The 'Spotlight on San Diego' Shines With a Bright Message

In the tiny hours Sunday, more than 1,000 souls traveled home from this peninsula through clammy barricades of fog that at times had the consistency of a light consomme aux Xeres , and at others of an overly creamy puree des asperges Argenteuil.

The mists that lurked along the Coronado Bridge frequently obscured the view of San Diego, but in the mind's eye, the city lights never seemed brighter, perhaps because of the message of "Spotlight on San Diego," the 79th annual Charity Ball.

The ball, San Diego's oldest, most traditional and most entrenched social event, benefits Children's Hospital and Health Center, and proceeds from "Spotlight" are expected to exceed last year's record of $230,000.

Given in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel del Coronado for a tightly packed crowd--ball chairman Sandra Pay confessed that there had been such a clamor for tickets that even she didn't know how many more than 1,000 guests were present--the ball deviated from some of its past formality by noisily celebrating the city it benefits.

Reviving a tradition that enlivened earlier balls but had been discarded in recent years, "Spotlight" kicked off with a splashy and vibrant musical revue in which a cast of about 50 civic notables serenaded their pals and peers with a series of tributes to several of San Diego's brighter moments.

The show started relatively late in the evening, thanks to the Charity Ball's adherence to the classic ball formula in which dinner and other early amusements are considered extraneous to the ball itself, which is devoted strictly to dancing and entertainment. (In other days, guests never arrived before 11, but midnight was more fashionable, and departing near or at dawn was considered quite correct.)

At least half of the guests opted to share in the formal dinner in the Crown Room so they could be part of the traditional grand procession through the lobby to the Grand Ballroom. As always, the route was lined with hotel guests who seemed more than a little surprised to witness such formality in the erstwhile domain of surf 'n' sand.

This year, Murray Korda and the Mon seigneur Strings serenaded the grand march; the group's violins still smoked from Friday, when the musicians played for Luciano Pavarotti at an Orange County reception, and from Thursday, when they performed before President and Mrs. Reagan at the opening of the Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert.

The crowd had been warned that the "Blue Danube," the waltz that always officially opens the ball, would be delayed until after the show, which made it easier for ushers to march the guests to the coveted boxes (retained in families like jewels) that lined the dance floor. The guests also quieted when asked, no doubt anticipating a demure, home-spun entertainment, but receiving something utterly different.

The revue made no bones about its intentions when its opening chorus announced that, although the ball was given for the cream of high society, "This evening we say to hell with all propriety!" And the singers delivered on their promise, romping through skits that spotlighted the ball itself, the America's Cup, the Super Bowl, the City of San Diego ("Naughty Newark doesn't hold a candle/To our city when it comes to scandal") and Children's Hospital. This last number, "Love Is the Reason," was performed by a group of children led by former San Diego Charger Willie Buchanon.

The "Spotlight on Our Show Town" brought together the Old Globe's Craig Noel, the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre's Kit Goldman, the Opera's Ian Campbell and Bob McGlade of the Starlight Opera for a tribute that took the amiable form of a soft-shoe routine.

The America's Cup segment featured tap-dancing songsters--all with longstanding Charity Ball affiliations--in 1930s sailors caps and Shirley Temple costumes. The show closed with the City Scene Showgirls, the leggier members of the troupe, who paraded out wearing enormous painted representations of city scenes, including a tinsel-decked replica of the Coronado Bridge, the span of which measured more than two yards.

Endless Conversation

The applause had barely begun to fade when the Michael Sullivan Band struck up the "Blue Danube;" the boxes and tables emptied and the ball was on in earnest.

The high spirits seemed to have been reached by consensus, and if one had to guess at a motivation, it would be the excitement caused by the approach of Super Bowl XXII. It was a topic of endless conversation, especially in terms of the avalanche of parties expected to surround the event. (Quite a number of guests remarked that their plans to entertain friends from San Francisco ended that afternoon, when the 49ers lost their playoff game against the Minnesota Vikings. Among these were hoteliers Larry and Jeanne Lawrence, who said they had expected as many as 30 guests from the Bay Area. They won't have to wait too long to see their pals, though, because many of them will be trekking to Coronado on Feb. 19 for the weekend-long extravaganza that will celebrate the hotel's centennial.)

Sandra Pay said the Super Bowl did contribute partly to her idea for the theme.

"To theme the party 'Spotlight on San Diego' just seemed like the obvious thing because there's so much going on in the city this year," she said. Pay added that the revenues raised by the ball were only part of its overall goals. "The ball generates enthusiasm and gets people thinking about Children's Hospital. It's nice to focus on Children's occasionally."

Earlier, hospital board chairman Bob Adelizzi told the audience that the ball title was appropriate because the "Charity Ball has been a part of San Diego's history for so many years. And that can't have been by chance, but because it supports Children's Hospital and Health Center."

The guests were able, if they chose, to put themselves in the spotlight, because each received a miniature flashlight as a favor. If each had done so in turn around the room, the glimpses would have revealed faces with some of the deepest roots in San Diego, as well as newcomers who have found that there indeed is gold buried beneath our sunswept shores. The committee itself revealed this configuration of old and new.

On the Committee

Among the committee were co-chairman Carolyn Rentto; Joanne Stevenson, Alison Ramey, Mickey Mitchell (she assembled the souvenir program, a weighty record of 280 pages); Dode Shaw, Pam Palisoul, Sarah Boehm, Sara Jane Sayer, Alison Tibbitts, Linda Copson, Jean Collins, Sue Busby, Konnie Dadmun, Julie Warren, Lois Olson, Fran Golden, Gayle Stephenson, Robin Jovanovich, Dorene Whitney and Alison Gildred. Advisers were past ball chairmen Carol Alessio, Tommi Adelizzi, Ruth Dick, Karon Luce, Marilen Sedlock and Tisha Swortwood.

Toni Michetti and Julie Golden of Juletone Productions produced the revue, which numbered among its entertainers Rosemary Logan, Donis Lovett, Nano Ehrich, Dee Benson, Debbie Day, Jinx Ecke, Anne Evans, Kay North, Sue Raffee, Irene Vaughan, Dottie Howe, Debby Hubbard, Lilo Miller and Valerie Harp.

SAN DIEGO--On the same evening was the inauguration of Richard Butcher as president of the San Diego County Medical Society at the society's Red and Black Ball, given for 250 guests in the Grand Ballroom of the San Diego Marriott.

Butcher admitted that he was eager to assume the post and said he intends to continue its current program of long-range planning to meet the health needs of coming years.

"I enjoy the active aspects of medicine beyond the practice of medicine," said Butcher, adding that he had been president of his high school and college classes. "I've always felt it was important to be involved."

It has been proposed on several occasions that Butcher heads San Diego's very real version of actor Bill Cosby's television family, and his soon-to-be-attorney wife, Vickie, and their five children all were present to cheer him on at his inauguration. Also present were California Medical Assn. President Fred Armstrong, San Diego City Councilman Wes Pratt, County Supervisor Leon Williams, and Rodney Hood, president of the National Medical Assn., an organization of black physicians.

The evening also honored outgoing society President Dr. Jacquelin Trestrail, who contradicted the popular notion that she was the first woman ever to serve in that capacity in San Diego County.

"There has been one woman per century," said Trestrail, noting that in 1898, Dr. Charlotte Baker of National City presided over a medical society that numbered 20 members, a figure rather smaller than today's.

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