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Design Delight Showcase House Marks Birthday

April 24, 1985|MARY LOU LOPER | Times Staff Writer

To be chairman of a Showcase House one must have a certain pizazz, wily charm, gutsy vigor and a lust for success. The Pasadena Junior Philharmonic Committee's Showcase turned 21 Friday evening, and two-thirds of the past chairmen--they've raised collectively nearly $2 million--dropped by to see the old Busch mansion on San Rafael in Pasadena.

There's a unique bond among these chairman, so there was ample cause for bubbling champagne and a few minutes of reminiscing, particularly to compare notes with this year's chairman, Mrs. Rudolph Strnad.

The three earliest chairmen-- Mmes. David Stewart (Joan was first chairman and with president Mrs. Frank A. Payne developed the concept of asking interior designers to decorate rooms and then opening the house for benefit tours), Stephen Smith and Kennedy Galpin--were out of the city, but Mmes. J. Terry Maxwell, James P. Kennedy, Malcolm McColl, Allen Mathias, John C. Cushman, F. Jack Liebau, Davis Pillsbury, James B. Fox III, Lawrence W. Jones, Richard Siefert, Kalman L. Benuska, Hugh M. Grant (Paddy's the current president) and Howard Cantwell were in the black-tie crowd.

Some Missing

The only others missing were Marcella Griggs of San Francisco and Mrs. Charles F. Grady, now living in Laguna, and Mrs. Franklin Simmons, out of the city. Cynthia Urmston, 1972 chairman, is deceased.

With few exceptions, all have broken attendance or donation records of the previous benefit, cumulatively building on one another's successes. For instance, the conceptual year of 1965, the committee raised $10,000, but the seed was planted, and five years later the net was $25,000, seven years later $52,000, 14 years later $111,000, 16 years later $150,000, in 1982 $213,000, last year $230,000. Meanwhile, attendance had soared from 6,727 in 1965 to its high of 42,000 in 1984.

Now, say the chairmen, they've the best house ever, the house they've been negotiating to show for a decade, a monument built in 1929 by Jack Atkin, an Englishman who had dreamed of a castle, and came to California at the age of 14 as a cabin boy on a clipper ship around the Horn.

'Best Year Ever'

"Barring rain and the most unfortunate of situations," Molly Siefert said, "we should have the best year ever." Said president Paddy Grant: "Rain is the only thing that keeps ladies in California at home." She's hoping for an attendance of more than 50,000 and a gift of $265,000 for the Philharmonic. "Some people think we will come out with more than that."

The house will be open to the public through May 19, except Mondays and Tuesdays. Other days it opens at 10 a.m., closing at 4 p.m., except Wednesdays and Fridays, when it remains open until 8 p.m.

Inaugural previewers at Friday's gala tour of the house and splashy party later at Rosemont Pavilion gave the house and its 1985 decor an absolute A-plus. The mansion's architect, Paul Williams, was the first black architect to be awarded membership in the American Institute of Architects.

The Showcase gem is a delight of brick, carved stone fireplaces, superb grillwork, window panes with Latin mottoes, bay windows overlooking flagstone terraces and the Arroyo.

Perkinses Own House

George Machris owned the house in the 1940s, Dr. Max Busch in the 1950s and the Mark Perkinses now.

The Charles Blalocks had to come all but next door for the party, joining the Lewis Leiters, Mary Perkins, Sheila Adams and the Gordon Hammonds at a table at the Rosemont Pavilion party later. In that neoclassical setting designed by Walter Hubert of Silver Birches, Ron Rubin and his orchestra were in full swing, creating a crowded dance floor frequented by Dr. Ben and Linda Massey, the Gary Lunds, the Norman Mitchells (he's the new California region president of Fuller Commercial), the Berne Evanses (she in a pretty turquoise gown from San Francisco) and Don and Sally Clark (looking toward summer and the return of daughter Ann and a heap of Colorado College chums).

Bill of Fare

Mixed with the decor was the culinary bill of fare: medallion of salmon, barbecued tenderloin of beef, pommes Dauphinois, spinach tamales, chocolate hazelnut rolls and majestic strawberries--one apiece.

It had all been orchestrated by Mrs. Hollis Chang and her committee including Mmes. Robert Daniel, Ronald Conzonire, Vance Polich, William Lewis, Kalman Benuska, Pat Moore, Robert Brumfield and Robert Martin.

Judy Campbell, president of the Pasadena chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, joined the Rudolph Strnads Jr. at the front door to welcome guests and share design chitchat.

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