Getting There in Style--at $100 an Hour

Time to play “Orange County Riddle.”

What’re cookin’, can be used for cookin’ and are so sizzling hot that Hugh Hefner used one last week to whisk his soon-to-be-blushing bride to the Playboy Jazz Festival? Are so ultra-chic but plain-brown-wrapper-appearing that one of the world’s richest men used them this week to tour San Francisco? Are so luxe that Quincy Jones used one to party with Barbra Streisand, et al, before the Emmys? Are so handy that a Newport Beacher will use them to haul nears ‘n’ dears to the Century Plaza Hotel when he receives the Man of the Year Award from St. Jude Hospital?

Answer: The two luxury coaches owned by Pacific Motor Coach of Newport Beach.

Since Marie and Ralph Simpson started their hospitality-suite-on-wheels business seven years ago, it has grown from a company that only transported corporate bigwigs to one that cruises the highways and byways with the likes of singer Michael Jackson (he used one to bring a video crew to his Santa Ynez ranch), the wacko comedian, Gallagher (he used one to take his family to Mammoth), Robin Williams, Rod Stewart, Smokey Robinson and Sheena Easton. And come Aug. 12, John Crean of Newport Beach. Crean, CEO of Fleetwood Enterprises, a Fortune 500 company, will receive the St. Jude nod from comedian Danny Thomas.


The chauffeured coaches--gutted Greyhound bus shells done up like posh living rooms--don’t come cheap. Each rents for $100 per hour (parking time alone is $85 per hour). But considering their amenities--bathrooms, plush sofas, swivel chairs, microwaves, television sets, refrigerators, bars, telephones--the big bucks are worth it for the hundreds who rent them each year.

“We’re still used mostly by corporate types,” says Marie, who was a hotel food and beverage manager before she got into luxury chauffeuring. “They use us often for meetings, property tours, parties. . . . “

But there’s one corporate type that’s still on Simpson’s wish-list: New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump. “There’s a rumor flying around that Trump is coming to California to look at property,” Marie says. “We want to be the ones to show him around.”

Shooting the moon: With the 20th anniversary of the first moon walk on July 20, Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his wife, Lois, have been celebrating by taking a world tour that began with a visit to the Paris Air Show (and a side trip to Rome for lunch with Gina Lollobrigida), continued with a U.S.A. book tour--Aldrin has penned his magnum opus, “Men From Earth"--and will end with ceremonies at the White House.

“On July 20, I do a talk show from the Smithsonian Institution,” Aldrin says. “Then I do something at noon with the President, and that night I’m in a boat parade.” The following day, Buzz and Lois, who live in Emerald Bay, will go to Houston for a black-tie dinner bash with good friend Walter Cronkite.

Watch for part of Aldrin’s new book to be featured in the July issue of Reader’s Digest. And look for a feature on Aldrin in this week’s edition of People Magazine.

The Aldrins were in town long enough to pop into the fund-raiser for Sen. Pete Wilson last Saturday night at Willa Dean and William Lyon’s Coto de Caza mansion. “The whole tour has been such a wonderful experience,” says Lois, who wore a silk print for the fund-raiser held in the moonlight. “I’m so proud of Buzz.” Next week, the couple head for France where Aldrin will be interviewed on a television show.

“When I filmed a show here with Jane Pauley recently, I gave her one of these,” said Aldrin, fingering a gleaming 20th anniversary pin. “But I don’t think she really wanted to keep it.”

Speaking of Sen. Pete Wilson: Nope, the Wilsons didn’t sing at the Lyons’ when one of the biggest Republican fund-raisers ever (almost 500 attended) was staged in Coto de Caza last weekend (some of those attending had heard the Wilsons sing “The Colors of My Life” at an Emerald Bay fund-raiser held a few months ago; there was hope there might be a repeat).

But Wilson and developers William Lyon and George Argyros got off a few gags that had guests howling. First up on stage was Argyros, who spoke of the day when Wilson would be governor of California and “change all the laws for developers.”

Speaking of the overwhelming turnout, Lyon--natty with a red rose in his lapel--said as guests departed: “We’d love for you to stay, but, we want to caution you that last year we had a party and when I got up Sunday morning, there was a guy standing there who said he was still waiting for his car. I told him his valet was probably at the bottom of the hill.” (Indeed. With the whopping turnout, guests had a long wait for their cars on Saturday night. But Wilson disappeared into the night in a whooshing helicopter.)

And Wilson, before delivering a serious speech about the war he promises against drugs and danger in the street if he becomes governor, said: “My wife, Gayle, gave me a suggestion tonight. She told me to give a short speech. She said I like to do two things: give political speeches and drink gin and tonic. After people have heard you speak once, she said, most people would prefer to drink gin and tonic.”

On the $1,000-per-person scene: hostess Willa Dean Lyon, radiant in a flag-red suit; Gus Owen and Kathryn Thompson, in shocking purple print two-piece; Joyce and Tom Tucker; Judie Argyros in black, jet-accented pants ensembles; Janice and Roger Johnson; Susan and Tim Strader; Anabel and Jon Konwiser; Dottie and Glenn Stillwell; Pat and Dick Allen; Deeann and Al Baldwin, and Dorothy and Don Koll.