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David Nelson / Society

After Lively Night, Walls Came Tumbling Down

September 18, 1986|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — One of the hottest bands ever assembled blew into town Saturday for a one-night stand at Club Galaxy, a recherche little nightspot so exclusive that few in the crowd of 350 had ever heard of it.

They will be talking about Club Galaxy for a long time to come, and with good reason. But don't try to go there. When the Bob Haggart Club Galaxy Orchestra blew its horns for the final time, the walls came tumbling down.

And that's a pity. Club Galaxy may have been the closest thing to a Copacabana or El Morocco that this town has ever seen. Set up inside a white tent, the room was littered with so many palm trees tipped with blue-dyed feathers that it looked like a chic oasis for ostriches. And there were enough notable faces there to keep "Life Styles of the Rich and Famous" on the tube for years.

Club Galaxy was just a spoof, but for one magic evening it materialized on the back lawn of Nissan Design International, picked by party chairman Carol Yorston to house "Stars Around the Globe," a gala benefit for the Old Globe Theatre.

Nissan Design International, the Golden Triangle complex where the Japanese auto maker develops new vehicles, does not make a practice of welcoming the public, and to say that security there is tight is to put it mildly. It is a grand complex, one that most guests were eager to explore.

Although welcoming cocktails were served on a front terrace, a few courageous explorers tackled the labyrinth of passages inside the center, and those with sufficient charm or chutzpah were able to get through the guard-controlled sliding panel that gives access to the design studios.

Eventually, everyone on the way to Club Galaxy passed through the Red Studio, where Nissan design chief Herry Hirshberg displayed the new Pathfinder truck, which had not been revealed to the public until that moment.

Guests also paused in the studio to pick up some of the most deliriously silly party favors of recent memory. Called "cymid" sticks, these plastic tubes glowed in the dark and were looped around necks, wrists and foreheads with as much delight as if they had been composed of gold and jewels. Then the oddly glowing group proceeded to Club Galaxy, where most, once they heard the music, headed straight for the dance floor.

And what music! Bill Muchnic assembled the band by "calling a few pals," and it must be nice to have such buddies. Bob Haggard led the orchestra with his bass; the former member of Bob Crosby's Bobcats wrote "Big Noise from Winnetka." Guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli riffed through such numbers as "Lady Be Good," accompanied by drummer Nick Fatool, who was an original member of Artie Shaw's Grammercy Five. Also in the group were cornetist Warren Vache Jr. (who played with Benny Goodman), clarinetist Abe Most, trombonist Dan Barrett, and on tenor sax, Tommy Newsom, co-leader of the orchestra on the Tonight Show.

The orchestra alone could have made the evening, but Yorston and her cohorts (Judith Smith was co-chair, Tonnie Moss designed the decor, and Suzanne Figi planned the menu) designed a flashy blowout that entertained on many levels. The dinner began with gazpacho served in avocados raised at Yorston's Los Gordos Ranch in Fallbrook, and continued with grilled chicken and Anna potatoes. Caterer John Baylin saved his best effort for last: Dozens of waiters hit the stage to construct a cake that was an edible replica of the Old Globe.

Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien then introduced a showy procession of Globe performers who, since this was the Club Galaxy, put on a floor show. The cast included Michael Byers (the largely Republican crowd enjoyed his singing of the "Ronnie Reagan Rag"); Linda Hart singing "Ain't Nobody's Business If I Do"; Bob James offering variations from the Globe's current hit, "Emily"; and Amanda McBroom performing Hoagy Carmichael's jazzy "Baltimore Oriole."

The guest list included John and Sally Thornton, Jack and Carolyn Farris, Hal and B.J. Williams, James and Diane Bashor, Mark Yorston, Hal and Joann Clark, Richard and Mary Adams, John and Grace Barbey, Arthur and Jeannie Rivkin, Victor and Sondra Ottenstein, Don and Darlene Shiley, George and Martha Gafford, Charles and Barbara Arledge, Doug and Betsy Manchester, Old Globe executive producer Craig Noel, and Mike and Carol Alessio.

LA JOLLA--The Old Globe, when it gets into a party mood, usually jumps in with both feet. Many of the guests at Club Galaxy warmed up for that event by attending the Sept. 8 farewell party for former Globe community relations director Bob McGlade.

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