Dionne Warwick Sings a Song of Helping Others

What do you get when you fall in love?

“You only get lies and pain and sorrow,” Dionne Warwick sang years ago, “so, for at least, until tomorrow, I’ll never fall in love again.”

Since then, there’ve been hundreds of tomorrows for Warwick, who is celebrating her 29th year in show business, and she admits she’s been in love on every one of them.

On Friday in a private home in Laguna Niguel, the stunning songbird brought news of her latest love--the Warwick Foundation, an organization she founded to help educate people about blood diseases--to a covey of local movers and shakers.


“When President Reagan was in office he asked me to become his ambassador to health,” Warwick told guests who included Roger Johnson, Orange County Performing Arts Center vice chairman and his wife, Janice, chairwoman of the Center guilds. “President Bush extended my tenure.”

That role has led Warwick to understand that the word about blood disease was not reaching the “hard-to-reach,” she said. “The poor blacks and whites. The Hispanics. The people who don’t seem to have the wherewithal to get the word on health problems.”

So, she began a personal campaign to heighten public awareness the best way she knew how: through song. Already, Warwick has staged star-studded gala concerts in Washington, New York, and Los Angeles.

Her dream and the dream of those gathered around her on Friday night: a 3 1/2-hour benefit concert next year to showcase 50 superstars at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

“I have an incredible amount of friends,” said a smiling Warwick, her heart-shape diamonds glittering on her ears. “And when I ask them to do a benefit, they ask me two questions: ‘where?’ and ‘when?’ ”

“Let’s see,” she said, tapping her fingers in the air. “I’ll call everybody . Stevie Wonder. Whitney Houston. Elton John. Kenny Rogers. Quincy Jones. Melissa Manchester. Nancy Wilson. . . .”

Here’s the way it would work, Warwick explained: The concert would be the highlight of a three-day social whirl that would include educational workshops, a gala reception for benefit underwriters and a gala dinner with entertainment (Barry Manilow performed at the recent fest in Los Angeles. Altovise Davis--Sammy Davis Jr.'s widow--was chairwoman).

“I happen to be the Benefit Queen,” Warwick said, laughing. “When they start dreaming up a benefit in L.A., they say: ‘Call Dionne!’ ”


After her warm presentation, she invited questions.

“How much money have you made on your concerts?” asked Roger Johnson, chairman of Western Digital. “We actually brought in about $600,000 in Los Angeles,” Warwick answered. (The concert was held at the Universal Amphitheatre, the dinner gala at the Beverly Hilton.) “But, after expenses, we will have netted about $200,000.”

“I think you can count on Orange County to shatter that record,” Johnson said.

“I love your attitude,” Warwick replied.


Hosting the party were Phil Ramsden, president of Corporate Affairs--a Laguna Niguel event-planning and catering company--and Alvin Morrison, president of Morrison, Lee & Stevens, an advertising and public relations firm in Irvine.

“I’d sure like to see 50 stars enjoying Orange County hospitality,” Morrison said, as Warwick autographed copies of her new album, “Dionne Warwick Sings Cole Porter” for guests. “I get the feeling stars think of Orange County as Sleepy Hollow,” he added. “I’d love them to find out that we have a cultural center here with people who are warmer and more giving than Los Angeles ever dreamed of.”

Ramsden feels that it is time for Orange County to do something big on behalf of blood diseases. “There are a lot of wealthy people here who want to give back to their communities,” he said. “We all need to unite to make this happen--a concert here to benefit education about lupus, sickle cell anemia, leukemia and AIDS.”

Also among those on the scene: socialite Deeann Baldwin (sporting breathtaking gold and diamond jewelry purchased on a recent trip to Greece) of Emerald Bay with her guest, Cathy McLarand of Newport Beach; Paul Ecke and Bill Merrill, owners of the Black Iris floral design shop in Laguna Beach (“Black Iris has been providing flowers for charities in Orange County for quite a while,” Merrill said. “But we’ve decided we want to go beyond flowers on this one. We really want to become involved”); and Shirley Miles, who founded (and later sold) the popular Miles-Randolph floral design shop.


Social Scoops: Blond bombshell Angie Dickinson will chair the Thanksgiving-themed party that will benefit the American Cinema Awards Foundation on Nov. 17 at the mansion of John and Donna Crean of Santa Ana Heights. Dubbed, “We Love You, Jane” in honor of actress Jane Withers, the gala promises to be Orange County’s most star-studded yet. Who can forget the turkey-day bash the Creans staged two years ago that saw Shirley Temple autographing stacks of her “Child Star” autobiography? . . . When the Orange County Aviation Council stages “Flight 1990" at the new Thomas F. Riley Terminal and John Wayne Airport on Sept. 8, the Orange County Board of Supervisors are going to find it first-class all the way. Board members and their spouses will occupy the first-class section of the Boeing 757 luxury jet that will whisk them around Orange County skies before they become the first to land at the newly renovated airport. When invitations went out to a select few for the $250-per-person party in the sky, responses were slow coming. Now, the flight has been opened up to the public. On the night before, about 2,000 are expected to show up for the black-tie gala that will christen the new terminal. . . . On Aug. 29, Wolfgang Puck will direct eight chefs in a culinary salute to Italian design that is being organized by RecreActions Group of Companies, the builders of Corte Bella, a new housing development in the area of Westpark in Irvine. Among chefs who will be whipping up their signature Italian dishes at the event: Andreino de Santis from Andreino’s in San Clemente and Duilio Valenti from the Sorrento Grill in Laguna Beach. Also on the agenda for “The Triumph,” as the developers are calling the gala celebration: the premiere showing of Gianne Versace’s Fall 1990 collection shipped from Milan. Now that’s style. . . .

Over the weekend: The newly formed Young Professionals Against Cancer, a dedicated group of twenty- and thirtysomethings, held their first fund-raiser Saturday night at the Creans’ home. (The Crean manse is busier than most hotel ballrooms these days.) Affiliated with the Orange County Unit of the American Cancer Society, the group hopes to offer young professionals the chance to become involved in worthwhile projects. “We’re targeting a segment of society that has become generally untapped,” said its president, Steve Kwong. Proceeds from the party are expected to be about $10,000. . . . Marilyn and Tom Nielsen were honored by the Historical and Cultural Foundation of Orange County on Saturday night at South Coast Repertory. The couple, admired for their work in the arts, were instrumental in laying the groundwork for the foundation when it was established four years ago. “The Nielsens have been active, dedicated supporters of our mission and activities ever since,” said foundation President Thomas Rogers, senior vice president of Security Pacific Bank. Honorary chairpersons for the event were Arden Flamson, Walter Gerken, Lydia Wang Himes, Michael Meyer and Jack W. Peltason, chancellor of UC Irvine. The Historical and Cultural Foundation is dedicated to preserving the history, heritage and artifacts of the many cultures of Orange County.