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County GOP Contingent Flying High to Inaugural

A Grand Old Plane will be chartered to leave Orange County for the Grandest of Old Parties in Washington during the week of Jan. 16.

There are still a few maybes surrounding the flight that will whisk local, high-profile Republicans to George Bush’s inauguration. Maybe the plane will be a jumbo jet--190 people have already expressed interest. Maybe the food will be catered (depending on the airline chosen; some charters serve divine food, some serve disasters). Maybe the plane will leave early in the week, maybe late, depending on how many people want to celebrate for how long.

Back In The Saddle Again. If you missed it, you’re out of step. The two-step, that is.

Former President Gerald R. Ford said it was “overwhelming.” Johnny Cash said it was “wonderful.” And Robert Wagner’s dancing eyes said it all.

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Everyone gushed over the new Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum at the opening night gala in Los Angeles on Monday.

Locals such as Dolly and Don Karcher attended, and so did Anton Segerstrom (with Janet Rosener), Liz and Gordon Anderson and Autry’s lawyer, Christian Dubia, who attended with his wife, Kathy. All nibbled at Southwestern fare as they mingled with Western movie greats, politicos and entertainers and strolled through the $54-million structure.

Among sights was a four-wall mural depicting brilliantly colored scenes of the Old West; a life-size floral memorial in the shape of Autry’s horse, Champion, and entertainment that included ditties by Glen Campbell, Willie Nelson and the owner of the California Angels himself via old recordings of “Here Comes Santa Claus” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

The night was especially exciting for the Andersons of Fullerton, who are close friends of Donna and John Bianchi, a member of the museum board. More than 10,000 pieces of what once was Bianchi’s own Western memorabilia collection were on display.

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Bianchi, owner of Bianchi Leather in Temecula--"the world’s largest manufacturer of police leather goods,” noted Liz; “he makes holsters for policeman from here to Rome,"--once had his own museum. But tourist traffic wasn’t heavy enough for it to prosper, so Bianchi sold his collection to Autry. “It has been great fun strolling the museum with the Bianchis tonight,” said Liz, her Canadian lynx fluffed over a spangled gown by Halston.

Anton Segerstrom, son of Henry Segerstrom, admitted he was too young to remember Autry in his movie heyday, but that meeting Johnny Cash “was thrill enough, enough reason to be here!”

Nice touches: Party greeters got right up to the curb to welcome arriving guests; disposable cups brimming with hot chocolate were given to guests as they departed, and blankets similar to the souvenir blankets presented to party-goers were to be given to Los Angeles-area homeless.

(A diet tip for holiday merrymakers: Tova Borgnine, reed-thin purveyor of moisturizing cream sold via full-page ads in news publications, swept through the star-studded affair looking younger and slimmer than ever. Her secret? Out of all the bubbly and comestibles available for the thousands of guests, Borgnine--wife of actor Ernest Borgnine--said she would only sip water spiked with fresh lemon and nibble on fresh salmon. “That, and one taste of guacamole,” she said. “That’s it.”)

A surprise for Uncle Miltie: During the live auction at the benefit for the American Cinema Awards Foundation on Sunday, it was announced that the jacket worn by John Wayne in “Hatari” was on the block for a minimum bid of $1,000. When there were no takers, Milton Berle whispered to his dinner partner: “Well, I can understand that . I mean, where would you wear it? A rodeo?” Later, Berle’s wife, Ruth, who had been on the auction stage helping drum up interest for items, slipped into a chair next to her husband. “Guess what I bought,” she purred. “What?” asked Berle. “John Wayne’s ‘Hatari’ jacket.” Berle gulped. “How much?” he asked, paling. “Two thousand dollars,” she said.

Another winner?L.A. Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda was at Link Mathewson’s Newport Beach home on Monday night for the Southern California preview of Lasorda’s new line of refrigerated Italian sauces. Lasorda and wife Jo, along with about 50 other tasters, waxed ecstatic over five varieties--mushroom, marinara, Alfredo, meat and basil--spooned over a variety of pastas.

Among guests: Shirley and Paul Deese, president of Belmont Equities Group (engaged by Lasorda Foods Inc. to assist in locating distributors, manufacturers and financing for the new company); Raleigh and Jack Utter, Deese’s partner; Richard Laga, president of Ambrosia Grand Teton Inc.; Carmelo Manto, owner of Carmelo’s restaurant, and Bernard Jacoupy, manager of Le Meridien hotel.


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