It was a star-studded summer evening on California's Gold Coast and the stars were seated at dinner tables for the 9th annual Sea Change party on a hillside promontory overlooking the Laguna coastline. They came in support of the international ocean conservation organization known as Oceana.
The O.C. crowd mingled and smingled with special Hollywood greats Seth MacFarlane, Sam Waterston, Jeff Goldblum and super Oceana advocate Ted Danson. What is impressive in the "here today, gone tomorrow" world of celebrity allegiances is that these Hollywood stars have consistently turned out year after year for the cause of Oceana. It is not just for publicity or to promote the latest project; their involvement is sincere and serious.
This season the regulars were joined by fellow celebs Angela Kinsey, Colin Egglesfield, Leonor Varela, Sally Pressman and Newport's own Olympic swimming star Aaron Peirsol. The sold-out evening, which honored MacFarlane, raised an estimated $1.3 million from a crowd numbering 400 donors.
The event was co-chaired by Oceana board chair Valerie Van Cleave, who was joined by O.C. philanthropist and activist Britt Meyer. The duo ensured a glorious success.
Patrons have become equally passionate along with the celebs. Among the most generous and most vocal when it comes to ocean conservation are Corona del Mar's Eve and Mike Ruffatto.
The couple was honored as the 2016 Ocean Champions. The Ruffattos were in the lofty company of major donors Elizabeth Segerstrom, Elizabeth An and Gordon Clune, Soogie and Don Kang, Elizabeth Wahler, Jean and Tim Weiss, Britt and Robert Mayer, Anne Earhart. Family foundation aid came from the mega-supportive Harriet E. Pfleger Foundation, the Fanticola and Knode families, and the Cahill family, along with underwriters Tricia and Michael Berns, Julie and Peter Hill and James Sandler, among others. Corporate sponsorship came from Nolet Spirits, Ketel One partners, Traditional Jewelers, South Coast Plaza and more.
Oceana guests dined al fresco, receiving a multicourse gourmet dinner created from sustainable and local sources that were environmentally sensitive in keeping with the Oceana message.
Oceana CEO Andrew Sharpless hit a home run, telling the dinner crowd, "Save the oceans, feed the world," which is the name of one of the group's major campaigns. Sharpless continued, "With the right policies in place, a fully productive ocean could provide a meal a day for a billion people forever."
A major auction followed, with high-value items selling fast and furious. Jewelry from Winston's Crown, David Yurman, Mikimoto, Alexander Jewell, Kimberlin Brown and K. Brunini went like lightning.
Fashions donated by world-class design houses and retailers such as Neiman Marcus, Giorgio Armani, Roger Vivier, Versace, Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Chanel and so many more also went to top bidders. And, of course, luxury travel to Europe, Mexico, Hawaii, Tahiti, the British Virgin Islands and New York City helped producers cross the million dollar mark.
Since launching the summer event nine years ago in the O.C., the Sea Change party has raised $12 million for Oceana, making the event one of the premier success stories on the coast.
Spotted in the VIP crowd were Anton and Jennifer Segerstrom, Jany and Charles Davenport, Debra and Geoffrey Sampson, Laura and Lou Rohl, Carol and Dennis Berryman, Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, Andy and Betsy Ackerman and Maralou and Jerry Harrington.
Also front and center enjoying the performance of Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra were Laurie Rodnick and Sir Thomas Moore, Marilyn and Richard Moriarty, Ishani and Mickey Dillon, Michelle and Glenn Verdult and O.C. superstars Wylie and Bette Aitken.
B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.