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Celebrities Serve Up Aces at Benefit for Orangewood

Talk about turning the tables. Local glitterati such as story-maker Joseph Wambaugh, news-maker Aissa Wayne and entrance-maker Kathryn Thompson--all members of Orange County’s catered-to set--sported aprons, balanced trays and endeavored to spoil guests rotten Monday night at Dizz’s As Is restaurant in South Laguna.

“I think I was born for this,” said Wambaugh, who had returned to Newport Beach on Saturday after a grueling tour to promote his new book, “The Blooding.”

“Yes, this is where I may find my niche,” he deadpanned. “I’m looking for a job, you know. I’m after the tips.”

“Tips?” asked Thompson, blowing a wandering hair from her forehead. “I haven’t seen one yet!”

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For Wambaugh, the best part of helping to gross $17,000 for the Orangewood Children’s Foundation was escorting “the ladies to their tables,” he said. “I’m very handy at that.”

The worst part? “My feet hurt.”

“I hope this helps my resume when I’m out job hunting,” said “waitress” Aissa Wayne, dynamite in hot pants, tux shirt and sparkling bow tie. Wayne said she was serious about needing a job. “I plan to reinstate my real estate license and take a few financial courses.”

Her mum, Pilar, looked equally smashing in a similar get-up. “This is killing me,” she said, grimacing as she yanked at her bow tie. “A torture! Such a sacrifice men make when they wear these things.”

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But Pilar--who, when married to the Duke, probably saw more grand nights than the whole Dizz-y crowd put together--was adoring this night, she said. “I love it! I’m a ham, you know. Yes, I definitely have my moments.”

“I don’t take any orders for anything I can’t pronounce,” joked celeb waiter Jerry Kobrin. Having just gotten over the flu, Kobrin spent most of the night gliding about the cozy, lace-curtained eatery in a post influenza-esque daze, asking guests if they’d “like a drink.”

“Hey, Jerry. Get over here,” commanded KNBC-TV newscaster Vikki Vargas. “Jerry is slow on the job. I had to take over one of his tables,” she complained with a wink.

“I was out parking cars,” Kobrin teased. “I should have taken a closer look at my contract.”

But with all the dizzy fun, the food and the service were simply great, Dee Wambaugh said. “Really! This is one of the best meals I’ve ever had,” she said, receiving a heaping plate of gourmet goodies from former baseball star Doug De Cinces.

Holding court at the A-table (purchased for an ultra-generous $5,000) were Donna and John Crean, who were entertaining, among others, Jolene and Tom Fuentes. “This looks like a surprise birthday party for Donna,” said Tom, scanning the room. “We’re all a bunch of Donna Crean camp followers!”

Donna--renowned for her smashing jewels--eschewed mega-baubles for the “as is” affair. “I wore my pearls,” she said. “Emeralds would have just been too much.”

Also helping turn the tables: celeb waiters Roger Johnson, Western Digital CEO, and former football star Rich Saul.

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Faces in the crowd: Dizz owners Monique and Marcel Pitz (“This evening is definitely not the pits!” she piped); Gus Owen; Janice Johnson; Tom and Elizabeth Tierney; James Gilleran with his daughter, Christine; Mike Nason; Ruth and Leo Cook; Claudette and Don Shaw, and Pat and Marvin Weiss.

The world on a string: He does get around. Elizabeth Taylor didn’t make a grand entrance last Thursday when she attended the “America’s Hope” award gala in her honor at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert; she swept through the side door.

But Murray Korda (along with his Monseigneur Strings) was ready to play a passionate “But Beautiful” on his 17th-Century Guarneri if she had.

Korda, it might be said, has the society and starry-set on a string. Since he serenaded guests at the opening of the Balboa Bay Club in 1948, he has thrilled thousands of music lovers at hundreds of local engagements, among them the grand opening of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. Not to mention the 32 heads of state and the six U.S. presidents he has serenaded or the night he played before the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

(And certainly not to mention the weekly rendezvous he once had in Bungalow 5 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. “Every Wednesday, Howard Hughes’ chief of security would invite us to play for Hughes behind a screen for a half an hour,” he said.)

On Thursday, Korda struck up “Thanks for the Memories” when Bob Hope arrived, “Lady” for Kenny Rogers, “You Are The Sunshine of My Life” for Stevie Wonder and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” for Burt Bacharach.

His fellow violinists sometimes play without him, but afterward, they tell Korda it just isn’t the same. “They tell me I have a charismatic spark,” Korda said. “Make an event come to life. And I must say that is exactly what I enjoy doing.”


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