May is the month in which women channel their inner Southern belles by sipping mint julips while donning spring dresses and grandiose headwear, while men suit up in seersucker or pastel-colored ensembles and fedoras to watch 3-year-old thoroughbred horses vie for a bouquet of roses by running on a dirt track at Kentucky’s Churchill Downs.
In observance of May’s Derby Day, supporters of the Burbank International Film Festival recently gathered for their annual Kentucky Derby fundraiser held at the former Beverly Hills estate of film legend Elizabeth Taylor.
The festival was co-hosted by the organization’s President and Director Kurt Patino, who grew up in Burbank, a USC alumnus and the owner of the Patino Management Company, a full-service talent management firm focusing on film and television actors. His co-host for the festive day was his wife, actress Kelly Stables, who is best known for her recurring role as Melissa, Alan Harper’s receptionist and girlfriend in the CBS sitcom “Two and a Half Men.”
Upon their arrival, guests were invited to explore the six-bedroom, seven-bathroom house and lushly landscaped grounds which sit on 2 acres overlooking the Los Angeles skyline and Pacific Ocean.
Taylor, along with her then-husband Michael Wilding, purchased the gated mansion in 1954, two years after their marriage. Despite her grievances with MGM’s control over the films she was forced to make, Taylor had signed a new seven-year contract with the studio that gave her a weekly salary of $4,700 and a loan for the house, which, ironically, gave MGM had even more control over her.
During her time living in the house, she gave birth to her second son shortly before her marriage to Wilding began to take a downward turn. Their marital strife hit a crescendo in 1955, while she was filming “Giant.” A gossip magazine had claimed that Wilding had entertained exotic dancers at their home while she was away doing the film. That scandal resulted in their 1956 separation and 1957 divorce.
Among the Burbank International Film Festival supporters, outfitted in traditional Derby Day garb, who enjoyed the day that included a silent auction and lunch, were actors, actresses, filmmakers, screenwriters, above-the-liners, film lovers and festival board members, including Michele Frances Ortmann, Anna Grace McNiven, Stephanie Garvin, Michelle Alexandria, Dustin Richardson, Larry Thornton, Lana Ford, Amy Foell, Brad Bucklin, Dionisio Tafoya and Catherine Kleynen.
Other notables in attendance were Emmy Award-winning actress Patrika Darbo who is best known for her roles as Nancy Wesley in NBC’s “Days of Our Lives” and Shirley Spectra in CBS’s “The Bold and the Beautiful,” and Frank Sheftel who serves as president of the Thalians, a charitable organization dedicated to mental health causes that was founded by Hollywood actors in 1955. Also enjoying the day was internet and cable food critic Stephanie Garofano of “The Dining Dolls;” actress and R&B singer Terry Dexter; and Carol Nunez of the Downtown Burbank Hilton Garden Inn who are a participating hotel and sponsor of the film festival.
The Burbank International Film Festival’s four-day event shows more than 130 feature and short films at the Burbank AMC 16 theaters. The week culminates with a glittering awards ceremony that lauds the participating international filmmakers in more than 20 categories.
With a mission to promote and support inclusive and culturally diverse perspectives and content, the festival recognizes the work of emerging talent, not only to provide a gateway for them to expand their careers in the entertainment industry, but to also assist them with funding and distribution for their cinematic art.
This year’s Burbank Film Festival, which will include panel discussions, parties and networking events, will begin on Sept. 21 and run through Sept. 24.
For more information on tickets for attendance or to get involved with the festivals many programs and sponsorship opportunities, visit burbankfilmfest.org.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.
First published in the May 27 print issue of the Burbank Leader.