When the Dutch returned the salute of an American brig of war on Nov. 16, 1776, the Netherlands became the first foreign nation to recognize the sovereignty of the United States.
However, it wasn’t until 1991 that then-President George Bush established that date as Dutch-American Heritage Day, honoring the 8 million Americans of Dutch ancestry, nearly 100,000 of whom live in Southern California.
Since then, an annual black-tie dinner dance in Los Angeles to benefit the Netherlands-America Foundation Scholarship Fund has paid tribute to an outstanding Dutch-American. Past honorees include Walter Cronkite, state Supreme Court Justice Joyce Kennard, Joan Van Ark and Caltech’s Maarten Schmidt.
This year’s fete at Petersen Automotive Museum honored Dr. Willem J. Kolff, inventor of the artificial kidney, heart and lung. Life magazine has named him one of the 100 most important Americans of the 20th century.
Now retired and living in Pennsylvania, the 88-year-old Kolff says, “I still have much to do.”
Accompanied by Diana Carroll, 81, whom he called his “new young lady friend,” Kolff is also a man on a mission: the $3.5 million restoration of his old hospital in Kampen, Holland. It was there, in 1945, shortly before he immigrated to the U.S., that he constructed with his own funds and hands the world’s first successful artificial kidney from wooden slats, sausage casing, a Ford gear pump and a porcelain bathtub.
Armed with letters of American support organized by Glendale nephrologist Dr. John De Palma , Kolff was able to persuade the prideful burghers of Kampen to restore the landmark if the funds are raised by Jan. 1.
The Dutch treats for the party turned tricky when the five chefs from the Alliance Gastronomique Netherlandaise and their Royal Domains venison locked horns with the U.S. Department of Agriculture at LAX.
The feds wouldn’t release the meat, requiring a scramble to a local source who produced deer from Down Under. The menu for more than 100 included pea soup, bitterballen (meatballs), smoked eel, fresh herring and oh, yes . . . medallions of venison--served as strolling Dutch musicians played a tune roughly translated as “The Two Deer-like Eyes Looking at the Hunter.” (We skipped the entree.)
Performances by Stevie Wonder and the Hamilton High School Gospel Choir, baubles from Harry Winston, and a chance to win a Mercedes-Benz 320 Cabriolet were just some of the enticements at the Fulfillment Fund’s Stars of Tomorrow benefit gala at the Regent Beverly Wilshire on Nov. 18. Celebrating its 20th year of service to the youth of Los Angeles, this year’s black-tie soiree honoring Edgar Bronfman Jr., chief executive of the Seagram Co., raised $2.5 million. Elizabeth and Jim Wiatt chaired the evening, aided by dinner co-chairs Kelly Chapman and Ron Meyer, Monique and Doug Morris, and Kate Capshaw and Steven Spielberg.
Tinseltown’s A-list turned out in force for this bash: Barbara and Marvin Davis, Jeffrey Katzenberg, California First Lady Sharon Davis, and Courtney Love, who outbid Rupert Murdoch for the trip to Paris and two front-row seats at the Christian Dior spring show. Motown’s Berry Gordy snagged the Winston diamond and jawbreaker pearl earrings for a mere $42,500. And lucky Margaret Heymann took home the Benz.
Former vice-presidential hopeful Jack Kemp was back on the hustings in Los Angeles recently. But this time his campaign promise was in the form of a challenge: Kemp committed to help Habitat for Humanity build 100,000 homes if the Banking on the Future Program, sponsored by Operation Hope Inc., fulfills its goal of educating 100,000 inner-city youth in personal financial management in 20 cities by the end of 2000.
Kemp, who serves on the board of both organizations, made his pledge at Operation Hope’s third annual Banking on the Future Dinner at the Regal Biltmore Hotel. More than 600 attended, including John Bryant, chief executive of Operation Hope; Genethia Hayes, L.A. Unified School District board president; Meshach Taylor; Victoria Rowell; Daryl “Chill” Mitchell; Ron Brown; and Ed Moses.
Several local activists were honored: Bishop Charles E. Blake, pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ; “Sweet” Alice Harris, founder of Parents of Watts; Preston Martin, former vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank of Governors; Lyn Rinaldi, a teacher at Heliotrope Middle School; Murray Zoota, founder of the Banking on the Future Program; and Fidelity Federal Bank for its longtime corporate support.
Patt Diroll’s column will appear each week. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.