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They Braved Traffic Jams to Attend Galas

Saturday nights can be tough, especially when you’re all dressed up with no place to park.

If the parking situation at the San Diego Marriott has been laughable at times, it was downright hilarious Saturday when both the American Cancer Society and Scripps Memorial Hospital-Chula Vista booked ballrooms for their major annual fund-raisers. But this isn’t to say that those guests who finally made it to the hotel entered laughing.

Both events featured star attractions--singer Ann Jillian at the cancer society’s “Over the Rainbow” and Cheryl Bentyne of Manhattan Transfer at Scripps’ “A Night in Rio"--and between the two of them, they attracted nearly 1300 guests.

Shortly after 6 p.m., hundreds of cars converged on the Marriott, which proved it was not unprepared for the occasion by placing signs on Harbor Drive announcing that only registered guests would be allowed to drive through the gates. To guests on the upper floors of the fortress-like hotel, the scene must have looked like a grand invasion of sorts as ranks of Mercedes-Benzes, Cadillacs and BMWs tried to get past the barricades, but were repulsed; even the few Rolls-Royces could not breach the defenses, although they tried mightily. In the end, many drivers were forced to retreat to satellite lots as far away as Pacific Highway.

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The effect upon both events was noticeable, and as grim-faced guests straggled into Marriott Hall for “Over the Rainbow,” a committee member remarked: “Not one of these people is smiling.”

“The parking is pretty terrible,” said Rainbow chairman Lyn Krant, who predicted that her guests would cheer up quickly enough. She was upbeat about the event, and said she expected record revenues for cancer society projects.

“We’re going to raise a ton of bucks for our very good cause,” said Krant. “We have 720 guests, and we’re hoping to raise $175,000--the numbers are really impressive.”

A Pair of Auctions

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A fair amount of that revenue was raised by the pair of auctions, silent and live, that bracketed the concert and dinner. Entertainer Lyle Waggoner conducted the live auction of 10 one-of-a-kind, big-ticket items that ranged from a catered party at a funky Pacific Beach disco to a luxurious luncheon for six at developer Ernest Hahn’s Chateau Montalena Winery in the Napa Valley--with transportation on Hahn’s jet thrown in to sweeten the deal.

A good portion of the revenue also came from corporate-sponsored tables, of which there were an amazing 40--evident proof of the clout wielded by Krant, her co-chair Virginia Monday and the cancer society. Most of the major local firms that typically sponsor charity events were represented, including San Diego Gas & Electric, but there was a newcomer as well--Southern California Edison, which has dutifully bought tickets to a goodly number of galas since it launched its bid to acquire SDG&E.; There were locals on SCE’s guest list, though, including former city councilman Fred Schnaubelt. Another was publicist and ad man Tom Gable, whose firm represents the Rosemead-based utility company in San Diego.

Guests rushed to remove the massive centerpieces--scaled-down hot air balloons anchored by gondolas filled with yellow roses--from the tables when the lights dimmed for singer Jillian’s grand entrance. The entertainer opened her act with a poignant “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” a song that symbolized the hope she and her audience hold for the discovery of a cure for cancer.

Herself a former cancer patient, Jillian donated her services, as she has at two previous cancer society galas. After a couple of standing ovations, she indicated at the end of the program that the evening’s performance might be her last, saying, “I have done it three times, you know.”

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The guest list included Ilene and Curtis Swartz, Linda and Jeff Rutgard, Betty Alexander with Howard McCandless, Norma and Sam Assam, Judy and Stephen Reznicek, Jan and Vince Guzzetta, newlyweds Cheryl and Ron Kendrick, Kay and Bill Rippee, Norma and Jim Shiner, Lori and Gregg Motsenbocker, Barbara and John Tisdale, and Cheryl and Bob Cerasoli.

The 550 guests at Scripps Memorial Hospital-Chula Vista’s “A Night in Rio,” given in the Marriott’s ballroom, may have had the same parking complaints as the guests at “Over the Rainbow,” but the eight South American parrots hired to greet them had nothing to squawk about.

Their perches generously supplied with birdseed, the avian octet welcomed the putative Cariocas to a particularly colorful and handsome gala, which took its Brazilian theme just about as far as it could go without taking it a single step too far. The menu perhaps adopted a rather silly tone--it described the dessert as “afloat in elusive passion sauce"--but the Carnival flowers and neon stars and palms in the dramatically dim ballroom set a fine mood, and Cheryl Bentyne provoked stormy weather on a tropical scale when she cut loose on stage.

The scene may have seemed familiar and authentic because it had a movie-like quality, and, as it happened, the cinema is as close to Brazil as “A Night in Rio” chairman Betty Kornreich has ventured.

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“Even though I’ve never been to Rio, it sounded like an exciting theme for our gala,” said Kornreich, who added that she expected the party, the second annual given by Scripps-Chula Vista, to net about $75,000 for the hospital’s emergency room. “We want to have a good time tonight, but the party isn’t nearly as important as what we’re raising funds for--the emergency room is the real star,” she said.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif) and his wife, Lynn, headed a guest list that included Sylvia and Louis Lurie, Susan and Scott McMillin, Sherry and Tom Money, Sandy and Jeff Schafer, Maria and Walter Shaw, Debbi and Norm Baldwin, Leigh Ann and Jeff Bills, Betty and Roger Stoike, Beryl and Ames Early, and Chula Vista Mayor Greg Cox and his wife, Cheryl.

The lure of big-name couturiers has been raising attendance at San Diego fashion fund-raisers this year, and the San Diego Opera Assn. capitalized on the trend by naming its annual luncheon, given Friday in Marriott Hall, for Adolfo, its man of the hour.

The designer (whose creations are costly enough that he could afford the use of a surname, if he wished) proved such an attraction that more than half the guests attended in the higher-priced patrons category, which chairman Elsie Weston termed “an incredible response.”

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The extra donation earned the patrons invites to a reception at Fairbanks Country Club the previous evening (reportedly, every woman who owned an Adolfo wore it to that bash, as did many to the show itself), and rampside seating at the luncheon.

Guests hurried through a lunch of cucumber soup and poached salmon in order to speed the arrival of the main attraction, Adolfo’s complete fall collection. Saks Fifth Avenue presented the show stylishly, discarding the discordant “outer space” music that has brought gloom upon some shows, in favor of nuanced 1940s instrumentations. The clothes themselves seemed like a happy return to elegance, although there were some novel, if well-received, surprises. This category included evening gowns made partly of chenille that reminded one recognized fashion plate of, as she said, “old bedspreads.” Adolfo briefly and shyly ventured onto the runway at the end of the show, and received quite a welcome for his effort.

Besides Weston, the committee included Opera President Esther Burnham, Juanita Rutemiller, Betty Bass, Pat Keating, Margaret Hilbish, Athena May, Jill MacKichan, Georgette MacGregor, Vicki Rogers, Ernie Peak, Janie Pendleton, Nona Killmar, Marion Bateson, Helen McKinley, Phyllis Parrish and Ariadna Wall.


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