"I know I've died and this is heaven." Amen Wardy, the baby-faced, dark-haired fashion arbiter, turned to architect Budd Holden and smiled happily.
At this particular moment Saturday night, Wardy and Holden were standing at one end of the new peach and white Venetian ballroom in Wardy's fashion emporium in Newport Center Fashion Island. The ballroom--which will be used later for beauty and fashion seminars, luncheons and haute chic meetings--is part of the new $2-million expansion of the high fashion boutique. Holden was the architect-designer for this Newport shop and for the expansion; 25 years ago he had designed Wardy's first boutique in El Paso, the Texas border town. Holden was the man to understand Wardy's jubilation.
About 350 conspicuous consumers were now crowded into the ballroom, the women dazzling in their designer label clothes and important jewels, the men in black tie. The music was booming while more than a dozen leggy models swayed down the runway wearing spring fashions by Valentino, Chanel, Fabrice, Geoffrey Beene, lingerie from Florence and a few black and white designs by James Galanos, who was sitting alongside Gene Washburn. A chair had been squeezed in among the rows so that Kenny Rogers could sit next to his wife, Marianne, who was hip to hip with tall and elegant Clotilde Alvarez and Dr. Joe Sugerman. They had driven to the party in a stretch white limo from Los Angeles.
Dibs on Galanos
Later, Rogers was to tell a television interviewer that he'd enjoyed watching the models, but he left the fashion decisions to his wife. Marianne Rogers had found two dresses she couldn't live without. Ceil Moore, who had driven from L.A. with John Wiegman and Doyle and Geri Cotton, told Doris Fields, a former I. Magnin vice president and now general manager of Amen Wardy, to put her dibs on a long satin peignoir and gown and a black and white dress. When Doris Fields told her the dress was from Galanos' spring collection, Ceil arched her brows and said, "Wouldn't you know . . . the most expensive in the lot." She took it anyway.
"It's my favorite thing to do--party and shop," vamped a tousle-haired Joan Collins, who wore a white fur coat over her silver-beaded black chiffon Fabrice gown. Fashionably late, she posed for the photographers and then, taking Peter Holm's arm, she joined the rest of the guests who were nibbling on Tom Shoot's hors d'oeuvres, sipping drinks and sightseeing around the expanded and new boutiques for Galanos, Chanel, Judith Leiber (bags and belts) and Andrea Pfister (shoes).
'Don't Call It a Boutique'
"It's a salon, dear, don't call it a boutique," Mrs. Arnold Silberstein, who owns the David Webb jewelry firm, reprimanded us as we admired the dazzling Webb salon at Amen Wardy. The Silbersteins arrived at the party with their new relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Albert Sklar (a Silberstein son married a Sklar daughter), who had flown in from Shrevesport, La., on their own jet and stayed overnight--as did some of Amen's other out-of-town guests--at the new Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel.
Dinner was served under a tent whose ceiling looked like a blue, blue sky quilted with tiny stars and tied up with black shiny ribbons and bows. Stanley Kersten, the Los Angeles florist who was leaving as the guests began arriving, had fitted white camellias into black painted leafy candelabrums. And after dinner there was dancing in the Venetian ballroom until 2 a.m. Among the active dancers were more Angelenos--Tom and Sue Somermeier and Beverly and Chase Morsey.
Wardy had a large contingent of family around him--parents Mr. and Mrs. Wardy Sr., daughter Soffia and son Jean Paul--and supporters like the Alexander Haagens and the the Irvine Co.'s Mr. and Mrs. Richard Schneider, Poston Tanaka and the Dominick Roppolos. Adding their own sizzle to the gathering were the Anthony Vittis, New York designer Shannon Rodgers, Mrs. Henry Mancini with Luis Estevez, Paul and Jane Whitney, Sachi and Larry Irwin, "Dynasty" designer Nolan Miller and his wife Sandra, Councilwoman Pat Russell and her husband Dr. William Russell, Carol and Ronald Smith, Terry Herst with Gil Lasky, Maruja (back in L.A.'s golden fashion era she was one of its most glamorous models) and her husband Dr. George Hodges, Beverly Petal, Jacques Camus, the Stewart Abercrombies from Santa Barbara and Marion Wagner and her daughter Kate, whose father is actor R.J. Wagner.
Some of the women managed to do some serious shopping while they partied (discreetly, of course). And by popular demand Amen opened his boutique on Sunday until 3 p.m., a first for him. Never underestimate the power of a woman with a good credit line.