Never mind the replica of an 88-foot blue whale that provided the backdrop for dinner or the real Queen Mary silhouetted against the horizon at the alfresco cocktail reception.
For the more than 300 guests attending the Aquarium of the Pacific's annual Ocean Conservation Awards Gala in Long Beach, all eyes were on a tiny weedy sea dragon named Big Daddy.
In past weeks, Big Daddy--an 8-inch Australian native that is a cousin to the sea horse--has had 29 babies at the aquarium, the first such deliveries in captivity in North America.
"Sea dragons are very rare in the wild, so to have birth of these animals in an aquarium is a landmark event," a spokesman said.
Also on view at the benefit, where even the divers wore black tie: a 350,000-gallon tropical reef habitat showcasing zebra sharks and puffer fish, and a hands-on tide-pool discovery lab filled with sea stars and urchins.
After dining in the aquarium's Great Hall on beef tenderloin and wild Alaska salmon, guests watched as conservation awards were handed out to Bob Malone, Western regional president of British Petroleum, and Barbara A. Block, a marine scientist with the Tuna Research and Conservation Center at Stanford University.
Gross proceeds of about $280,000 will benefit the aquarium's education and conservation programs, including a new Aquarium on Wheels for schoolchildren who are not able to visit the facility due to distance or lack of funds.
"Our outreaches extend to inner-city kids who have never seen the Pacific Ocean," said Los Angeles lawyer Jennifer Hagle, event co-chair with Stephen Olson and Lynne M. Preslo. "We bus them in, and their response is incredible."
Guests at last weekend's party included former California Gov. George Deukmejian, state Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), state Sen. Betty Karnette, aquarium board chairman Russell Hill and board member Tom Turney.
Hispanic Playwrights Premiere
Supporters of South Coast Repertory's 16th annual Hispanic Playwrights Project attended the premiere of "California Scenarios," a suite of short plays inspired by the state's Latino heritage.
About 100 theatergoers assembled at the Isamu Noguchi Sculpture Garden in Costa Mesa to view the works of writers Luis Alfaro, Joann Farias, Jose Cruz Gonzales, Anne Garcia-Romero and Octavio Solis.
"I feel like I've come home," said San Francisco's Solis, author of SCR's annual Christmas play, "La Posada Magica." During the production, underwritten by CommonWealth Partners Management Services, theater buffs picked up their chairs to move to four locales in the garden created by the renowned Japanese sculptor nearly 20 years ago.
"This space is incredibly theatrical, demands theater," said Juliette Carrillo, director of the project developed by SCR to increase the visibility of work by U.S. Latino playwrights. "This marks the first time we've done an off-site performance. I've been eyeing these gardens for a long time."
El Torito Grill hosted last weekend's post-performance party, where guests sipped icy margaritas as they schmoozed with project participants.
Arts philanthropist Jeanette Segerstrom, an owner of the upscale South Coast Plaza mall in Costa Mesa, was honored by Opera Pacific at its "Aegean Odyssey"-themed gala last weekend in Newport Beach.
About 500 guests dined on Greek fare and danced to the music of Les Brown and his Band of Renown at the event sponsored by the opera company's Gold Ring Society of Founders.
Proceeds will go toward Opera Pacific's Resident Artist Program, a training ground for young singers. Co-chairs Renee and William Adler were assisted by Della and John Keipp.
Patt Diroll is on vacation. Information for Social Circuits can be directed to her in Los Angeles or Ann Conway in Orange County. Diroll is at firstname.lastname@example.org; Conway at (714) 966-5952 or, by fax, (714) 966-7790.