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Gala-Goers Get Hip to Museum at ‘60s Fest

The existentially cosmic realities of the psychedelic ‘60s were exhumed New Year’s Eve at The Happening, a groovy gala given to raise the communal consciousness of the more than 200 members and supporters of The Contemporaries, a new, youngish group dedicated to increasing awareness of the San Diego Museum of Art.

The group tuned out and turned on in the Sculpture Garden and adjacent auditorium at the Balboa Park institution, which allowed its normally august precincts to be reworked into a Day-Glo-bright rehash of Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury. To bona fide survivors of the 1960s, the authenticity was startling.

Invitations offered the choice between black tie and period dress, and, while the more mainstream guests opted for formal clothes, the regalia of the era--mini-dresses, peace buttons, tie-dyed T-shirts, love beads and bandanna headbands--became more and more in evidence as The Happening happened. Because the market for bell bottoms bottomed out years ago, these were exceedingly rare. Most guests denied having saved a pair, and those few who said they had admitted that theirs no longer fit. Because the event encompassed the entire decade, Beatle boots and Nehru jackets added some early ‘60s seasoning to the sartorial soup.

The decor at this benign be-in made it seem that the Age of Aquarius was ready to dawn a second time. Guests entered the Sculpture Garden through a pair of high imitation-brick walls spray-painted with doves, peace signs and such period slogans as “Peace,” “Love” and “Love-In.” Original Peter Max 7-Up posters brought the mood into abrupt focus, and Happening chairman Dawn Dominy Mayeda also tacked up a psychedelic poster advertising the very first Monterey International Pop Festival.

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Flower power was introduced on the dinner tables through bouquets arranged in the artistic icon of the 1960s, Warhol-esque Campbell’s tomato soup cans (the genuine articles, thoroughly rinsed) and, most amusingly, through a 1990s alternative, sawed-off plastic Coca-Cola bottles that a committee member noted were labeled as both diet and caffeine-free. They made a clever and effective conceit. A seven-screen video bank simultaneously played tapes of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol at play in his “Be-in Palace” and Ravi Shankar with his faithful sitar.

Mayeda, who graduated from college in 1977, acknowledged that she was a little too young to have been a full participant in the 1960s, but said that her abiding affection for the period stems from the experiences and memories of her three older brothers. To her, the talismans of the era seemed a natural theme for the premier fund-raiser to be hosted by The Contemporaries.

“We chose the ‘60s because they had a real social relevance that we see coming back in the 1990s, and we wanted to celebrate that,” said Mayeda, who added that the line was drawn at the dessert buffet, which she said would offer “non-marijuana brownies.”

Contemporaries President Claudia Hanson said, “It’s the art of the ‘60s more than the hippies that we wanted to celebrate tonight, since we’re here as an arts support group.”

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Among the more far-out features of the event was a psychedelic paint booth at which guests could fire paint-laden guns (the same guns used at mock “war game” escapades) at a large canvas suspended within a plastic tent. At the last moment, co-chair Barry Helfand scrawled the slogan “Make art, not war,” above the splotched canvas, which took shape as a participatory work of art through the evening and ultimately was awarded as the party’s chief door prize.

Also on the artsy side of the program was an auction of sculptures created for the event by 22 local artists, each of whom used a simple wooden stool as the starting point. None were truly psychedelic, but many were clever, notably Michael Osment’s “Original Stool,” which encased the wood in an artificial rock outcropping with a few daisies blooming on the side.

“We discussed using a number of different objects,” said museum staff member and artist coordinator Linda Stephens. “We wanted to give the artists a certain parameter to deal with, and stools seemed practical,” she added, in a comment most untypical of the ‘60s.

Although the guests grooved on art and satisfied bouts of the munchies at a buffet laden with roast beef and turkey, they paid primary attraction to Rockola, a period revival band that progressed--accompanied by costume changes and constantly increasing hair length--from the Beatles through the Grateful Dead and beyond. Streamers flew at midnight, and the party continued until a relatively sedate 1 a.m.

The committee included Rebecca Cabo, Robin Webster, Linda North, Christy Holley, Debbie and Donn Achen, Beth McRae, Debra Schule, Lynn LaChapelle, Sherri Greenberg, Lynn Heffner, Laura Grant and Marcia Monroe.

A pair of “professional fish scoopers” stood at the ready in the San Diego Marriott’s Marina Ballroom last Friday evening to remove any Siamese fighting fish that succumbed during “Fantasy Under the Sea,” the 12th annual Poinsettia Ball.

Despite the number of former fraternity men in the attendance of 450, none of the guests treated the 400 rented fish, housed in glass bowls that centered the tables, as supplements to the menu of coquilles St. Jacques, beef Wellington and white chocolate conch shells filled with raspberry mousse.

The aquatic theme honored Sea World, a five-year sponsor of the Holiday Bowl, which the Poinsettia Ball both anticipated and benefited. (Previous balls have netted funds for a variety of charities, but proceeds now go to increase payouts made to the teams participating in the game.) Schools of miniature Shamus hung from the ballroom ceiling, along with a scuba-diving mannequin and a couple of dinghys.

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“This is a ‘fantasy under the sea,’ not a beach party,” event chairman Michael Casinelli said of the whimsical decor.

The ball’s trademark poinsettias bloomed on the sidelines, but center stage was taken by a larger-than-life statue of Neptune, which ruled over a stage variously occupied by the Bill Green Orchestra, ESPN television personality Roy Firestone, Holiday Bowl President L. Robert Payne and Lil’ Elmo and the Cosmos.

In the foyer, guests--including a large number of visiting athletic directors and coaches from Western Athletic Conference schools--posed for souvenir photographs with a mermaid decked in green sequins and a lei.

Among the visitors were Texas A & M athletic director John David Crow and coach R. C. Slocum, and Brigham Young University athletic director Glen Tuckett and coach LaVell Edwards, who amiably kept their predictions for the following day’s contest to themselves.

Retired NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle served as honorary chairman of a committee than included Marilee Bankert, Billy Satterwhite, Debbie Lash, Lisa Richards, Fred Conger, Cindy Tanguay, Jeff Stafford, Jim Brannigan, Sally Buckalew, Joe Craver, Betty Haas, Shannon Rockcastle and Preston Daniels.


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