Heady with the success of the Eisenhower Medical Center fund-raiser, which produced in excess of $2.25 million, Medical Center trustee John Sinn announced another hospital project and a new fund-raising drive. And the party wasn't even over.
The money from the "George Burns In Concert" Friday night affair held in the Marriott Rancho Las Palmas Resort's ballroom (converted into a nightclub setting for the evening) goes toward the $30 million needed for a 100-bed addition to the Center's Gene Autry Tower. Sinn called the black-tie dinner-dance "the biggest event the Eisenhower Medical Center and the Coachella Valley have ever had."
With Friday night's main event--George Burns in an hour-and-20-minute show where he was hilariously funny and engaging telling stories and jokes, delivering one-liners that bordered on the suggestive, and doing a few soft-shoe routines--still to come, Sinn launched into the Medical Center's new project. This one will cost only $11 million and it involves a 90,000-square-foot outpatient clinic. The board and the Eisenhower Medical Center are off to a good start on this one because they've already accepted three gifts of $1 million each. Sinn read out the names of the gift givers to the black-tie gathering that included one former President, two former ambassadors and plenty of socialites, celebrities, doctors and philanthropists. The three couples who gave first are Mr. and Mrs. Bob Hope, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Spanos and Mr. and Mrs. Walter Annenberg, who were honorary co-chairmen for Friday night's fete.
It was Walter Annenberg, publisher, art collector, philanthropist and former Ambassador to the Court of St. James's, who recruited George Burns as the evening's headliner. According to Bob Hope, Burns had at first demurred until he was told the evening was a benefit for the Eisenhower Medical Center. He accepted the invitation to appear for free, Hope reported, because of his admiration for Eisenhower. The 89-year-old sprite conserved his energy by skipping the two pre-party receptions, taking a nap before show time and having his dinner (bacon and eggs) in his hotel room before he showed up on stage. He was received with a standing ovation. "Thank you," he said. "But these days I get an ovation just for standing up."
Earlier in the day, Burns did accept the Annenbergs' invitation to lunch at Sunnylands. He showed up with pals Irving Fein (his manager) and Barry Mirkin and, according to Ardie Deutsch who was there, absolutely charmed Brooke Astor, New York's grande dame.
Desert dwellers, the part-time ones and the full-time residents, are famous for their generosity. The call comes and they get out their checkbooks. For Friday night's evening of dining and dancing and laughing, Allen Paulson of Indian Wells was the "special sponsor." That means big bucks. Henry Trione, owner of Geyser Peak Winery, donated the wines. And more than 50 became sponsors by donating $25,000. (Regular tickets were $2,500 per person.)
For their largesse the sponsors were invited to an early cocktail party at Sunnylands, the showplace desert home of the Walter Annenbergs. Standing in the newly redone atrium of the open and spacious house and before a new wall of Impressionist paintings Lee Annenberg smiled. "I'm lucky to live here. I pinch myself every morning." Her best friend, Mrs. Armand Deutsch added, "Yes, and it's because Lee is such a perfectionist that it looks the way it does."
Bob Hope, standing a few feet away, looked down at the marble floor and remarked, "This is where they dance on New Year's Eve." (It's the annual party attended by President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan, the Hopes and the Reagans' closest friends.) Lee Annenberg countered by calling Hope, "the best dancer I know." And to prove the point, the comedian moved his patent-leather-shod feet in a few graceful steps as he shuffled off, headed for the main event. For the fashion curious, Mrs. Annenberg wore a gold embroidered pale gold dress by the late Andre Laug; Harriet Deutsch wore Luis Estevez' crushed gold-cloth-trimmed black velvet dress and Dolores Hope wore Adolfo's fox cuffed sequinned sweater with black satin pants.
More sponsors touring the Annenberg collections (the house and its artistic treasure will become a museum, according to Annenberg's will) were Florence and Robert Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Autry, the Robert Lebermans, Dwight and Dona Kendall, Beverly and Chase Morsey, Saul Kamin with Philo Leserman, Col and Mrs. William McCain, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Marguleas and Mrs. K.S. Adams with Arthur Steel.
Other sponsors included the Annenbergs' house-guests: Armand Deutsch (and his wife), Mrs. Vincent Astor (a force in the preservation of New York's Public Library), Mrs. Charles Wrightsman (her daughter Annette Reed is one of New York's brightest young fund-raisers) and Dr. Guido Goldman. Lorena Mayer Nidorf was a sponsor, but at the last moment could not attend the party.
Party Warms Up
Back at the Marriott things had been warming up during the cocktail hour. But by 8 p.m. Tony Rose and his orchestra were on the bandstand and dinner chairman Mrs. Corwin Denney and members of her committee--Mr. and Mrs. Hal Wallis, Virginia Milner, Mrs. Dolph Obergfel, Mr. and Mrs. Leo Wyler, Sharon and Robert Lynch, Mr. and Mrs. Wilford Gonyea--and the rest were firmly in their seats. Corwin Denney--who isn't fond of big affairs--was a good sport. Wanting a breath of fresh air late in the evening, Leo Wyler and Morey Mirkin (there with their wives) sat and guarded the boxes that held the Tiffany gifts for the ladies.
Kay Obergfel was converted into a Burns fan that night. Gene Washburn (wearing Galanos' black gown with jeweled, almost backless bodice) danced with tall desert-dweller Gary Smith. And the classy crowd also included former President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty (she looked terrific), former Ambassador to Belgium Leonard Firestone, Sarah and Duffy Edwards, Marianne Wiggins, Barbara and Marvin Davis, Marlo Lewis who produced the show and Dr. and Mrs. Charlie Schaefer. (She writes how-to books; he's with the Eisenhower Medical Center.)