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A Happy Thank You to the Friends of ABT

Times Staff Writer

The dinner ran late, the speeches were cut short and the hostess had car trouble.

At least the limos were on time.

Tuesday night was the season premiere of American Ballet Theatre’s annual stint in Los Angeles, with ballet patrons celebrating the event at a happy, if rushed, pre-performance cocktail party and dinner.

Hosts Doug Cramer, Lilly Tartikoff, Judy Ovitz and Herb Ross decided to pass on an opening night party extravaganza, a la the post-performance one for 600 people they threw last year at the Shrine Auditorium.

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Saying Thank You

“Misha (ABT artistic director Mikhail Baryshnikov) was in New York doing a play,” Cramer explained in between greeting guests, “and seriously, to do a successful event at the Shrine, you spend as much as you make. So we thought we’d simply have a dinner, not a fund-raiser, for those who have supported us in the past, to thank them, and hope that we can have their support in the future.”

Besides, ABT supporters are saving their energies for next year, when the ballet celebrates its 50th anniversary. “We’re going to have a very special opening,” said Cramer, who declined to leak any details.

Guests seemed just as happy with a small dinner at the Seventh Street Bistro. Among the guests crowding in for cocktails were Lilly and Brandon Tartikoff, Herb Ross with Daryl Hannah, and Twyla Tharp--"She’s a little nervous tonight since her ballet (‘Everlast’) is having its debut here,” an associate said.

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Also there: Betsy Bloomingdale, Goldie Hawn, Sally Field and Alan Greisman, Shirlee Fonda, Esther and Tom Wachtell, Sue Carol and Alan Ladd Jr., Candy and Aaron Spelling, Harry Hamlin, Roz and Henry Rogers, Claire and Sydney Pollack, Keith and Bill Kieschnick, Armand and Harriet Deutsch, Chuck and Ava Fries, Cristina Ferrare and Tony Thomopoulos, Wendy and Leonard Goldberg, Barry Diller, Dennis and Terry Stanfill, Michael Ovitz, Barbara and Marvin Davis, Eva Gabor and Merv Griffin, and Maria Shriver, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Schwarzenegger’s mother, Aurelia.

Schwarzenegger may not seem the balletomane type, but appearances are deceiving. “I love ballet but I’m not a fanatic,” he explained. “In Austria my parents used to take me all the time, and I didn’t appreciate it. You know, when you’re a kid all you want to do is listen to Elvis. But now I can appreciate it.”

Ferrare and Thomopoulos displayed calm smiles, despite the fact that a very pregnant Cristina was having contractions. “Am I nervous? No,” the father-to-be said. “We can go to the hospital from here.”

Judy Ovitz’s absence during cocktails had her friends worried until Cramer said, “Her car broke down. You’d think Michael could get a better limo than that.”

She arrived as guests were sitting down to dinner, joking to Lilly Tartikoff as she made her entrance, “Oh, I thought I’d just drop in.”

And Lilly, never forgetting her ballet roots (she was with the New York City Ballet), did a fifth position in high heels and had strongman Schwarzenegger lift her above his head. Thank goodness for high ceilings.

The dinner, which was supposed to begin at 6:30, actually started at 7, as guests rushed through salmon, veal chops and mocha-chocolate mousse.

Speeches were whittled down to a few words from Cramer and Ross, who made their appeals for continued support above the din.

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Tartikoff was about to make a speech, but decided against it.

“Dance it, Lilly!” Merv Griffin said, but she pirouetted away from the microphone and out of sight.

Even as the mousse was being spooned up, guests were called to the limos, which had been arranged to deposit everyone at the Shrine. And they did, everyone miraculously making it to their seats just minutes before the curtain rose on “La Bayadere.”


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