Grand Opening Night for Joffrey Ballet

Times Staff Writer

Patti Skouras and Felisa Vanoff wanted the Joffrey Ballet Opening Night at the Music Center's Grand Hall to be like "champagne bubbling" for the Joffrey's 30th anniversary. It was. Literally, and figuratively. Still rollicking from the fun "La Fille Mal Gardee," first-nighters went in two directions--either toward the Plaza to feast on Ralphs Bakery birthday cake, or to the Grand Hall where the $1,000 patrons feasted on a scenic vista of pale pink balloons encasing smaller pink and gray balloons festooned with ribbons for a hot-air balloon effect--the result of Bruce Goldberg's imagination. Then, the Napa Valley Brut was passed, to tie in with the Beluga 000 caviar, followed by the Domaine Chandon Reserve in magnums to compliment the super-duper chicken pot pie, then the Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir for the chocolate froth.

It inspired continuous dancing (Nelson Riddle's son, Chris, was on trombone), with Joffrey Ballet stars having one impossible time one-upping Nick Vanoff (Broadway jazz dancer star before he turned multimillionaire theater entrepreneur), Felisa Vanoff (she danced the showy female lead in the original "Amahl and the Night Visitors") and Marc Breaux (the choreographer for "The Sound of Music," "Mary Poppins,") a man made to dance. At 1 a.m., guests were still watching. Quipped Patti Skouras, "It's not over till the fat lady sings."

At most midweek after-theater parties, guests are scurrying to grab a bite and hit the road. Last Thursday night was an exception. Gerald Arpino, the Joffrey's associate director, was to the point: "I don't call it The Joffrey anymore; it's LA Ballet." (Pronounced la ballet.) "Los Angeles has been so great to us," he said. Indeed, Los Angeles has outstripped New York in Joffrey fund raising--close to $500,000 in the till, while New York is struggling a bit--with maybe less than $200,000--in the agreement that each will carry half the weight in the current $1 million Joffrey debt bailout. "This is an amazing board," said Robert Joffrey, Joffrey artistic director.

Fred Hayman wasn't there, but his ears must have been burning. He was getting golden kudos for being Mr. Wonderful. He called Patti Skouras the other day and said, "OK, now what is it you want?" Then, he agreed to a gift of $65,000 from his foundation (he's chairman and CEO of Giorgio) to underwrite all the five Joffrey Patron Nights.

First-nighters were gloriously gowned, and in black tie: Kirk and Anne Douglas, Rob and Susie Maguire, Sid and Nancy Peterson, the Lloyd Cotsens, Maggie Wetzel and her daughter, Dona and Dwight Kendall (back from France), Ames Cushing and Martin Manulis, Armand Deutsch (Harriet was under the weather), Dudley Moore with Broggan Lane, Clara and Bill Burgess (up from Palm Springs and visiting their daughter at Malibu), Ruth Shannon (there with only two hours sleep after flying in from the White House dinner honoring the president of Brazil--Ed was meeting with Kuwait oilmen), Margaret Parker and Doris Heller, Frank and Ann and Johnson, the William Siarts, Patricia Kennedy (with stiffened chiffon ties in her hair), were among those applauding from prominent seats on the Founders level before the party.

At intermission, Demitri and Patti Skouras scurried to The Founders to host champagne for friends including Buenos Aires beauties Madelaine Reynal and her sister Ginette and the latter's husband Julio Zavaleta, a seven-goal polo player. And, at the party, Joffrey dancers mingled with supporters throughout, Margo Peck and the Allen Burnses sitting with Jerel Helding and Beatriz Rodriguez, Joffrey principals, as well as Karen Fischer, the Joffrey's new development director from the Metropolitan Opera (she grew up in Los Angeles), and Pennie Curry, the new general director, who delighted guests with her informative chat about ballet.

Elsewhere, Alexander Grant from the Royal Ballet in London, who coached all the character roles, was fascinating chairman David Murdock, who smiled more than usual and seemed fascinated also with his most attractive date, Mary Hart.

The Brian Corbells, Kathy and Walt Rose from Rolling Hills, Virginia Milner (an honorary patron) and Bill Frye, both Spyros and Marjie Skouras, Marilyn Lynch, Dawn Douglas (president of The Friends of the Joffrey Ballet), Maggie Lord Volk (she's on the board), Glenys and Gregg Archer, Sandy (she's county chief of protocol) and Sheldon Ausman, the Royce Dieners, the Richard Ferrys, the Julian Ganzes, the Dwight Hemions, the Stanley Holdens (he played the principal role), the William Kieschnicks, Lauren and Donald Weissman, Wes and Sandy Belson, Bob and Ann Wycoff (she in a bright Ungaro), Alan and Nancy Livingston (flying off the next day for her son Christopher's graduation from New York University) were in the crowd. People were talking about the Joffrey Ballet prominence in department stores around town--the efforts of Patricia Kennedy and Margo Peck. As well, they were the duo dreaming up the idea of a 30th anniversary serigraph by Melanie Taylor Kent.

