Benefit for RIO Is Casual but Chic

Heard about the "Newport cocktail"? Nope, it's not the newest upscale drink. It's the stylish way those in the smart set dress when they bash it up by the bay.

For Dori deKruif, the attire stipulated for the pricey ($500-per-couple) benefit opening of the new Yankee Tavern restaurant in Newport Beach on Saturday meant a sequin-smothered shell tucked under a white wool crepe pantsuit.

For Tina Schafnitz, it meant a fox fling tossed over a sheath trimmed with beads in the form of a glittering coral reef (with coral-shaped ear bobs to match, natch). For Kathryn Thompson, it meant the deepest burgundy Thai silk dress worn over black palazzo pants. For Thompson's escort, Gus Owen, it meant a black-and-white tweed jacket paired with a black-and-white striped shirt and tie.

But for Yankee Tavern owner Hans Prager, the dress code served up the chance to salute Old Glory. The debonair restaurateur wore a red, white and blue ensemble that was all baseball, motherhood and apple pie. "I decided to go patriotic," said Prager, who also owns the Ritz restaurant in Newport Beach, "because that's what this restaurant is all about--a place to eat, not dine, on old-fashioned American fare." Prager's wife, Charlene, also opted for patriotic colors; she sported a spangled, flag-blue dress and ruby-red sequin slippers.

The Rehabilitation Institute of Southern California was beneficiary of the casual-but-chic event that marked the first dinner party staged at the new bistro-by-the-bay. "RIO also opened the Ritz," Prager said. "And the restaurant caught on the day it opened." (A word of explanation: The group used to be called the Rehabilitation Institute of Orange County; hence the RIO tag. The name changed, but the initials remained.)

Prager admitted that, before the Ritz, he'd never thrown open a restaurant's doors to charity. But then RIO invited him to its facility in Orange and he got hooked, he said. "You see the work they do for the disabled and you just can't turn away," he said.

Since the Ritz opening 7 years ago, Prager has helped raise $180,000 for RIO, said Praim Singh, director of the facility that serves up to 500 people daily.

Saturday night's bash featured New England clam chowder, Maine lobster salad, New York loin of beef, broiled raspberry custard pudding and a surprise--a yacht gliding on the bay proclaiming "Yankee Salute to RIO" in red, white and blue holiday lights (a treat arranged by RIO benefactor Mary Moore Young).

Good Sports: "Watch for us! We're appearing on May 28 at the Pacific Amphitheatre," Mike Love of Beach Boys fame said at their appearance Sunday at the Irvine Marriott. "But tonight is our secret concert."

Exclusive, maybe. Private. And certainly elite at $250 per person. But hardly a secret with a sellout crowd of around 800--including notables such as Olympian Bob Mathias and Tijuana Mayor Frederico Martinez--attending the super-slick benefit concert on behalf of the American Sports Kids Assn. in Irvine.

The association, founded by Mathias, promotes self-esteem in children ages 5 through 12 via sports participation. (Last year's Earth Games International, an Olympic-type event for children staged at UC Irvine, marked the association's first effort. This year's Games will be staged at the Caliente Race Track in Tijuana, hence the presence of Martinez.)

Wall-to-wall guests lined the hotel ballroom to dine on taco salad, chicken, beef and refried beans and then get what they really came for: the still-boyish Donny Osmond singing a few ballads, and a rousing set by the forever-young Mike Love and Bruce Johnston with television's John Stamos on guitar. The highlight of the set was the Beach Boys crooning their recent hit "Kokomo" with swaying, bikini-clad surfer girls as a backdrop.

Tipping Their Hats: Bernard Jacoupy didn't know whether to shake hands with guests or hide from them at the "Hat's Off!" bash held in his honor at Le Meridien Hotel on Friday night.

"I'm embarrassed," confessed the affable manager of Le Meridien. "I figure there are so many people who should have the honor I feel a little strange about the whole thing."

Jacoupy--sporting a bright blue tie to harmonize with the blue-and-white decor ("I didn't dare wear a red tie--I would've felt like the French flag!" he said)--received the United Cerebral Palsy Assn. of Orange County's first Award of Distinction. He was honored for helping the association with its annual Bastille Day 8K Race and Christmas Boat Parade Auction.

"Bernard wears many chapeaus," said his good friend Ernest Nagamatsu, the Los Angeles dentist who chaired the affair. "He's a hotel expert. An internationally acclaimed chef. And tonight, we're honoring a side of him that may not always show through, due to the intensity of the hotel business--his very warm side. He knows how to be a friend."

During the silent auction, guests sipped champagne and queued up at French and Japanese food stations for appetizers. The reason for East meets West cuisine style? To salute the five-star chefs--Akiro Hirose of Kyoto and Christian Delouvrier of Paris--who whipped up one of the most tantalizing menus ever to hit the hotel's Deauville ballroom. The fare: consomme of haricot beans and duck, salmon with a spaghettini of fresh veggies, medallions of lamb with basil sauce, and the piece de resistance-- cream cheese and strawberry cake with vanilla sauce ( nobody was counting calories).

Proceeds of about $20,000 were earmarked for distribution locally and to associations for cerebral palsy in France and Japan. "We had an international theme tonight to make people aware that cerebral palsy is an international affliction," Nagamatsu said. "We're going to donate some of the proceeds back to Japan and France in the name of the chefs."

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