Classically Trained: Boys chorus gives its regards to Hollywood

I spotted James Dean mingling among the crowd on Saturday night. With a cigarette behind his ear and sporting the iconic black leather jacket, he was selling tickets. With a cause.

He was among the 200 attendees supporting the All-American Boys Chorus at their seventh annual fall gala, "Hooray for Hollywood." The event, which raised about $19,000 at the Mile Square Golf Course and Banquet Center in Fountain Valley, is the second largest fundraiser of the year for the Costa Mesa-based choir.

Jim Corbett, of San Juan Capistrano, slicked his hair back to become the rebellious 1950s cultural icon. He was helping support his 11-year-old son, Casey, a second tenor with the choir. When asked how he got chosen to be James Dean, he joked: "Rita Hayworth told me to do it."

It turns out Rita Hayworth (aka Rita M. Pipta) was instrumentally important for the gala, serving as chairwoman of the fall gala committee. Helping with the entrance and auction — with several tables' worth of items donated by organizations including Mimi's Café, the Pacific Symphony, Hof's Hut and the Laguna Playhouse — were Huntington Beach resident Carl Zoellner and his 16 volunteers from the Foresters, an international service organization.

The Fullerton College Big Band helped ready the crowd as the doors opened by playing "Hooray for Hollywood" and other showtime standards like "In the Mood," "As Time Goes By" and "Take the 'A' Train."

After the silent auctions were finished, the boys came out on stage dressed in their concert attire of red suit jackets and white shirts. The 30-minute concert included Disney tunes "Be Our Guest" and "Circle of Life," "What a Wonderful World" and "West Side Story" — snapping fingers included as the boys squared off as the Jets and Sharks.

It was a momentous evening for six of the boys. After tests and extensive musical preparation, they graduated into the ranks of the performing choir. Saturday was their first concert.

One of the first-timers was 9-year-old Alan Rodriguez, of Fullerton.

"I was kind of nervous," he said after the performance. "But I liked it, too."

He said his favorite song was "Circle of Life" because when he "was little" — all of four years ago at age 5 — "The Lion King" was one of his favorite movies.

Alan's mom, Maria Elena Rodriguez, chimed in with some of young Alan's musician résumé, like his early beginnings singing with his elementary school buddies and impersonations of Michael Jackson and Elvis in a talent show. I think Alan's early success singing "I'll Be There" is just a sign of more success to come.

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at

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