It might not be the party of the year--but don't hold your breath till a better one comes along.
"We've raised a lot of money," the evening's executive producer Doug Cramer said, adding puckishly, "and we did it without Elizabeth Taylor. That's a rarity in benefits these days."
The new kid on the auction-and-money-raising block, the Museum of Contemporary Art, let about 1,000 close friends in for a one-time-only party inside the new $22-million Bunker Hill museum Friday night--and once in, they simply refused to leave. Rarely does one see L.A.'s finest boogalooing past midnight--especially after they've spent hours being skillfully separated from more than $550,000 at an art auction. The whole shebang netted well over $700,000 while giving those lucky enough to garner tickets (some 1,000 party hopefuls were sadly turned way from the event which sold out early) one swell time.
Party chairmen Jane Nathanson and Lynda Palevsky--with thanks to underwriters--fed party-goers caviar, salmon and champagne, then herded them in their "dress extraordinaire" next door to California Plaza for the auction. Money spent, it was back to the museum, to a sumptuous meal Rococo magically cooked with no kitchen--seafood salad to begin, and raspberries stuffed in big chocolate shells to end. In between came rack of lamb cooked on mesquite grills set up right on lower Grand Avenue--the only minor hitch being that the smoke set off fire alarms in the museum's lower levels.
'A Magic Moment'
"I knew it (the party) would be a success, a magic moment, the first time I saw the building," Nathanson said. "Having the party here, that's the part that will never be repeated."
Probably also never repeated was the oomph staid L.A. got from "dress extraordinaire." Marge Fasman was in a plastic playbill shirt, while Arco's Lod Cook was in a spiffy red dinner jacket, with wife Carol in a red jump suit. Designer Jack Lowrance suited up with a wild tie, but his dinner partner, Doris Fields Heller, warned that if her black caftan "unzips, it's going to be extraordinary." Marco Weiss wore a plastic bagel-and-lox pin on his sweater; wife Joan's white coat was lined with comic strips. Joan Hotchkis was in nautical-looking, blue-and-white spangles and spouse John, in a white jacket, looked as though his cruise ship were ready to sail. Restaurateur Michael McCarthy was in ocelot boots. An endangered species, Donald Livingston asked? Ah no, designer Maud Frizon has a deal with Italian zoos to acquire dead animals, McCarthy explained, walking with his pretty and pregnant wife, Kim, between eating and auction.
Museum board chair William Kieschnick said that dress extraordinaire fulfilled it's intention "to bring out the artists. We're liberated out of black tie." Guests were liberated out of a lot of money too. Sotheby's president John L. Marion started off with a challenge: "If the action is really out there, let's start counting it." Steve Moses--not bidding because he was saving up for the Mercado auction organized by his wife, Kitty--warned Sen. Alan Cranston not to wave hello during auctioneering or "It will cost you $7,000."
Waving and Buying
But people did wave and buy the extraordinary number of pieces put together by Margo Leavin and Marcia Medavoy Ross. Artist Laddie John Dill said that "a lot of work went way over market value. It testifies to the spirit of the place--and to the real heavy support for California artists."
He paused for a few minutes amid the partying with museum board president Lenore Greenberg, telling her "Lennie, six years ago we were sitting in someone's living room talking about this." She laughed and said, "Yes, the ad-hoc committee."
Councilman Joel Wachs, ecstatic over the evening's take and spirit, said that at this point, the museum had passed the halfway mark in raising the necessary $46 million. "We may be late--but we'll be tops."
The dinner party was indeed two dinner parties--mirror events in the museum's two galleries. Peter Duchin--his presence underwritten by Cramer--raced between bandstands, as did the Stepp Sisters. Never has any party seen so many lawyers dancing. Bob and Maureen Carlson would not stop, Eli Broad (he gave MOCA its first $1 million) and Edie, Dick Rosenzweig and Judy Henning--were all on the floor.
Fred Nicholas--the vice chair of the museum board and the man director Richard Koshalek credits with shepherding through the building's construction--just hung around looking pleased as punch. Bruce and Toni Corwin table-hopped with Marc Nathanson. Jane and Michael Eisner visited. Ginny and Henry Mancini listened to his music being played. Judge William and Merry Norris congratulated themselves on their museum's success. Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky did not dance, but he and wife Barbara did talk politics with Lisa Specht and Ron Rogers.