Patrons found pledge cards on the table enticing them to fork over $1,000 for a serigraph to go toward funding a Joffrey Ballet, "Nutcracker." Then, it was time to go. Close to 12:30, Michael Tennenbaum moseyed up to wife, Suzanne, gave her a pat and said, "Want to hit the road, dollface?" The Friends of the Joffrey will host members of the cast at a closing night party Sept. 27 at Citicorp Center.

Go ahead and be envious: Los Angeles' official La Madrina, Blanche Seaver, the philanthropist who has given millions to charities, celebrated 95 the other evening.

Frank and Rary Simmons honor newlyweds Tracy and Frank Simmons Jr. with a party for 250 at the Valley Hunt Club this weekend after their blissful wedding at St. Malo.

Activity is zooming at Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Next Thursday the Costume Council and the California Mart host the 1986 California Designer Award with a cocktail reception, fashion show and dinner at the museum. Proceeds from the $100-per-ticket event will benefit the Doris Stein Research and Design Center for Costume and Textiles. Designer nominees are Bonnie Strauss, Carole Little, Christine Albers, Dennis Goldsmith, Jessica McClintock, Leon Max, Luis Estevez and Nancy Heller. Then Sept. 28, the Ancient Art council will host a gala fund-raiser, including their members, trustees and the President's Circle. It's entitled "Romancing the Raj" and is a part of the exhibition "Merchants to Emperors: British Artists and India, 1757-1930" at the Museum on Oct. 2-Jan. 4.

Events Galore:

The Trustees and director of the Palm Springs Desert Museum are hosting a members' opening reception Sept. 27 to feature three exhibitions: Toulouse-Lautrec posters of the Belle Epoque, Harold Joe Waldrum's "Ranchos, Ranchos," and "The Chihuahuan Desert of the United States and Mexico" . . .

Dr. John R. Hubbard, USC president emeritus, and representing the American Committee of the National Festival of India, will be the honored guest at a special reception for "The Heritage of India" exhibition opening at the National History Museum in Exposition Park on Oct. 3. Mrs. Justin Dart, Mrs. James Stewart, Frances Lederer, Jake Zeitlin and Otis Booth will serve on the reception committee. The show features paintings by Hubert J. Stowitts. The paintings toured the world in the 1930s, including the Natural History Museum (then the Los Angeles Museum). Stowitts, well-known in the Los Angeles area, was also considered America's first major ballet star and was Anna Pavlova's partner in the Ballet Russe.

Glitter and All:

John Marion, chairman, and the officers and directors of Sotheby's have sent invitations requesting "the pleasure of your company" for a reception to preview the "Jewelry West Auction" and a special exhibition of "Magnificent Jewelry" to be offered in New York this fall. The affair's Monday evening at Century Tower. Partygoers will get a glimpse of the late Angeleno Carlotta Kirkeby's 24.04-carat marquise diamond, estimated to be valued at $450,000-$500,000. Monday's event precedes the Tuesday Jewelry West sale at Century Tower. Carlotta's bauble will be sold in New York Oct. 20-21 . . .

British Consul General and Mrs. Donald F. Ballentyne will entertain at a reception Wednesday feting Sir Peter and Lady Hall and some members of the cast of the opera "Salome" to be presented during the inaugural season of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Oct. 9, 13 and 18 . . . Sir Peter is the director . . .

Dazzling entertainment, dinner and dancing starring Diahann Carroll and Vic Damone are coming up Oct. 17 at the Beverly Hilton to benefit the Northridge Hospital Development Assn. . . .

Top Delegation: Mayor Tom Bradley and Rudi Fehr hosted the luncheon this week to honor Berlin's governing mayor Eberhard Diepgen. It was a small group in the Imperial Suite at the Biltmore spotlighting Los Angeles-Berlin/West Sister City Committee. It was Los Angeles' chief of protocol Bee Lavery who met the German mayor at the airport this week on his arrival. Los Angeles has a raft of sister cities, but Los Angeles is West Berlin's only sister city. U.S. Ambassador Richard Burt and Mrs. Burt will accompany Mayor Diepgen throughout his U.S. visit. In addition to his appearance before the World Affairs Council, Diepgen is meeting with groups at Northrop Corp. and the Bank of America before he leaves today.

Chancellor and Mrs. Jack W. Peltason of UC Irvine and Vice Chancellor and Mrs. John R. Miltner entertain at dinner at the home of Dr. William A. Benbassat Sept. 27, greeting alumni . . .

Beverly Hills Hadassah will honor Dr. Robert Peter Gale as their American hero of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster Sept. 27 at the Beverly Hills estate of the Harvey Rosens. Dr. Gale is the renowned bone marrow transplant specialist and will be presented with the coveted Wall of Healing Award, according to Lelly Cordova, chairman of the black-tie gala kicking off Hadassah's 75th anniversary . . .

Dr. and Mrs. Philip Fagan herald the 36th annual Christmas Tree Ball with a dinner party Saturday evening in their home . . .

Perfect Touch:

The Ahmanson Foundation has granted USC $500,000 to help renovate the Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library, and ground-breaking ceremonies for the library addition are Tuesday at 4 p.m. Mrs. Norman Topping was first lady of USC from 1958-70.

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