SAN DIEGO — At least two of the 800 participants in the Holiday Bowl's annual Poinsettia Ball, held last week in the Pavilion Ballroom at the Hotel Inter-Continental, looked as if they would have welcomed an early visit from their dear buddy, St. Nick.
The two, John Cooper and Ken Hatfield, who are, respectively, the head coaches of the Arizona State University Sun Devils and the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, both would have gladly accepted a victory in Sunday's Holiday Bowl as an early Christmas present. It was Hatfield's luck to have his wish granted.
But from the Poinsettia Ball committee's point of view, Christmas came a week early for everyone who joined in the jovial holiday fete, especially the San Diego Area Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which walked off with a generous share of the evening's proceeds. About $60,000 in net earnings were anticipated by Holiday Bowl President Dirk Broekema, who said: "We couldn't be happier to be raising money for MS and to be having a good time as well."
Having a good time seemed an easily achieved goal that evening. Guests were greeted by carolers and musicians who led the way into a reception hall flanked with the party's signature poinsettias, all of which had been donated by poinsettia king Paul Ecke. The two universities' homecoming queens were both on hand to lend a certain campus flavor to the atmosphere, which sparkled also with the scents of both Christmas trees and of a lengthy menu that included entrecote de boeuf dijonnaise and souffle norvegienne (known in its simpler moments as baked Alaska.)
Winter Carnival Theme
The ballroom had been given a winter carnival theme that was quite at odds with the day's balmy weather, but was nonetheless quite cheerful. The stylish, seemingly ice-coated centerpieces looked as if they had been pried from a frozen forest, and massive silver snowflakes dangled from high.
If all this seemed rather too cool, however, it must be said that the temperature warmed considerably when comedienne Phyllis Diller took the stage to lavish her wit on the willing crowd. Also joining in the entertainment was singer Vicki McClure, who perhaps is best known as the vocalist who opened the '84 Summer Olympics with her moody "Reach Out and Touch Somebody's Hand."
The guest list included San Diego State University President Tom Day and his wife, Anne; Leon and Barbara Parma; Clair and Marvia Burgener; Chuck and Linda Owen; Phyllis Brown; Al and Betty DeBakcsy; Dean and Susie Spanos; Red and Kathy Scott; Tom and Evelyn Page; Bill and Kay Rippee; Herb and Jane Stoecklein; Art and Jeannie Rivkin; Vinnie and Jean Vinson; Mike and Alice Cavanaugh; Walt and Betty Zable, and Ron and Linda Hahn.
Jill Brown chaired the ball. Joining her on the committee were Gina Zanotti, Bobby Schaefer, Bob Payne, Charlotte Hayes, Roger Young, Valerie Saint-Gaudens, Gary Powers, Debbie Lash, Rob Menifee, Ellen Choisser, and Dave Duea.
The jingling bells were nearly silenced Sunday, when the mysterious absence of Santa Claus caused great consternation at the San Diego Opera Assn.'s annual family holiday party. The drama, or the "Claus Caper," as it came to be called, unfolded throughout the afternoon before the eyes of the 450 party guests, more than half of whom were too young to apply for drivers licenses, who had gathered in the Town & Country Hotel's Mission Ballroom.
Witnesses who arrived on the scene early said that event chairman Leonor Craig, whom one source described as "usually a rather elfin, Mrs. Claus-like sort of person," was put quite out of countenance by Claus' unexplained failure to arrive at the party. Piecing the schedule of events together, it seems that Claus had been expected at 1:45 p.m., or 15 minutes before the first guests were anticipated. At 3 p.m., Craig reportedly looked first at her watch, then at the old elf's empty chair, and exclaimed, "Where is that Santa?"
A reporter who arrived at that point discovered that the children, who were scrubbed and dressed until they glowed like heirloom tree ornaments, seemed generally undisturbed by the absence of the alleged patron of Christmas gifting. They seemed mostly occupied with games of hide-and-seek (the rows of cloth-covered banquet tables made great hiding spots) and other childish pursuits. Their parents and grandparents looked on with what appeared to be proud indulgence; one observant source said that these pillars of the community were showing themselves "in their most human and vulnerable" aspects. The youngsters frequently diverted themselves with visits to the buffets, which offered such nursery rations as miniature hot dogs, sundaes and popcorn. Adults also were observed in the vicinity of the food tables.