Believe It or Not, Benefits Will Mark a Fashion First

Countdown . . . Only 28 days until Orange County has its Ripley’s Believe It or Not of fund raising. Never before in orange blossom land has an organization pulled off a coup like the one Angelitos de Oro has pulled off for May 12 and 13.

On those delicious spring days, two of the world’s most adored and hard-to-get designers--Oscar de la Renta and Bob Mackie--will appear at back-to-back fund-raisers at the Amen Wardy boutique in Newport Beach.

Now, before you say, “ Sooooooo ?” hear this: Wardy, whose haute boutique lives on the tongue of every self-respecting fashion wag, had never, ever said yes to staging a benefit in his Versailles-esque salon until Maria Crutcher of Big Canyon cornered him 2 years ago.

“I got lucky because Amen had just been asked by Elizabeth Taylor to do a show for AIDS research, and he just didn’t want to do it,” Crutcher said recently. “So I asked him to do one for us. He stared at the walls, the curtains--everywhere--and I began to think: ‘He isn’t even listening to me!’ ”


And then, according to Crutcher, Wardy jumped out of his chair and said: “OK, Maria. I’ll do it for you.”

Well, Crutcher, a younger-than-springtime 77 and one of Wardy’s most loyal customers (she’s one of a handful of locals who have visited his posh Montecito digs), almost fell out of her chair.

That year, the benefit for the support group of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County starred the fashions of the elegant de la Renta. Crutcher was chairwoman, and it was a sellout with 600 attending. Champagne was poured in the boutique’s ballroom. And guests dined on caviar soup and other delicacies before they died over a fashion show staged in a voluminous white tent.

Last year, Bob Mackie appeared. Crutcher chaired again. More than 1,000 attended, and loads of fashion-plate wannabes had to be turned away. A whopping $150,000 was made.


This year, it had to be a back-to-back blockbuster--600 at $125 each will lunch with de la Renta and 400 at $250 each will dine with Mackie--for what Crutcher says is her swan song. “I’ll help next year,” she said. “But I won’t chair the event. I’m getting a little tired.”

Ooh la la!: Time to do a fast forward on the Filofax. On July 14, the Newport Harbor Art Museum will celebrate Bastille Day at Le Meridien Hotel in Newport Beach. The event has been designated as the only official French Bicentennial event in Orange County, according to French Deputy Consul General John Rystso.

But wait: Le Meridien has planned something else. On July 16, luxury buses will depart from the hotel and zip Francophiles to Hollywood Park, where a French food extravaganza will be staged on the infield. Eighty of Los Angeles’ French restaurants--including that divine Citrus and that mouthwatering L’Ermitage--will cook up specialties.

Presiding over the Orange County contingent at the blast will be Bernard Jacoupy, the debonair manager of Le Meridien (set to receive a nod tonight from the United Cerebral Palsy Assn. of Orange County for helping institute its annual Bastille Day 8K Run).

A-table or E-table? Wilhelm Gustaf Magnuson hasn’t come up with an A-table designation at his new Gustaf Anders restaurant in Santa Ana. But last Friday, he was pressed to come up with something close.

Ruth Segerstrom, the highly respected matriarch of the prestigious Segerstrom family, had swept into the stylish bistro on the arm of her grandson, Anton (son of Henry Segerstrom, mastermind of the campaign to bring San Diego’s premiere restaurant to South Coast Plaza Village). So--ever the deferential host--Magnuson seated the VIPs next to a window. Better than stashing them in a corner by the flapping kitchen door, right?

Wrong. The duo were smack-dab in the middle of their nouvelle continental lunch when the 4.6 temblor hit, rattling the gleaming windows and shaking the structure so hard that “it felt like it had moved 4 inches,” said Anton on Monday at the bistro’s grand opening party. “Let’s, eh, just say we didn’t stay for dessert.”

But things stayed serene for Renee and Henry Segerstrom when they dropped by the restaurant last week. In fact, Gustaf Anders’ chefs served up lima beans along with the salmon the couple ordered.


Lima beans with salmon? “It was sort of a food joke,” Magnuson said on Monday. “You know, the Segerstroms started out as lima bean farmers here. And they’re still raising lima beans . . . .”

Out of Mission Viejo: Film director Sydney Pollack (“Out of Africa,” “Tootsie”) will be among the guests Saturday at sprawling Rancho Mission Viejo for “A Day in the Country--A Nature Affair.” The hosts will be Forbes 400 developer Richard O’Neill and his wife Donna and Santa Margarita Co. President Tony Moiso and his wife Melinda. The Pollacks are dear friends of the O’Neills. (Both share a grand passion for land.)

The mega bash--more than 1,000 by-invitation-only guests will attend--will benefit the Museum of Natural History and Science in Newport Beach. The highlight of the shebang will be the opportunity for guests to tread upon the hallowed ground of the ranch’s Amantes camp area, frequent site of the O’Neill family’s private celebrations.

(Just a few weeks ago, the family’s annual spring roundup was held nearby. Five thousand head of cattle were branded, and family members and guests whooped it up at their own fiesta. Now there’s an A-party to climb your way up to.)