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Benjamin Epstein

Center's Social Whirl Is Still Spinning

August 19, 1986|Benjamin Epstein

Everything revolves around the Center.

Or so postulated one of the guests at a dinner-dance Saturday at the University Club on the UC Irvine campus. But the gentleman wasn't discussing mathematics. Nor had he reinvented the wheel.

He was talking about social life in Orange County, and the Center to which he referred was the Orange County Performing Arts Center, scheduled to open Sept. 29. The dinner was sponsored by a support group for same, the Guys and Dolls chapter. (In dedication ceremonies Sunday, the Center's 3,000-seat theater was given its official name, Segerstrom Hall.)

Guys and Dolls, one of 43 chapters that stage an almost-constant blur of fund-raising events, is made up of singles. But these aren't singles of the up-and-coming variety: They've arrived, and then some.

More than 100 professional, civic and social leaders came to hear the music of the Ink Spots, who kept the dance floor filled, and the dancing close, with such lyrics as "How sweet it used to be/ Once upon a time . . ." and--remember the tune revived by those artsy perfume commercials?--"I don't want to set the world on fire/ I just want to start a flame in your heart."

The Ink Spots performed after dinner. Chapter parliamentarian Jerrel Richards, however, felt that the event was a success before the cocktail hour was over.

"Everybody knows how difficult it is for many people to join a singles group," Richards said. "They're vulnerable. Even as mature as this group is, a lot of us feel that way.

"Early this evening, one very beautiful woman said to me, 'I feel like such a wallflower.' I said, 'I'll give you three or four minutes before somebody comes over.' I watched her. She wasn't there two minutes before somebody came over and bought her a drink. She's definitely part of the party now."

Dinner-dance chairman Nancy Hodson took exception to remarks by Richards in a recent column in which he contended that there aren't enough available single men on the social scene to accommodate the available women. (The group has in fact had greater difficulty recruiting male members than female.)

"There are a lot of men, but not a lot of quality men," Hodson said. "I turn down far more dates than I ever go out with."

Richards said he has enjoyed the response from his comments.

"I got about four nasty notes from that article," Richards said, "and 13 new invitations. Not too bad!"

Chapter historian Felicia Bukaty recently served as chaperon for the filming of 26 segments of "Dream Girls," a talent show featuring "former beauty queens ages 18 to 27"--including Miss USA--to begin airing the last week of September.

"They called me on extremely short notice," Bukaty recalled. "I said, 'Sounds crazy, I'll do it.' Only one girl caused any problems. She threw the telephone out the door because the hotel wouldn't let her make a phone call at 2 o'clock in the morning, then tore up her contract. But most of them were fine.

"The emcee, Ken Howard from 'The Colbys,' asked me if I were one of the Dream Girls. I told him, 'No, I'm the original. I taught them everything they know.' He gave me a big kiss on the cheek." Bukaty wouldn't reveal her age--"you'll have to check the obits for that," she said--but reported that she has a different date for every night of the opening week festivities at the Center.

According to chapter president Patty Brennan, the group will turn over $10,000 to the Center from dues and events this year. Most at the Ink Spots party were new faces. "Skill and cunning," confided Brennan. "We've been networking." New applicants (dues are $400 a year) must be sponsored; applications are carefully screened.

Brennan was spotted dancing with membership chairman Jim Barrett. Whether or not that's enough to keep the phone lines busy, prospective Guys and Dolls members be warned: One of the license plates outside the University Club bore the letters, HT GOSIP.

The Orange County chapter of the National Assn. of Catering Executives gathered last week for a "Wine and Food Sensation," a tasting and wine auction on the terrace at the Newporter Resort. Representatives of 18 restaurants and 33 wineries helped raise $10,000 toward scholarships for deserving catering students, both nationally and locally, according to event co-chairman Frank Spiniarski.

Among the more elegant food offerings, a flaming scampi station was set up by the new Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach; the Third Floor Restaurant at the Emerald of Anaheim brought sevruga caviar. Two wines previously judged at fairs, but never before available for public tasting, made their debut: the 1982 William Hill Gold Label Cabernet Sauvignon and the 1985 Edna Valley Chardonnay.

Spiniarski's wife, Pam, is president of the chapter. His co-chairman was Sonny Soldana. Music provided by Leonard Neil featured such unhackneyed fair as the Triumphal March from Verdi's "Aida," performed on the accordion.

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