R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Black and White Party Is No Gray Affair : Party-Goers Find Creative Ways to Stand Out at Newport Harbor Art Museum Benefit

More than 1,000 party-goers who attended the Newport Harbor Art Museum’s fourth annual Black and White Bash on Saturday proved that clothes don’t have to be colorful to be creative.

Almost everyone followed the black-and-white only dress code for the outdoor dinner-dance at the Neiman Marcus courtyard in Fashion Island Newport Beach. The bash is one of the social scene’s better bargains. For $50 a person, guests enjoyed live music and a buffet dinner provided by 18 local restaurants, and still raised about $40,000 in net proceeds for the Newport Beach museum.

True Colors

“Usually I can’t get my friends to come to an event for love or money. This one, they come. It’s a hoot,” said Susan Porter, event chairwoman. “The best part is seeing what people wear. We’re talking really creative black and white.”


When first held four years ago, many people didn’t understand the black and white concept, she said. Many mistook the bash for a black-tie gala, and only half showed up in black and white.

This year, all but a couple of holdouts followed the museum’s fashion credo that anything goes, as long as it isn’t in color. The black-and-white styles ranged from shorts and T-shirts to velvet gowns.

“It’s kind of fun being restricted in your colors,” said Sheri Newcomer, who chose a slinky black dress and matching gloves for the occasion. “It forces you to be creative.”

Robyn and Erika Ray looked like karate kids in contrasting black and white gees (those traditional workout robes worn in martial arts). Party-goer Marsha Marengo was a fuss of polka dots and stripes, wearing a strapless cocktail dress with a short ruffled skirt and black and white striped gloves. Kristine Thomas looked like a naughty schoolgirl in a short black skirt, matching vest, beret and knee socks.


“There was no rhyme or rhythm” to the ensemble, Thomas said.

Black and White All Over

Guests spent the evening eyeballing each other’s outfits while visiting food stations set up all along the courtyard.

Michael Kang, menu coordinator and owner of Five Feet in Laguna Beach, encouraged chefs to prepare black and white specialties. Among the offerings: ebony pasta with calamari dressing from Farmers Market in Fashion Island; chilled black bean soup with white bean salsa and black and white tortellini with Chinese black bean vinaigrette from Five Feet; flourless chocolate cake from Antoine at Le Meridien, and Tutto Mare’s Italian pastry rolled with chocolate and creme.


Throughout the night models posed in the latest black and white styles from I. Magnin and jugglers in black and white face makeup strolled through the crowd performing tricks. Dancing to live music by Stonebridge rounded out the evening.

Proceeds will benefit the museum’s exhibition and education programs. Big changes are in store for the museum in the coming year, said Joan Beall, president of the museum board of trustees. The museum will double in size by moving its administrative offices and classrooms into the recently vacated library next door, giving more space to the permanent and traveling exhibits.

Faces in the crowd included Gene White, event chairman, who sported black shorts and a white shirt; Michael Botwinick, museum director; Darren Calkins; Chris Collett; Bev Diamond; Alison Frenzel; Bill Griffin; Jan and Annette Harzan; Carl and Pat Neisser; Tom and Marilyn Nielsen; Michael Porter and Lorie Dewhirst Porter; Harold and Sandy Price; Jim and Joanne Rollans; Robert and Margaret Sprague; Jennifer Van Bergh, and Ernesto and Socorro Vasquez.