Big Brothers Get What They Bargain for at Gourmet Bash

What's Orange County best-kept benefit secret?

The gourmet dinner that keeps Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County in the black.

It happened last week when about 400 members of the local corporate-set arrived at the Hyatt Regency Irvine for the 27th splurge that included everything -- a $3,000 ice carving, cocktail reception, six-course feast--but women.

Oh, there were a few women--a clutch of curvy models from the Linda Fisher agency (owned by L.A. Rams Coach John Robinson's wife)--hawking $50 raffle tickets and passing out cigars. But there was not one socialite in this black-tie crowd.

This was boy's night out. There were shiny new autos and vacation trips to be auctioned, stogies to be puffed, $200,000 net to be raised.

Afterward, trucking company owner Wally Wolf of Corona del Mar--a gourmet dinner first-timer--called the $350 per-person stag "a night when you could be more relaxed than you can be at a mixed event. You weren't worrying about stepping on somebody's feelings.

"There's nothing I love more than being out with the ladies," Wolf added, "but I do worry about saying something that might offend them."

And the girls? "I didn't see any impropriety. The guys probably bought more tickets because the girls put on a little face and said 'please, please, please.' "

Among the high-profile gents who gathered to honor Fleetwood Enterprises Chairman John Crean were Forbes 400 developer George Argyros (who had just visited Greece at the behest of President Bush), Orange County Republican Chairman Thomas A. Fuentes, Orange County Sheriff Brad Gates and Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley.

Festivities began with a ballroom reception that featured a galaxy of appetizers--mini-lamb chops, beluga caviar, garlic shrimp, ginger duck and oysters, for starters--presented beneath a block-long ice sculpture of soaring birds and jumping fish.

Bartenders waited with drinks poured--vodka tonic, gin and tonic, Scotch and soda. "I know what they like and I'm ready," said one. "When they start streaming in, it goes pretty fast."

A sit-down dinner--probably Orange County's most sumptuous benefit repast--included a melange of seafood--prawns, scallops, crab and salmon with lemon grass vinaigrette; watercress and Belgian endive salad with toasted walnuts; rack of veal with Zinfandel wine sauce; chocolate pate with fruit coulis; chocolates and cordials.

The event included a tribute to the late Bob Guggenheim--for years a supporter of Big Brothers/Big Sisters--an organization that helps provide role models for children of single-parent families.

Parker Kennedy--president of First American Title--was event chairman.

Also among guests were Msgr. Michael A. Harris, who gave the invocation; Dr. John Betson; Frank Arciero; Doy Henley; comedian Joey Bishop; George Argyros, Jr.; James Doti; Charles Hester; Dick Engel; Matt Schafnitz; Jim Edwards; Peter Zeugheuser; Jack Flanigan; and Larry Thomas.

What $16,000 can buy: It's off to Paris for lunch at the late Coco Chanel's apartment for Susie and Daniel Hernandez. Last March (at the Art of Dining benefit for the Newport Harbor Art Museum), the Mission Viejo couple bid $16,000 for the chance to spend three nights at the Ritz, lunch in the designer's famous digs, and view Chanel's 1992 Spring/Summer Ready-to-Wear Collection.

The Hernandezes are no strangers to the good life. Last year they hauled their Louis Vuitton luggage and two children to the Ritz for a $2,900 per-night stay. "And that was just two bedrooms and a small parlor," Susie says. "I know it's a lot, but it's Danny's favorite place."

Also going along for the ride, courtesy the Hernandezes, is Newport Beach 714 editor Donna Bunce. Bunce will stay at the Ritz, attend the luncheon and fashion show, and feature the experience in the glossy tabloid later this month.

The Buzz: Word's out that some of the folks who attended the recent Cartier bash at South Coast Plaza have tried to cash in their party favors. That's right, some of those $175 bottles of Panthere parfum de toilette have found their way to the Cartier counter at I. Magnin in Fashion Island. "We've been able to talk most people out of returning them," says a salesman. "But the other day, a man made such a squawk we gave him the money." . . . Henry and Renee Segerstrom are featured in a recent edition of "W" magazine. The Newport Beach couple are featured at the recent splash that christened Emporio Armani at South Coast Plaza. . . . Mary Roosevelt, Brad Gates and Dick and Jolene Engel were among the L.A. Rams fans who kept the Rev. Robert H. Schuller company when he made his recent Orange County social debut (following his brain surgery last month) in Georgia Frontiere's suite at Anaheim Stadium. But Michael Nason, a spokesman for Schuller, wants you to know the Crystal Cathedral pastor attended church that day first . . . . The Harbor Island home of Judie and George Argyros will be the site of a Master Chorale benefit on Oct. 18. Special guests will be internationally acclaimed soprano Carol Neblett.

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