The Great Gatsby comes to Richmond

It was the roaring twenties.

The Great Gatsby era was a time when jazz music came to its own and the flapper - the new breed of woman who started wearing shorter skirts, bobbed their hair, smoked and snubbed their nose at proper etiquette -redefined women's rights.

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To celebrate its 35th anniversary, the Richmond Women's Resource Centre (RWRC) is hosting The Great Gatsby, a gala fundraiser this Saturday, Oct. 22.

"Every year we host a fundraiser to raise money for our programs and services but since it's our 35th year in Richmond we decided to host a evening gala," said Colleen Glynn, president of the RWRC.

"This year, we wanted to kick it up a notch and really have fun at the same time. Hopefully, we can raise a few thousands for our new immigrant programs and our English conversation classes for high school students."

Although things have changed for women since the 1920s, there is an important need for the RWCR, a nonprofit organization aimed at improving the lives of women in their community and in society at large.

"Our mandate is to empower women to be the best they can be and that means providing them a safe environment where they can come and find the resources or referrals they need," added Glynn. "With all the cuts from the provincial and federal government, now more than ever, we need to fundraise even more."

In fact, RWRC has expanded many of its programs and services to cover the growing need, including its peer support programs.

"We had just under 5,000 visits last year to our centre," she added. "Lately, we are getting a lot more questions about affordable housing _ there is definitely a demand here in Richmond for our services."

The Great Gatsby, Glynn promises, will be a fun night out, with very few speeches, lots of dancing and good music. Glynn also encourages people to dress up.

Richmond dancer, singer and actress Sibel Thrasher will don her glitziest black-fringed dress and lots of bling for her act with The James Dean Trio.

"I can't wait to perform with the band because they are a great, talented group of musicians," said Thrasher.

The seasoned artist has been performing for decades.

Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she began performing professionally at the tender age of six.

"I remember doing the Leaf Dance," quipped Thrasher.

She came to B.C. to appear alongside The Platters (A vocal doo wop group from Los Angeles) in 1981 and never left.

"I just fell in love with B.C.," said Thrasher, who still appears regularly at the River Rock Casino Resort's Lulu Lounge, Vancouver's Sylvia Hotel and for lots of private functions. Thrasher's resume is impressive.

She has recorded in New York with legendary artist Roy Ayers, and in Canada with the late Long John Baldry and Linton Garner. Along with performing with the Platters in the U.S.A., Japan and the Philippines, this dynamo traveled as a jazz and R&B singer in the cruise ship industry and still headlines Sibel Thrasher and The Gospel Explosion. She also finds time to volunteer at a number of fundraising events across the Lower Mainland, including The Great Gatsby, Motown Meltdown and many others in and around the Lower Mainland.

Along with her stage and musical achievements, Thrasher has starred in movie, television and commercial productions. In 2005, she performed in Fierce People, starring Donald Sutherland and Diane Lane, an experience she said was "a career highlight."

Thrasher also traveled to New York to record with a group called RAMP. The band toured Washington and performed in New York City's Central Park and in London, England in November 2007.

During The Great Gatsby, Thrasher will perform the music of the era, lots of jazz by legendary greats such as Dinah Washington, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

"We will perform some wonderful jazz standards," added the sultry chanteuse, who has called Richmond home for more than 15 years.

The RWRC celebrates 35 years with The Great Gatsby fundraising gala on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Richmond Art Gallery, 7700 Minoru Gate. Come dressed as a flapper, gangster or silent screen star. Tickets are $75, with a $50 tax receipt. Your ticket includes light refreshments, wine tasting and live entertainment from Thrasher with The James Dean Trio as well as Charlotte Diamond and Cherelle Jardine. Free parking. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 604-279-7060 or visit www.richmondwomenscentre.bc.ca.

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