The Crowd: Oasis gala is full of laughs

The Newport-Mesa community rallied in grand spirit Nov. 12 to officially welcome the Oasis Senior Center. The Friends of Oasis Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality services to the senior population, invited local citizens to dinner and a performance by the legendary Debbie Reynolds. It was nothing short of a spectacular opening night gala for the center, and the crowd turned out en force to honor all of the folks who made it happen.

The big event, billed as "Discover Oasis," was chaired by local legend Evelyn Hart, for whom the new main auditorium at Oasis is named. Many in attendance commented on how appropriate it was to have Reynolds, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," inaugurate the center made possible in great part through the efforts of the indefatigable and totally unsinkable Hart, who has served the Newport-Mesa community for decades with unselfish dedication to the betterment of community life for all. Hart was joined in the gala effort by two additional community "givers" Sharyn Buffa and Pam Curry.

Buffa was busy with the details, including corralling her humorist husband and former Costa mayor, Peter Buffa, into handling the master of ceremonies duties. Buffa, as always, was hysterical, keeping the overflow crowd in stitches.

There was only one comic in his league, none other than the super-charged Reynolds, who delivered an hourlong tour-de-force of song, dance, career clips, ad-lib and rehearsed zingers. In particular, the 78-year-old beauty, who landed her first big film role in "Singin' in the Rain" at age 16, had a field day making jokes with all of the public figures in attendance.

Prior to her performance, waiting backstage, Reynolds overheard Buffa listing the dignitaries in the audience, referring to each one as "the honorable" so and so. Every chance she got Reynolds wanted to know just who was honorable and who was not. The audience was in the palm of her hand.

Some of the "honorables" were state Sen. Tom Harman, Supervisor John Moorlach, Newport Beach Mayor Keith Curry and Councilman-elect Rush Hill. Dr. Richard Afable, CEO of Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, was also honored for his dedication to the Oasis project by Friends of Oasis President Scott Paulsen.

Hoag was a major underwriter of the event along with the city of Newport Beach, Park Newport Apartments, Belmont Village and The Balboa Bay Club & Resort, to name only a few. Major support from community activists made a big difference.

Among the generous were Donna and David Shockley, C.W. Driver, Bob Coffee, David Barth, and caterer Annie Morgan of Tastebuds. Morgan prepared and served a Hawaiian-themed dinner in keeping with the mai tais in half coconut shells. Morgan also designed the table florals, which were exquisite.

Spotted in the crowd, and working hard for Oasis, were Newport's own "fisherwoman" extraordinaire Lyn Cathcart, Cheryl Kosky, Lido Isle's lovely Jeannie Price with husband, Joe Price, and Ellyn Snowden, Tim Stoaks, John Whitney, Ed Romeo, Carol and Henry Schielein, Marilyn and Everett Gust, Lilly and David Dabov and Nancy and Jack Wright.

The Oasis Center is considered one of the finest community resources of its kind in the nation with city officials nationwide traveling to Newport Beach to examine the facility. The community is invited to visit the center, 801 Narcissus, Corona del Mar. For more information, call (949) 718-1800.

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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