Our Laguna: Seniors get decked out in their finest for annual ball

Retired City Manager Ken Frank was honored March 25 by Laguna Beach Seniors Inc., but he had to be coerced into accepting the fifth annual Legacy Award.

"The award is presented to people who have left a lasting legacy to our town," said Seniors President Chris Quilter. "When I approached Ken, his reply was a big sigh and, 'Oh God!' So I played my trump card. 'It's for the seniors,'" I said, and he caved."

Never one to seek the limelight, Frank said he appreciated the honor but was embarrassed.

"I got paid," Frank said.

He said the honor belonged to volunteers.

"There are a lot of people here who donated their time, and they should be recognized," Frank said.

New Susi Q Executive Director Nadia Babayi made sure they were, thanking the ball committee and volunteers who worked on the event: Zac Brewer, Ganka Brown, Diane Brashier, Doris Bui-Bender, Cheryl Everhart, Karen Gaither, Beverly Holt, Jheri St. James, Christina Monerastelli, Valerie Neidig, Lynda Sharp, Wynne Tapely, Edie Tonkon, Mai Vu and Phyllis Wilson.

But the night belonged to Frank.

Ball attendees gave him a standing ovation, paying $200 each for the privilege, which included a contribution to the programs and services that benefit Laguna's seniors.

The event netted $75,000.

As usual, the ball was one of Laguna's most glamorous events.

"We don't get a chance to get this dressed up very often so when we do, we go all out," said Councilwoman Elizabeth Pearson — looking very Marilyn Monroe in a black, strapless silk gown with a demi-train.

Emily Quilter accessorized her white tiered dress with a ring and diamond watch that belonged to her mother's mother, and a diamond and platinum pin from her father's mother, the late Elizabeth Quilter, for whom the senior center was named — Susi Q was her pen name as a columnist for the Coastline Pilot.

Darrcy Loveland Bickel, who will be leaving the Seniors' board of directors this year, wore a vintage silk and lace jacket.

She was also on the event committee and with her husband, Duane, an underwriter.

Karen McBride, also an underwriter, with her husband, Jim, kept warm with a marabou jacket. Kris Thalman, who recently retired as executive director of the Orange County affiliate of the Building Industries Assn., wore a long, silky burgundy sheath that she had worn to her first association installation dinner.

Martha Lydick showed off her new amber evening bag from Just Looking in the Lumberyard Mall.

Carol Reynolds sparkled in a jacket embroidered in colorful metallic thread. An admirer of Frank's, she was also there to applaud the South Coast Swing dance band conducted by her old boss, Bill Foster.

City Clerk Martha Anderson's blue dress complimented her blue, blue eyes.

Mayor Toni Iseman opted for a black dress. Former Mayor Kathleen Blackburn chose black pants and a beaded top. Nancy Frank was trim in a black pantsuit.

Many of the male guests wore black dinner suits, including Councilman Kelly Boyd.

Boyd and his wife, Michelle, gowned in rust velveteen, were the honorary chairs of the ball.

The event included the inevitable live and silent auctions — the live one made more enjoyable by Bree Burgess Rosen's ability to cajole bidders — even when they were bidding to donate money.

She also opened the festivities with her patented a capella rendition of the "The Star Spangled Banner" and performed with the No Square Singers.

Judge John Adams, who escorted his mother, Marge, to the ball, was a featured speaker. He expressed his admiration for the Susi Q.

"It was designed for people to get together," he said. "Ever since it opened, my mother has been a fixture there. We are here tonight to say thank you."

Past Seniors President Skipper Lynn spoke of what the group has meant to her.

"When I wound up here 20 years ago, I knew exactly no one," she said. "I want to join something so I went to lunch on Legion Street [the former senior center] and I found so many people I really, really liked."

She also found out the seniors wanted to build a center.

'We worked and worked and we begged and begged for money," Lynn said. "And we got the Susi Q, and I am so happy. Thank you, Laguna Beach."

Thanks should also go to Liz Quilter's four sons: Charlie, Chris, Matt and Pat. They donated $750,000 to the building fund. And Charlie's wife, Ann Quilter, co-chaired the capital campaign that raised the rest.

The ball is the center's major fundraiser, which the Quilters also helped to underwrite this year.

Other underwriters included the Doreen and Lee Butler family, Trigg and Vicki Gumm, Mission Hospital of Laguna Beach, Faye & Rich Photography, Black Iris, Ralphs Grocery Co., last year's honorees, Ken Jillson and Al Roberts, Langlois Frozen Foods, Jill and Steven Edwards, Peter Kote, Vivien and Dr. Gene Levin, Carole Zavala, Jean and Bob Arovas, former center Executive Director Bea Field, Tina and Warren Haines, J. C. Flowers and Co., Soroptimist International of Laguna Beach and Rolf Uitzetter and Pamela Horowitz, who also donated to the live auction.

Many of the underwriters donated to the auctions as well as serving on the event committee, which also included Pauly Kotin, Judy Stewart, Marian Tracy, Maggie Hempen, Christine Brewer and Louise Buckley, a past Seniors president. Terri Johnson chaired the ball.

Live auction items included a week in Hawaii, donated by Terry and Sharon Holdt. Opportunity drawings included a two-night stay at the Montage Resort and Spa and a selection of fine wines rated at 90 points or higher.

The ball was held out of town for the first time, at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach.

"We looked and looked in town for a place that we could afford and could accommodate 250 people," Quilter said. "Pelican Hill was very receptive.

"Our goal next year is to increase attendance."

In attendance this year, Peg and City Manager John Pietig, Dr. Gary and school board member Betsy Jenkins, Visitor's Bureau President Karyn Philippsen, Dave Sanford and Steve Dotoratos, Lee Kucera, Joe Hanaeur, Tony Hempen, Connie Burlin, and Lu and John Campbell.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Write to Barbara Diamond, P.O. Box 248, Laguna Beach, 92652; call (949) 380-4321 or e-mail coastlinepilot@latimes.com.

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