Benefit Boasts Fashions, Margaritas

Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

Bumper-to-bumper Benzes jostled Jags in the parking lot on Friday as 710 ladies who lunch, dress up, and donate homed in on the huge tent parked next to couturier Amen Wardy’s Newport Beach boutique.

Here came the county’s distaff who’s who--in summer suits and showy hats, jewels a-jangling--for the fourth annual Angelitos de Oro fashion show fund-raiser for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County.

The $150-per-person benefit luncheon raised $150,000. Receiving a cardboard photo-opportunity-size check--as tall as its recipient--Jo Alexander smiled.

“I have to catch my breath,” said Alexander, executive director of Big Brothers. Then she turned and lugged the check offstage.


Before her appearance on the bright white stage--soon to be dominated by hip-thrusting models draped in Bill Blass togs--Alexander nibbled the healthy grilled chicken, shrimp and mixed greens lunch with table mates that included her granddaughters, Kristine and Lisa Spurney, and Sharon Ormsbee, president of the support group.

The party started when guests were met by a small army of valets outside Wardy’s mirrored dress shop. Through the maze-like store the ladies went, exiting into a sunny courtyard where a bartender blended strawberry margaritas and servers circled with trays of mineral water and Chardonnay. The air buzzed with the sound of a mariachi quartet’s harmonies.

“Amen has been pushing for mariachis for years,” said Donna Devine, chairwoman of the event. “We loved the idea, so we picked up on it.”

Pinata-colored decorations gave the tented lunchroom the look of a garden in bloom. Orange, green and yellow swaths of fabric were draped overhead like crisscrossed tightropes; the many tables fanned out from the runway were covered in pink, turquoise, orange and green.

Mary Rabbitt of Newport Beach thumbed through a copy of the “Gold Book"--a magazine-size ad book put together in conjunction with the benefit--with her sister, Melanie Maxon. Rabbitt, editor of this year’s Gold Book, said she and her committee sold close to 200 ads at prices ranging from $50 to $3,000, contributing about $30,000 to the net proceeds.

As for the fashions in the pricey store and the Blass on leggy display, Rabbitt laughed. “I couldn’t afford any of that stuff,” she said.

Jo Anne Mix, on the other hand, said she would probably buy something, “but I don’t want to break the bank. I have a top price and I won’t buy anything more than that, unless it’s a real investment, like a good suit, or if I have to have it.”

Big Brothers/Big Sisters is a national nonprofit agency that matches children from single parent homes with men, women and couples who schedule weekly outings with their young charges to provide friendship and role model companionship.

Among guests were Melinda Moiso, Sandy Sewell, Peggy Hakes, Judie Argyros, Deeann Baldwin, Shirlee Guggenheim (whose husband, Robert, was the first president of the local chapter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters) and Maria Crutcher, a friend of Amen Wardy and chairwoman of the past three Angelitos fashion shows.