Despite the Dumplings, Chinese Prison Was No Picnic

--Being the only American in a Chinese jail can have its advantages, Richard S. Ondrik said. The warden in the Harbin, China, jail made dumplings for him, and a trustee hauled hot water for his weekly bath. But despite the decent treatment, “a cage is a cage, no matter how golden,” Ondrik said. Ondrik, convicted of accidentally setting a fatal fire in April in a Harbin hotel, was released on Thanksgiving Day after serving five months of an 18-month sentence. The 34-year-old energy specialist for a Hong Kong firm now plans to go to Honolulu for a reunion with his parents. He was held in a medium-security facility where he had his own room and the use of an activity room for lifting weights and watching color television. “At first, they were as terrified of me as I was shocked with being there,” Ondrik said. “After a few weeks, they relaxed.” The warden dropped by once a week to play Ping-Pong, and “he took me 25 straight games,” Ondrik said. Once guards took him to the movies and once to a Chinese opera performance, he said.

--About 60 debutantes from across the nation had a chance to do some Christmas shopping--for an escort to the Dec. 28 International Debutante Ball--at a Bachelor’s Brunch in New York City. Madonna’s “Material Girl” blared as the men, dressed in blue blazers or three-piece suits, stood in a receiving line and welcomed the young women to the annual brunch at the El Morocco. Michael Rockefeller, grandson of the late Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Peter Stavropoulos, son of the designer who goes by his last name only, were listed among the hosts of the event, described as a warm-up to the ball. Debutante Lucinda Robb, granddaughter of the late President Lyndon B. Johnson, made a brief appearance. David Gould, who said he has done publicity for the event for 30 years, said the debutante ball, although exclusive, “is not a snob ball. It’s been going on since Marie Antoinette’s time and gives a girl the opportunity to be a princess for an evening.”

--During this season of giving, the people of the mountain resort town of Saratoga, Wyo., have decided to offer Britain’s Prince Charles something he really wants--an excuse to visit Wyoming. It seems that Charles expressed an interest in seeing Wyoming during his recent visit to the United States. So, the town invited the Prince and Princess of Wales to preside as “Kingfish and Queenfish” of an ice fishing derby. Organizers of the annual Saratoga Lake Ice Fishing Derby have mailed Charles and Diana a letter notifying them that they have been invited to the early January event, said Carol Sherrod, director of the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce.