The night was special indeed for the 450 guests who attended the $100-per-person, black-tie "Renaissance Ball" Saturday night at the Four Seasons in Newport Beach to benefit the Interval House shelter for victims of domestic violence.
Certainly, it was celebrity-studded. Actress Charlotte Rae and former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown dined with guests. But the real stars were Interval House "graduates"--women who expressed thanks for the chance to escape the cycle of domestic physical abuse.
Karen was typical of the Interval House graduates in attendance. She had been battered by her husband for two years before she discovered Interval House during Christmas of 1981, when her husband's mother and sister came to visit.
"When they came that day, I needed to go to the hospital. My husband left me lying on the porch, and I couldn't move," she said. "It was my husband's sister who made the call. She came to me and said, 'Let's go to Denny's and have a cup of coffee.' " At the coffee shop, Karen's sister-in-law handed her a card with the Interval House number on it. With her sister-in-law's encouragement, Karen called Interval House and got instructions for making a safe exit.
Today, with her own apartment and a community college degree, Karen credits Interval House for her survival. She has also learned to recognize abusers. When in doubt, she'll casually discuss a newspaper article on the subject. "If he says, 'She had it coming to her,' you stay away."
According to Interval House founder Norma Gibbs, 50% of all women in the country suffer from physical abuse. Gibbs, the former mayor of Huntington Beach and Seal Beach, began Interval House in her garage with co-founder Isa Smashey Rogers because "everybody says it's a wonderful idea, but not in my neighborhood."
For the evening, Gibbs had accessorized her sequined jacket with a red, white and blue eagle. The eagle, which perches snugly on her shoulder, was a gift from Dr. Butch ("I had the name before he did") Cassidy. The orthopedic surgeon, listed in the program as Robert E. Cassidy MD, had been passing out eagles in honor of Newport's Eagle Challenge entry in the forthcoming America's Cup race, where he will serve as the official ship's doctor.
Cassidy's table, where all wore formal attire and, of course, the eagles, also included John Griffith, a director for the Eagle Challenge, who departed the ball just before former Gov. Brown took the podium. After trading quips with a Ronald Reagan look-alike that had been hired for the occasion, Brown named Griffith the winner of the night's grand prize, the classic 1960 Chrysler Ghia limousine, valued at $85,000, that had shuttled Brown through the state during his term in office.
But no matter. One of his table mates planned to commandeer the car keys for the drive to Griffin's home. "We get to joy-ride in it before he does," he said.
Rae, who presided over the live auction, nearly missed the event. The actress said her limousine driver had been lost for 2 1/2 hours. "Like this I waited," she said, pointing to her violet gown with glittered coat. Still, she waited, refusing to miss her role at the Renaissance Ball, scheduled for the same evening as her last episode in TV's "Facts of Life."
Trips on Block
The auction fetched between $80,000 and $90,000, including $3,100 for a trip to Tahiti and $2,075 for a white mink from Bullocks Wilshire. Also on the block were trips to Mexico, San Francisco, the Bahamas, Dallas for a Cowboys game, and Nevada for a day as president of Sun World Airways, complete with the use of a plane named for the recipient.
Skip Courtney purchased so much that his wife, Cynthia, who co-chaired the auction with Harlene Goodrich, expressed fear in leaving her table. "The first time I went to the bathroom, I came back and found out I was going to the Golden Door."
The $2,800 trip was a gift for Cynthia Courtney and auction chairwoman Carol Williams. "He bought it for Carol and me as a treat for all our work," she continued. Apparently, party plans had begun for Courtney, Williams and Goodrich 10 months back.
Outside, at the party's close, Michael Shaw cuddled her $300 purchase, a 5-week-old black poodle spaniel puppy. "It's got papers and everything--registered," she said, smiling. She said its destiny lies with her two children, who no longer had to fight over their cocker spaniel at home. Shaw's husband, Lou, who originated the TV series "Quincy," had presented an award as part of the evening's ceremonies.
Receiving awards that night were Mary Walton as Woman of the Year, William Quinn as Man of the Year, Cynthia and Joseph Courtney for distinguished service and Robert Armstrong, Kathy Elliott and Bettina Sargeant for humanitarian honors.