For the Clarks, Viennese Ball Wasn’t Over

Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Their names were not on the guest list. And they didn’t stay for dinner. But Pacific Symphony music director Keith Clark and his wife, Doris, came to the symphony’s Viennese Ball on Saturday night, if only for the cocktail hour.

“We haven’t missed one yet,” said Clark, the symphony’s founding conductor, whose contract won’t be renewed when it ends in May, 1989. There had been some speculation that the Clarks, who originated the Viennese ball nine years ago, might not attend this year because of the somewhat awkward circumstances.

But the couple insisted there was never any doubt as far as they were concerned. “We chose to come,” Doris said. “We have so many friends here and we wanted to be with them.” The couple spent about an hour mingling in the atrium of the Newport Beach Marriott before departing for an engagement in Beverly Hills.

It was the Clarks who decided on the Viennese theme for the annual fund-raiser because of their own personal ties to the Austrian capital. She is a Vienna native, and it was from there that they moved to Orange County.


“I don’t think our feeling toward the symphony will ever change,” Doris said, acknowledging that she and her husband are, in a sense, its parents.

“Like any parents,” the conductor said, “you hope for the best for your children. You hope they don’t make mistakes as they go out on their own.”

By the time the more than 300 guests stepped into the ballroom, the Clarks were gone, and the ball went on without them.

“We are in the process of looking for a music director to succeed Keith Clark, whose tenure ends next May,” said symphony executive director Lou Spisto. “We have several guest conductors scheduled to come in during the next two seasons who are possible candidates.”


The Pacific Symphony is now the fastest-growing symphony in the nation, according to Michael Gilano, chairman of the Pacific Symphony Assn. board. “When I joined the organization 3 1/2 years ago, the budget was around $500,000. Now it’s $4.6 million.

Clark has been doing “literally everything,” Gilano said. “But now, just like a young company, we must divide responsibilities as we grow. In the past, we were, each of us, chief cook and bottle washer. But now we need to be as efficient as a well-managed company.”

That growth was reflected in the proceeds from this year’s ball. Underwriting chairman Charles Paap said the $125-per-person event would net about $60,000, “and that’s $20,000 more than ever before.” Ball underwriters accounted for nearly $30,000 of the total, Paap said.

Viennese Ball committee president Betty Belden Palmer also noted the transition in her welcoming remarks, calling this year “a time of great change and moving ahead.”


Murray Korda’s Dance Orchestra gave guests the opportunity to waltz, tango or fox-trot before dinner, which featured lobster en croute, veal chop with oyster mushroom sauce, yellow squash Florentine, Viennese torte and cafe Viennese. The D’Amore Singers supplemented the meal with a sampling of light opera.

Then 1987-88 International Ballroom champions Victor Veyrasset and Cindy Dostal took the floor--and they seemed to use every inch of it--to display their winning style.

Those brave enough to show off after the champions’ performance got up, hesitantly at first, for the traditional Viennese waltz contest. After several eliminating rounds, Lynda and Arthur Gome of Long Beach were proclaimed the winners. Joyce Olson was ball chairwoman.