An Evening’s Storytelling Magic, for Adults Only

Desert dwellers who are supporters of the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana gathered Saturday night for storytelling, Kidseum-style.

The party host was Frank Arensberg of The Vintage Club in Indian Wells, whose recent donation of $100,000 to the Bowers’ new Kidseum--a facility aimed at exposing kids to cultural art--resulted in its storytelling room being named for him.

After the guests, who are members of the museum’s Fellows support group, enjoyed a cocktail reception and buffet, they settled back in Arensberg’s art-filled home to hear museum docent Dottie Weingarten weave the kind of magical tales she usually tells children.

“There was a time when there were no stories in the world,” she said, lowering her throaty voice as she began to tell one of the Ananse spider stories that are so popular in the Caribbean and West Africa.


“And Ananse, the spider, wanted to get the golden box of stories” kept near a king’s throne in the sky. So “he wove a web,” she said, “and asked the king what he would accept for his stories. . . . “

Guests, who included former Fluor Corp. chief David Tappan and his wife, Jeanne, sat transfixed as Weingarten continued with tales from New Guinea, Australia and Nigeria.

Occasionally, she used an African drum for emphasis. Often, she reached upward, twisting her body, which she had adorned in African beads, and then lowered herself as she spoke, helping the audience “see” her stories’ mood and characters.

“We have this kind of storytelling every Saturday and Sunday at the Kidseum,” Weingarten said before she entertained guests. “They are stories written by the people, passed down through the ages.”


During dessert, Tappan said he was “thrilled” to attend such an event. “I think this shows that some of the old-fashioned ways of entertainment are still valid,” he said. “This is what it should be about--good old-fashioned down-to-earth human values.”

Museum supporter Harriet Harris agreed. “The stories sparked my imagination,” she said. “I want my grandchildren to hear them. They made me realize that everything isn’t ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella.’ There are cultures with fabulous stories and parables to tell.”

Arensberg, a private investor who also has a home in Newport Beach, mingled with guests, smiling. “I think children should be exposed to the cultural stories of the world,” he confided. “We have that blasted television. We need to expose kids to real storytelling.”

Also among the guests were: Ben Harris, Mary Anne and Norbert Mang, Anne and Ed Rittenhouse, Mimi Roberts, Peter Keller, director of the Bowers Museum, and Pat House, the museum’s director of development.


Having a ball: Details of the Pacific Symphony’s June 10 gala at the Hyatt Regency Irvine were revealed Wednesday during a cocktail reception at Tiffany & Co. at South Coast Plaza.

“The ball will be sophisticated, cool and nostalgic,” said “Symphony of Jewels” chairwoman Jo Ellen Qualls, a Tiffany & Co. veep, who will be assisted by Pat Weiss.

Now, when Qualls says “cool,” she’s not talking hip. She’s talking cool as in ice , and that means diamonds. Watch for Tiffany sparklers to be on the auction block and on the lithe models (one, a Holly Golightly look-alike--pearls, cigarette holder and all) who will showcase jewels during a Champagne reception.


Qualls and her committee plans to play off the “ice” theme by decorating the reception area with ice carvings shaped like musical instruments. And when guests sweep through the ballroom doors to be seated for dinner, vapors from blocks of dry ice will float in the air.

Sharing the entertainment bill will be soprano Dale Kristien (who played Christine opposite Michael Crawford’s Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera”) and cellist Timothy Landauer of the Pacific Symphony.

Up for raffle will be $60,000 worth of vacation trips to Africa, New Zealand and Egypt donated by symphony benefactor Mel Dultz, president of Travcoa of Newport Beach.

“We cater to two kinds of clientele,” said Dultz, who founded his company in 1954. “People who continuously want to see new things . . . and those who want to travel in unbelievable luxury.”

The black-tie ball for 600 guests will cost $175 per person.


Hearing from Lassie’s ‘mom': Television and movie actress June Lockhart--"General Hospital,” “Lassie,” “Lost in Space"--appeared before members of the Crescendo Chapter of the Guilds of the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa last week to tell fans how she got started in the motion picture business. The appearance was part of the chapter’s annual celebrity lecture series.

Being the daughter of actor Gene Lockhart, “the judge in the old version of ‘The Miracle on 34th Street,’ ” helped, she told guests at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana. His guidance was invaluable when she studied acting and subsequently appeared in her first movie, “All This and Heaven Too,” with Bette Davis.


“I’ll bet you’re all thinking, ‘My gosh, I grew up with her,’ ” said the 60-ish Lockhart, laughing. “I had a very old man say that to me once and I thought, ‘In a pig’s eye!’ ”

What question is she most frequently asked? “How come I look so good,” she answered. Her stock answer: “ Maintenance .”


Off-site bash for SCR patrons: Members of South Coast Repertory’s Silver Circle got together at the theater’s Production Center--a facility two miles from the theater that houses costumes and props--on Wednesday to play “Name That Production.”

The game got theater buffs who donate a minimum of $500 annually guessing which costumes and props came from which play. (Up for laughs: Stanley’s pj’s from “A Streetcar Named Desire.”)

For a $30 contribution, guests also got to sign the facility’s Shining Stars wall. When the wall contributions got to $1,000, Silver Circle donor Rita Guariello agreed to match it with another $1,000 donation.

South Coast Repertory’s annual gala, the launch of its theater season, will be Sept. 23. Chairwoman Marilyn Lynch and her committee are calling it “Let’s Misbehave.” Anything can happen. Stay tuned.