Cancer Society Benefit Takes On Look of Mirage

There were times at Saturday’s “Mirage” benefit for the American Cancer Society that it seemed as if chairman Virginia Monday must have done it all with mirrors.

The party progressed as a series of illusions, of which perhaps the most startling was the pair of ivory tents erected on the front lawn of the Sheraton Grande-Torrey Pines; many of the 725 guests had assumed until the moment they arrived that, since the invitation was to a hotel, they would be partying in a ballroom. But the usual confines were deemed a little too ordinary for “Mirage,” which neatly created an oasis amid the hotel’s stands of palms.

Monday also offered the illusion of a stage crowded by an immense cast of entertainers and celebrities through the simple expedient of hiring impressionist Fred Travalena, who veered rather widely through the history of the past 30 years by presenting portraits of all United States presidents from Kennedy through Bush. (At times, the laughter seemed divided along political lines and according to which party was being skewered.)

A third illusion was the program listing of a live auction item titled simply “Luncheon for Two at McDonald’s,” which brought the auction-topping price of $8,300. This offering featured more than the usual Big Mac, however, since the lunch will be served at the new McDonald’s in Moscow and the trip also includes a stay in London. (An added feature not mentioned by the program was described by co-chair Mel Katz, who explained that the purchasers will not be required to wait in line to order their burgers and fries.)


The live auction of big-ticket packages to New York, Washington, Napa Valley and elsewhere raised more than $34,000 and, with the proceeds from a silent auction of 70 further offerings, a party spokesperson said the event was expected to raise well in excess of $200,000 for the cancer society. Local ACS President Mike Madigan said that the funds, a record for the 11 annual galas staged by the society, would be divided among patient services, research and education.

Madigan also said that one effect of the many illusions of “Mirage” would be to enhance the society’s image.

“An event like this, with the huge turnout we have tonight, is what keeps the Cancer Society the No. 1 fund-raiser among all the health agencies in town,” he said. In reference to the multiplication of nonprofit organizations and fund-raising events in the last few years, Madigan added “There’s now tremendous competition in the San Diego marketplace and an event like this creates tremendous visibility for us.”

For an event titled “Mirage,” there certainly was an emphasis on visibility, particularly in the roster of notables recruited to man the silent and live auctions. This list included Barbara and Ed Malone, Rosemary and Bill Logan, Sara Jane and Tom Sayer, Donis and Mack Lovitt, Ann and Charlie Jones and quite a few others who hoisted megaphones to peddle everything from yachting parties to a pair of former President Gerald Ford’s cuff links bearing the official seal of office. Bob Arnhym, Anne Evans and retired congressman Clair Burgener.

The silent auction took place in an auxiliary tent that set the mood for the proceedings in the much larger main tent, a big top so large that several guests compared the work of presenting “Mirage” to the labor required by La Jolla’s annual, open-air Jewel Ball. The centerpieces at the 80 tables were meant to be admired but not touched--the arrangements of fruits and artichokes had been sprayed with gold paint and sprinkled with metallic confetti--and an elaborate stage was erected for the shared use of Travalena and the Bill Green Orchestra, which brought the crowd out on the dance floor between courses in the dinner of poulet aux sables and chocolate torte.

Travalena’s show opened with a cleverly savage dialogue between Sylvester Stallone and John Travolta and progressed with a parade of the presidents and a tribute to the late Sammy Davis Jr.

The guest list included Dirk and Doris Broekema, Dean and Susie Spanos, Bob and Sherrill Baker, Ben and Sheri Kelts, Joseph and Terry Davis, Craig and Jeanne Courtemanche, Donald McVay, Robert and Ann Robbs, former United States Surgeon General Dr. Jesse Steinfeld, Linda Smith, Valerie Preiss with Harry Cooper, Dick and Vangie Burt, Bill and Jeanne Larson, Cecil Green, Luba Johnston, Peter and Peggy Preuss, Jeanne Lawrence, Bill and Ovie Cowling, Audrey Geisel, Colin and Cathleen Haggerty, Jack Monday, Catherine McCormick, Junko and Larry Cushman, George and Martha Gafford, Norm and Barbara Pressley and event corporate chairman Herb Klein and his wife, Marge.

SAN DIEGO--A few late patrons nursing nightcaps in the bar at the U.S. Grant Hotel looked up from their drinks at 1 a.m. Saturday to witness the invasion of the room by groups of women in nightgowns, robes and slippers.


This robed romp was the final gesture of the second annual women’s slumber party staged by the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company. According to Kit Goldman, the theater’s managing producer, more than 200 arrived as early as 4 p.m. Friday to slip out of street clothes and descend to the Grant’s basement meeting rooms for what she termed “an evening of pampering.”

The fund-raiser’s revels included manicures, hair styling and consultations with psychics and card readers, but while there were reports of a certain amount of good ol’ girls boisterousness, it may as well be mentioned that games of bridge and Pictionary were among the smash entertainments. However, there was also a midnight visitation by a troupe of male dancers.

Shortly before that particular highlight, Goldman told a reporter who made an extremely brief visit to the scene that it had been “quite an evening,” which, on the whole, seemed a reasonable assessment. “Everybody has let her hair down, they’re just being themselves and the result has been very unexpected,” she said.

“Peoples’ public personas have fallen by the wayside. Having a group of women in nightgowns just isn’t the same thing as attending a black tie dinner.”


Said guest Carolyn Saadeh: “This has everything a woman could want, but mostly we just get to pamper ourselves. It’s just a lot of fun.”

Among those teaming up as roomies were Betty Zable and her daughter, Stephanie Zable, and there was also a mother-daughter-grandaughter combo of Virginia Napierskie, Connie Geddes and Ginna Geddes. The guest list also included theater auxiliary President Kathy Hubbard; Phyllis Hoffman; Linda Hahn; Shelia Davis; Laurie Black; Charlene Hoekstra; Maggie Hughes; Sharon Considine; Charlie Smith; Else Fuller; Christina Starr; San Diego City Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer; Kitty Razook, and Cher Dale.