Some 125 elegantly dressed guests gathered on a balmy November evening at swanky City Club across from MOCA in downtown Los Angeles. Kerstin Alm, the 2008 recipient of the esteemed Eliason Award, the 21st of its kind, celebrated a memorable evening
with family, former colleagues, old friends, SWEA members, and recent acquaintances from her Mamarazzi world.
Every year is different; the crowd varies depending on who the recipient is. Last year's award winner, Tomas Jegeus, co-president at FOX International, attracted people from the film industry. Two years ago Ann-Charlotte Harvey came with her theatre associates and fans in tow. All in all six former Eliason Merit winners were present on November 8 to honor Kerstin Alm, the 2008 Eliason Award recipient.
In addition to Jegeus, also present were Bengt Olin, founder of The Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Los Angeles; Siri Eliason, former consul general in San Francisco — the award is in honor of her late husband Sven Eliason; Agneta Nilsson, founder of Swedish Women’s Educational Association; Peter Hammarström, former consul general in Los Angeles; and Margareta Saperston, founder of the Swedish School in Santa Monica.
As the guests arrived to the top floor of the imposing Wells Fargo tower in the heart of Bunker Hill, SACC-GLA President Pietro Fallai and his wife Dorcas Preston welcomed everyone to a breathtaking view of the LA basin and a well sorted bar, including a giant bowl of vodka-lingonberry cocktail, called “vargtass" (wolf’s paw) by Swedish drinkers. Silent auction items were arranged under the panoramic windows, giving the impression that they were hovering high above the ground. Angelenos, not so used to this New York-type of bird’s eye view, truly enjoyed it.
Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Margaretha Laseen, ex-president of SACC-GLA. The guests savored a five-course gourmet dinner, prepared and presented by Connie Andersson, former executive chef at Beverly Wilshire Hotel, and now proud owner of the just opened restaurant AK located on hip Abbot Kinney in Venice. After a welcome speech by Mr. Fallai, Ms. Preston sang the American national anthem, and Alm's daughter Anna Alm-Grayhek sang “Du gamla du fria,” the Swedish national hymn. During the appetizer course, guests sang “Helan går” and downed shots of crystal clear vodka.
Concert pianist Lars Roos entertained on the grand piano as everyone enjoyed the main course and moving speeches by dear friends, co-workers, and family. A very special moment brought tears to many eyes when Karin Lundqvist, Alm’s late mother — who also performed in America — was heard singing with a rich, clear voice in a recording of a famous Swedish song, “Får jag lämna några blommor….” Directly thereafter daughter Anna and granddaughter Kristina sang the song live on stage.
In her speech Laseen told us that she first met Alm in 1981 when Margaretha was new in town. She remembers Kerstin blaming her for not being a real immigrant: Laseen already had employment and apartment secured, which did not count as a true settler, according to Alm. A slide show with personal photos from various periods of Alm´s life traveled across a large screen.
Then Alm’s former boss of 29 years, Arthur Leeds, manager at Air France Cargo, used many endearing words to describe his former work mate, at the time referred to as “Cargo Mama.” He called her “truly the most professional in cargo business.”
In her speech Anna Alm-Grayhek remembered her dad Åke Alm, also present at the dinner, affectionately calling his ex-wife “dukten,” meaning the capable one. Anna also said that with her positive nature, always promoting Sweden, there is very little her mom can’t or won’t do.
Agneta Nilsson described a 37-hour return trip, with Alm as her travel mate, from a SWEA meeting in South Africa two nights prior to this event. Kerstin has been a true friend ever since they first met in 1963. “You never said ‘no’ to anything,” Nilsson proclaimed. She also shared good wishes from SWEA Western Region and SWEA International.
After taking photos for the organization in her spare time since the beginning in 1979, Alm now — amongst a million other things — keeps busy by taking pictures at important award ceremonies around the globe, along with staying faithful to “Mother SWEA.”
There were several ladies in red that night, one of them Kerstin herself, another one being Nina Ersman, Swedish Consul General, who with Mr. Fallai and Mr. Olin presented the Eliason Award: a glass sculpture by Bertil Vallien. The other prominent lady in red was former SACC president Annika Sandberg, hostess of the evening - it was thanks to her that the event took place at the prestigious City Club. Nils Welin, SACC President in San Francisco applauded her, along with everyone else, for a great evening. NJR Radio Awards & Rockbjörnen nominee Jamie Meyer sang and played the guitar accompanied by the young, blond Fredrik Eriksson, fresh from Varberg.
Later in the evening the bravest, but not necessarily the youngest in the crowd, danced half the night away in a triangular room with floor-to-ceiling windows that gave the illusion of a space ship coming in for a landing rather than being the south-facing point of one of the tallest buildings in downtown Los Angeles.
Mamarazzi Alm is not slowing down...on the contrary: She seems to be in more places than ever, camera ready and with a sly smile uttering her now trade mark words, “Say sex….”
Kerstin Alm and Nina Ersman, Consul General of Sweden at Los Angeles