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08/23/2010 - Welcome to the new home of Social Lights. Only the publication name has changed. We will continue to cover the southeast Michigan non-profit events that Birmingham Bloomfield residents support. Read new online reports with photos each week and their reprisals in the monthly print edition which you will get free by mail in the 48009, 48301,48302 & 48304 zip codes. If you live elsewhere, call (248)792-6464  to order a subscription.

Walter P. Chrysler Museum Legacy Gala

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The first Walter P. Chrysler Museum Legacy Gala certainly set a very high bar for its successor events. It sold out early (570), including the sold out (300) VIP reception with the honorees

Lee Iacocca, Jay Leno, Richard Petty, and the late Virgil Exner's son, Virgil, Jr. Guests sipped, supped and cruised the exhibitions on the museum's three levels before settling in for the program in the tented theatre. Highlights from the program were many. Videos evoked nostalgia (Exner's designs) and amazement (Leno's huge car collection and his Big Dog garage). After a warm and personal introduction of Iacocca, current Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne called attention to his own unorthodoxy. "I don't wear ties and I don't read speeches," he said before his impromptu request to Ford's Alan Mulally and the UAW's Bob King to help him make the presentation to Iacocca. Iacocca's local popularity has not waned. He inspired a hearty standing ovation as he saluted Chrysler's 85 years of never looking back.

The live auction of two items reflected the economy. Auctioneer Bob Dumochelle practically had to pull teeth to get $4,500 from a Texas Chrysler dealer for Richard Petty's donation that, in better times, would have brought 5 or 10 times that. When the bidding was equally sluggish for Jay Leno's donation of a tour of his garage and four tickets to the Tonight Show, he came out from back stage and made a proposal: "I know times are tough… Let's see how many can pay $500 to do this." Hands shot up and, when all the takers had been counted, 76 people had donated $38,000 to the museum to do so. Leno's generosity (remember, this is the guy who performed two free concerts for unemployed autoworkers a year ago) brought the event total to more than $1 million to kick off the newly non-profit museum's Legacy Campaign to make it an educational destination. Then laughter filled the tent as Leno performed non-stop for nearly 40 minutes, hitting every imaginable current events topic. Museum foundation board chair Frank Fountain was wearing the biggest smile in the crowd at the After Glow.

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Tags: past social lights

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