Blue-Ribbon Affair : 600 Celebrate 25th Anniversary and $28 Million in Fund Raising

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Blue Ribbon of the Music Center was frilled and tied up in bows Friday evening at the Beverly Hilton. It was a pretty package as more than 600 members and escorts celebrated a 25th anniversary and $28 million in fund-raising.

Ribboned banners attached to the chandeliers crisscrossed the ballroom, anchored on blue-plaid tablecloths set with five-foot arrangements of white dogwood surrounded by golden pears.

"Say 18-karat," said one gentleman.

Indeed, the night was 18-karat. Make that pure gold.

"Sandy wanted this to be perfect," said one committee member, referring to President Sandra Ausman. A blue-ribbon gala committee guaranteed it, including Joni Smith and Nancy Mishkin, who demanded perfection in the ballroom design by Pat Ryan of Party Planners West. Other taste-makers on the committee: Anne Johnson, Patti Skouras, Robin Parsky, Mary Milner, Susie Barker, Phyllis Hennigan, Dona Kendall, Betty Ann Koen, Joan Hotchkis, Peggy Grauman, Joy Fein, Debbie Lanni, Joan Selwyn, Mary Weir and Annette O'Malley.

The presence of Blue Ribbon's founding Chairman Dorothy B. Chandler was felt all evening. The William Draper portrait of her in a white ball gown hangs at The Founders of the Music Center. The painting was reproduced on the first page of the gala program and appeared in the reunion video, which portrayed highlights of Blue Ribbon history, including the luncheon at Virginia Ramo's Bel-Air home where Chandler launched the group.

Chandler's daughter-in-law, Bettina Chandler, wife of Times Mirror Co. Director Otis Chandler, brought greetings, noting that last week Buff Chandler celebrated her 92nd birthday.

"I really feel Mrs. Chandler's presence here tonight," said Helen Wolford, the first Blue Ribbon president, who flew from Maui with her husband, Richard, for the occasion. "That lady made this city turn around. The Music Center would never have happened without her--and Norman. He supported everything she did and was so proud of her."

The night was all about commitment to the Unified Fund, service to the community and the fact that working together builds lasting friendships.

And there were some misty reunion moments. Particularly when past Blue Ribbon presidents joined Ausman for a photograph: Helen Wolford, Maggie Wetzel, Nancy Livingston, Keith Kieschnick and Joanne Kozberg.

"I think of all my friendships that I wouldn't have made without Blue Ribbon," Wetzel said.

Several at the gala spanned all the name changes of Blue Ribbon: The Blue Ribbon 400; The Amazing Blue Ribbon; and now, the Blue Ribbon. Original members included Flora Thornton, Marion Jorgensen, Vi Nason, Harriet Deutsch and Ernestine Avery. Said Jorgensen, "With Buffy behind it, I knew this group would be good."

What to wear had been widely discussed. Bows won out. Phyllis Hennigan's yellow net Chanel was bowed in black, Joni Smith's Bill Blass nasturtium chiffon had a bow at the hip, Liz Anderson's daring black chiffon was bowed at the back waist, Susie Barker's Zandra Rhodes silk was hand-printed with delicate bows.

Bows, too, made their appearance in the first-course, bow pasta, and the last, boxes iced with blue ribbon and filled with chocolate mousse. And bows tied up the magnificently iced three-tiered, flowered cake presented with all the founding presidents on stage.

The stunning ball gowns were the topic of conversation.

Helen Lambros was in a Galanos of burgundy-and-gold leopard spots, Marion Jorgensen in a black layered ("I've had this forever") Galanos.

Chase Mishkin chose her best Fortuny print; Gloria Holden and Debbie Lanni were close look-alikes in black-and-white polka-dotted and striped Escadas; Alyce Williamson was in hand-beaded lace; Dody Booth in sea-foam chiffon; Frani Ridder, a mass of flowers.

Blue Ribbon honored Iris and Gerald Cantor and Kenneth and Harlyne Norris.

The Cantors have been major donors to the Music Center, and the Norris Foundation has made major gifts to the Blue Ribbon so that 500,000 children could be introduced to the arts through the Children's Holiday Festival.

Before guests exited with Tiffany pens, they crowded the dance floor to dance to Reunion, a rebirth of The Lettermen.

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