Irene Dunne, the graceful comedienne, ultimate Southern lady, singer and actress par excellence has received awards galore plus five Academy Award nominations. "But this is the one I will cherish," she told us this week after being notified Monday that she is one of five winners of the 1985 Kennedy Center honors. "I'm thrilled because I'll be with my favorite singer (Beverly Sills), my favorite comedian (Bob Hope) and the men (Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe) who wrote my favorite musical, "My Fair Lady." The fifth recipient is choreographer Merce Cunningham. "I don't know him," Miss Dunne said regretfully.
In the midst of her excitement over winning the honor, Miss Dunne also expressed concern about President Reagan's health. The Reagans are longtime friends. The biggest treat at some of those Reagan Set private parties is when Irene sings "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," the big number from her movie "Roberta," for Ronald Reagan, a Dunne fan. "I'm writing to him right now," she said Tuesday morning," and I'm telling him that I have Father Maurice Chase and all the nuns at Notre Dame Academy praying for him."
Solidly ensconced in the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame (along with the Duchess of Windsor, Jacqueline de Ribes, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and others), Miss Dunne is in the process of consulting with her favorite designer, Jean Louis, about what she'll wear to Washington in December. Besides the Dec. 7 awards ceremony, there will also be a White House reception, a special performance and a dinner-dance.
Socially speaking, September is going to be a very busy month. Brace yourselves.
Kicking off the social whirl and the opera season--yes, we are having one this year--is a blockbuster of a musical event. It's the arrival in Los Angeles of the world-renowned Deutsche Oper of (West) Berlin for a two-week stint at the Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The rest of the opera season will include locally produced operas and other visiting companies.
Opening night is Sept. 9 and that's a starry evening, in anybody's calendar. The Deutsche Oper will present "Tosca" with Placido Domingo, Teresa Zylis-Gara and Ingvar Wixell as its stars. Right after the performance, the Music Center Opera Assn., which is sponsoring and benefiting from the Deutsche Oper's stay here, is staging a real gala in the pavilion's Grand Hall. Mrs. Harry Wetzel and Mrs. Dennis Stanfill co-chair the post opera supper-dance honoring the opera company's Generalintendant Goetz Friedrich and "Tosca's" stars and cast as special guests.
"We're a super team," says Maggie Wetzel about her working relationship with Terry Stanfill. "We complement each other" says Terry who also reminds us that Los Angeles and Berlin are Sister Cities. Mrs. Stanfill is planning the decor around "Tosca," which she reports is "neoclassic in feeling . . . around the beginning of the 19th Century" and around a color she has difficulty describing. "Madder or perhaps pomegranate," is the closest she can come.
The honorary dinner committee, is, as you'd expect, an illustrious one. Among the members are former Atty. Gen. and Mrs. William French Smith, the Thomas Wachtells (he's president of the Music Center Opera Assn.), Joan and John Hotchkis, the Robert Erburus, Dr. and Mrs. Richard W. Call, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Barker Jr. (she's helping with the seating), the Bernard Greenbergs, the William Kieschnicks, Dwight and Dona Kendall, the Sidney Petersens, Mr. and Mrs. Kyhl S. Smeby, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Reed Vreeland Jr., the Joseph J. Pinolas, Dr. and Mrs. Franklin D. Murphy, the Norman H. Lees, Nancy and Alan Livingston, Wallis Annenberg, RCA's Thornton Bradshaw and his wife Pat, San Francisco's Gordon and Ann Getty and Mrs. John F. Rose-krans Jr. And many more.
"It's great to be back," says Linda Faulkner from an office in the White House where she's spending two weeks working with outgoing Social Secretary Gahl Hodges Burt and familiarizing herself once again with the social doings at the presidential residence. "It's a good time to be here because there are a lot of things going on as opposed to August when it's quiet (and the Reagans are vacationing in Santa Barbara)," Linda claims. Next week the President and Mrs. Reagan are scheduled to host a state dinner for the president of the People's Republic of China and Linda expects "I'll be there and probably by Mrs. Burt's side." (Gahl Hodges who replaced Muffie Brandon in 1983 as White House social secretary is married to Assistant Secretary of State Richard Burt and will be
accompanying her husband to West Germany when his appointment as ambassador is confirmed.)