The advertising slogan “Because You’re Worth It!” (made famous by L'Oréal cosmetics) epitomizes what Gina Radocchio wants to convey to all women at an event hosted by the Woman’s Club of Redondo Beach on Oct. 26.
“Fall Into Adventure,” the group’s 2012 fashion show and luncheon, will intersperse amoung the models, club-members dressed as historical figures, their riveting narratives provided by Radocchio, chairman of the event and a veritable cheerleader for women and women’s causes.
“Women still don’t get enough credit,” she said during an interview at the 90-year-old clubhouse earlier this week. “I firmly believe that women need to be celebrated as often as possible. It is unfortunate that the struggle for women's equality continues today.”
Due to the magnitude of the festivities—everything from a catered lunch, to fall fashions by C.J.'s, to vendors exhibiting jewelry, purses and jackets for sale, to raffle and door prizes consisting of elaborate gift baskets—the event will unfold at the Salvation Army building at 125 W. Beryl St. (corner of Beryl and Catalina), and not at the clubhouse.
Still, the landmark Craftsman building that has reigned on the corner of Pearl and Broadway since 1922 will remain very much in the picture.
Proceeds from ticket sales ($45 each) will go toward maintaining the treasured site listed in the National Registry of Historical Places.
Funds are needed, Radocchio explained, because a long-time tenant, a church, obtained property elsewhere. “We’re working very hard to try and get the word out there and get other businesses to come in,” she said.
Pat Dreizler, president of the club and a force in Redondo for years, said, “We got the base of our operating funds from the church and we could (afford to) do fundraisers for charities. Our problem now is we have to raise funds for our operating expenses.”
Club members, she added, “would like to have a long term tenant, similar to the church,” which held Sunday services and other events at the clubhouse.
The stately site, which offers kitchen facilities, a stage, piano and attendant equipment, is ideal for small seminars, training purposes and classes, Dreizler said. “We can’t have big parties or weddings, because it’s a residential area. But it’s a beautiful space, and we’ve had some very successful art shows there.”
Since the clubhouse is registered as a historic site, Dreizler said, “we’re looking for some restoration matching funds … but all that just takes a long, long time.”
Fashion shows of the past have been staged at the clubhouse, many under the guidance of Radocchio, a Sicilian blonde notorious for surprising her audience.
For the club’s 100th anniversary in 2008, for example, she came up with a “Looking Back to the Future” theme, which focused on fashions, yes, but also on how women dressed throughout the decades.
On another occasion, she focused on the 1940s. “We actually had a WAC uniform on loan from one of the museums; we had the pit helmets” and other WWII-era paraphernalia and clothes, she said.
“I like to have variety when I do things,” Radocchio said with a merry grin. “Fashion shows are great, but you need a surprise to catch everyone’s attention.”
The advantages of spicing things up occurred to her “years and years ago,” she said, when the father of one of her girlfriends entertained dinner guests with endless slides of his vacations.
“Well, people kind of drift off after the 85th slide, so every now and then he peppered (the slide show) with (a picture of) a nude. That woke everyone up!”
Radocchio, who quips that friends call her “Lettuce” (as in radicchio), loves to introduce an element of drama.
Many causes embraced by the Woman’s Club of Redondo Beach hold drama of their own, including the Foster Children Resource Project, which Radocchio started four years ago.
“This project has been my baby," she said. "I am very devoted to it, and I’m very fortunate because the ladies have jumped on board. Without everyone’s support it wouldn’t go anywhere.”
The project has not only been taken up by women’s clubs from Palos Verdes to Manhattan Beach, “it’s been adopted by the California Federation of Women's Clubs,” she said
Working in concert with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Torrance, Redondo and the other clubs supply children (32,000 in foster care in the Los Angeles area alone) with everything from toothbrushes to suitcases.
“We collect suitcases for the children because, when they are removed from foster care, they are given trash bags to carry their belongings in.”
Suitcases are expensive and are unavailable to the kids unless donated, Radocchio said. "Also, when children are emancipated from foster care at 18, they have nothing to store their clothing. It is a matter of simple dignity for the children."
She just started another drive, one asking for clothing for children ages 2 to 12, and the club collects items for emergency placement. “We get backpacks and DCFS gives us a list of items they need to go in them," she said.
Dreizler recalled a huge baby shower held for foster babies last year: “Everybody got so excited about buying baby clothes.”
But the club’s philanthropies are numerous, Dreizler added, including providing scholarships for Redondo Union High School seniors, gathering food the Salvation Army Food Bank, providing gifts for homebound seniors, adopting families at Christmas and supporting Cheer for Children, to name just a few.
Dreizler, an Energizer Bunny in her mid-80s, recalls being a member of the Dianas (a version of the same club for women under 35) in 1957, a time when women were largely stay-at-homes. “All of us were so thrilled to be away from our homes one night a month,” Dreizler said, laughing.
Although the Dianas are no longer active, their contributions were huge, including funding Veterans Park, where the club used to hold a huge breakfast the day before Easter.
“We made detailed invitations by hand,” Dreizler said. In those days, “you couldn’t go to Michaels and get all sorts of things already done.”
But the real history of the Woman's Club resides in the clubhouse itself. The place reeks of the past; stories seeming to occupy the vast redwood interior like friendly ghosts.
Just recently, Radocchio was stopped by a man at the doorway, who asked if he could come inside.
“When he was little," she said, "he had come here for Hebrew school.” On a tour of the facility, he recalled the rabbi standing in the corridor behind the stage and handing out little coupons for doing well on homework. “They saved up the coupons for prizes,” she said, clearly relishing the story.
Speaking of children, for two summers now, Radocchio said, the Redondo Beach Playhouse, formerly located at the Franklin school site on Inglewood Avenue, held their drama camp at the clubhouse. “It was very nice … and run by one of our members,” she said.
As for the fashion show, Radocchio is all about paying tribute to women, including the adventurous women she will spotlight during the program.
“I want to get across the deep feeling of gratitude that we have toward these women,” the chairwoman said. “Because they are really important. These ladies were first in what they did. They were amazing, worked hard (and) ignored critics; I just really admire that.”
The event, which starts at 11 a.m., will offer a choice of chicken cordon bleu or a vegetarian dish for lunch. Limited parking is available at the Salvation Army.
For tickets and reservation information, contact Karen Erlandson at 310-370-4963.
Those interested in donating to the Foster Children Resource Project may visit the website or call Radocchio at 310-387-7608.