Stone Faces Didn’t Deter Lively Crowd

As odd a threesome of greeters as one might expect to meet guarded the entrance to Frank and Joanne Warren’s sumptuous rural retreat Saturday evening.

While they did not exactly turn a cold shoulder to the 140 guests who turned out for “Celebration 1986,” a grand and glamorous gala presented by the Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art in observance of its eighth anniversary, neither were they forthcoming with handshakes and directions to the bar.

But if this triad of stone-faced greeters seemed to have feet of clay, they could be forgiven the fact, since the three were papier-mache statues trucked up from the museum’s permanent collection to serve as mood-setters at this India-themed party.

Perhaps it was as well that the guests were allowed to observe a preliminary moment of silence, because the rest of the evening was anything but quiet. Event chairman Katy Dessent planned a bouncy little program that included several changes of scene with music at every stop--pianist Joel Nash brightened the cocktail hour, and Heart and Soul later led a rock ‘n’ roll revival down at the poolside dance floor. (Later, Dessent said that the success of the party left her speechless, but it was easy to disregard this claim, since she not only was busy singing the praises of the Mingei but has had plenty of party experience. She chaired the 1982 Jewel Ball, “A Night in Bienville,” at which 1,100 guests spent seven hours in a mythical French village.)


Act One found the guests assembled on a terrace that looked over the hills, which glowed like burnished bronze in the fading light. Here, they ladled chicken curry from an immense vat and strolled up to tables at which busy cooks flipped tiny Indian pancakes and slipped spice-coated mussels into pots of boiling oil. There seemed to be a constant coming and going as guests relayed word about other treats available farther down the line.

Frank and Joanne Warren seemed unusually relaxed for people who had 140 guests at their home, but Joanne assured one and all that the party was no work for her--the committee and caterers had shouldered all the tasks and left the Warrens free to spend the day at the beach, she said. Mingei Executive Director Martha Longenecker, who was escorted by Martin Roth, seemed equally relaxed; this was the third annual gala for the museum, and Longenecker discovered that the third time around really is a charm.

“This couldn’t be more marvelous,” she said, gesturing at the crescent moon that had begun to climb in the east. “And what makes this so special is that our supporters aren’t just interested in parties, they’re also so interested in the museum.”

The stars were popping out by the time the guests descended to the pool area, where dinner was served. The Indian theme continued here, not just in the menu, but in the decor.


The party’s inspiration arose from the Mingei’s current exhibition, “Forms of Mother Earth--Contemporary Terra Cottas of India,” and each table was decorated with pots and vases cast by the Indian artisans who established a temporary residence in the museum’s exhibit halls. Candles glowed inside the pots and cast flickering light against the masses of orange lilies that bloomed at the center of each table.

Judi Strada wrote a rather daring dinner menu that ignored conventional party fare in favor of marinated duck salad, and an entree of spiced lamb and a vegetable curry. Guests were treated to several desserts, including a classic Indian sweet, jalebi , that came wrapped in sheets of pure--but most edible--silver. To work off all these calories, most guests made repeated trips to the dance floor, encouraged by the example set by party co-chairman Mary Williams and her escort, Ted Graham.

The guest list also included Al and Betty DeBakcsy (Betty chaired the 1985 Mingei celebration); Fielder and Marge Lutes, Jack and Loraine MacDonald, Merrel and Marie Olesen, Ted and Audrey Geisel, Robert and Nina Doede, Paul and Michelle Ellingsen, Ned and Carol Baumer, Larry and Ewa Robinson, Mike Dessent, Charlie and Maureen King, Bob and Connie Golden, Craig and Susan McClellan, and Bill and Beverly Muchnic.

Also attending were Bill and Martha Ehringer (Martha said that her one ambition is to spend the rest of her life at the Mingei, where she has just become a docent), Walter and Freddie Deming, John and Kirk Butler, Bert and Ethel Aginsky, Haley and Vicki Rogers, Madeline Shenefield with Stan Strong, Jean Jones with Dick Duffy, Sally and John Thornton, Kirk and Jeanette Peterson, Roger and Roswitha Woolley, and Charles and Susan Edwards.


