There was a wonderful celebration Saturday night for Alcario Castellano's 80th birthday, with more than 100 family and friends gathering at the Fairmont San Jose to raise a glass in his honor.

Carmen Castellano regaled the crowd at the hotel's Club Regent with stories about her dapper husband, from his childhood in Hollister, to their first meeting ("I was 10," she said. "He didn't pay any attention to me.") and his 20 years working for Safeway before retiring in 1998.

Of course, that's when the story gets interesting as the couple won a record $141 million jackpot in 2001.

The crowd included many longtime friends who predated their lottery riches, like John and Pat Graciano, the couple who stood up for the Castellanos at their wedding. And there were many others of us who have met the Castellanos more recently through their philanthropic efforts with the Castellano Family Foundation, largely supporting arts, culture and education.

One of the guests was playwright and director Luis Valdez, who praised Castellano for providing a generous role model for the Latino community. "We do not have many philanthropists or patrons of the arts," he said.

Castellano's grown children -- Maria Castellano West, Carmela Castellano Garcia and Armando Castellano -- all spoke about their father, and the entertainment was provided by a band featuring Carmela and Armando.


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"He has good genes," Carmela Castellano Garcia said of her dad's longevity. "He's been through a lot, but we're fortunate to have him here tonight."

The valley's fortunate to have him, too.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: After being silent in San Jose for a number of years, the San Francisco Mime Troupe returns to the South Bay on Tuesday night with a performance of its newest show, "Ripple Effect," at St. James Park. The free show starts with music at 6:30 p.m. and then things quiet down for the performance at 7.

If this downtown San Jose performance draws a good crowd, the Mime Troupe hopes to return annually. Check 'em out at www.sfmt.org.

FASHIONABLE UPDATE: In an item last week, I mentioned that the upcoming Little Italy San Jose gala on Sept. 13 was black tie, based on an email sent out to supporters. It turns out that Little Italy Executive Director Joshua DeVincenzi Melander must have meant it was "Silicon Valley black tie," which means cocktail attire with comfortable shoes. So no tuxedos or gowns will be needed, but I have a feeling that crowd would look classy in aloha shirts and Bermuda shorts.

And you can save your witch's hat and broom an extra 24 hours if you were thinking about heading to "Wicked" for the day-of-performance ticket lottery on opening night. The Broadway San Jose musical opens at the Center for the Performing Arts on Wednesday, a day later than I had said. I must have been under a spell.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/spizarro.