The tiny forest of potted trees is in place on the tennis court. The oversize American flags are hanging. Even the bougainvillea have blossomed into vibrant shades of deep pink and orange.
All is ready for the arrival late this afternoon of Vice President Dan Quayle, who will give the Republican Party a financial boost by appearing at a $100-per-person fund-raiser at a home in Santa Ana Heights overlooking Upper Newport Bay. About 400 of the party faithful are expected to attend.
And tonight, Quayle--traveling without his wife, Marilyn--will speak at a $500-per-person dinner for 50 couples at the new Five Feet Too restaurant at Fashion Island in Newport Beach. Proceeds from the two events will be split between the state Republican Party and the Orange County GOP, which expect to net about $35,000 each.
The vice president's visit comes as the Quayles are rumored to be shopping for a vacation home in Southern California, prompting county real estate brokers to offer their services to the nation's second couple. Quayle's schedule today, however, leaves no time to scope out houses.
Quayle last visited the county in July and campaigned in Mission Viejo and other locations during the fall presidential election. Indeed, Orange County proved important to his and President Bush's effort, providing a 300,000-vote edge that helped the Bush-Quayle ticket secure California's 47 electoral votes.
Quayle is due to arrive at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station at 5:05 p.m. From there, he will be transported in a commute-hour motorcade--which is likely to interrupt some freeway traffic--to the 6:30 p.m. reception of about 400 people at the home of businessman and GOP activist Buck Johns and his wife, Colleen, in Santa Ana Heights, near John Wayne Airport.
Orange County Republican Party Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes said Johns' house, whose tennis court has been the scene of many other Republican fund-raising events, was picked because it "is about the largest venue of any home in the area." He said it is much less expensive to cater a party there, with costs of $10 per person, than at a hotel or restaurant for up to $35 each.
"It's a real gift to the party on the part of Colleen and Buck Johns to allow us to invade their home," Fuentes said.
Fuentes said he does not know what Quayle will talk about at the reception but noted that an elaborate communications center has been set up at the Johnses' home.
"They are anticipating a very large national press contingency and will be hooked up to the world," Fuentes said. "Why go through all that trouble if there isn't something we need to prepare for?"
Impressive, but ...
But he laughed and added, "But what do I know? A complicated stereo looks impressive to me too."
Besides the communications center, security personnel have been setting up a reception area and making elaborate security arrangements at the Johnses' home all week. Colleen Johns said about 100 people have come to the couple's home, with up to 30 walking--sometimes even crawling--around the grounds at any given point. Twelve telephones have been installed, and a motor home was brought onto the property where Quayle can rest or refresh himself.
"It's amazing, it really is," she said. "It's so complex."
Quayle will be introduced at the reception by Frank Visco, state Republican chairman who will also do the honors at the 7:30 p.m. dinner. The dinner will be at Five Feet Too, so named because its parent restaurant in Laguna Beach is called Five Feet. Owner and chef Michael Kang is donating tonight's feast as a sort of unofficial opening to the new restaurant.
Novel Sort of Announcement
"What could be a better way to get an announcement on a new restaurant than have a vice president here?" Kang asked.
According to Kang, the menu will begin with Chinese tea-smoked beef and include watercress salad with jicama and roasted peppers with a citrus ginger vinaigrette; cucumber, lemon and lychee nut sorbet and grilled veal chop with spicy plum sauce and timbale of garlic, eggplant and shitake mushrooms. For dessert, there will be orange ginger creme brulee. And guests will wash it all down with Mumm's cordon rouge.
Those unable to attend the reception or dinner might catch a glimpse of Quayle as his motorcade proceeds from El Toro to the Johnses' residence. If the California Highway Patrol follows procedures for previous visits by dignitaries, Quayle's motorcade will be given breadth on the roadways by slowing down traffic and closing freeway ramps.
The CHP, citing security reasons, is not talking about its plans for this afternoon's events. "We won't have any information releasable on that, whatsoever," said Officer Keith Thornhill, who is in charge of CHP public affairs for Orange County. "That's secret information."
Jim Miller of the Secret Service's office in Los Angeles said plans for moving Quayle or any other dignitaries--whom he called "principals"--around an area are kept secret if possible to prevent attacks.
"We've thwarted attempts on our principals' lives by keeping things out of the press," Miller said.
He said that in a "free and open democracy, we ought to be able know what our vice president and president are doing every moment of the day." But, he added, "It doesn't work that way."
Miller stressed, however, that interruption of traffic will be kept to a minimum.
Staff writer Ann Conway contributed to this report. Quayle's Itinerary Vice President Dan Quayle will be in Orange County today to attend two fund-raising events for the state and local Republican parties: Arrives: 5:05 p.m. at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Cocktails: 6:30 p.m. at Santa Ana Heights home of Buck and Colleen Johns; $100 per person. Dinner: 7:30 p.m. at Newport Beach restaurant Five Feet Too; $500 per person. THE HOST CHOICE
Quayle's host brings special qualifications to the job. Page 8