SAN DIEGO--Author Hughes, president of the University of San Diego, nearly lost his voice during the cocktail hour that preceded the third annual Spirit of Charity dinner dance Friday in the Town & Country Hotel’s Presidio Room for the benefit of Catholic Community Services.

Hughes’ hoarseness was understandable in a man who had just gone through the rigors of greeting 350 friends and well-wishers. But the condition also threatened potential difficulties for a chap who later would have to give a speech, and not just any speech--as the man of the hour, he was expected to say something that the crowd could take home as a kind of intellectual souvenir. Fortunately for all, Hughes’ vocal cords rose to the occasion and his address proved to be among the more memorable of recent fund-raising occasions. (Marge Hughes, the dinner’s co-honoree, spared her voice the usual strains by substituting hugs for verbal greetings.)

Quite a crowd turned out for the jovial annual get-together, including a list of host and hostess couples that included Richel and Tawfiq Khoury, Jean and Ernest Hahn, and Deborah and John Daley. Among those who appeared to be getting a special kick out of the scene was, not surprisingly, Father Douglas Regin, the Catholic Community Services head; he announced himself especially pleased by the fact that all the men, in seeming imitation of himself, had chosen to wear black suits.

Regin found more about the occasion than the dress code to suit him. Remarking on the date, which happened to be the only Friday the 13th in the 1986 calendar, he said, “Friday the 13th has turned out to be a lucky day for us, because people have chosen to take the chance of coming out on a night like this to help those in need. They make America’s Finest City that much finer.” The proceeds raised at the black-tie event will benefit, among other Catholic Community Services programs, services to children, refugees and the homeless.


After the cocktail reception, the guests repaired to the ballroom and wasted no time in working up an appetite to the dance rhythms of the Curt Stans Orchestra. Hunger awakened soon became hunger assuaged; the meal proceeded in orderly fashion and included veau vigneronne and gateau de mousse aux framboises.

The All American Boys Chorus, an Orange County institution and a Hughes favorite, assembled its 40 young voices on the stage shortly before dessert and brought the house down with a medley of Broadway show tunes and an encore of patriotic favorites. This entertaining intermezzo led to the final act in the official program, the presentation of the Hugheses to the crowd, an honor undertaken by the master of ceremonies, Msgr. I. Brent Eagen.

Author Hughes accepted his plaque with the simplest of words. “Honesty, integrity and charity are important traditions in this country, and they are biblical traditions, too,” he said. “In all of these traditions, the one that strikes the familiar chord is the tradition of altruism, the willingness to put the interests of the community ahead of one’s own interests.”

This brief, quiet speech brought the audience to its feet, and then the only remaining duty incumbent upon the guests was to dance the rest of the evening away, an obligation that most seemed only too willing to fulfill.


The guest list included Bishop Leo T. Maher; newlyweds Joan and Milton Evangelou; USD President’s Circle Chairman Elsie Weston and her husband, Frank (the pair had just returned from Frank’s 50th class reunion at Dartmouth); Dorene and John Whitney; Jane and Bob Sexton; Gloria and Charles Melville; Ernie and Ed Grimm; Lois and Bill Kolender; Sara and Tom Finn; Lee and Larry Cox, and Marilyn and Kim Fletcher.

Also attending were Tommi and Bob Adelizzi, Edna and John Alessio, Linda and Frank Alessio, Rosemary and Al Rosa, Lee and P.J. Maturo, Junko and Larry Cushman, Rita and Joe Neeper, Emma Lee and Jack Powell, Jean and Jack Morse, Mary and Dan Mulvihill, Marshall and Eleanor White, Marilyn and Frank Pavel, and Tim, Susan, Greg and Kelly Hughes.