Cultural Foundation's Bash Is a Valley High

Times Staff Writer

If the San Fernando Valley were to have its own brand of high society, its epitome would be a major party that was elegant, sophisticated and homespun all at the same time.

So said Luke Bandle Saturday night. Bandle is general manager of the Cultural Foundation, the organization that is raising money to build a complex of performing arts halls in the Valley.

She could be a little smug in her prescription: As she said it, all her conditions were being met by a party that was undoubtedly the largest society event the West Valley has seen. By rough estimate, it netted more than $100,000.

It was a dinner dance put on by the foundation as the symbolic opening of the Marriott Hotel in Woodland Hills, the first major hotel west of Universal City, which began serving customers Feb. 27.

Just as significantly, 834 guests--almost exclusively Valley people--paid $100 apiece for every seat the Marriott could squeeze into its new grand ballroom, and they partied with abandon till past 11 p.m., when Oscar nominee Margaret Avery arrived to hold them in their seats for an hour more of jazz and soul.

H. F. (Bert) Boeckmann, chairman of the foundation's board of directors, was a warm and self-effacing master of ceremonies. He checked any tendency toward over-sophistication.

"I compliment the men on wearing these look-alike penguin outfits to showcase our beautiful ladies," he said. Tall, silver-haired and usually somewhat stiff, Boeckmann is the owner of Galpin Ford in Sepulveda.

In a brief talk, Boeckmann summarized the foundation's plans to build several theaters in Warner Park, near the new Marriott, and in Sepulveda Basin at the Valley's center.

Then he made the obligatory introductions of foundation personnel and several celebrities in the audience: among them, band and choral leader Johnny Mann; actress Marion Ross of "Happy Days," and Jamie Farr, the Cpl. Klinger of "MASH."

Before leaving the stage, Boeckmann announced Avery's later appearance, describing her as an Oscar nominee for her role "in Arthur Spellberg's" movie "The Color Purple."

When a member of Horace Heidt Jr.'s band stepped forward to whisper the illustrious producer's correct name, Steven Spielberg, Boeckmann quipped that he had taken the job as chairman of the board only on the condition that he would not have to attend the theater after opening night. "That's where my culture is," he said.

Later, Boeckmann stepped back to the microphone for one more rejoinder:

"I wonder if Arthur Spellberg has arrived yet. I want you to know he called to thank me. It was a proud moment for me."

Throughout a three-hour continental meal, people exuberantly moved about the hall, dancing, laughing and making conversation.

When an older couple jitterbugged beside their table, they received an ovation from everyone around them. The little scene expressed the spirit of the evening.

The party was a time to release long-repressed emotions. It was proof, not only of the Valley's pent-up desire for a higher social standing, but also of its merit.

It was confirmation, as Boeckmann put it, that "now we can paint the town from the other end."

To make the evening last, more than half the revelers had paid an extra $50 each for rooms in the hotel.

They were all invited to an "afterglow" party on the 16th floor.

"Come any way you like," Boeckmann told them. "Come in your tux or come in your PJs."

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