The Crowd: Symphonic spirit of Morocco comes to Irvine

Images of Morocco transformed the Hyatt Regency Irvine hotel for the recent Pacific Symphony 2011 gala themed "Casablanca." In the spirit of Bogart and Bergman, it was a night of mystery and romance for some 300 symphony patrons dressed to kill for the 1940s-themed event, which raised an astounding $1 million for the Pacific Symphony.

Chairing the magnificent party were symphony supporters Jim Driscoll and Betty Huang. Serving as the entertainment chairwoman of the night, Huang helped to create a stunning Moroccan theme, including belly dancers, snake charmers, an entertaining monkey and camel, and a ballroom draped in red and gold glamour.

Dinner was prepared by Hyatt's executive chef, Greg Grohowski, featuring an entrée of filet paired with king crab accompanied by asparagus, morel mushroom risotto and followed by an exciting baked Alaska dessert delivered tableside flambé.

O.C. philanthropist John Tu, from Kingston Technology, generously donated the services of his orchestra JT and California Dreamin'. A major silent and live auction helped to raise the bar to the $1-million mark with donations coming from bidders, including Jane and Richard Taylor, Sandy and John Daniels, Ruth and David Seigle, Marjorie and Martin Hubbard, and Michelle and David Horowitz. Additional support came from music aficionados Mary and Phil Lyons, Vivian and Jim McCluney, Karen and Mike Carroll, and Geni and Mike Nilsson.

Also spotted in the symphony crowd were Sally Anderson, Bill Aulwes, Hana and Francisco Ayala, Jill and Mark Bolton, Jo Ellen Chatham, Suzanne and David Chonette, Mary and Pat Dirk, Len and Madeline Zuckerman, Ruth Ann and John Evans, and Idit and Moti Ferder representing Lugano Diamonds and assisting with underwriting the affair.

Symphony board President John Forsyte and his charming bride, Michele, greeted donors, including Lynn and Doug Freeman, Ellie and Mike Gordon, and Dee and Larry Higby. The debonair S.L. Huang was front and center in support of his wife, Betty, always one of the best dressed and most elegant ladies on the Orange County social scene. Community activists Roger Kirwan was in the crowd along with Darrellyn and David Melilli, Anoosheh and Alan Oskouian, Susie and Steve Perry, Michelle Rohe, and much-admired Music Director Carl St. Clair and his wife, Susan.

It was a stellar evening for the Pacific Symphony, which season after season, continues to grow in stature and recognition not only locally but also on a national and international basis. For more information on the work and programs of the symphony, contact Jayce Keane at (714) 876-2383 or

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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