In 1987, world-class performers and designers decided that Orange County was an in enough place in which to hang out. Instead of buzzing up to Los Angeles to kick up their heels, they partied in our salons, snoozed in our hotels, supped in our bistros and rubbed elbows in earnest with our hobnobbing masses.
And the county’s in crowd stood out: They were admiring. Not gushy. Well-mannered. Not stuffy. Dressed to the teeth. But dressed down. Rife with excitement. But cool.
Also, ’87 was another year for the benefit gimmick. Gala planners reached deep into their creative psyches to find ways to flirt with the charity dollar and pulled out posh affairs built around opera, cliff-hung mansions, outrageous dress codes and off-the-wall menus.
At the end of a very good year, then, time to look back and smile:
Entrance of the Year: She may have looked like she stepped out of an 18th-Century dream, but Kit Toth stepped out of a 20th-Century Toyota van when she arrived at the Amadeus Ball in February. The wired silk poufs on her Erte-inspired gown prevented the Newport Beach socialite from ensconcing herself in the sleek, family BMW. So, she came to the benefit for the Mozart Camerata orchestra in a van borrowed from her maid. “I rode over on my knees,” she announced, fluttering her fan at the thought.
Exit of the Year: For a few shining moments in early December, Mikhail Baryshnikov--looking Godlike, yet boyishly vulnerable--mingled with mere mortals at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel. The legendary danseur sat in the Orange County Performing Arts Center to watch the opening night performance of the American Ballet Theatre, which he directs. Then he arrived at the hotel where a party was in progress for the Center Dance Alliance. “I think it was a good performance,” he said, shyly. “I’m never perfectly happy. But, yes. I think it was a good performance.” Then, the man they call Misha strolled into the night.
Hottest Ticket: Hundreds of women used their auction paddles as fans when 21 buffed and tuxedoed bachelors took the block for the March of Dimes in November at “Bid for Bachelors.” “Look at that face!” prodded auctioneer Carol Nuss, stalking a runway at Le Meridien hotel like a panther. “That smile! Don’t let this one get away. Remember. He used to be a stunt man!”
Spin of the Year: Talk about a social whirl. In September, a hovering helicopter spilled 2,000 orchid and plumeria blossoms on a crowd mingling at Twin Points estate in Laguna Beach to raise funds for the Art Institute of Southern California. “I wanted my party to smell fabulous,” said chairwoman Pam Goldstein, throwing up her arms and praying the petals would graze her golden skin. “Some parties smell simply terrible .”
A Fare to Remember: Laguna’s Suzanne and Ted Paulson served up tomato soup in a can at the “Arty Party” they held in May to benefit the Laguna Art Museum. With apologies to Andy Warhol, they dubbed the dish Pop Art Soup. Also on the menu: salmon with Laddie Dill sauce, Abstract Espresso and Rem Brandy.
The Quote Men Loved: “It is more important to have the perfect one (dress). A French woman will buy only one and wear it up to three seasons,” piped couturier Guy Laroche, who came to Le Meridien hotel in March from Paris to show his spring-summer collection. “I create fashion that is sophisticated, a little sexy, maybe, but never indecent,” he said at a benefit for the Diabetes Assn.
The Quote Women Loved: “She’s at ease in the board room now,” said dreamboat designer Oscar de la Renta in May when he showed his fall collection on behalf of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County. “I create fashion for the woman who has proven herself,” he said, sipping caviar soup in a white tent erected next to the Amen Wardy boutique in Newport Beach. “She doesn’t have to wear the pantsuits she wore in the ‘70s. She knows femininity is an asset.”
The Quote That Launched a 1,000 Quips: Guests at “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” giggled when Stan Pawlowski announced that Carl Karcher would chauffeur Pope John Paul II when he visited Los Angeles in September. “Carl (of Carl’s Jr. burger fame) will steer the Popemobile with one hand and pass out hamburgers with the other!” he told guests gathered in September at a lavish oceanfront home to raise funds for the Pacific Symphony and Master Chorale’s appearance at L.A.'s Memorial Coliseum. Some took Pawlowski seriously. Karcher said a week later: “Word has gotten around. A nun called to congratulate me!”
Most Direct Quote: Asked to pose with his foot on the running board of his 1939 Packard Derham Phaeton at the “Concours d’ Elegance” in October, Gen. William Lyon just said: “No. Would you put your feet up on your coffee table at home? When we climb in, we put paper or towels down on the running board first.”
Most Serious Moment: Relevance was the watchword at a party tossed to honor Joel Grey and the rest of the cast of “Cabaret” after it opened in August at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. “It’s sad in a way, horrible you would open a show in Orange County that deals with the rise of Nazism and have that very element in the newspaper this morning,” said Thomas R. Kendrick, center president. Kendrick referred to anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi slogans discovered on the walls of Adams Elementary School in Costa Mesa.
Decor of the Year: Using for a theme the grand opera “Aida,” party-giving pros Gayle Anderson and Donna Bunce asked fine artist Ray Hare to convert the ballroom at the Disneyland Hotel into a “Temple on the Nile.” Sepia-toned columns hand-painted with hieroglyphics flanked an acrylic-and-lacquer mural depicting the ancient river. Gigantic Egyptian “sentries” held fans plumed with fresh pampas grass. And six leafy, 18-foot palms--trunks swaddled in burlap--framed the stage. Towering Egyptian statues held court over three parquet dance floors. Anderson dressed regally as Princess Amneris, daughter of an Egyptian ruler. Bunce came as Aida, her slave. And with the November gala raising $75,000, Opera Pacific sang all the way to the bank.
Shock of the Year: “Get under a table if an earthquake hits!” restaurateur Hans Prager warned guests at the fifth birthday of the Ritz in Newport Beach. It was Oct. 4, the day a 5.5-magnitude aftershock rattled the county. But, there was not a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on at the benefit for the Rehabilitation Institute of Southern California.