A cigar-chomping Ted Danson, the toast of numerous Hollywood bashes since the final taping of "Cheers," made a splash at the Fourth Annual Waterman's Ball staged Saturday by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Assn.
Danson showed up at the California Scenario Sculpture Gardens in Costa Mesa to support a favorite cause--protecting the ocean. Proceeds from the ball were expected to top $75,000 and will go to three environmental groups--the American Oceans Campaign founded by Danson, the Orange County Marine Institute and the Surfrider Foundation. A sellout crowd of about 750 paid $100 each to attend the dinner-dance.
The Long Goodby
Danson took time out from a hectic round of "Cheers" farewell parties because "SIMA has donated a lot of money to the American Oceans Campaign, so I'm here to return the favor."
Asked why he cares so passionately about the ocean, Danson responded with the kind of quip typical of his TV character Sam the bartender: "I kind of like swimming in it."
Wherever Danson went, a crowd of curious party-goers followed. Ann Sebek, wife of Quiksilver vice president Jeff Sebek, shook Danson's hand.
"I just wanted to thank you for all the laughs," she said. "We're going to miss you."
Danson, who was among the crowd's more conservative dressers in a navy blazer and gray pants, handled the hoopla good-naturedly.
"I'm an out-of-work actor now," he said. "Since 'Cheers' ended, I've been thriving on the nostalgia."
Event organizers attributed the huge turnout to Danson's appearance and a more relaxed setting.
"This is not your typical black-tie function," said Tom Knapp, president of SIMA and the ball co-chairman. "It's the people. In the past we've said black tie, and that just doesn't ever work."
The reason: many guests are leaders in the beach lifestyle apparel business--a notoriously casual bunch.
"In the past this has been more formal. We've held it in a ballroom. This year it's relaxed. There's no dress code and it's outdoors," said Randy Hild, ball chairman, who sported a red Hawaiian shirt with his beige suit jacket. "A lot of surfers don't wear coats and ties."
This year the invitations called for creative dress. Guys wore everything from tuxedo jackets, baggy shorts and flip-flops to Hawaiian shirts and blue jeans; women wore endless variations of the little black dress. After the sun went down and a cool wind blew through the sculpture garden, women hovered near the gas heaters like moths at a flame.
Instead of a sit-down dinner, guests could sample from buffet stations set up in the garden and eat at long tables that featured cut-off surfboards as centerpieces. The eclectic fare included lobster tamales, fettuccine with Alfredo or marinara sauce, oysters and shrimp cocktails, made-to-order quesadillas, and chocolate enchiladas for dessert, the handiwork of Specialty Catering.
After dinner Danson presented the first-ever Waterman's award to Hobie Alter, the surf industry pioneer who invented the Hobie Cat and helped change the shape of surfboards.
Alter marveled at the growth and influence of the industry since he started making boards in 1949.
"There was a day when we got excited to see the word surfing in print in the newspaper," Alter said. "We were just a little group at the beach. Then the 'Gidget' movie came along and it went national."
The environmental groups benefiting from the event each focus on a different aspect of preserving the ocean, Knapp said.
The American Oceans Campaign works with Congress to create and pass clean water protection legislation; Surfrider Foundation of San Clemente is a grass-roots organization dedicated to environmental conservation, and the Orange County Marine Institute of Dana Point promotes environmental and science education.
Among those attending were Jimmy Olmes, vice president of SIMA, and his wife Dana; Tony Casella, ball co-chairman; legendary surfer Greg Noll; actor Gregory Harrison; Stan Cummings; Kelly Gerard; Tim Bernardy; Nancy Bercaw; Steve Pezman; Bob Mignogna; Danna Lewis-Gordon; Roger Werner; Mossimo Giannulli; Mandy Chappell; Shaun Stussy; Steve Timmons; Gregory Harrison; Michael Tomson; Bob McKnight; Caroline Wright; Bob Hurley; Mark Price, and Tim Bessell.