Packed Fund-Raising Calendar Puts Strain on Loyalties

Martha Ehringer, chairwoman of Friday's 11th anniversary gala for the Mingei International Museum, coined a new word in response to the unusual (to say the least) circumstances that disrupted the local fund-raising scene last weekend.

Speaking in the Grand Ballroom of the U.S. Grant hotel, Ehringer inaugurated the word "bi-galal" to describe a pair of fellow committee members who worked not only on her "Encore 1989" event but also on the "Magical Experience" gala, given the same evening at the Sheraton Harbor Island for the La Jolla Cancer Research Foundation. The volunteers in question, artists Annette and Dick Ford, designed the decorations for both events and thus had to attend both parties on a part-time basis.

The weekend strained the loyalties of many, since seven major fund-raisers were held Friday and eight Saturday. No one admitted to understanding how this traffic jam of good citizenry came to pass--and good will between competing organizations was in some cases stretched thin--but among the weekend's maelstrom of major events were the annual Gold and White Ball for the Crime Victims Fund, the annual Fiesta Grande for the Children's Museum, the Temptations concert at Del Mar Plaza for Casa de Amparo, the Mainly Mozart Gala, the Louis Ferraud haute couture show for La Jolla Chamber Music Society and--well, too many others to mention.

The Mingei event revealed itself through its details; since the museum houses collections of folk art from around the world, the decorations included fine specimens from private collections. A live auction offered items dear to the hearts of crafts collectors, including a Dogon granary door, an antique drum made of African lion skin and a hand-made wooden rocker commissioned by the museum's board of directors. The menu represented different parts of the globe, with emphasis on French cuisine, highlighted by consomme de canard and saumon avocat . Anthropologists Ethel and Burt Aginsky were the subject of a special tribute.

The evening coincided with the 11th anniversary of the museum, but Mingei founder and director Martha Longenecker said that the occasion prompted her to look ahead, rather than to the past. "What's ahead of us is much greater than what is behind us," she said. "We're looking towards the future and towards building a permanent museum."

Among those present were Katy and Michael Dessent, Barbara and Jim Sherrill, Roger Cornell, Edie Drcar, Nora and Alan Jaffe, Mary Rand Williams, Dorothea Cronogue, Alice and Tony di Gesu, Susan Eyer, and Judy and Thomas Buffaloe.

Donna Theodore, a professional singer who attended Friday's Mainly Mozart gala as a guest of event chairman Jacque Powell, glanced around the Westgate Hotel's Versailles Ballroom and said, "If Mozart was only alive to see this . . . ."

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, characterized in the film "Amadeus" as the bad boy of classical music, might have felt at home in the confines of the Baroque, candle-lit room, where an air of Viennese gaiety prevailed that could have been sweetened only if the guests had worn period wigs whitened with powdered sugar.

The event anticipated the first Westgate Mainly Mozart Festival (ts proper, corporate-sponsored name), which will run June 2 through June 11 on the Festival Stage at the Old Globe Theatre and will feature, as should seem obvious, mostly Mozart. Festival President Laurie Waddy described the evening as the concert series' only fund-raiser, and predicted big things for Mainly Mozart.

"This is probably going to be the biggest musical event ever to happen in San Diego," Waddy said. "We're hoping to do for San Diego what the Santa Fe Opera Festival has done for Santa Fe, and what the Spoleto festival has done for Charleston (South Carolina)."

Event chairman Powell planned a lush, lavish evening for her 180 guests that began with a Champagne reception, continued with a dinner of filet strasbougeois and strawberries in sauce sabayon , and featured continuous dancing to society pianist Barry Levich and his ensemble. Perhaps because Mozart wrote relatively few syncopated rhythms, Levich played everything but Mozart, including the "Varsity Drag" and "Makin' Whoopee" (it can be conjectured that Wolfgang would have liked the latter of these). Climbing arrangements of miniature orchids towered above the dinner tables.

Powell said she chose orchids as a symbol of the Mainly Mozart Festival's potential. "A first-time event is a lot like taking a chance on an orchid plant," she said. "Will it grow? Will it blossom? This one will."

The guest list included many long-time supporters of San Diego classical music organizations, including BobbieCQ and Blaine Quick, Veryl and Aage Fredericksen, Martha and George Gafford, D'Neane Wilkinson, Dick Jacobson, Peggy Duly, Linda and Charles Owen, Lael and Jay Kovtun, Jeanne Larson, Sheri and Ben Kelts, Evelyn Truitt, Ed Pilkerton, Luba Johnston, Darlene Davies with Paul Marshall, and Kathy and George Pardee.

Alex Spanos, the multimillionaire developer who founded his fortune on selling sandwiches from a panel truck, has been criticized once or twice since he took control of the San Diego Chargers in 1984, but he managed to maintain a cheerful countenance the other evening when Bob Hope, Telly Savalas and other pals stood to praise him as a philanthropist, leading citizen and all around good guy.

The Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith awarded Spanos its National Distinguished Community Service Award at the prejudice-fighting group's annual tribute dinner and dance, given May 3 at the San Diego Marriott. But while Spanos said he was pleased with the award, what he really wanted to talk about was football.

Waving the award at the audience of 500, Spanos said, "As I look at this trophy, I want to thank the ADL, but I hope the next trophy I hold will be the Super Bowl trophy. I've given orders to director of football operations Steve Ortmayer and our new coach, Dan Henning, 'Whatever it takes, you get that talent and bring it in.' I hate losing, and I promise you will see dramatic changes this year."

In reference to the main topic of the evening, the work of the ADL, Spanos said, "I believe there will be a day when no ethnic or racial minority will have to fight for its rights." In 1986, Spanos, the son of Greek immigrants, was among 80 Americans awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation and the New York Statue of Liberty Commission.

The dinner's seven co-chairmen--the group included banker Bob Adelizzi, attorney Miles Harvey and Chargers director of administration Jack Teele--organized an elegant tribute for Spanos that ranged from delicately demure arrangements of white tulips to a training-table menu of steak and baked Alaska. The formal program opened with videotaped tributes from Spanos family members and assorted golfing buddies, including former President Gerald Ford, who said that Spanos "epitomizes the very best in our society."

The audience was notably disappointed when the famous Hope-Spanos soft shoe routine, which the pair frequently dances at charity events, was performed on tape rather than the stage, but perked up when Hope took the microphone to reminisce about his long-time friend.

"Alex is some kind of man," Hope said. "I taught him how to dance. He's a charitable guy, he's nice to know. But that's not what interests him right now--what interests him now is getting a winning team for San Diego."

The guest list was headed by Spanos' wife, Faye, and included Susie and Dean Spanos, Dea Economou, Dolores Hope, Warren Jones, Si Coleman, Gerry Wambach, ADL chairman Jodyne Roseman, Stanley Heyman, Mitchell Dubick, Jim Schmidt, Marilyn and Kim Fletcher, former Chargers coach Sid Gillman, County Supervisor Leon Williams, and Anne and Abe Ratner.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
63°