Opera Pacific supporters traded their lorgnettes and chocolates for binoculars and popcorn on Saturday when they joined 50,000 music-lovers--Frank Sinatra, among them--for the historic "Encore! The Three Tenors!" concert at Dodger Stadium.
Zipping to Los Angeles via the Orange Blossom Bus Line, members of Opera Pacific's Viva Guild sampled box suppers containing Italian chicken and tiramisu before taking their seats--some as pricey as $300 each--to watch Jose Carreras, Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti join conductor Zubin Mehta for the Southern California reprise of their precedent-setting 1990 Rome concert.
Guild members were stunned by the transformation of Dodger Stadium. On view, instead of the usual baseball diamond and blinking scoreboard: hundreds of stately palm trees, twin rock waterfalls 48-feet high, 20 classical columns and a painted backdrop of lush valleys.
Julia Rappaport, for one, was confused by the juxtaposition of palms with classical columns. "Rome?" she wondered. And then looking at the roaring waterfalls: "Yosemite?"
No matter. The whole thing was out of this world.
Thrilling the crowd with classical favorites such as "Vesti La Giubba," "Ave Maria" and "Nessun Dorma," the tenors also gave their California audience a medley they could hum along with (and some did) when they performed "A Tribute to Hollywood."
With boyish pleasure the tenors delivered, "Singing in the Rain," (at which audience member Gene Kelly took a bow), "Moon River," "Be My Love," "All I Ask of You," "My Way" (with a nod from Sinatra) and more. "I wish they'd sing 'Some Enchanted Evening,' " said Andy Cies, who attended the concert with his wife, Leslie, and children Jenny and Andrew.
They didn't. But the tenors gave the opera buffs something that kept them coming back to their seats: encore after encore after encore.
"I can't believe it," said a wide-eyed tour organizer Buck Buchanan, guild chairman. "They have given us so much."
Also on the trip were Karen Hardin and Carole Follman (who opted to take a limo to the event: "Our husbands are salmon fishing in Alaska, so we thought we'd treat ourselves," Follman said), Bill and Laila Conlin, Ed McGrath, Janet Curci, Maxine Gibson, Donna Bunce and Ed McGrath.
Richard M. Nixon Tribute: In a West Coast first, the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace re-created a White House-style state dinner in tribute to the 37th President of the United States. The price tag? A whopping $2,500 per person.
Guests--who included Nixon's brother Ed Nixon, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Gov. Pete Wilson and his wife, Gayle, Bob and Dolores Hope, and Gene and Jackie Autry--mingled on a hillock near Richard and Pat Nixon's memorial sites, sipping libations and sampling appetizers, before entering the Yorba Linda library for a sit-down repast prepared by Henry Haller, former White House executive chef.
Arriving by a helicopter, Dole mingled with guests who also included Judy and George Argyros (chairman of the library's Legacy of Peace campaign), Caroline Ahmanson and Arco Chairman Lod Cook before they dined on Colorado mountain smoked trout, sorrel soup, California pink grapefruit sorbet, stuffed veal loin and orange mousse embellished with a chocolate presidential seal. The menu for the "Architect of Peace" tribute duplicated one prepared at a 1970 state dinner for Nixon and French President Georges Pompidou.
During the reception, Dole noted that the library was the one presidential library that is privately funded. "So, it's very important that we preserve it, " he said. (Later, during his address, Dole told the black-tie crowd: "The more time I spend in presidential libraries, the more I wonder how one would look in Russell, Kan.," his hometown).
Of Nixon's quest for peace, Dole said: "He really believed in it . . . he took all of those trips to Russia and China and other places because he believed in it--didn't want anymore conflict for the next generations.
"I think we have to be strong too. We have to have a strong defense. We're not looking for anything, don't want any territory. But the world has to know we are carrying a pretty heavy load. We are the leaders of the free world; nobody else out there is equipped to do it."
Since Nixon's death in April, Ed Nixon has tried to carry on his brother's legacy. "Peace is what tonight is all about," said Nixon, a geologist who came from Washington state for the affair. "Since my brother's passing, I've traveled and I'm planning to do more in keeping with the mission he has charged us all with, to get out in the world and stir it up--try to show them where the bear went through the buckwheat, because they don't seem to be able to see it."
Hope and Autry were inseparable during the cocktail reception. Sitting at a small table near the Nixon birthplace, they reminisced and talked of peace. "I knew the late President for many years," said Autry, who sported nugget-and-diamond studs on his formal shirt (and a galaxy of red, white and blue stars on the lining of his jacket.) "I was here with him a few years ago . . . it's nice to come back and see the library again."
Said Hope: "I think people are getting smarter about the need for working on bringing peace to the world. We need to pray hard for peace; it would be a wonderful thing for all of us."
Also among guests: Peter and Mary Muth; Betty Hutton Williams; Clara Jane Nixon (widow of Richard Nixon's late brother, Don); Maurice Stans, who was secretary of commerce in the Nixon Administration (and who was honored at the event for his ardent fund-raising on behalf of the library); Dr. Howard House; Mary Ann and Lon Wells; Paul and Virginia Knott Bender; Chapman College President James Doti and his wife, Lynn; Bruce and Pam Nestande; and Glen and Dotti Stillwell.