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David Nelson / Society

Romero Tickles Ivories, Guests

April 10, 1986|DAVID NELSON

LA JOLLA — How would one summarize an invitation to spend an afternoon indulging in champagne and Chopin and scones and Scarlatti?

Possibly as an invitation to tea and symphony.

These were the dual treats that Dorene and John Whitney dished up Sunday at the La Jolla Country Club for 150 pals.

Billed as a champagne tea, the mid-afternoon fete centered on a piano recital by Gustavo Romero, the 20-year-old Chula Vistan who has become nationally celebrated as a wunderkind of the keyboard.

Guests, many of them longtime patrons of the San Diego Symphony, opera and other performing arts organizations, arrived glowing with that special sort of Sunday afternoon excitement that San Diego generally reserves for Chargers games.

They sat in a hollow square shaped around Romero's grand piano. There was nothing to divert the eye from the pianist and his instrument except a spray of golden honeysuckle branches, at least eight feet wide, that hung above the piano. Romero, who attends the Juilliard School of music in New York City and will embark on his first coast-to-coast concert tour later in the year, entered the room shyly after being introduced as "another Mozart." Romero began by playing J.S. Bach's Toccata in C Minor, and then a sextuplet of Scarlatti sonatas. Other selections included Debussy's "Girl With the Flaxen Hair," and Chopin's "Grande Polonaise."

For an encore, Romero played another Scarlatti piece, which he dedicated to his mother; the dedication prompted Dorene Whitney to lean over to a guest and whisper: "I wish I were his mother."

Leticia Romero led the applause that closed her son's concert. Later, over tea, she admitted that she and her husband had found it most difficult to send their son out of town to music school when he was only 11, but added that they learned early to accept the situation.

"When you have a talented son, you find out that you have to share him," she said.

Champagne, tea and assorted treats were offered in the club's grand hall; guests clustered around a caviar display that was arranged at the base of an ice carving cut to the shape of a musical note.

The onion sandwiches, currant scones and fruit tarts all seemed to encourage conversation, most of which revolved around Romero.

"Having him in a setting like this gives such incredible intimacy. It makes Romero seem like he's ours," remarked Jeanne Jones, to which Howard Craig added: "The kid's good, isn't he?"

The guest list included Kay Martin, Mary and Irby Cobb, Betty Bass, Dian and Ray Peet, Merrilyn and Sam Arn, Louise Deane, Lilo and Glenn Miller, Carol and Mike Alessio, Anne Evans, Martha and George Gafford, Serena Silva, Nancy and Ted TenEyck, Georgia Borthwick with Larry Cook, Eileen and Don McClure, Margaret and Dan Dudas, and Jane and Arnold Kirkeby.

Others were Barbara and Burton Jones, Carol and Robert Tuggey, Alice di Gesu, Jeannie and Leon Smitherman, Vicki and Haley Rogers, Shirley and David Rubel, Phyllis and John Parrish, Jean and Jack Morse, Mim and Al Sally, Dick Duffy, Ruth and Jim Mulvaney, and Randy and Richard Kelts.

SOLANA BEACH--Blues masters John Lee Hooker, Smokey Wilson and Robert Cray were among the friends of KPBS-TV who bellied up to the bar at the Belly Up Tavern April 2 to celebrate the upcoming broadcast of the local Public Broadcasting System affiliate's newest production, "Three Generations of the Blues, Part II."

The informal surroundings provided a somewhat different setting from the hotel ballrooms and lavish private homes that KPBS normally books for its entertainment. But the locale served as a return to the scene of a good time for "Three Generations" stars Hooker, Wilson and Cray, as well as for other guests. The program was filmed here in October.

A section of the bar was roped off for the exclusive use of KPBS's 75 guests, who nibbled at such Belly Up-catered treats as quiche and pasta primavera while watching "Three Generations" unfold on a wide-screen television. Billiard balls clicked at adjoining pool tables, and occasionally a guest ambled over for a quick game; among them was Wilson, a man of some dexterity who occasionally plays his guitar with his teeth.

Part I of the "Three Generations" series was offered first, as a kind of musical appetizer to the main event. The guests applauded at all the right times, but otherwise sat quietly, grooving to the music. The presentation of Part II was greeted more noisily, and was followed by sustained applause, cheers and whistles.

The audience included Jeannie Cheatham, who starred in Part I, and her husband, Jimmy; others included Sandra and Robert Kritzik, Anasa Briggs, Darlene Davies, "Three Generations" producer-director Paul Marshall, Grace Bell, Vince Vucci, Michael Gerdes, Ray Kolasa, Linda Kelly, Ed and Paula Pieters, Pat Finn, Sarah Luft, Gerret Grene, and Mike Mann.

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