SAN DIEGO — Lisa Kahre, the reigning Miss California, has a hunch that seven will turn out to be her lucky number.
Six previous Miss Californias have captured the Miss America title, and Kahre has decided that the time is ripe for the Golden State to win the distinction again. That the crown would rest on her carefully coiffed locks is, in her opinion, rather like the icing on the cake.
Kahre explained her hopes for the near future--the Miss America pageant will be held in Atlantic City on Sept. 13--at a farewell party given her Sunday by her summerlong hosts, Dick and Vangie Burt. The Burts' gracious Mission Hills home, an aerie poised above the bay and below the clouds, served as party site for the mid-afternoon reception.
Although the beauty queen ruled the afternoon as guest of honor, she also provided much of the entertainment. Since the crowd of 150 guests included members of some of the city's most sophisticated circles, Kahre spent much of the day modeling one sumptuous, spangled gown after another. The intent was to gauge crowd response to each dress (an assistant kept careful notes of both the men's and women's reactions), so as to allow Kahre to choose the one most likely to catch the judges' eyes when she parades down the Miss America runway. Which gown did she select? The answer will not be revealed until Sept. 13.
To Kahre's assistant, Beth Williams, the excitement of the send-off party was just another piece of the adrenalin-powered pattern that has developed since Kahre was named Miss California in June ceremonies at the Civic Theatre. After pausing to take a particularly critical, if not displeased, look at the gown Kahre happened to be wearing at the moment (it was a quite incredible confection of solid blue sequins overlaid with dangling crystal beads), Williams offered her insider's opinion of the beauty pageant scene.
"Nobody really understands what the Miss California and Miss America pageants are all about," she said. "I was very cynical when I first got involved, but now that I have seen what it does for the young women, I've become an enthusiastic supporter."
Among the benefits that Williams outlined were not merely the character building that results from the grueling pageant process, but very tangible benefits, such as the $10,000 Miss California scholarship that will allow Kahre, whose college major is music education, to enroll this fall in the music department at UCLA.
The Burts were asked before the Miss California pageant to open their home to several of the contestants, and when Kahre took the title, pageant officials requested that they be her hosts for the summer. They proved enthusiastic chaperones and tireless entertainers, and Kahre was introduced to a good bit of San Diego during her two months' residence.
At the party, Vangie Burt exhibited a visage that mingled excitement with melancholy, and pleasure with pride.
"I'll be in Atlantic City to cheer Lisa on," she said, "but it will be like losing a daughter when she leaves us." But then, the Burts do have a store of daughters to comfort them, a total of six, to be precise. All the members of this daughterly sextet--Marcie, Diana, Karen, Jennifer, Laurie and Mary--were present that day.
The reception took a decidedly informal, end-of-summer note, but it did come briefly to order when the guests were called into the living room to hear Kahre play the flute. This instrument is her musical specialty; it helped her to become Miss California, and she hopes it will lead her to equal success in Atlantic City. She played "The Carnival of Venice," the same piece that she will perform at the pageant. (One guest with an elephantine memory, or at least a talent for recalling relevant trivia, noted that Bess Myerson's flute-playing helped her to gain the Miss America diadem.)
The guest list included Bob and Gail Arnhym; he serves as president of the Miss California Pageant. Also present were Mike and Jan Madigan and their daughter, Vanessa (a number of young women attended, and several surely were dreaming of one day filling Kahre's satin pumps); Cushman and Betty Dow; Jack and Jean Morse; George and Janet Cooksey; Bill and Lollie Nelson; Dick and Joan Kyser; Dean and Marie Dunphy; Phil and Alice Creasor; Bob and Kim Snedley; Susan Terril, and Joe and Rita Neeper.
Bob and Cookie Ingram stopped off at the Del Mar race track on their way to the party, and their experience on the turf perhaps boded well for Lisa Kahre. Spotting a horse named Lucky Lisa in the first race, the Ingrams placed a bet and found that they had picked the winner.
Had Kahre's going-away party taken place after darkness caused the city to glow with lights, the guests might have looked down from the Burts' terrace and speculated at the source of all the commotion down by the Embarcadero.