Can a surprise party that cost $175 a couple, required reservations and included more than 450 guests still be a surprise?
Some Republican activists hoped so as they made plans to raise money for a voter registration drive by holding a good-natured political roast of Orange County Republican Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes.
Fuentes, his roasters said, was completely in the dark about Wednesday night’s event. Instead, local party finance chairman Thomas Malcolm said, the 36-year-old Republican leader had swallowed their line that he was being taken to a small dinner with Malcolm and former U.S. Sen. Thomas H. Kuchel.
Malcolm, Fuentes’ wife Jolene and another friend persuaded Fuentes to swing by a ballroom at the Westin South Coast Plaza, where several hundred people were waiting for him.
And Fuentes certainly looked surprised.
“What is going on? What is going on?” he said repeatedly as, smiling and looking dazed, he shook hands with friends and made his way to his place at the head table.
According to the gag name cards at the table, Fuentes was seated next to “two close friends,” Jane Fonda and Jimmy Hoffa.
The theme of the party was “Viva Fuentes,” and the guests were all wearing facsimiles of green immigration cards in reference to Fuentes’ Latino heritage. The idea was an evening of fun, the organizers said.
Said Malcolm: “We’re just taking a shot at everything.”
The fund-raiser was also an effort to thank Fuentes, who has been party chairman since January, 1985, for “doing a marvelous job” at raising money for the party and building Republican registration in the county, Malcolm said.
Guest roasters poked fun at Fuentes’ marriage, his year in seminary school, his tenure as party chairman and Orange County itself.
Beside, Malcolm noted, Bruce W. Sumner, the former chairman of the Orange County Democratic party, has been lionized as a “Don Quixote,” for running against and beating an extremist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. Democrat in this June’s congressional primary. And “we in the Republican Party don’t need to take a back seat to anybody. We have our own Sancho Panza,” Malcolm said.
Despite the many people attending, the roast was still a surprise to Fuentes, Malcolm claimed. Malcolm said that fro weeks he had been keeping Fuentes busy arranging an Oct. 23 fund-raiser for the local party thtat is to feature Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.). At the same time, Malcolm said, “I’ve been getting ready for this (the roast) behind his back.