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David Nelson Society

Stone Faces Didn't Deter Lively Crowd

June 19, 1986|DAVID NELSON

RANCHO SANTA FE — As odd a threesome of greeters as one might expect to meet guarded the entrance to Frank and Joanne Warren's sumptuous rural retreat Saturday evening.

While they did not exactly turn a cold shoulder to the 140 guests who turned out for "Celebration 1986," a grand and glamorous gala presented by the Mingei International Museum of World Folk Art in observance of its eighth anniversary, neither were they forthcoming with handshakes and directions to the bar.

But if this triad of stone-faced greeters seemed to have feet of clay, they could be forgiven the fact, since the three were papier-mache statues trucked up from the museum's permanent collection to serve as mood-setters at this India-themed party.

Perhaps it was as well that the guests were allowed to observe a preliminary moment of silence, because the rest of the evening was anything but quiet. Event chairman Katy Dessent planned a bouncy little program that included several changes of scene with music at every stop--pianist Joel Nash brightened the cocktail hour, and Heart and Soul later led a rock 'n' roll revival down at the poolside dance floor. (Later, Dessent said that the success of the party left her speechless, but it was easy to disregard this claim, since she not only was busy singing the praises of the Mingei but has had plenty of party experience. She chaired the 1982 Jewel Ball, "A Night in Bienville," at which 1,100 guests spent seven hours in a mythical French village.)

Act One found the guests assembled on a terrace that looked over the hills, which glowed like burnished bronze in the fading light. Here, they ladled chicken curry from an immense vat and strolled up to tables at which busy cooks flipped tiny Indian pancakes and slipped spice-coated mussels into pots of boiling oil. There seemed to be a constant coming and going as guests relayed word about other treats available farther down the line.

Frank and Joanne Warren seemed unusually relaxed for people who had 140 guests at their home, but Joanne assured one and all that the party was no work for her--the committee and caterers had shouldered all the tasks and left the Warrens free to spend the day at the beach, she said. Mingei Executive Director Martha Longenecker, who was escorted by Martin Roth, seemed equally relaxed; this was the third annual gala for the museum, and Longenecker discovered that the third time around really is a charm.

"This couldn't be more marvelous," she said, gesturing at the crescent moon that had begun to climb in the east. "And what makes this so special is that our supporters aren't just interested in parties, they're also so interested in the museum."

The stars were popping out by the time the guests descended to the pool area, where dinner was served. The Indian theme continued here, not just in the menu, but in the decor.

The party's inspiration arose from the Mingei's current exhibition, "Forms of Mother Earth--Contemporary Terra Cottas of India," and each table was decorated with pots and vases cast by the Indian artisans who established a temporary residence in the museum's exhibit halls. Candles glowed inside the pots and cast flickering light against the masses of orange lilies that bloomed at the center of each table.

Judi Strada wrote a rather daring dinner menu that ignored conventional party fare in favor of marinated duck salad, and an entree of spiced lamb and a vegetable curry. Guests were treated to several desserts, including a classic Indian sweet, jalebi , that came wrapped in sheets of pure--but most edible--silver. To work off all these calories, most guests made repeated trips to the dance floor, encouraged by the example set by party co-chairman Mary Williams and her escort, Ted Graham.

The guest list also included Al and Betty DeBakcsy (Betty chaired the 1985 Mingei celebration); Fielder and Marge Lutes, Jack and Loraine MacDonald, Merrel and Marie Olesen, Ted and Audrey Geisel, Robert and Nina Doede, Paul and Michelle Ellingsen, Ned and Carol Baumer, Larry and Ewa Robinson, Mike Dessent, Charlie and Maureen King, Bob and Connie Golden, Craig and Susan McClellan, and Bill and Beverly Muchnic.

Also attending were Bill and Martha Ehringer (Martha said that her one ambition is to spend the rest of her life at the Mingei, where she has just become a docent), Walter and Freddie Deming, John and Kirk Butler, Bert and Ethel Aginsky, Haley and Vicki Rogers, Madeline Shenefield with Stan Strong, Jean Jones with Dick Duffy, Sally and John Thornton, Kirk and Jeanette Peterson, Roger and Roswitha Woolley, and Charles and Susan Edwards.

SAN DIEGO--Author Hughes, president of the University of San Diego, nearly lost his voice during the cocktail hour that preceded the third annual Spirit of Charity dinner dance Friday in the Town & Country Hotel's Presidio Room for the benefit of Catholic Community Services.

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