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Benjamin Epstien

Ice Sculpture Was Hot at Newport Museum Benefit

July 07, 1986|Benjamin Epstien

The ice--a one-sixteenth scale frozen replica of Miss Liberty--was hot stuff: The unveiling, a few hours after that of her more durable sister on Liberty Island in New York, was for many the climax of the Newport Harbor Art Museum's "Liberty Celebration," Thursday night at the Newporter Resort.

The fireworks display, on the other hand, was cooled by high winds.

Bombs burst intermittently in air above the Back Bay. The finale had to be canceled, despite emcee and Channel 2 weatherman Kevin O'Connell's prediction of "clear skies, gentle breeze, 65 degrees." But celebrants looked on the bright side: "It was nice because it went on for a long time," pointed out museum spokesman Kathleen Costello.

More than $150,000 was raised for the museum, according to party chairman Susan Porter Caput. Suggested attire for the 1,300 guests was "independent"--which, ironically enough, set wives and girlfriends adrift in a sea of blazers.

Asked where he got his unabashedly star-spangled tie, Bill Banning said, "It's an import." Ileana Zwerling wore hose with stars on one leg and stripes on the other. Joyce Ukropina said she and her friends found their "statue de la liberte" headgear at a shop that sells red, white and blue paraphernalia on Lido Isle. "They must have had a field day," Ukropina reflected. "On the other hand, they must die 360 days of the year."

Color Guard

O'Connell began the evening by introducing the color guard and members of the honorary committee, including W.A. Bloomer, James Roosevelt and Tom Riley, retired brigadier generals; Richard Lyon, retired rear admiral, and William Ficker,chief adviser to the Americas Cup Eagle Challenge.

As the Marine Corps band struck up "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder," jets from John Wayne Airport flew overhead. "Perfect timing," noted committee member Gloria Gae Schick. Schick then led the singing of the "Star Spangled Banner." Later, she crowned the evening with "America the Beautiful."

Bernard Jacoupy, general manager of the Hotel Meridien across town, seemed to be the closest thing to a representative of France at the event. "I came to sing the '(La) Marseillaise,' " he joked, "but there's not even one French flag around here." Jacoupy admitted, however, that the French flag's colors--red, white and blue--were everywhere.

Guests watched Ronald Reagan unveil the Statue of Liberty and the torchlighting on big screen television. Live and in person, Peter Odegard conducted his Irvine Symphony Orchestra in "An American Celebration," with fireworks accompaniment, and Mark Daukas unveiled his impressive Liberty sculpture, carved from 2,000 pounds of ice.

American Food

A cornucopia of "American" food certainly showed the breadth of the genre: Included were fajitas; swordfish kebabs; mini-Baboli pizza and Maryland crab cakes. "American cuisine is not just Southern-fried chicken," observed one guest.

During dinner, new board chairman Jack Shea talked about plans for the museum's future.

"We're going to rebuild the museum," Shea said. "We're going to give our (present facility) to the city for a library, make (the present) library a cultural center and put a brand new museum on the vacant property at the corner (of Santa Barbara and San Clemente drives). This is assuming, of course, that the city approves the transfer of the library, and that we can raise $30 million.

"We haven't retained an architect yet, but we have very definite plans and high hopes."

California Art

Museum Director Kevin Consey elaborated: "We need to build space for our permanent collection, (which) documents the history of California painting since 1945. As it is now, we can never show the permanent collection and (an exhibition) at the same time.

"We want to build a visual arts facility comparable to the (Orange County Performing Arts Center). We believe there is that level of support in the community, but we'll do a feasibility study in the fall. If our test says there is that capability in the county, we'll start fund raising in mid-1987, break ground in mid-1988, and open by 1990."

Event vice chairman was Jacquelyn Schmitt. Irvine Mayor Dave Baker served as auctioneer for such items as a Boston whaler and a vacation in the French Alps. Trans World Airlines representative Jan Wood was so excited by the auction that she upgraded her company's raffle prize--round-trip air fare to New York--to include Paris; NHAM board member Mike Meyer will take the trip.

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