The Crowd: Winter social season is almost upon us

Summer is only just beginning, weather-wise that is, on the California Riviera. In spite of the sun's seasonal delay, the summer social calendar will end Sept. 10 with the lavish Oceana benefit at the Cahill estate high above the Laguna surf. Following time-honored tradition, the winter social season officially commences the following evening, Sept. 11, with the South Coast Repertory Gala. Organizers are billing the evening as "The Play's The Thing," which it has been for decades in Orange County

Chairing this season's extravaganza will be the incredible Sophie Cripe. Committee co-chairs are the amazing and beautiful duo of Olivia Johnson and Teri Kennady. The event promises to be the grand opener on the O.C. cultural calendar. Cripe, Johnson and Kennady will be joined by an all-star team of SCR devotes including Bette Aitken, Pam Muzzy, Elizabeth An, Betty Huang, Linda Hovee, Ashleigh Aitken, Beth Phelps and Laurie Smits Staude ensuring both financial success for SCR and a fabulous evening for the donors.

For those unfamiliar, the gala is one of the top five events of the entire year on the Orange Coast and it carries with it a reputation for superb creativity and incomparable excellence in every detail. It is one of the most important fundraisers of the year for SCR and its supporters are among the most influential and philanthropic citizens in the community. Most importantly, these people return, year after year, some dating to the founding, ready to help in whatever way possible. Among the generous committee members are Julianne Argyros, Toni Berlinger, Susan Bowman, Dede Brink, Donna Cohn, Yolanda De La Paz, Nadine Hall, Dee Higby, Pat Neisser, Michele Rohé, Nola Schneer, Elizabeth Segerstrom and Elaine Weinberg, to name only a select few.

This past week the gala committee threw a little summer pre-event cocktail party and dinner at the chic coastal residence of SCR Trustee Mary Ann Brown and her TV-host husband, Rick Reiff, of KOCE public television fame. The handsome setting greeted the crowd with a "white-carpet" entrance into the ocean-view estate enhanced by verdant orchids adorning the living room and terrace.

The floral creations were provided by Enzo, while Laguna's Mark's Catering handled the delicacies. SCR patroness and Newport Coast resident Danuta Schenke donated her own personal cabernet sauvignon from her vineyards to the delight of the crowd. Her exclusive "Danuta" label is sold in limited quantity in the finest stores.

On hand for the celebration was SCR board President Thomas Phelps and one of the two gents who have made SCR a community treasure, David Emmes and his wife, SCR Managing Director Paula Tomei. It was announced that O.C. philanthropist extraordinaire John Tu and his band, J.T. and the California Dreamin', are set to entertain at the Sept. 11 gala bringing applause from the patron party crowd.

Sharing in the fun were Jo Ellen Chatham, Ernie and Gail Doe, Jim and Jane Driscoll, Bob and Susan Ehrlich, Bob and Mimi Holcombe, Bill and Barbara Roberts, and Don Carnegie with Ardelle St. George.

So begins the 2010-11 social season on the Orange Coast. For SCR, it marks the coming of the 32nd annual ball, held this year at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. For more information, contact Madeline Porter at South Coast Repertory at (714) 708-5562 or and reserve a table or two!

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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