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Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 08:10 PM

A nifty thrifty sale and a date with Seattle's 'Top Chef'

By Nicole Brodeur
Seattle Times staff columnist

There is being thrifty, and there is being, well, a little nuts.

On the night before Seattle Goodwill's annual Glitter Sale last Saturday, Terry Barker and her husband drove up from Tacoma in an RV and parked it in the lot in front of the nonprofit's store for the night.

Barker wanted that badly to get first crack at the jewelry and designer goods that Goodwill sets aside all year and releases to the hordes just before Christmas.

"What, am I gonna wear diapers?" Barker said when I asked about the RV.

Second in line: Mary Ann Marzahl, of Bellevue, who arrived at 11:30 p.m. Friday with a tent, heater and big plans for the jewelry counter in the morning.

After the Seattle police made Barker's husband move the RV, she and Marzahl spent the night in the tent. And when the doors opened at 9 a.m., I lost them.

It was a happy crowd: Two towering drag queens served as inspiration, a catering truck served coffee, two Honey Buckets served their purpose, and one woman pushed me out of the way for a shopping basket. (Happy holidays to you, too, sister.)

I would tell you what I saw, but it's all a blur. Designer names, vintage purses, lots of tuxedo shirts and women in all manner of dress and demeanor.

As she waited in line, Alyson Mendez perused the online auction listings and shook her head.

"I can't believe someone gave away a woman's diamond wedding ring," she said. "I'm just thinking of the common idiot."

Or maybe it was someone with an uncommonly large heart.

The event, which funds job-training programs, raised more than $220,000.

That's not nuts at all.

JBLM's new USO center

Just in time for Veteran's Day, USO Northwest at Joint Base Lewis-McChord cut the ribbon at its new Shali Center.

The new facility, where soldiers can eat and rest in between deployments, is named for Joan Shalikashvili and her late husband, U.S. Army Gen. John Shalikashvili, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Clinton and died in July 2011.

Joan Shalikashvili isn't comfortable with her name on the building, "But because it's got John's name on it, it's fine with me," she said.

She is hardly the buttoned-up widow of a man who had reached the highest level of military service. Shalikashvili seemed happier mixing it up with the volunteers than engaging in any of the pomp and ceremony.

"It's going to end and you're going to be a lady in the grocery store like everybody else," she said of her husband's appointment. "That's true, isn't it? When everything is stripped away ... "

Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, who took over command of Fort Lewis in July, remembers visiting the USO in the middle of the night during his first deployment to Haiti in 1992.

"You're overwhelmed that people would spend so much time volunteering at 2 or 3 in the morning," he said. "It makes a huge difference. A lot of people say how much they care, and they do. But the USO shows it."

Pack up your polar fleece

A glass of wine, a beef kebab, a salmon sandwich, a coconut cream tart and the premiere of "Top Chef Seattle" on three giant screens — all for $20?

"This isn't a moneymaker," Tom Douglas told me Wednesday night as a crowd streamed into his Palace Ballroom for a sold-out viewing party. "This is just a celebration of Seattle. I love this town."

It only took 10 seasons for the brass at Bravo to feel the same. The "Top Chef" crew spent the summer filming here and, based on the previews, it looks like we'll be seeing our fill of the Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, chef tattoos and geoducks. (Hope they can cook them better than they can pronounce them.)

Gina Alexander came because she's a foodie — not a cook. ("I don't cook, I heat," she said.)

A fifth-generation Seattleite, she likes to see how her city is represented to the rest of the world.

"I pick apart 'Frasier' all the time."

Love and marriage

If you were a woman planning to be married, the "Get Hitched, Give Hope" event at the Four Seasons the other night was a veritable wonderland. Pretty cocktails, prettier models dressed in oceans of white gownage, and vendors who will cover every wedding detail, from the rustic altar by Vintage Ambience to the box you store your dress in from National Cleaners.

If you were a guy trailing a woman planning to be married, well, there was also an open bar.

But everyone got caught up in the circus atmosphere and auction items that benefited The Dream Foundation, which enhances the quality of life of individuals and families battling life-threatening diseases.

"This is a chance to have fun, meet the vendors and give back," said organizer Chesney Schmidt of All the Flutter, a planning firm. "And it's an excuse to get all dressed up."

And to get your lips "read" and have your shoes bedazzled and find a DJ or flowers and sample meatballs. Lots of meatballs.

An added boost: Just two days before the event, Washington state voters approved same-sex marriage.

"The floodgate will be opened," said Kirk Sugamele, the director of catering for the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle.

The vote count was barely finished when a same-sex couple dropped a deposit off for their wedding, said Gerald Lim, the hotel's catering sales manager.

"They had a space on hold and were waiting."

Highlights included a "roving Champagne girl" whose hoop skirt consisted of a rack holding 72 Champagne glasses — on casters — who wheeled through the crowd.

"She's the highlight of the party," said Angela Marks, of Animate Objects Physical Theater, which will fill their girl's glasses with any number of things: drinks, appetizers, desserts. So far, the girl who wears glasses hasn't received any passes.

"No accidents, nothing weird," Marks said.

Names in Bold appears Tuesdays. Reach Nicole Brodeur at 206-464-2334; nbrodeur@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @nicolebrodeur. Subscribe on Facebook: facebook.com/STNicoleBrodeur


JASON MERRITT / GETTY IMAGES
"Top Chef" host Tom Colicchio




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