Plenty to Celebrate at Maher Bash

Piles of glistening, maroon-colored vegetables and fruits--radishes, red cabbages, eggplants, fat apples and plums--centered the tables at Saturday's sixth annual Spirit of Charity dinner-dance, given at the San Diego Marriott to benefit Catholic Community Services.

Several philosophers have argued that the universe can be found in an egg, but locally relevant symbolism reposed in the baskets of produce: They referred to the plenty provided the community's needy by CCS and its sponsors, and in their color to the pastoral vermilion worn by Bishop Leo T. Maher, the evening's guest of honor. (After the gala, the food was contributed to House of Rachel, a women's shelter operated by CCS.)

A crowd of 400 turned out to applaud Maher on his 74th birthday, or exactly one year before he will retire as leader of the San Diego Diocese. The Social Service Auxiliary, organized in 1941 to provide financial support for the charity work of the Sisters of Social Service, shared equal billing with Maher.

Automobile dealer Bob Baker served as event chairman in a rare instance of a man taking on such duties. He said he was happy enough in the role, particularly because the evening coincided with the bishop's birthday, but was discomfited to learn that he also had to serve as master of ceremonies. He managed.

Maher seemed delighted by the outsized birthday bash, but gave credit for the attendance to the appeal of CCS.

"This evening highlights the success story of Catholic Community Services," Maher said. "We began when I came here 22 years ago, and now we touch lives in every part of this great city of ours. We have programs for teen-agers, for women in crisis, for day-by-day hardship cases. It's an overall program to meet the needs of the vulnerable people among us."

After the banquet of stuffed game hens, guests danced to the Carl Hoffman Orchestra and listened to guest soloist Carol Neblett, the Metropolitan Opera soprano who is a resident of Coronado.

The guest list included University of San Diego president Author Hughes and his wife, Marge; CCS director Sister RayMonda DuVall; Linda and Frank Alessio; Ernest and Jean Hahn; Dan and Mary Mulvihill; Assemblywoman Lucy Killea; Sherrill Baker; Robert Hoehn; Linc and Mary Ward; Falck and Charlotte Nielsen; Bill Otterson, and John and Kay Upton.

CORONADO--Barbara Mouton chaired the original St. Tropez Soiree given in 1988 by the Coronado Chapter of the Children's Home Society, and returned Friday to repeat the role.

Given in the Saint Tropez Ballroom at Le Meridien, the event was French right down to the ooh-la-la muttered sotto voce by one guest when the dessert of minted chocolate terrine appeared at the end of the lavish banquet.

Mouton planned the event as a sort of pre-Bastille Day tribute to the land of foie gras and bizarre hotel wallpaper.

"Everything is French," she said. "Even the grand prize is a trip to Paris."

None of the guests seemed inclined to quibble with this.

Mouton added that, because hosting a gala was a novelty for the Coronado group, she expected it to evolve and improve over time.

"We used to do fashion shows as fund-raisers," she said. "That's why we showed bathing suits during dinner last year. This year, we'll dance instead."

The group of 210 did dance, in fact, spurred by the 19 musicians and singers of the Wayne Foster Orchestra, which persuaded the formal crowd to abandon all pretense of formality and shake, rattle and roll through the evening.

The oversized orchestra paired with the smallish crowd proved a potent combination, and this was in many ways one of the most enjoyable events in some time; many guests lingered until well after midnight, when the band finally deserted the stage.

Children's Home Society was formed in 1891 to assist in placing children in adoptive homes, a function that it continues to pursue. Coronado chapter President Anne Hamrick said, however, that it has widened its activities.

"CHS still handles adoptions, but now that there are fewer children put up for adoption, we're turning our attention to such things as child-abuse prevention and teen-age pregnancy counseling," Hamrick said. She added the cuts in state funding for certain services will cause CHS to increase its fund-raising efforts in order to maintain its programs.

The event was expected to earn about $10,000 in net proceeds. "It's not a big amount, but it's big for us," said Mouton, a former sportswear designer who said she has worked harder for CHS than she ever did when she had her own business.

Among the guests were Coronado Mayor Mary Herron and her husband, Ken; Anne and Ski Kaine; Dottie and George Styer; Sheila Marks with Dick Seay; Katie and Ralph Baum; Midge and Jim Peltier; Marian and Bob Poynter; Rose and Jerry Easton; Nancy and Buck Verhage; Sara and Lionel Rowe; Bobbi and Bob Cetti; Linda and John Nichols, and Kitsy and Jerry Mitchell.

King Tut, the salmon-crested cockatoo, retired July 16 after 64 years as official greeter at the San Diego Zoo and starred the next evening as bird of honor at the zoo's annual RITZ (Rendezvous in the Zoo) gala.

But, even if retiring, this avian isn't shy; in his role the other day as guest squawker at the "Collection" fashion luncheon given for the Arthritis Foundation, Tut showed up at the La Jolla Marriott complete with an entourage of zoo staffers, photographers and television cameramen.

Tut, an arthritis sufferer, attended to dramatize the cause. Much drama of other sorts was injected into the program by "Collection" chairman Junko Cushman, who staged a firecracker-hot showing of impossibly grand jewels and of designer Peggy Jennings' fall collection as the event's twin centerpieces. The hotel did its bit by catering an admirable lunch, designed by menu chairwoman Audrey Geisel, of Oriental duck salad and frozen orange souffle.

The jewels were from the collection of new Saks Fifth Avenue master jeweler Lester Rutledge, who draped guest models in several ransoms' worth of outsized diamonds and rosy pearls. Among those swinging down the runway looking glad to be gilded were Judi Strada, Karen Cohn, Carolyn Hooper, Connie Golden, Yolanda Walther-Meade, Ingrid Hibben, Cheryl Oliver, Iris Strauss, Dorene Whitney and Elene Solomon. Last down the ramp was local Arthritis Foundation board chairman Sally Thornton, who managed to walk upright despite the weight of the 18 plump pearl necklaces that hung heavily around her neck.

Foundation director Doris Giesick said that the day marked a first for the San Diego Arthritis chapter. "It's a rare and unexpected pleasure for us to get this kind of public support and visibility," she said.

More than 300 guests attended, including a few men who were drafted by their committee-member wives. One was Larry Cushman, who stoically explained the reason for his presence.

"I take care of the raffle tickets," he said. "I'm in a supporting role, and I'm doing what I was told to do."

The committee included Laura Abrams, Judith Harris, Harriett Levi, Lee Maturo, Sandra Pay, Helen Cushman, Norma Assam, Marian Bourland, Margaret Hilbish, Liz Smith and Karen Speidel.

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