'30s Benefit Aids Sojourn Shelter for Battered Women

Times Staff Writer

Supporters of Sojourn, a Santa Monica shelter for battered women and their children, took part in a Sojourn at the Ritz, a '30s-style fund-raiser with live jazz performances, gambling and dancing.

Almost all of the 400 people who attended the bash at the Biltmore hotel Saturday night complied with the black-and-white theme, some even dashing off to a costume shop for gangster spats and slinky gowns. The theme did throw some people who missed the '30s by a decade and donned flapper dresses. But no one went so far as to wear Depression-era clothes.

Through the evening Sojourners were intent on raising money ($50,000 to $75,000 was expected) with raffle tickets for door prizes and gambling. The gambling was legal but one-sided; with a $10 bag of chips one could win big, but there was nothing to show for it. A dinner chairman said the group couldn't get a social service permit to award prizes. But none of that seemed to matter, since many of the casino tables were doing great business all night.

Social, Economic Issue

The pomp didn't overshadow the seriousness of what the event was raising money for. "Wife-battering is a social issue," Sojourn director Dorothy Hudson said, "but, if you had to reduce it to anything, it would also be an economic issue. A lot of times a woman won't leave the man who is beating her because she has no money to go somewhere else, so she'll go back to the batterer."

Hudson said that although Sojourn, a project of the Ocean Park Community Center, provides referral services and follow-up programs for families that stay in the shelter, she wants "to do more work beyond the shelter." Her next goal is to find "second-stage" housing, a small apartment building, for women who are trying to establish new lives for themselves and their families. The shelter can accommodate five families at a time, and the longest stay is six weeks.

"Public awareness (about battering) is increasing," she said, "but attitudes really change very slowly. There are people who still think violence against women isn't a big deal."

Among those who attended the $150-per-ticket event were actor John Ritter and actress-wife Nancy Morgan, singer Kenny Loggins, actor Jerry Mathers and wife Rhonda, producer Burt Metcalfe and actress-wife Jan Jorden; dinner co-chairs Karen Harris and Lillian Bleuze-Nelson, and the show's producer Sheila James Kuehl, attired in a top hat and tails.

'A Responsibility'

Kuehl, a familiar face from her role as Zelda Gilroy on TV's "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," is an attorney and associate professor of law at Loyola, as well as chairwoman of Sojourn's advisory board. She said she was asked by one of Sojourn's founders to start a fund-raising board eight years ago, and became hooked on the organization. "I think people have a responsibility to do things like this," she said.

(Vintage television show fans take note: While Kuehl said she has no intention of returning to acting full time, she will be reunited with the rest of the Dobie Gillis crowd in an upcoming two-hour TV movie.)

After dinner, Holly Near sang "My Funny Valentine," "Ain't Misbehavin' " and other classic tunes and jazz singer and instrumentalist Larry Carlton performed a few numbers. In between the sets, door prizes were given away, including a brunch in a hot-air balloon, a suite for one night at the Chateau Marmont and tickets to a Moody Blues concert, which were handed over by Ritter who told the winner, "Welcome to the '60s."

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