Joffrey, Joffrey, Joffrey. The Southland was filled with Joffrey brunches, lunches, dinners and suppers for several weekends in March. Bang, bang, bang, one after the other--45 in all.
The events helped call attention to the ballet company's 30th anniversary and to the kickoff of the season, with performances scheduled from April 30 to May 18 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center of Los Angeles County.
It was a great fund-raising idea, actually. Having prominent Joffrey Ballet supporters and famous restaurants hosting theme dinners would whet anyone's appetite.
There were, for example: a "let's do it over again New Year's Eve dinner" for 100 at Chasen's; an art tour and dinner hosted by Michael McCarty at Michael's; an Argentine tango dinner at the Touch Club hosted by Patricia Kennedy; a dinner featuring rare gems and fine food at the Bistro Garden Galleria; lunch and thoroughbred racing for 16 at Santa Anita Racetrack hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Otis Booth Jr.; a Venetian bal masque at L'Orangerie; an Arabian feast, a Chinese banquet and first-run film at the home of Harriet and Armand Deutsch; a cooking class taught and hosted by chefs Joachim B. Splichal of Max Au Triangle and Laurent Quenioux of Seventh Street Bistro; a whale-watching brunch on a yacht with guests Ambassador and Mrs. John Gavin; a wine-country lunch in the Santa Inez Valley ranch owned by Doug Cramer; a tribute to Nijinsky, whose choreography for Igor Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" will be reconstructed for an upcoming Joffrey Ballet performance.
This year's spectacular dinners are a follow-up to last year's innovative celebrations.
Which is how Clara Burgess, wife of financier William Burgess, came to host a dinner in her mountainside desert home in Palm Springs this year.
"We had such a good time last year I promised last year's dinner chairman, Ruth Shannon, I would host a dinner in '86," she said.
Clara Burgess' dedication to the arts as one of the first founders of the Music Center (she is also deeply involved in several other music and dance guilds in Palm Springs, such as the Ballet Guild of the Dessert, Palm Springs Friends of the Philharmonic and Palm Springs Opera Guild) brought to her Joffrey dinner party a cordiality often absent in fund-raising events. The Burgess' glass house nestled among huge granite boulders surrounded by waterfalls above the shimmering lights of Palm Springs and majestic mountains could not have been a more spectacular setting.
The 13 guests who signed up for "Dinner in the Desert" included friends of the Joffrey, some traveling from as far as Seattle to attend. The guests were Luta and Judson Swearingen, Curtis Kent, Ann Miller and Russell Carpenter, Louise Russell and Jack Lund, Ruth and John Clayburgh, Carol Wright, Betty and Richard Keatinge and Mrs. William Burch.
An avid cook in her own right, Clara Burgess decided that this time she would have local caterer John Laslo, a relatively new talent in Palm Springs, do the main meal and supplement his menu with her own Spoon Bread Souffle. "We seldom have caterers. I almost always cook myself when we entertain," said Burgess, who entertains twice a month. Burgess' dinners are usually limited to 10 guests. "That's all I can accommodate easily indoors--or we'll eat outside around the fire."
"Around the fire" means that guests dine under the light of the moon and the glow of the fire pit in the center of a carved circle of granite upon which the guests sit. "It was our first living room before the house went up," Bill explained.
Around the huge circular glass table indoors, a round-table conversation inevitably takes place after dinner, over coffee and dessert. Intimate and informative. Buzzing here and there is hushed by the ring of the bronze bell by Burgess, who acts as the moderator. "We've made a practice of round-table conversations for 30 years, since living in Pasadena when CalTech professors were often our guests. I'd get angry with people making petty conversation when important people had something to say," Burgess explained.
Burgess' menus are generally simple and to the point--barbecued lamb, rice, tossed salad and a vegetable souffle based on spoonbread batter, which also doubles as the meal's carbohydrate serving. Husband Bill cooks the butterflied lamb in the outdoor fire pit fitted with a movable grill. "It's easy to manage that way," Clara Burgess said. Dessert? "Our favorite dessert is to use chocolate fondue to dip fresh banana, apple, pineapple and strawberries."
This time, however, the menu selected by Burgess and Laslo included three different tenderloins--beef, lamb and pork--served with three different sauces, which were spooned onto the meats as they were served buffet style, a novel--and welcome--change from standard company roast beef.