It might have been any other cocktail reception at the Beverly Hills Hotel: pretty, casually moneyed folks drinking white wine over ice, graciously declining tempting hors d'oeuvres, chatting easily with each other while a pianist playing background music made the gathering sound much larger and noisier than it really was.
Enter the Japanese. Just arrived from Tokyo, they'd come to spread good will, to get people excited and expectant. They'd come to get the party started.
What this was all about: the 1985 Tokyo International Film Festival from May 31 to June 9. The people gathered Tuesday night were among the 25 or so who've been lured to play in a celebrity tennis tournament during the festival. Some lure--an all-expense-paid trip to Tokyo and VIP treatment while there.
It's Japan's first film festival, and the people in charge weren't doing anything halfway. Indeed, asked how much the 10-day event will cost, Makato Miyashita, president of the festival, said $2 million for the basic festival and another $4 million for peripheral activities, such as the tennis tournament. "But," he asked, his manner teasing, through an interpreter, "how much did the Olympics cost?"
Miyashita had come with festival organizing committee members Akio Minamoto and Keizo Miyamoto, both of whom spoke much better English than he did. The three worked the room, being introduced to people like Lindsay Wagner, Paul Michael Glaser, Elke Sommer and Richard Anderson by Gunilla Lelouch, whom they'd recruited to organize the World Movie Stars Charity Tournament. She's the wife of director Claude Lelouch.
Local contact for the tournament was Eileen Fox, a friend of Lelouch's and the force behind the press kits, the logistics of the party and making sure the right people knew that this tournament would benefit charity--as they put it, all the handicapped in Japan.
There was probably no more PR behind this film festival than for any of the other 100 or so held around the world. But the Japanese were noticeably earnest. They knew, Miyashita said, that the people thought of them simply as an "economic animal," a rich little country that makes cars and is good with electronics. "But we want to share with the world our love of culture. That's a passion I have."
But this wasn't going to be a film contest like, say, Cannes, he stressed. "It's going to be more an event where people share their best films, a festival. We also hope it will promote our own film industry," apparently small at this point.
The Japanese, Keizo Miyamoto said, are more into television than movies--at least Japanese movies. "We see all the American movies. And anyone who's popular in the U.S. is popular there, and with the same age group," he said.
Nor was this going to be a killer tennis match, everyone involved emphasized. For one thing, the Japanese are only just getting into tennis, said Miyamoto, who had tried to make the UCLA tennis team and ended up playing for the College of the Sequoias in Visalia and for Cal State Bakersfield.
Most people in Japan, he said, don't know or care about really great matches. What they want to see is fun, people enjoying themselves. What's more, the Japanese public will be able to see the tournament in person or on TV.
But all this, Eileen Fox said, was why this party had been organized--"so people could meet the hosts and each other, and when they arrived here everyone would see it as a really good time."
Still, some of the stars playing may have to make their own way in Tokyo. Among those who made the party were Connie Stevens, Ron Ely, Dick Van Patten and Trini Lopez. Unable to make it to Beverly Hills, though promising to show in Tokyo--and if negotiations go through, Americans will be able to see them on cable--were Dinah Shore, Eva Gabor, Jose Ferrer, Elliott Gould, Daryl Hannah, Cathy Lee Crosby, Diahann Carroll and Diane Lane.