Grammy Award-winning songstress and New York Times bestselling author Patti LaBelle has been described as ‘The High Priestess of Good Vibrations,’ so it’s only fitting that she will be the headliner at what is being touted as the party of the year.

    ‘Dinner with the Stars’ returns to the Chase Park Plaza May 7 to benefit Variety the Children’s Charity of St. Louis. “This is our biggest fundraiser,” says Variety executive director Jan Albus. “And many people really do call it their favorite gala in St. Louis. That’s what we hear from people who go to everything!”

    The charity, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year, has helped thousands of children with disabilities and their families, by providing them with vital medical equipment, as well as educational, therapeutic and recreational programs like the annual Variety Adventure Camp and Children’s Theatre.

    Dinner with the Stars is the grand finale to Variety Week, which begins with the Variety Parade downtown on Saturday, April 30. In addition to LaBelle, the evening will feature a performance by Variety Kids. “The kids are in everything we do,” says Albus. “Last fall, Variety Children’s Theatre presented Oliver at the Touhill, and the kids’ chorus from that show will sing a medley at Dinner with the Stars.” The Children’s Theatre is for children of all abilities, Albus explains. “The show is inclusive—half of the cast are Variety Kids and half are gifted theatrical kids from the community. They do so well together—it’s a win-win for everyone. Last year 98 gifted kids tried out to be in the show. We’re achieving our goals in terms of inclusiveness.”

        It is only fitting that this inclusiveness should flourish in a theater setting, since Variety began when a baby girl was abandoned in a theater seat in Pittsburgh. “It was during the Depression,” Albus explains. “Her mother had eight other children and couldn’t care for her. Her only disability was that she had been abandoned.” A group of movie moguls who owned the nearby Variety decided to underwrite the infant’s support and education. “That’s where it started, and it spread to other cities, arriving in St. Louis in 1932.” To this day, Albus adds, most of the people involved in Variety are in the entertainment industry.

    Offering something for everyone in every price range, Variety Week also includes the Runway Lights Fashion Show at The Chase, Imo’s for Kids Day at all St. Louis area Imo’s locations, and Night of the Rising Stars, sponsored by Young Variety, at Palladium Saint Louis. “Young Variety is a group of local professionals, ages 21 to 40,” Albus says. “This is their 13th year and they are definitely on the rise! Their event on Friday night is always great fun, very affordable, and popular with every age group.”

    Dinner With the Stars will recognize Variety’s Man and Woman of the Year, Ambassador George Herbert Walker III and Pat Mercurio. Television star Bob Eubanks also will be honored with the organization’s Humanitarian Award. Marilyn Fox is chairing the event for the 14th year, and Susan and Danny Ludeman are co-chairs. Announcer Joe Buck will emcee the evening’s festivities. “Of course, we are absolutely thrilled that Joe was able to do this,” Albus says. “Especially during baseball season!”

    St. Louis’ ‘best party’ takes some serious planning, and Albus says the 2012 Dinner with the Stars will be in the works the day after this year’s gala. Potential party guests might want to start their own planning and mark their calendars, because the top level corporate tickets for the 2011 party are sold out.  “We do have individual tickets still available,” Albus notes. “But corporate tickets went on sale in January and didn’t last long!”  LN

On the Cover: Variety’s 45th annual Dinner with the Stars is Saturday, May 7, at the Chase Park Plaza. The event, which raises more than $1 million annually for Variety, will feature two-time Grammy Award winner Patti LaBelle, and also honor Ambassador George Herbert Walker III and Pat Mercurio. For tickets call 453-0453 or visit