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David Nelson / Society

'Catalogue Caper' Sends Guests Sleuthing for Gifts

September 25, 1986|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — Legendary pianist Bobby Short held forth Saturday in the Neiman-Marcus women's shoe salon, surroundings somewhat more pedestrian than his usual digs at New York's Cafe Carlyle.

Having Short live, in person and most definitely in command of a formidable set of ivories gave "The Neiman-Marcus Catalogue Caper" a polish as sparkling as one of the store's celebrated gems. However, the entertainer was but one of the many facets of this devilishly clever fund raiser given for the benefit of the Whittier Institute for Diabetes and Endocrinology, and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

The "Catalogue Caper" sent its 600 formally clad participants on a treasure hunt throughout the store. Timed to take place just two days before the unveiling of the extravagant Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue, the party lured its patrons with the promise of lavish gifts (157 were offered, making the odds of winning rather good) donated by the store's leading suppliers.

Upon entering the store, each guest was given a preliminary printed clue to decipher but was not allowed to begin the hunt until 8 p.m. Thus, a pleasant sense of anticipation built along with the usual roar of amiable chatter that enlivens most cocktail gatherings. But when the game began, the crowd rushed off in every direction.

The clues could be tricky. One clue read, "This is just between you and your 'Calvins,' " sent the guest searching vainly for a department that sold Calvin Klein jeans, only to learn that he should have gone instead to ladies' underwear. Janet Gallison, president of the Whittier Friends (an auxiliary to the Whittier Institute), proved rather a whiz at deciphering clues, aiding one sandbagged friend by explaining that "All roads lead to the seas," obviously indicated the Couture department, where designer Zandra Rhodes' gowns are featured.

Everyone seemed to find the game fun, but they all took it seriously. In their haste to gather clues, old friends passed like ships in the night, rushing not into one another's arms, but into the next department. The escalators were jammed with people heading from the third floor to the first, and so forth (it really was quite a workout).

Party chairman Nancy Gentry saw to it that her legions of hard-working guests were nourished at every step of the way. JB Caterers staff passed everywhere with lavish hors d'oeurves, and stations set up on each floor offered arrays of more substantial fare as well as energizing desserts.

The party kept the guests in motion in other ways, especially on the dance floors set up for the Murray Korda Orchestra and the Columbus dance band. Bobby Short's Cabaret offered a welcome way station of rest for the weary, and guests there were able to sip champagne at elegantly appointed tables while luxuriating in Short's sophisticated lyrics.

The coolest cats present undoubtedly were the pair of California "spangled" cats, a new breed of feline that is being offered by the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalogue as this year's "His and Hers" gift. Offered at $1,400 each, the cats reposed majestically in a special viewing area on the second floor, a vantage point from which they not only were seen, but could watch and wonder at the spectacle of all those humans chasing so feverishly about. (The cats, bred to capture the coloring of big cats, are described by the catalogue as "leopards for your living room.")

The party ended late, the last stragglers leaving the dance floors well after 1 a.m., many of them burdened by the weight of the prizes their exhaustive sleuthing had won them.

The committee included Electa Black, Peggy Wheatcroft, Alice Cavanaugh, Carol Baumer, Syd Youngson, Betty Davis, Ingrid Hibben, Sheila Ferris, Betty Alexander, Jill Branburn, Judy Comito, Berneice Copeland, Sandy Henry, Patsy Page, Fran Golden and Coolley Carley.

Among the guests were Dorothy and Harry Johnston; Elaine and Jack Sheridan; Georgie and Al Blatz; Helen Burton (she won a stuffed Teddy bear and earmarked it for her soon-to-arrive first great-grandchild); Whittier Institute board chairman Ted Graham with Mary Williams; institute director Dr. Willard VanderLaan and his wife, Eileen; Craig Courtemanche; Diana and Dick Young; Joanne Hutchinson with John Siglow, and JoBobbie MacConnell, who will be chairing Saturday's Fine Arts Ball at the U.S. Grant Hotel.

Also present were Jack Monday (he won a gown for wife Virginia, who was not able to attend); Jane and John Murphy; Sarah and David Burton; Alice and Dick Cramer; Tommi and Bob Adelizzi, Mary and Bob Allan; Anne and Abe Ratner, and Jane and Tom Fetter, whose son-in-law, Peter Isler, recently flew to Perth, Australia, where he signed on as Dennis Conner's navigator for the America's Cup challenge.

LA JOLLA--Photographer Roy Porello focused a critical eye--rather than a camera lens--on a series of photographs of Marilyn Monroe, and sighed.

"These pictures have so much life to them," he said. "They come right out of their frames."

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