The Pluck of the Irish at Fund Gala

Times Staff Writer

People who weren’t Irish joked that they were. It was the thing to do among the 900 power elite who joined restaurateur Jimmy Murphy, the dinner chairman, at the American Ireland Fund gala toast to entertainer/entrepreneur Merv Griffin at Griffin’s own Beverly Hilton.

Griffin, whose ancestors hail from County Clonmel, seat of Irish art works and hand-designed clothes, rolled those Irish eyes and sang two of his favorites, “Look to the Rainbow” and “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” And he received the American Ireland Fund’s Premier Heritage Award in a tribute raising “pennies short” of $800,000 for the fund, which is dedicated to preserving and fostering Ireland’s cultural heritage and to peace in Ireland.

Anthony J. F. O’Reilly, chairman of the fund and head of A. J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, flew in for the presentation. Because of Griffin’s love of tennis, the 1988 award was a 2 1/2-foot Waterford crystal tennis racket and ball mounted in mahogany. More than once, during the crowded cocktail period with paparazzi shoving, Burks Hamner placed a steadying hand to the prize.

Much to Jimmy and Anne Murphy’s pleasure, Broadway star Colm Wilkinson (whom they met at the Irish Derby last summer) flew in from Dublin with his wife, Deirdre, and sang hits from “Les Miserables” (he created the role in London) and from “Phantom of the Opera.” (He opens in Toronto in September.)


It was a night of Irish toasts. Murphy offered “Cead Mile Failte!” (a traditional Irish greeting meaning “100,000 welcomes”). U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler offered a toast to the president of Ireland. Irish Ambassador Padraic MacKernan toasted the President of the United States. In his invocation Bishop of Meath Michael Smith of Ireland asked for peace.

Also it was an evening for vichyssoise Clonmel, rack of lamb Tipperary, Kerry Pinks new potatoes, Shannon and Blarney cheeses and Kilkenny sherry trifle. But the champagne was Taittinger’s Brut la Francaise, and the wines were California Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Among the Irish and the “Irish” were Don (he at Anne Murphy’s left, Jimmy at her right) and Barbara Rickles, Tony Griffin with Kim Williams, Eva Gabor (with Merv), Dominic McNamara (who sang both the Irish and the U.S. anthems), Fred Nason, Tom and Kathleen McCarthy, Pam and Peter Mullin, Ed McMahon (the master of ceremonies), Ellen and Berny Byrens, Carolbeth and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Lester Korn (their first social outing since their return to Los Angeles), Barbara and Marvin Davis, Stender and Polly Sweeney, Charles and Jill Bronson, Kirk Kerkorian, Bill and Marianne Gould, Josephine Wayne with Michael and Gretchen and Patrick Wayne, Robert and Rosemarie Stack, and Father Maurice Chase.

THE CROWD: The Group belies its name: At its bustling Art Wine Travel Auction at the Century Plaza Tower, the support group for Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design was more like the family. President Kathy Offenhauser brought in her son, Madison, for help. Co-chairman Missy Stuart’s daughter, Carolyn Barr, modeled the Estevez strapless dress. Virginia Rogers brought three sons--Derek, Ian and Stephen--for last-minute cooperation.


The result may be not only $80,000 for scholarships but the nucleus of a youthful new support group for Otis.

Marie Humphreys hosted a party at the Bel-Air Bay Club for the crowd several weeks ago, and at the auction last week the young generation was acting like professional volunteers, picking up bids, rushing them to coordinators, carrying wine, paintings and certificates to buyers, generally being extraordinarily hospitable. Among the young group: Dina Humphreys, Hilary Whiting, Leslie Graham, Don Beck, Adrienne Sully, Linda Stuart, Ann Hyslop, Michael and Beth Laney, Susan Kee, Jeannie Sheller, John and Holly Garnish, and Lisa Lange.

Buyers picked up wonderful prizes: Morris and Rita Pynoos purchased an MGM Grand Air trip to New York for $3,250, in bidding against Jerry and Virginia Oppenheimer. Andrew Galef got a private yacht sail for $3,000. Molly Barnes walked out with a Laddie John Dill painting. Clara and Bill Burgess watched with delight as dinner for eight at their hilltop home in Palm Springs, hosted by Clara, was sold; she planned to throw in bed and breakfast. Maggie and Harry Wetzel donated their 1860s schoolhouse guest house overlooking the Alexander Valley for bid. Mary Carol Rudin picked up some Neiman-Marcus $1,000 earrings as the door prize. And Ginna and Marshall Rutter walked away with nothing, “though we bid things up a lot.”

Surveying Peter McCoy’s auctioneering from the rear and commenting on how much effort it takes to produce an auction were his wife, Kasey; Nancy Dowey; Babe Eagle; Betty Stickell; Marlene Billington; Faith Porter; Otis Art Institute dean Roger Workman; Billie Converse; Doris Heller; Carrie Ketchum; Bronya Pereira; Jeanne Sully; Marilou Yoell; Karen Gould; and Carol and Doug Mancino.

An auction also involves a little standing in line, which bidders such as Betty Ann and Phil Koen and Sid and Nancy Peterson did, after the final gong.

CIRCLE WITH HOLLY: One of the most beautiful of holiday parties--the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens Christmas Party honoring the Society of Fellows--falls Dec. 9. It’s black-tie, with carols, dinner and dancing at the art gallery.

SAME NIGHT: The history and growth of aviation and aerospace will be saluted at the Wright Brothers Banquet, also Dec. 9, at the Spruce Goose Pavilion in Long Beach. The 1988 recipients of “the Sands of Time Kitty Hawk Awards” will be Roy A. Anderson, chairman of the executive committee, Lockheed Corporation, and Gen. Bernard P. Randolph, commander of the Air Force Systems Command.

PLAUDITS: The Brotherhood Crusade’s annual Walter Bremond Pioneer of Black Achievement Award will be presented Dec. 8 at the Brotherhood Crusade’s annual dinner at the Beverly Hilton. It goes to record industry legend Berry Gordy Jr. Smokey Robinson will entertain. The celebration comes in the midst of the crusade’s 20th anniversary year of raising funds for nonprofit agencies serving primarily ethnic communities, according to Ralph D. Sutton.


PROMISING CAREERS: ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation Inc., Los Angeles Founder Chapter) gave $420,000 in scholarships to 67 college scientists this week at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

The luncheon audience, full of students and their college presidents and faculty who came to laud them with the hard-working ARCS members, heard Thomas O. Paine, former administrator of NASA, advise the students to have knowledge in depth, knowledge in other fields and to understand the world and where it is going. “At no time in history has there been more promise for the continuing application of science,” he said, adding: “Neptune is going to be only a prelude to what we are going to see in the next 30 years.”

ARCS president Barbara McCoy, luncheon chairman Mary Martha Barkley and ARCS Auxiliary president Sheila Muller took the podium for introductions. Summing up the day, Caltech president Thomas E. Everhart, commented: “You don’t know what the world has in store for you, but you do know you are getting a fine education . . . and you will have an opportunity to contribute in science to mankind and your fellow man.”

NON-VIOLENT HUMOR: A special night of “good laughs for a good cause” is on the agenda Dec. 4 for supporters of the Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women. It’s their fifth annual comedy night at the Comedy Store to raise funds to support projects that include the 24-hour Rape and Battering Hotline, Kids’ Self-Defense and Safety, services to deaf people and more.

Executive director Patricia Giggans says the night will be the “kind of comedy which heals the soul--with participants such as Rita Moreno, Louis Anderson, Jenny O’Hara, Jack Coleman and Carrie Snow.”