Benefit Makes the Play at the Plate

"I tried to turn off the game and they almost lynched me," Chuck Fries good-naturedly complained to columnist George Christy. Even black-tie honorees get no respect.

No matter that he and his wife, Ava, were the evening's co-honorees, the black-tie crowd of Dodger fans at the Beverly Hilton just refused to go with the program--at least until the pennant was clinched.

The reception area at the Hilton's new ballroom was stuffed with fat gowns and fatter jewels. The evening benefited the Maple Center, Beverly Hills' most "home-town" charity and the ballroom was so filled that Fries said Ava came early to make sure her full-skirted emerald-green Nolan Miller gown could squeeze between the tables. (This is a logistical problem most people don't have to worry about, especially since a lot of black-tie dinners haven't been selling out recently.)

"Our kids are all grown up now," Ava Fries said, "both of mine and all eight of his. But most of them went through the Beverly Hills schools and Chuck and I feel that we should continue to support the city and the school, that we should continue to support the kids."

The Fries received the Maple Center's Distinguished Community Service Award, and the evening netted more than $350,000--a top in the 16 years that the Maple Center has been providing counseling to more than 20,000 young people, adults and families who live or work in Beverly Hills. It also runs extensive counseling programs within the Beverly Hills school system. The home-town feeling was a major reason that the crowd was so heavy--but the other is that Chuck and Ava Fries are genuinely liked.

Rabid Dodger fan and columnist Army Archerd arrived latish with his wife, Selma, and a sad tale about being offered a last-minute ticket to the game from producer Gary Smith. "I was tempted--but I wouldn't stand Chuck up," Archerd said, straining to catch the last minutes of the game on the big screen.

In the crowd were longtime Maple Center supporters Ellen and Berny Byrens and Sedge and Henry Plitt--both of the women wearing considerable numbers of diamonds. But no, Ellen Byrens insisted, the jewels were nothing important. "This is just our Wednesday jewelry, dear," she told a photographer.

The paparazzi had a field day with Morgan Fairchild, whose constant political activity hasn't taken the glitz off her glitter. At the side of the confusion--British Consul General Donald and Elizabeth Ballentyne, back from a six-week trip home and promising that there will be another UK/LA festival--"but not, thankfully, this year."

THE CAMERA TURNS--Or at least the focus does, since Jerry Oppenheimer, author of "Idol," the Rock Hudson bio, is getting ready to spotlight newscaster-personality Barbara Walters. Oppenheimer, who says 300 interviews on Walters are already done, said the next step in his "independent biography" is reporting on the now-blond TV journalist's West Coast life--her courtship and marriage to Lorimar's Merv Adelson.

Oppenheimer said that a quote from Walters in an East Coast publication, in which she urged friends not to cooperate with him, had "produced a firestorm. Here's a woman who has made an incredible career out of probing the lives of others and now that she's a major star, she wants to turn off a similar look at herself." He said the book, from St. Martin's Press, would be out "sometime late next year."

KUDOS--To Bet Tzedek, the "house of justice" on Fairfax Avenue that provides legal services to the elderly and poor. Congratulations to the board, which netted more than $75,000 at the organization's first fund-raising dinner. . . .

To the City of Hope tribute to Bernard J. Shapiro, president of the Familiar Corp., which netted more than $1 million for the Medical Center.

AND NOW--It's always good to keep things in the family. So when mega-producer Pierre Cossette is honored as the Young Musicians Foundation's Man of the Year, one of his associates, Gail Purse, will produce the event. The party Nov. 4 at the Beverly Wilshire, will feature Peggy Lee, Andy Williams, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Sha Na Na and more. Lalo Schifrin, Susan Chalek, Margot Thomas, Lorraine Lee and John L. McMennamin are the folks in charge.

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