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Benjamin Epstein

Benefit Fashion Show Gets the Drop on Fall

August 28, 1986|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

Fall is coming, and just to let us know, the Guilds of South Coast Repertory staged their first event of the social season a month early.

"Fall fashions are in the stores," said Melinda Killmer, chairwoman of the Designer Preview. "A month later and it'll be after the fact."

More than 500 people came for the smoked salmon and bagel buffet, an energetic performance by the Young Conservatory Players, which the event benefited, and the fall fashion preview. Nordstrom at South Coast Plaza underwrote the evening entirely, and more than $12,000 was raised.

The fashion show, set against a stark neoclassic backdrop, opened with a segment featuring furs and fog machines, which proved effective visually and, for those in the front rows, a bit suffocating.

The show also featured plaids from Giorgio Armani, spotted prints from Gianni Versace, mixed metallic patterns from Escada and wool knit sweaters with chain-link and coin designs from Adrienne Vittadini. Hot fall colors include tobacco, teal, mustard and cobalt. Rubin Panis evening wear, including a scarlet strapless gown with rhinestone detail and red taffeta coat, was a hit; the sequence was capped by the swish and sway of a sexy, black bugle-beaded gown by--who else?--Bob Mackie.

Guests carefully checked off favored items on their programs. "I want the whole last scene," confided Olivia Johnson.

The Young Conservatory Players' program is designed to help youngsters from 10 to 17 discover their potential and increase their self-worth through theater performances. The company and director Diane Doyle will present three fully staged productions this season, beginning with "Magic Theater '86," on Nov. 22 and 23.

Not all the special guests, stars of another Hollywood era, were in the best of health. Some had gained weight; others had difficulty walking.

But some things hadn't changed.

"I thought Paul Henreid had the most romantic voice in the world," said one starry-eyed female guest. "He still has it."

Among the 350 party-goers Saturday night at the Peralta Hills estate of brick manufacturer Ron Higgins and his wife, Jade, were Henreid, Ruby Keeler, Yvonne De Carlo, Virginia Mayo, Cornel Wilde, Dorothy McGuire, Penny ("Blondie") Singleton, Francis Lederer and Jane Greer.

The stars were center stage to raise funds for the American Cinema Awards Foundation, dedicated to creating renewed interest in Hollywood's golden age. The $20,000 that was generated Saturday will be used to purchase memorabilia, stills and books for a planned library, museum and cultural center. The location has not been chosen.

On display at the party was a prized item from the foundation's proposed collection--the 1928 Academy Award won by the late Janet Gaynor. In Oscar's early years, awards were given for cumulative performances--this statuette honored Gaynor's work in "Seventh Heaven," "Street Angel" and "Sunrise."

"Pretty special" was how publisher Jim Dean later summed up the party. "You remember them in the old movies, you see them on late-night TV still looking young and gorgeous, and here they all are, 70, 80 years old . . .

"There's Paul Henreid, from 'Casablanca,' of course, and 'Now Voyager'--you know, lighting those two cigarettes with Bette Davis became the most romantic gesture of the era.

"And Robert Cummings, who's 76, when he was sitting there talking, he looked like he was in his 70s. But then, when they introduced him, he got up and he was just beaming , like he was on stage! So great."

Turns out that always-on-the-move Laguna socialite Lois Cannon was formerly a third-grade schoolteacher in Beverly Hills; she renewed acquaintances with Cummings and Wilde, whose sons she had taught.

As part of the school's 125th anniversary celebration, the Chapman College President's Associates met for their third annual "recognition brunch" Sunday at the Villa Park home of Chapman President G. T. (Buck) Smith and his wife, Joan.

More than 125 members of the group, individuals who have contributed $1,250 or more to Chapman College during the past academic year, attended. (The roster currently boasts 278 associates; gifts range up to more than $2 million.)

Steering Committee Chairman Rusty Hood recently discussed why the college decided to recognize major donors.

Recognition for such donors is important, she said. "They need to feel they belong .

"Before we formed the associates, we'd say to people, 'We really need money to back scholarships or to back the school.' Now we say we have this group of people, and you know how people are in Orange County, they look down the list and they say, 'Oh, he's on this list and he's on this list, but I'm not on this list.' And they want to be on the list at certain levels of contribution.

"I heard a very funny comment the other day," Hood said. "(The person) said, 'We're on the third list,' which is the $5,000 to $10,000 list. 'I decided I don't want to be on the third list. I want to be on the second list (which is $10,000 to $25,000).' "

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