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Bigelow’s Babble On by the Bay: Hitting The High Notes

by Catherine Bigelow

Whassapp? Deep in the COVID pandemic, while many a lockdowned citizen obsessed over sourcing sourdough starters, Alexis Swanson Traina channeled her stress into creating HiNote, a free phone messaging app that launched in February.

Back in 2020, Traina — an author (From Napa with Love), former vintner and influential creative — found herself glued to her phone, checking on friends and family via texts: “I’m embarrassed to admit the hours I spent reading and sending those blue and gray bubbles.”

Her husband, Trevor Traina, a successful Internet entrepreneur, founded two online companies — DriverSide and IfOnly — that he sold for millions. For Alexis, a prolific texter, she yearned for a Technicolor virtual landscape that allowed people more ease of use and personalized expression in tone, beyond the usual #lol hashtag or “laughing” emoji.

Susan Toland, Tom Kelley and Bonhams Chairman emeritus Laura King Pfaff celebrate the auction house’s reopening at 601 California Street. | Photo courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography

The result: Her app is divided into categories, such as Birthdays, Thank You’s, Invites, BFF, even COVID, and includes some 500 digital image cards and verbiage that users can tweak and personalize with different fonts and colors. HiNote is sent via direct text, email, WhatsApp or Facebook.

“It’s like a digital stationery box, for effortless and chic messaging,” explains Traina. “COVID shifted the way we live and work. So virtual personal messaging and branding are key. If you’re not in the same room for a meeting, HiNote allows you to convey polish and personal touch. But it’s also fun, like a digital wardrobe with panache.”

In addition to The Momager section, which Traina developed to coordinate her children’s schedules, this month a new category — The Wedding Planner — drops. “It includes cards for invites, itineraries and even temperatures of destination locales,” says Traina. “So many weddings were COVID-denied, I no longer think of weddings as just a ‘season,’ but more like a deluge.”

Beam me up: Online shopping app Chequeout founder Kathryn Lasater has switched gears. While she remains on the company’s board, she now works “mostly” with hard-copy art as West Coast managing director of the Christie’s Union Square office.

Business Lunch cochairs John Ring and Mary Lawson at the ICA Cristo Rey Academy scholarship fundraiser. | Photo courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography

Prior to the recent sale of 12 exquisite works of the Anne H. Bass collection — that garnered a whopping $363 million — Lasater and Ellanor Notides, Christie’s chairman, Americas, on April 20 proudly introduced a refrigerator-sized Proto machine. It projected a 3D hologram of the original “La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans (Little Dancer Aged 14),” by Edgar Degas. The bronze sculpture, owned by Bass, was too fragile to travel.

“Christie’s is the first auction house utilizing this new technology for buyers to virtually experience pieces,” says Notides. “That Degas is safe in our New York showroom. But like Star Trek, now we can ‘beam up’ pieces around the world.”

Shimmering Shultz: Two years after signing a lease, Bonhams — our vaunted, homegrown auction house — finally celebrated its new San Francisco HQ (at the corner of California and Kearny) on April 19 during a VIP preview of The Jewelry Collection of George and Charlotte Shultz.

It was a bit emotional to see the dazzling jewelry, gowns and clever cufflinks encased in vitrines. Many of the pieces I knew well, worn in the wild by the late Charlotte Shultz — emerald shamrocks for her Irish flag raising or knockout Chanel pieces honoring French dignitaries — at numerous civic fetes she hosted over five decades as our dynamic chief of protocol.

ICA alumna Jenny Novoa was honored with the school’s Leader in Mission award by former longtime ICA President Sister Diane Aruda. | Photo courtesy of Drew Altizer Photography

Thankfully former protocol officer Lisa Mirza Grotts made me laugh, explaining a mystery among the displays — why some lots contained not two but three earrings: “With the blacktie pace Charlotte maintained, she often purchased earrings in sets of three — aware she could lose one. So she always had a spare match on hand.”

School’s out: ICA Cristo Rey Academy, founded in 1883 by the order of Dominican Sisters, welcomed 400 supporters on April 13 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to celebrate this all-girls Catholic prep school serving low-income students.

Led by event chairs Mary Lawson and John Ring, with honorary chairs Original Joe’s owners John and Marie Duggan, this “Business Lunch” raised $670K for student scholarships and work-study internships — one of the first of which was established by Gazette co-owner Clint Reilly. The event also paddle-raised another $95K for a new fund honoring school president Sister Diane Aruda, who recently retired.

“In serving the young, poor and vulnerable of San Francisco, the Dominican Sisters and their lay colleagues continue the mission of the Cristo Rey model of education,” wrote Aruda in her retirement letter. “Once our students only dreamed of completing high school. Now they aspire to college and beyond. And the 100 percent college acceptance rate of our students surely echoes that fact.”

Living is easy: Grab your tickets now for another stellar Festival Napa Valley (July 15–24) season of music, primo vino and five-star cuisine, billed as the “Ten Best Days of Summer” — held throughout the valley in storied and often not-open-to-the public wineries.

With a theme of “Sounds of America,” highlights — both big-ticket passes and free concerts — include a world premiere by composer Nia Imani Franklin and her choral piece, Polaris: A Juneteenth Anthem. A multimedia work, Ansel Adams: America, composed by the late jazz giant Dave Brubeck and his son Chris Brubeck, is led by conductor Michelle Di Russo. Country superstar Trisha Yearwood headlines the Arts for All Gala (July 17) at Nickel & Nickel winery, benefiting the festival’s year-round free arts education and community programming.

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