The American Jewish Committee honored corporate exec Howard Allen on Wednesday night. The black-tie evening ended on a provocative note, however, after Episcopal Suffragan Bishop Oliver Garver Jr. walked out after questioning a speaker's implied criticism of Nobel Prize winner Bishop Desmond Tutu.
Up to that point, the benefit at the Beverly Wilshire--where Allen, the chairman and CEO of Southern California Edison, received the AJC's Human Relations Award--followed the too-well-known pattern. The prime rib and ice-cream cake were followed by a speech by Cathy Mendelson, AJC's L.A. president; the introduction of Allen by Caroline Ahmanson; and a few words by the honoree, who several times said that both he and his wife were honored by the award. Ahmanson then pointed out that the award belonged to both Allen and his wife, Dixie, because "indeed they are a team."
The controversy was set off by a statement in a wide-ranging speech by Howard I. Friedman, a local attorney and immediate past national president of AJC, who attacked the South African government's policy of apartheid. At the same time, Friedman questioned the effectiveness of economic sanctions or the threat of sanctions, and included Nobel Prize winner Tutu in a list of those he said were "outside the moderate middle."
At that point, Bishop Garver, a guest at the dinner who had been standing in the rear of the ballroom, interrupted the speech, saying, "You do not include Bishop Tutu in your remarks, sir."
Friedman replied: "I said what I said."
"Then I am leaving," Garver said. And left.
Friedman had earlier said that there was "a remarkable reservoir of good will" among South African blacks toward the white-dominated society: "I have never seen a more patient people." He said sanctions, and the threat of sanctions, would "undermine national forces" to change the country from within and "so polarize the country so as to remove the moderate middle."
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY--In the autumn of 1886, Griswold Lorillard of Tuxedo Park, N.Y., wore a dinner jacket, minus the tails, to a party and the tuxedo was born. Shortly followed, no doubt, by the first black-tie charity ball.
GOOD TIME--Sorry, but Cary Grant, Abby (Van Buren) Phillips and Tony Curtis really are wonderful around a dinner table. As they proved Tuesday night, when Madame Wu gave her very good friends a very small party celebrating Barbara Grant's birthday, two weeks away. Good food, great banter. "Why, you could be an actor," Abby told Cary, after he finished one of his "do you know the story abouts. . . ." Curtis--who insisted that he learned his masterful way with chopsticks "in the Bronx"--is spending his days at the Hotel Bel-Air painting, doing the collage works he will exhibit in mid-winter in Hawaii. "They used to tell me how to read a line, but they can't tell me where to put a line," he said. Grant's beautiful daughter, Jennifer, a political science and media major at Stanford, debated her father on the "collective" importance of his films. He insisted on pooh-poohing his film contributions, a position debated by those at the table including Morton Phillips, his and Abby's daughter, Jeanne, George Wu, and Patrick and Roseann Way. Grant had such a good time that he asked at the evening's close, "Does anybody have a birthday tomorrow night?" And added, "Isn't it wonderful. Life is so good." With Cary Grant around, why not.
JUST TWO MORE YEARS--And then we'll have enough presidential news. The Democrats just can't wait, and so seem to be signing up in record numbers for the '88 election. With John Emerson off to Denver to work in the national campaign for Sen. Gary Hart, the Hart presidential chores in California get taken over by Rick Allen (the CEO of Pacific Triangle Management Corp., which owns stuff like the Rodeo Collection). For trivia buffs, Emerson and Allen were roommates at the University of Chicago law school and Allen has been involved in making Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd a fixture out here. Signed up for money-raising chores are returning veterans--hotelier Larry Lawrence, Patricia Duff Medavoy, Albert and Marilynn Gersten, Orange County's David Stein. . . . Everyone knows that Assembly Speaker Willie Lewis Brown Jr., S.F's Nancy Pelosi and state Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson are likely participants in a presidential push by New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. But here's some real news--UC Regent Stanley Sheinbaum says he's "very interested" in a Cuomo candidacy, even though he believes it's too early to sign on. . . . The folks supporting Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden, due back here in October, seem to have no such hesitation problems. That list now includes backers like Interscope's Ted Field and Bob Burkett, long-time Democratic rainmakers Bruce and Toni Corwin, and attorney Lisa Specht.
REUNION--Former Vietnam correspondents will muster at the 7th Regiment Armory, Park Avenue, New York, on Nov. 21 for a banquet-reunion, the first for the estimated 3,500 American news correspondents who covered the war between 1962 and the fall of Saigon in 1975. At least 400 are expected at the event sponsored by the Overseas Press Club with organization by Al Kaff, ex-UPI, now with Cornell News Service in Ithaca, N.Y. Kaff says Gen. William Westmoreland has been invited as has Bob Hope and Walter Cronkite, who was asked to be MC.