"Where's Harry?" Helen Reinsch wanted to know Sunday as she hobnobbed with guests in her 18,000-square-foot South Laguna mansion.
"I tell him I think he did this deliberately--built a huge house so I wouldn't be able to find him," Helen said with a giggle of Harry, vice chairman of Bechtel Power Corp. in San Francisco, site of the couple's main manse.
No matter. "This is a house of love," Helen said. "Our dream. The first house we've built in 46 years of marriage. Our master bedroom is bigger than our first apartment!"
It was the vastness of the Spanish Mediterranean home, along with its sea cliff-hung grandeur, that prompted Helen's hair designer, Jorgen Nielsen, to ask his client if she had ever considered opening it for charity.
"I told him, yes, I'd done it before," Helen said with a toss of her auburn locks.
So on Sunday, after months of planning by Jerilyn Rimel, also a client of Nielsen, the tall doors at the Reinsch's opened wide to 250 supporters of the Southern California Acro Team, groomer of Olympic champions. Nielsen's Laguna Beach beauty shop, Regatta Salon, was co-sponsor with SCATS (as they are known) of the affair.
"This event marks the initiation of our endowment campaign," said Rimel, director of development for SCATS and a resident of Monarch Bay. "We plan to raise $3.5 million over the next three years. And it gives us a chance to send our gymnasts off in a blaze of glory. The Olympic trials in Salt Lake City begin Aug. 4."
And it gave guests a chance to watch SCATS gymnasts in action. Doing their own balancing act with cocktails and buffet fare, party-goers marched onto a driveway at prescribed intervals to watch gymnasts tumble, swing on the parallel bars and perform on the balance beam.
Don Peters, head coach for SCATS and coach of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Teams, said training gymnasts takes "a lot of hard work, talent and a lot of money."
"It costs $20,000 per year to train each gymnast. They need special facilities, equipment and coaches. And they have travel expenses. They compete all over the United States."
If Peters could deliver but one message about SCATS, it would be that "if we are going to be competitive in the world arena, we're going to have to spend the same kind of money training our athletes that the Eastern bloc does.
"They spend billions. In the U.S. for the past four years, the budget for all Olympic sports has been $140 million. That's pitiful."
Peters said that since 1963, when SCATS was founded, it has had at least one member on every U.S. Olympic Gymnastic team. "And of the eight on the team in 1984, five of the girls were from SCATS," he said.
When guests weren't sipping cocktails, they were dining (on fare from Le Meridien, 5'0, Bangkok Four, Zeppa and the Ritz-Carlton) and drinking in the view.
"This is really the most beautiful spot," said their hostess, gazing upon the turquoise surf swirling below. "Harry and I fell in love with this area when we honeymooned at Hotel Laguna 46 years ago.
"We're from Compton, lived across the street from each other. We never dreamed we'd end up here."
Also on the scene: Heidi Miller, board chairman of Heidi's Frogen Yozurt, a former Northern Californian who, she said, "discovered Southern California when I used to come down here for gymnastics"; Dr. Maurice Mulville and wife Marcie, an activist with the Pacific Symphony who said she "follows sports the same way I follow music"; actress Jennifer O'Neill who has a film coming out in the fall ("It's title is 'Committed,' " she said, "which I feel like doing to myself now after seeing this gorgeous house"); Ron Soderling and Gail Showalter; fashion designer Leon Cliyne, who paraded models in a collection he created especially for the affair, and Dick and Hyla Bertea, winner of a custom gown to be designed by Cliyne. Proceeds were estimated at $25,000.
Celebration in White: "A Summer Garden Party" was the theme for the annual "Celebration in White" benefit for People for Irvine Community Health held Saturday at the Irvine Marriott. More than 300 guests--most adhering stunningly to the white-preferred dress code (so many handsome dinner jackets, so many gorgeous gowns)--nibbled on lavish goodies by the pool before dining grandly on a seven-course meal in the ballroom.
Proceeds were estimated at $15,000. Committee members included: chairwoman Debbie Groendal, Marcie Lemmon, Carol Palermo, Sue Scott, Johanna Crosby, Andrea Sim, Ann Sim, Carol Gregory, Sandra Hamble, Ginny Hale, Jamie Wilkinson, Wendy Pitchess, Judy Morgan, Beverly Smetko, Karen Bunch, Carolyn Williams, Cheryl Hebert, Lori Block, Chris Hogstedt, Mitzi Tonai and Judy McKenna.