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David Nelson / Society

Candlelight Ball Blends Tradition, New Touches for Elegant Evening

December 12, 1985|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — The most traditional of the season's parties, the Candlelight Ball--an event that many patrons consider to be the grande dame of holiday fetes--bowed Saturday at the Hotel Inter-Continental before a record 560 guests.

This was the 56th of these annual classics to be given for the benefit of Scripps Memorial Hospital-La Jolla by the hospital's auxiliary. The year, the ball's proceeds, which exceeded $68,000, were earmarked for the Cancer Center.

The ball retained certain of its most popular traditions, but also broke away in new directions, which, of course, is one way of preventing an annual event from becoming drowsy and repetitious. The Christmas theme is a must, but this time around, designer Walter Nelson returned to the simpler motifs of holidays past by opting for trees trimmed with nothing more elaborate than red satin bows and ornaments, and centerpieces of green wreaths laid around crimson candles that were as plump and cheerful as well-fed cherubs. The holiday-inspired favors took the form of delicate bisque porcelain tree ornaments, shaped like angels with scallop shells as gowns.

The menu, created by nutritionist and author Jeanne Jones, similarly paid homage to the season while taking a very au courant point of view. Thus there was cranberry sauce as accompaniment to the roast game hens, but not the sort of cranberry sauce prepared by our Pilgrim mothers: This one was spiked with chili peppers. A garlic soup preceded the fowl, and persimmon pudding followed; the quesadillas served during the cocktail reception captured the colors associated with the holiday, both in the strips of bright green jalapeno pepper they enclosed, and in the brilliantly red faces this fiery condiment inspired.

All these details added up to an unusually pleasant time for the guests, who began the evening with a reception in the hotel's Tea Lounge and wound up dancing until midnight in the ballroom.

The enthusiasm with which the party was received put a decidedly bright glow in the eyes of chairman Elsie Weston, who repeated a role she played the previous two years. "We've raised a lot of money for Scripps in these three years," said Weston, who agreed that three is the charm, and thus will not take the ball's helm in 1986. That task will fall to Nancy Ogilvie, who practiced for the job by serving as party treasurer this year.

Although most Scripps Memorial principals were present--including foundation board president Arthur Benvenuto, hospital president Ames Early, and Cancer Center director John Trombold--the evening avoided speeches in favor of genteel frivolity and mild-mannered merrymaking. The dance floor proved to be the main focus of attention, both when occupied by the Keith Williams Orchestra, and during the dinner hour, when the Starlight Singers ascended the bandstand to offer a selection of Broadway favorites.

Word of another major Scripps Memorial benefit was allowed to leak that evening. On Jan. 18, the auxiliary will give a fund-raising dinner-dance at the new La Jolla Marriott hotel, which will mark its grand opening with the event. Barbara Doren (who recently returned with husband Walter from their first-ever cruise in the Caribbean, where they sailed straight into Hurricane Kate, will chair the gala.

Whittier Institute director Willard VanderLaan attended with wife Eileen; also present were Scripps Memorial Hospital Foundation director James Bowers; hospital benefactor Marianne McDonald, with Adrian Jaffer; former board president Fred Stalder, with wife Christine, and auxiliary president Carol Shively, with husband Harold.

Also on the guest list were Lee and Toni Leichtag, Frank and Rae Merhar, John and Audrey Morava, Dick Poole, Edward and Lynn George, Alfred and Sophie Natkin, Ray and Sonja Wilson, Tim and Mac Canty, Bob and Mary Allan, Robert and Jayne Singer, Stephen and Nancy Doyne, Dick and Donna Doyle, Blair and Georgia Sadler, Gary and Sue Graves, John and Jane Murphy, and Tom Fleming, who made it a family party by bringing granddaughters Alison and Theodora, who were escorted respectively by Brock Rosenthal and Jon Hauser.

The seasonal celebrations continued unabated on Sunday with a spate of parties, including the Assistance League's 11th annual Christmas Tree Dansant.

Held at the Sheraton Harbor Island East hotel's Champagne Ballroom for 450 guests, the party centered, as always, on Christmas trees; these had been decorated to a fare-thee-well by league members and ultimately were sold to the most persistent bidders. The trees came in every size and theme, ranging from a lofty spruce hung with miniature musical instruments to a Lilliputian model, dressed in the Victorian mode and snuggled cozily inside a glass dome. The Assisteens, the league's youthful auxiliary, created a tree entitled "Christmas Memories" that sparkled with needlepoint ornaments stitched by the group's 8th- through 12th-grade girls.

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