Head Strong

The event: Damas de Caridad's 37th Bal Masque, an Orange County tradition in which women parade in huge, flowery headdresses. Held Saturday at the Anaheim Hilton and Towers, the ball drew 450 guests and raised funds for St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton.

Balancing act: With a theme of "Let's Play," eight mannequins--as the models are called--waltzed down the runway in 6-foot-tall headdresses. The mannequins balanced everything from a pair of iridescent dolphins to a potted plant on their heads. The floral creations weighed about 30 pounds each and were supported by a special brace that distributes the weight to the women's hips. "If the [headdresses] are balanced right, it's not hard at all. It's like lugging around your grandchildren," said Irene McCormick, ball chairwoman and a past mannequin.

On their toes: Mannequins performed a three-minute dance routine while sporting their headgear. Watchful floor men stood along the runway to help prevent spills. "The first impression you have when you put on a headdress is sheer terror that you'll tip it over," said Corrine Adams, a first-time mannequin.

Adams had no problems on the runway: Her headdress, titled "Imagine That," a towering orchid created by designer Frank Garcia, received the Sweepstakes Award. Entries were judged by their artistic and technical merits and how well the mannequins performed.

Quote: "We've supported the pediatric van for many years. It helps children who are less fortunate by supplying them with medical and dental care that they wouldn't otherwise have," said Shirley Kerstner, Damas president.

Bottom line: The $185-per-person ball was expected to net $75,000. Proceeds will go to the hospital's mobile pediatric unit, the Virginia K. Crosson Cancer Center and for renovation of the intensive-care and coronary-care units.

Faces: Mary Katherine Coovert, who modeled the "Island Girl" masque, winner of the first runner-up award; Leslie Chambers, who wore the "Playtime at Carnevale" masque, second runner-up; and Joni Hutain, who was Madame Butterfly for "A Night at the Opera"--the People's Choice. Other mannequins were: Maria Xanthos, Ginny Ripslinger, Sharon Haight and Vicki Crow. Judging the masques were Tom Simmons, Susan Standerfer and Donna Wallace.

For information: Damas, a support group of the St. Jude Memorial Foundation: (714) 992-3033.

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