Hernando Courtright, the man who has given the Beverly Wilshire the significance of a national monument and who with his motto, mi casa es su casa , has bolstered friendship with Mexico, wore his Aztec Eagle, the Presidential Order of Mexico, proudly the other night.
In Le Grand Trianon, midst mariachis (every one of whom he hugged in appreciation), his closest friends and an elegance calling for the Beverly Wilshire's finest wines, he accepted Mexico's highest honor.
Bestowing it for Mexico's president was Ambassador Agustin Garcia-Lopez Santaolalla, consul general of Mexico. The happy crowd included his distinguished friends from the South, Romulo and Hilda O'Farrill (he's chairman of Mexico's Televisa); Emilio and Paula Azcarraga (he's president of the board), and Miguel Aleman, son of Mexico's former president, and his beauteous wife.
Carina Courtright Quasha, immortalized for modeling couture lying atop a Brahman bull, came from New York with her newlywed international investor husband Wayne Quasha, to acknowledge the prize for all the Courtright offspring. She also read the telegram that came from the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico John Gavin.
Each arriving guest received a special welcome from Hernando. The reception line backed up to the elevators, at which point La Madrina Fiorenza Courtright, the recipient's glamorous wife stepped forward to liberate the receiving line. It was a successful maneuver without which Hernando might not have received his award.
George Vernon Russell was among the first to acclaim the wines as "some of the very finest in the world." Indeed, the 1978 Bordeaux (Chateau Cheval Blanc), served with the roast rack of veal, sells for $100 at the hotel. Dom Ruinart rose Champagne ($70 a bottle) was served with the caviar appetizer, and the Corton Charlemagne with the Trout Luculus first course was a mere $60 per bottle.
Bishop John J. Ward lent the solemnity to the occasion. He joined the table with the Courtrights, the O'Farrills, the Azcarragas, the Alemans and the Garcia-Lopezes.
Father Pat McPolin, the Clarentian padre at the Dominguez Adobe, lent the spirit. At one point he was on stage soloing with Clark Keen's band. When the mariachis played "Sabor a mi" his voice was heard above that of the Quashas, Hernandito and Doreen, Devigne Courtright and his date Holly Sobie, the William Doughertys, and the Jean Louis Henrauxes.
"Celito Lindo," the Mexican hat dance, was sung more than once with a clapping audience, Caroline Ahmanson and John Bowles dancing a version. More joining the merriment were the Edward Carters, the Franklin D. Murphys, the Hubert Laugharns, the James McNultys. Ambassadors were in style: former ambassador to Japan, James Hodgson, was there, and former ambassador to Ireland, Peter Dailey, both with their wives. They joined former Gov. and Mrs. Pat Brown, the William Pagens, Daniel Donahue, Loretta Young, the Stuart Davises, the George Whites, the Roy Ashes, the Glenn Dumkes, the Gordon Crarys, the James Kenneys, the Hans Von Ledens, the A. V. Falcones and the Anthony Valles.
The dessert was to be expected--what they serve in many fine Mexican restaurants--the swan cream puff with puree of marrons and served with demitasse. It was irresistible, even to the daughters of Fiorenza--Victoria, Veronica and the twins, Regina and April Falzone, and son Tom Falzone. Others appreciating the fare were Hernando's daughter, Mrs. Jack Sisto, and the Tom Sistos, Helen V. Chaplin, Monsignor Peter Healy and Vincent La Cava, Father Maurice Chase, John Archer.
Mrs. Frank Seaver arrived for the party. Dancing continuously were Betsy Phillips and Ron Stever, the Tony Duquettes, the Durward Howes, the Leland Atwoods, the Stephen Gavins, the Donald Koeppels, the John Vaughns, the Malcolm McDuffies, Margaret Pereira, the James Goerzes.
When Hernando, in his long acceptance speech, suggested this party was planned as "Hernando's last hurrah" (alluding to his upcoming sale of the hotel for $125 million), there were boisterous "No-o-o-os" and "boo-o-os."
But Hernando vowed always to promote close relations between United States and Mexico. He's only the third person named El Padrino de Los Angeles (following in the footsteps of the late Harry Chandler and the late Leo Carrillo), and he has been the commissioner of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historical Monument, a joint power commission that restored the Old Plaza.