In some ways, it was enough to take one's breath away. Maybe--just maybe--it was enough to bring another's breath back.
For 400 revelers in black-tie and elaborate '30s attire, New Year's Eve meant "Steppin' Out With My Baby" at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel. The second annual Investors Ball, sponsored by the Cystic Fibrosis Guild of Orange County, raised more than $80,000 toward finding a cure for the disease, a lung ailment that causes repeated infections and eventual suffocation in children.
The countdown began at 7 p.m., when the hosted bar opened; unlimited champagne and cocktails would continue to be poured till 2 a.m. White-gloved waiters and waitresses passed among the guests with hors d'oeuvres--fois gras canapes, tartlets of avocado mousse with shrimp, papaya wrapped in prosciutto--in the silent auction and gaming rooms.
The silent auction featured items ranging from a motor scooter to a mammography, from dozens of designer furs to a limited-edition chess set using 150 ounces of 14-karat yellow and white gold and rubies, sapphires, pearls and diamonds as accent pieces with an (unobtained) opening bid of $300,000.
Time spent at any one of dozens of craps and blackjack tables in the casino-style gaming room earned the more lucky among the guests such diverse prizes as a three-day weekend for four at California Angel Bobby Grich's condominium in Palm Desert, a lifetime membership at Magic Island and a truffle cake per month for a year.
Dinner--an extensive buffet featuring bluepoint oysters, a display of gallantines, terrines and truffled pates, medallions of poached salmon, steak tartare, crisp duck with a pink peppercorn sauce, miniature medallions of veal with lime butter, grilled spring baby lamb chops with rosemary, vegetable kebabs, fettuccini with oregon caviar and chanterelles, scallops braised with leek and chardonnay (and the list goes on and on)--was available from 8 until 11 p.m.
Dance music was provided by Charles Rutherford's Orange Coast College Jazz Band in the ballroom, which was decorated in white, black and silver with balloon archways.
At each place setting were "Happy New Year" top hats for the men, feathered tiaras for the women, noisemakers and party favor perfumes and chocolates; marvelous centerpieces featuring a Pierrot Doll and a single enormous white balloon were designed by Black Iris and Kathy Hurwitz. (Although the 40 centerpieces were available by silent auction bid starting at $40, more than half were taken from the tables sans bid.)
Trumpeter Marty Myrick (ball chairman Bellinda Barnett's brother), dancer Booboo Campos(Myrick's new wife), singer Ken Lundy and the Broadway Babies Dancers presented a 10-minute "Broadway Babies Review" around 11 p.m.
Former child evangelist turned radio and television personality Marjoe ("Hallelujah, sold for $2,500!") Gortner conducted the live auction, which featured such items as a day with John Robinson at the Rams training camp; a four-day, all-expenses-paid fishing trip to Ketchikan, Alaska; Bob Hope's tuxedo, and a live blue Persian ("Per- eee -sian," according to Gortner) kitten.
Vocalist and former Miss Texas Bellinda Barnett's extended version of "Rock-a-Bye Your Baby" was interrupted at 25 seconds before midnight for the countdown, a new year ushered in by "Auld Lang Syne," lots of close dancing and a final "Steppin' Out With My Baby."
Sometime after midnight, Supervisor Tom Riley and his wife, Emma Jane, were made joint recipients of the Breath of Life Award in recognition of their personal financial and emotional support of cystic fibrosis patients and their families. (Last year, Riley was also instrumental in launching the county's first genetic education program for junior and senior high schools.)
Congratulatory wires to the Rileys from President Ronald Reagan and Gov. George Deukmejian were read, though few bothered to listen. A dozen white chocolate roses (a symbol for cystic fibrosis because children tend to pronounce the disease "65 roses") were given to Emma Jane. Tom received "C.F.'84" cuff links.
A Reason to Care
Both Rileys are themselves lung patients: Emma Jane has irreversible damage from repeated bouts with pneumonia, Tom severe asthma. But that is not the reason for the couple's involvement with cystic fibrosis.
"I went over to Childrens Hospital," explained Tom, "and here these young boys and girls are, 8, 10 years old, talking about their funeral--how they're going to work it, just how they want it. They're saying things like, 'Oh, Margaret died last week,' and telling you what she did for her funeral. . . .
"They'll tell you about their particular ailment, and explain why they're in the hospital, saying, 'Oh, you know, it's like bringing your car in for an overhaul.' I've never seen anything like it. One time, a little girl came over to me and said, 'You know, you missed me the last time.' And about a month later, I get a note saying she died."
Guild vice president Sue Bird of Mission Viejo reported that her 6-year-old daughter Noelle, a cystic fibrosis victim, is "doing great."
"The researchers tell us they can have a control for the disease in five years if we continue to fund them," Bird said. "The life expectancy of my daughter at the moment . . . I think she has those five years because she's doing so well right now. They're looking for a cure, but they really believe a control will come first. I'll take a control while we're waiting for a cure."
Guild president Barbara Yanchar noted, "Even though there are some children who live to, say, 18, I personally haven't met any who have lived past 11. It's dreadful. They lead what appears to be a relatively normal life, they look like any other child, but they suffocate to death.
"The road to a technology for a carrier test, a control and a cure is there. It's just a question of funding. That's why our poster says, 'We don't need your sympathy, we need your money.' "
More than $31,000 was raised through the raffle of a 1985 Jaguar XJ6--donated by Leland and Renee West of Newport Iports and won by Howard Conokoff.
The folks at the Ritz-Carlton believe the best way to start a new year is with a good breakfast: Served at 12:30 a.m. were smoked salmon and California sturgeon, fresh fruit and berries, eggs florentine , Tennessee breakfast sausage, cheese blintzes, chili and beans, cheesey grits with jalapenos, black-eyed peas, corn bread and an array of croissants, danish and fruit muffins.
Committee members included Beverly Thompson-Coil, Barbara Stewart, Renee West, Peter and Gwen Gelb (who lost a child to cystic fibrosis), Bobbi Felsot, Kathy Hurwitz, Patte Bikhazi, Pam Jandt, Sue Hook, Barney Barnett, Ann Stern, Barbara Roppolo, Debi Gillman, Helen Johnson and Amelia Seton.
Other guests included Bob Elder, sports director for the Cystic Fybrosis Foundation and for KOCE-TV; controversial talk show host Wally George, who interviewed guests as part of a projected cystic fibrosis "Wally-thon"; former Los Angeles Raider John Matuzak, who has lost two brothers and has a sister suffering from the disease, and Pilar Wayne Stewart, who hosted the first Newport Beach area guild meeting one year ago.