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Hot-Party Action Hard to Pass Up

It was an invitation to hawk your Armani for: “How about Telluride on New Year’s Eve?” local developer Bob O Hill asked pals Dick and Jolene Engel. “We’ve got Oliver Stone, Kevin Costner, and an extra bedroom.”

Sorry, they had other plans.

Talk about social correctness. The Engels--he’s an opera buff, she’s an Angel of the Arts--plan to dine with friends at the Rex in Newport Beach on New Year’s Eve. They couldn’t disappoint them.

“I can’t believe I turned down an invitation to stay in the same house as Kevin Costner and Oliver Stone,” Jolene says. “But we couldn’t break our plans. Maybe next year. The invitation came too late.”

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Dick paled when Jolene said she’d sent regrets.

“He thinks I’m crazy,” Jolene says. “But we’ve talked it over, and the only way we would consider going is to put our friends on our plane and take off for Telluride together.”

As a society writer, I would have been hard-put to turn down O Hill, even it meant leaving my family behind . (They’d understand. They would want to hear all about it.)

I get a rush out of being where the hot party-action is (in this case, at the end-of-the-year-whirl that is sure to surround the producer and star of the controversial “JFK”).

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And, as I look back on 1991, I see it’s been a year packed with opportunity to do just that:

* There was the Century Plaza bash in June that saw President George Bush presenting Arnold Schwarzenegger with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s National Leadership Award. At a VIP reception, the President and Barbara Bush schmoozed with super novas Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone before attending a gala dinner in the ballroom. Here, we saw guard dogs sniffing for bombs as people sipped champagne with seeming nonchalance.

The evening’s most hilarious moment came when television actor Tony Danza introduced every bigwig on the dais but the President. “Boy, is my face red,” said the star of “Who’s the Boss?”

* I’ll never forget coming face to face with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at the Center Club in March before she dined grandly at a fest sponsored by Renee and Henry Segerstrom and the British Consulate. Her poise, gentle demeanor and graciousness took my breath away.

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After a brief reception, white-gloved waiters served salmon on toast points, filet of beef tenderloin, watercress and red grapefruit salad and chocolate Grand Marnier souffle. During the affair, Thatcher was presented with a bronze bust of former President Reagan on behalf of the Orange County Republican party.

* Seeing five United States Presidents and six First Ladies at the opening of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley in November was another breath-taker.

Mary Roosevelt, widow of James Roosevelt (the eldest son of F.D.R.) called the event “so lovely, I kept wanting to push a button to hold it; but you can’t do that--it just goes,” she said.

During the luncheon following the dedication, Roosevelt mingled with John F. Kennedy Jr. and his sister, Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg. “They were fascinated to learn about Jim’s friendship with their grandfather, Joseph Kennedy,” Roosevelt said.

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* There was the ultra-private luncheon in October at the Richard M. Nixon Library & Birthplace in Yorba Linda that feted Jihan Sadat, widow of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. During the meal, underwritten by hamburger king Carl Karcher (his fast food chain is headed for the Middle East, with Egypt designated as a choice franchise spot) Sadat spoke tenderly of her late husband: “I am praying to see peace so that what my husband started, gave his life for, will not be in vain.”

Other special moments: Seeing Placido Domingo become flustered when I (too abruptly) flashed my tape recorder. “Take it easy,” he chided. I did. . . . Watching George Burns puff madly on an El Producto cigar at the Center Club (where, generally, no smoking is permitted). . . . Huddling with Steve Allen in his hotel room before he appeared at the Center’s annual holiday Candlelight Concert and hearing him tell a Times photographer that if he got too close “neither of us will be happy with the picture.” . . . Hanging out with Michael Crawford after his performance at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre. It was a thrill to see “The Phantom of the Opera” backstage in blue jeans. . . . Talking to Carl Karcher about his donation of a hunk of the Berlin Wall to the Reagan Library. The word “free” is scrawled on its lower half. “It warms my heart to think it would always be there, reminding people of the joy of freedom,” Karcher said.

Happy New Year.


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