Since leaving his heart in San Francisco more than 20 years ago, Tony Bennett has made a career of tugging at those of other lovers young and old.
Saturday night at the Irvine Marriott, on the occasion of the fourth annual Ambassadors Ball, a slight change in lyrics might have been in order: I--left--my--aaaaaaaaart--i-in--Chi-ca-go . . .
Bennett was not only to be the featured entertainment at the ball, but his works were to be the focus of a "Celebrity Art Show" to be displayed during the cocktail reception. Bennett was there but, as it turned out, the Tony Bennett Art Show was on tour in Chicago.
"We had to make substitutions," admitted a spokesman for the joint sponsors of the event, the City of Santa Ana and the Santa Ana Ambassadors, whose purpose it is to support art in public places. Among the works substituted were serigraphs by op art pioneer Victor Vasarely and an oil by Norman Rockwell.
The ball attracted 550 at $125 a plate. Bennett's $25,000 fee helped whittle down proceeds to approximately $15,000, which, according to Santa Ana City Manager Robert C. Bobb, will go toward the Sasscer Park Sculpture Fund.
That fund will be used to put a stainless steel fountain by Los Angeles-based artist George Baker in Sasscer Park. Estimated cost of the sculpture is $115,000; a building adjacent to the park has donated $10,000 and the Police Benevolent Assn. has so far raised $11,000. (The Nelson Sasscer Park and the proposed Dan Hale Fountain are both named for police officers slain in the line of duty.)
According to David Biggs, formerly with the Economic Development Agency of Santa Ana and currently the redevelopment manager for the City of Long Beach, he and Baker recently talked about the Sasscer Park project, which, according to Bobb, the city has been trying to install for four years.
"We were joking at a reception the other day as to when the project might eventually be completed," recalled Biggs. "Still, while it may take a little while, I think they need that initial large piece to stir the interest. Once it goes up, I think it will inspire some smaller-scale pieces."
Biggs noted that the ball is the one black-tie event sponsored by the City of Santa Ana during the year and represented "a remarkable melding of city developers and residents."
Co-chairmen of the event, Betty Hutton Williams and Brandon Birtcher, are both developers.
"The Ambassadors Ball is intended to promote the economic, educational and social aspects of Santa Ana," said Williams, chairman of the board of Hutton Associates. "I'm part of the economic development."
Birtcher, whose family recently completed the largest research and development complex in Orange County, said his involvement with Santa Ana "really goes back, oh, since about 1912."
Birtcher talked about Santa Ana's "rich heritage" and "the beauty of its streets." He said his family and the city share a concern for creating better environments for working people.
"My great-grandfather was on the first planning commission here in town," Birtcher said. "He was a home builder, a proponent of the street theme tree program that resulted in today's cityscape. In the '30s and '40s, my grandfather was active, even winning a city beautification award for most beautiful industrial park. During the '50s and '60s, my uncle and father completed more than 20 industrial projects.
"Now, in the '80s, a fourth generation has created the largest high-tech park in the county, the Birtcher Orange County Tech Center, where we've incorporated an on-site day care center as part of the infrastructure"--that's how developers talk--"the first of its kind in California, as well as recreational amenities such as volleyball courts, basketball courts, gazebos and parks." The center is near the the Costa Mesa Freeway at Dyer Road.
Bobb said that the City of Santa Ana is considering the development of an arts commission "with the idea of getting some of the developers to contribute."
Because Santa Ana does not yet have a hotel with facilities appropriate for a ball of this size, Irvine Mayor David Baker officially allowed the City of Santa Ana to annex part of the City of Irvine--the land on which the Marriott is located--for the day.
Tony Bennett, who according to South Coast Plaza marketing director Maura Eggan was spotted shopping in Nordstrom earlier in the day, sang such hits as "My Funny Valentine" and "As Time Goes By," and some less familiar to today's audiences.
The pianist, drummer and bass player provided a needed foil for Bennett, who lulled the crowd with soporific lyrics such as these, apparently from the latest bid for an official song for the City of the Angels: Especially when it's cloudy/She's got ways of saying howdy . . .
Perry Goldstein of KOCM Radio in Newport Beach served as master of ceremonies. Also there was Santa Ana Mayor Daniel E. Griset, who was looking forward to the city's Christmas Toys on Parade Dec. 7, which will feature gigantic helium balloons.
More than 100 attended a cast party after performances at the Servite Theater in Anaheim Saturday night by American Ballet Theater principals Martine Van Hamel and Patrick Bissell.
Joan Schley opened her Yorba Linda home to Van Hamel and Bissell and to members of the "pre-professional" Orange County-based company Ballet Unlimited with whom they performed and their friends and parents. Many of the young company members had lots of fun; others asked serious career questions and generally followed the illustrious pair around in awe.
"He's soooo good looking," said Ballet Unlimited director Kristen Olsen Potts of the "primo ballerino." According to Potts, Bissell offered to endorse the small company "in a verbal and written way" and to teach a master class for the company as a gift in March.
"Of course we're going to take him up on it," she said.