A smoke alarm with the volume of an air-raid siren went off in the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach on Saturday night. "Ladies and gentlemen! Please do not panic . . ." came the voice of a disc jockey entertaining in the hotel ballroom. "What you hear is but a minor technical difficulty!" Wrong. All the 400 guests of the Heart to Heart Gala could hear was the thump of their pounding hearts as they pounded the parquet to yet another song with a jungle beat.
From the moment benefit-goers had been nudged out of a ho-hum reception into a ballroom filled with stage smoke and the phantasmagoric Le Masquerade World Fantasy Performers, the $275-per-couple event had turned into a fury of dance, dance, dance.
Dance before dinner. Dance before you even sat down to dinner. Dance under 50 yards of cape swirled by a pedestal-poised member of Le Masquerade. Dance with a David Letterman seem-a-like. Dance in a conga line. Dance on a pedestal. Dance with an other-wordly bird. Dance with a banana daiquiri look-alike. Dance so hard and so fast and so long your jewelry flies off.
"Anybody missing a gold bracelet?" asked the disc jockey. "A wedding ring? A necklace . . . ?" It was that kind of night.
Maybe the knockout quality of the sixth annual benefit for the Orange County chapter of the American Heart Assn. had something to do with the youth of its chairwomen. Chairwoman JoAnne Stewart, dressed in heartbeat-red silk, is a mere 30. Vice chairwoman Bari Tulving--in diaphanous, pearl, rhinestone and feather-stuck silk (a singular $2,000 sensation created by rock-star dresser Ellene Warren), 35.
"When JoAnne asked me to be vice chairman," said Tulving over cocktails, "I said, 'No way, if you're going to do just another black-tie affair.' " Said Stewart: "And then I showed Bari a video of Le Masquerade, and she went nuts and we both thought, 'Is this going to blow Orange County away?' "
Apparently. The consensus was best expressed by a guest who gushed: "This is the most fun I've ever had at a medical affair. . . ." Stewart attended with husband William, a criminal defense attorney who practices in Santa Ana. Tulving's dinner partner was Alex Trebek, host of television's "Jeopardy" game show. (Tulving met Trebek through mutual friends Stephanie and Larry Rosenbloom of Los Angeles, also guests at the affair.)
Before the New York-based members of Le Masquerade took their positions in the ballroom, Dennis Schussel, troupe president, explained his philosophy for party entertainment: "We use elaborate costuming to spirit minds into a world of fantasy. And through audience participation, guests become the stars. Over and over again we watch adults forget themselves and become like children at these events."
The benefit marked the first Orange County appearance for a pared-down Le Masquerade--10 performers instead of the actual 100-member troupe.
According to Stewart, 1,000 invitations had been sent out. The rakish invites, another Ellene Warren design, were decorated with red ostrich-feathers, rhinestones, red-sequin hearts and silver glitter. "The committee sat together for two or three days and glued on every rhinestone and feather."
Table decorations included multihued plumes surrounding fat hurricane lamps. After a dinner of sauteed scallops in a heart-shaped herb pastry, tomato soup, veal chop and heart-shaped hazelnut mousse, guests settled back (albeit reluctantly) for the auction of a hot-red 1987 Jaguar XJS. "I told Sam not to worry, that I would help him by bidding on the Jaguar," said Pam Goldstein, wife of the auctioneer. "He got white. So, I told him, 'Your cardiologist is here, so you'll be just fine when I bid on it!' He gave me $500 to shut up."
Harold Street won the automobile with a $35,500 bid.
When the troupe's unflagging disc jockey played the "Last Dance" number, guests shouted, "More! More! More!"
Tulving wondered if she should hire the performers for another hour. She conferred with troupe president Dennis Schussel. "No, Dennis says it's better to leave them wanting," she said.
And so, members of Le Masquerade slipped into the night after dancing with guests to a final, "Thank You for the Party."
Net proceeds of $75,000 were designated for local cardiovascular research and community education programs. Richard Boyle is chairman of the association board.
Dr. Alan Gazzaniga is president of the chapter's board of directors. Committee members include CeCe Stein, Vikki Bavly, Judy Scarpello, Patty Barnett, Jackie Glass, Kim Cardenas, Gloria Osbrink, Anne Badham, Audrey Greenfield, Katharine Agnew, Tommie Reinglass, Beverly Thompson Coil and Pam Goldstein.