Super Diamond performed for ARF Jan. 10

ARF lures big stars to shine
CERTAINLY, we all love our animals, but it was never more evident than on Jan. 10 at the 13th annual Stars to the Rescue.

The lovefest was hosted by St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, whose brainchild, Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF), was launched after he rescued and found a home for a stray cat that had wandered onto the playing field during an Oakland A’s game in 1990.

Since then, ARF’s major fund-raiser has gained a reputation as one of the most popular celebrity events. This year brought a sold-out crowd to the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and it was more electrifying than ever.

Bringing up the wattage were zirconium versions of Neil Diamond originals served up by Super Diamond; the passionate abandon of jazz’s Grammy-winning Yellowjackets; a sardonic stand-up routine by Don Novello as his alter-ego, gossipy Father Guido Sarducci; and the fluidity of the Moving Arts Dance company performed by Barbara Guisti, Holly Morrow, Erin Yarbrough, Ethan White and La Russa’s daughter, Devon.

That was just the first half of the show. After the intermission, La Russa appeared on stage carrying a fluffy, white Maltese-mix dog that was up for adoption, eliciting “ooohs” and “aaahs” from the crowd. As he spoke at length about ARF, a video screen projected close-up shots of the animals followed by the organization’s motto of bringing people and animals together to enrich each other’s lives.

Next up, wearing a powder-blue sequined suit, was pop crooner Chris Isaak, with his brooding, mid-tempo meditations on love gone wrong. As his voice alternated with ease from lulling to visceral, Isaak was in fine form, never sounding better, especially during a haunting rendition of “Only the Lonely.”

Isaak was followed by Emmylou Harris, who infused a quiet, understated power into the show with a brilliantly varied repertoire and an ethereal, eclectic alternative country style.

The capper, though, was an appearance by Tom Johnston, the original kingpin of the Doobie Brothers. Reunited, the longtime rock band scored with the audience by playing material from their reunion albums and most of their easy-rocking hits from the 1970s such as “Listen to the Music,” “Long Train Runnin,” “China Grove” and “Black Water.”

Also appearing throughout the second half was an all-star band that included Jerry Cortez, Steve George, Mic Gillette, Keith Knudsen, Steve Logotetta, John McFee, Marvin McFadden, Terry Miller, Jimmy Pugh and Marc Russo, ARF’s musical director.

The show earned a standing ovation, and when the applause subsided, ARF had hit another record in revenues to benefit the care and shelter of homeless animals in the Bay Area.

THERE’S MORE: Stars to the Rescue photosValley Section

Do you have a gala, fund-raiser or other social event planned? If so, call Mary Ann Cruz at (925) 736-1423 or send her an e-mail at . Letters may be sent to her at 4770 Willow Road, Pleasanton 94588.

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