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Benjamin Epstein

Cystic Fibrosis Guild Sambas to Good News

November 07, 1985|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

If the "Investor's Ball" sounds a mite deadly--three-piece suits, time-pieces, NYSE highs and lows, that sort of thing--forget it.

Last year, the ball, sponsored by the Cystic Fibrosis Guild of Orange County, was a till-all-hours New Year's affair at the Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Niguel. Saturday night, the guild samba'd up the coast to the Newport Marriott--for "Bossa Rio" and one of the liveliest, most colorful parties of the year.

There was definitely cause to celebrate.

"An incredible breakthrough," said Robert Dresing, president of National Cystic Fibrosis in Rockville, Md., "our first in 30 years."

Dresing was only obliquely referring to an announcement Oct. 10--that researchers had isolated the DNA segment containing the cystic fibrosis gene.

"Since that announcement--and nobody knows this yet except you here tonight--we've since identified the chromosome that it's on," said Dresing. "We haven't yet found the gene, but we now know where to look. We've eliminated 99% of the hunt.

"And I can tell you that within a month there will be another, equally exciting announcement. We're on our way to unraveling the mystery of this horrible disease. When we do, we'll be looking at a very different world. And we'll have another party over that, believe me."

Fit Right In

It was obvious the gentleman from Rockville was going to fit right in with the Newport fete set, which at that point was enjoying exotic cocktails in hollowed-out coconuts and pineapples, bidding on silent auction items and soaking in the sounds of the pool-side steel drum band that filled the night air.

Upstairs, the ball, which attracted more than 400, continued with dinner, dancing, a comedian and a live auction.

"I want to welcome all you good-looking fund-raisers," said Renee West, who, with her husband Leland, co-chaired the event with Richard and Kathy Hurwitz. "We have two purposes here tonight--to raise as much money as we can for CF, and to put on a great party for all of you."

West, Hurwitz & Co. succeeded on both counts: The party raised $148,870.23, according to guild board adviser Barbara Yanchar. "That's net," Yanchar said, "and still coming."

Between bites of fruit salad--kiwi and guava and tropical what-have-yous--Dick Stevens eyed the exotic feathered 'n' spangled eat-your-heart-out-Carmen-Miranda gowns of the women on the dance floor. "I'd say there're a few dollars floating around this room," he said.

The men, too, seemed especially festive: Robert Baker of West Los Angeles, for instance, wore a bow tie with blinking lights his wife had ordered for him through a joke catalogue. "We also got the frog hat," confided Bonnie Baker as the pair broke into a rumba. Also dancing a Latin mean streak were Yolanda Biewers--the life of any party--and her husband Fred, a dentist.

Entertain Each Other

As a rule, CF supporters keep each other pretty well entertained; in any case, they certainly didn't need any help from comedian Billy Vader. "Geez, this is like working in the middle of a subway station," Vader admitted.

They found the live auction, conducted by former child evangelist-turned-actor Marjoe Gortner, more thrilling.

Among the highlights was Dr. Michael Elam's cosmetic surgery package. The auctioneer's chant went something like this: "Everybody say Hallelujah! You're gonna look good! Everything's gonna come up! There are people here tonight who can give great testimonial! I want to see the finished product! I want to see the before and after! Elam's a good man! He's gonna be a- sculp- turing!"

A bid of $10,000 secured the item for Pam Jantz. "I'm going to use it myself," she admitted, smiling. "But not on everything."

Kathy Hurwitz was responsible for the splendid palm trees-and-balloons decor. She personally assembled the centerpieces, ceramic toucans and parrots atop ferns; silk butterflies clung to the napkins, each a different color cloth.

Wanted Monkeys

"I wanted to do monkeys swinging on vines for the ceiling," said the irrepressible Hurwitz in her New Jersey twang, "a whole jungle theme. Then they tell me there's a wedding here today. So I'm in here all day in this dirty jump suit, and the wedding party keeps looking at me, like who is this joker, right? So I tell them, 'Listen, eat, drink, have a wonderful time. But be out of here by 4:30.' I think I intimidated them. They were out by 4.

"Then the Marriott felt so badly about my not being able to do the ceiling because of the wedding, they gave us these nice tablecloths. First they said we'd have to pay $10 each for cleaning fee. I told them I wasn't paying anything. And here they are."

The so-called Ritz Raiders, a small band of plucky hustlers within the guild, also contributed to the success of the event. In recent weeks, the Raiders, among them Renee West and guild corresponding secretaries Ann Stern and Susanne Devlin, could be found almost every night at the Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach.

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