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All Were There in Black and White

With store windows as a backdrop, 680 guests roamed a roped-off area of Newport Center Fashion Island Saturday night at a fund-raiser co-hosted by the Newport Beach shopping mall and the Newport Harbor Art Museum.

The Black and White Bash--the first of what sponsors hope will be an annual benefit--proved that the right mix of music, food and entertainment can transform a mall from soul - less commercial center into playground for the senses.

Get Real

It helped that the evening was warm and sea-breezy, and that the tree-lined area reserved for the al fresco party was properly scaled--roomy without being an alienating sprawl.

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The buffets, coordinated by chef Michael Kang (owner of Five Feet Too at Fashion Island and Five Feet in Laguna Beach), were spectacular, especially Kang’s own offerings: black and white seafood soup, Chinese braised lamb shanks with goat cheese terrine, pasta with blackened calamari.

Jugglers and magicians worked the crowd as musicians--a steel drum ensemble, a Dixieland combo, a jazz orchestra and a New Orleans-style zydeco band--filled the night air with lively tunes.

All that helped. But what made the party work was attitude.

“This is like a real party,” said one museum employee, a note of surprise in her voice.

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Susan Porter Caput, chairwoman of the event, said one of the reasons organizers kept the ticket price at $50-per (rock-bottom for a benefit) was to curb snob-appeal.

“We wanted as many people as possible to be able to afford this; we wanted the kind of mix you get at a real party ,” Caput said.

Keep Dreaming

The chairwoman and her committee took their inspiration from the Black and White Ball tossed by the San Francisco Symphony every other spring (this year’s mega-benefit drew 13,000 guests and raised more than $1 million).

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Committee member Lizanne Witte--who moved here three years ago from San Francisco, where she took part in the symphony bashes--said she has high hopes for future black-and-white bonanzas for the museum.

“We want this party to get wilder!” Witte said, laughing. “We want more costumes, more street musicians. We want people to get outrageous .”

Who, What, Wear

As soon as dusk deepened into night, the checkerboard dance floor filled. The activity was led by a wildly jitterbugging Jim Lashley of Laguna Beach and his partner, Diane Bluechel of Balboa Island, who kicked off her heels and danced in stocking feet.

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Among the revelers were museum director Michael Botwinick and his wife, Harriet; committee members Joan Beall, Norma Glover, Mary Ellen Bennett, Judy Slutzky, Lula and Marion Halfacre, and Judy Erika Ray.

Invitations requested “creative black and white” attire. That translated into anything from rhinestone-studded black spandex leggings to ice-cream suits.

Lois Isenberg of Laguna Beach topped her casual pants outfit with a black sequined sun visor. Harmon Weston of Corona del Mar turned heads in an 18-inch-high top hat. Michael Nason accented his black shirt with a silver bolo tie clip shaped like a cactus--and topped it all off with a black mink coat.

“I looked in the closet and said, ‘What am I going to wear?’ ” said Weston, who lives in Laguna Beach. “I thought about this wonderful summer we’re having, and I thought: Mink!”

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The party raised an estimated $22,000 through ticket sales and silent auction bidding. Proceeds will be used to underwrite the museum’s exhibitions and education programs.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Supporters of Opera Pacific hosted a thematic-hybrid of a wingding Saturday night--a Tennis Ball Sock Hop, if you please, at a car dealership.

Members and friends of the opera company’s Tennis Guild convened at Lee West’s Newport Imports in Newport Beach for a wine-and-fancy-foods cocktail hour (poached salmon, chilled asparagus, pate), followed by sodas-and-'50s-food dinner in Ruby’s Diner.

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For the dinner-dance, the ladies wore poodle skirts, bobby socks, saddle shoes; their escorts donned tux shirts and jackets over tennis shorts. The benefit, chaired by Patsy and David Livingston, raised $4,500.


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