Feature: Ready for Their Close-Ups: Behind-the-Scenes With Philly’s Socialites

Led by Sabrina Tamburino Thorne, a new breed of attention-loving, camera-hungry partygoers are making themselves “Philly-famous” — and turning Philadelphia society upside down

Sabrina Tamburino Thorne met the millionaire she would marry at a pimp-and-ho party two years ago. She was dressed as a hooker. He went as Hugh Hefner.
It was meant to be.

Sabrina, a bright, effervescent 30-year-old, goes to lots of parties. In part, this comes with her role as finance and budget coordinator for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. But more than that, it comes with being Sabrina: Philly fun girl; friend to movers, shakers and shimmy-ers; daughter of Carol Tamburino, construction consultant and charity committee member extraordinaire. Sabrina is also the wife of Steve Thorne, the 55-year-old auto-parts magnate who’s possibly best known for his highly contentious, highly public breakup with anchorwoman Monica Malpass a few years back.
Sabrina is best known for being photographed.

A voluptuous honey-blonde with dark eyes and a wide smile, Sabrina Tamburino Thorne is many things: a Philadelphia native (born and bred at 19th and Spring Garden); a Margate summerer who, as a teen, scooped ice cream for pocket money; a graduate of Lynn University in Boca Raton, where she fell in love with Miami nightlife while studying business and hospitality management. She came home to work in decidedly unglamorous posts in finance and mortgages before landing a job she loves at GPTMC, where she has, over five years, forged a successful career. She serves on the boards of the National Italian-American Political Action Committee and an annual teen charity event hosted by Karen and Jamie Moyer, and is Young Friends chair for glittery UBS Motor Cars Under the Stars.

Google her, and you’ll find none of this. In fact, you’ll find no news stories at all (other than mention of her new $7.17 million condo at 10 Rittenhouse), nor any hints of scandal (unless you count Congressman Bob Brady showing up at her wedding in a priest’s collar). What you will find are photos: of her lavish wedding at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul; of the charity dance-off at which she fox-trotted her way into second place; of her raucous Lady Gaga-themed birthday bash at R2L, the invitations for which featured her face superimposed on the Rolling Stone cover on which the singer’s nakedness was covered by strategically placed bubbles.

Sabrina isn’t your standard-issue Philly socialite, if by that you mean a Quaker–humble, jacket-with-elbow-patches, ride-to-the-hounds sort of gal. Those types have been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by newer faces on the local party circuit — faces who seem to be having more fun, drinking more cocktails, wearing higher heels and sporting much more leopard print. Besides Tamburino Thorne, there are her friends: Kristen Foote, another blonde (of a more Nordic variety), who’s a successful Allan Domb real estate broker, the product of a Swiss boarding school, and the onetime girlfriend of rakish developer John Westrum; striking brunette PR and party queen Nicole Cashman; willowy, olive-skinned Lauren O’Dorisio, girlfriend of perennially pocket-squared John Colabelli, publisher of Philadelphia Style, a glossy lifestyle mag here in town. There’s also aging weatherstud John Bolaris, hyper-tan superlawer Chuck Peruto, fashionable Rendell pal Nina Tinari, Donald Trump’s Apprentice semi-star Erin Elmore, and even fame-obsessed Web phenom Arthur Kade. Depending whom you ask, they’re the new socialites, or skilled networkers, or charitable givers, or out-and-out social climbers. Fauxcialites.

“They’re sort of the influencers,” one networker explains.
“If they’re at an event, you know it’s a good one,” says another.
But a more old-school Philadelphian says of the nouveaux: “Ugh, just please. Bring. Them. Down.”