Celebration Dec. 29 at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial.

The annual holiday event brings together all the students from the U.S. service academies -- the military academy at West Point, the naval academy at Annapolis, the Coast Guard Academy in New London, the merchant marine academy in Kings Point, N.Y., and the Air Force academy at Colorado Springs. The guest speaker was Major Ryan Worthan, who has been awarded numerous stars for valor in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hair of the Dog

Rebecca Droke, Post-Gazette
Jasmine Marie Anderson performs a formal dance during the Jack and Jill Presentation Ball.
Click photo for larger image.John Heller, Post-Gazette
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From left, Tom Dowling, Mark Power and Lou Castelli celebrated the 45th Annual Unmissable Hair of the Dog party presented by Burson-Marsteller. The first Thursday following the dawn of the new year is reserved for friends and colleagues of the firm. The event is a chance to network and chase away the inevitable letdown that follows the holiday highs. This year's revelry was unleashed at Prive Ultralounge in the Strip District.


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