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Philharmonic Society Goes to the Heights

No one can say the Orange County Philharmonic Society doesn’t get down.

Members just have to climb up to do it.

Society donors and board members gathered on the roof at Ruby’s in Balboa on Tuesday to gobble burgers and sip Coke floats. It was time for Erich Vollmer to announce the new season, and he wanted to do it California-classic casual.

Guests such as society president Bob Searles and Philharmonic board member Bobbitt Williams were greeted by a suave looking “Tchaikovsky” (good sport Dick Montgomery, vice commodore of Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club). “The music of Tchaikovsky will be featured during our special, preseason festival,” explained Vollmer, executive director of the Philharmonic.

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The “California Classics” season, which begins Oct. 2, will feature 39 concerts and recitals, making it the society’s largest ever. (See today’s Calendar section for a complete listing.)

Williams downed her beach burger sans onions and sipped her Coke to the last drop. “I love floats,” she said. “I used to drink them all the time when I was a kid.”

The Huntington Harbour resident will chair the Philharmonic’s annual fashion show Nov. 15. “Tomorrow is my first committee meeting,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Also on the Philharmonic’s agenda is an appearance by concert pianists Katia and Marielle Labeque. The sisters will appear at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on March 8. Exciting news for Philharmonic donors: Vollmer is planning a post-concert dinner for donors and the musicians at the Center Club. “We sent them an invitation via their management,” Vollmer said. No reply yet.

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Also, word’s out on who will be honored at the Philharmonic’s elegant Golden Baton Gala, set for June 1 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach: The James Irvine Foundation will receive the coveted nod. Magician Harry Blackstone will entertain.

Speaking of Awards: Irvine Co. Vice Chairman Thomas Nielsen received the Man of the Year Award from the Cypress College Foundation during a dinner at the Disneyland Hotel on Saturday night. Also honored by the college for their dedication to the Orange County community were Arthur Gray of Anaheim, Kenneth Jones of Buena Park, Jaunetta Strohmyer of Cypress, Jerry Margolin of Garden Grove, Duane Schuster of La Palma, John and Anita Spinell of Los Alamitos and David Shawver of Stanton.

When’s a winner a loser? When party planners have to say “don’t pass go” and that means “stay home.” “Monopoly,” the gourmet gala set for March 2 at Crystal Court in South Coast Plaza, was going to be a party concept so new that people would ache to come.

Food stations would be located at Monopoly-themed venues, and Pennington would cater to the hilt. It wasn’t enough. Demand for the gala’s $100 per-person tickets was so light, planners had to cancel.

“About 350 people signed up, but (that) wasn’t enough,” said Skip Villerot, one of the gala’s erstwhile developers. “We didn’t want to play to a half-full room.”

Villerot blamed the lack of enthusiasm on the sluggish economy and the Persian Gulf War. “It’s hard to get in a party mood when there are such huge world concerns,” he said.

The bash, which was to be staged by the Cabaret chapter of the Guilds of Orange County, has a reputation for being a singles’ paradise. In the past, up to 1,200 party-goers have attended.

There’s hope. “We plan to toss a big event when our troops come home in the spring,” Villerot said. “Then the world will be a happy place. . . .”

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