First-nighters came forth with rave reviews when an estimated 3,000 of them poured into the new J. W. Robinson's South Coast Plaza Friday night for a black-tie premiere to benefit the Irvine Guild of the Orange County Performing Arts Center.
Guests mingled among the cosmetic counters, feasted on chocolate torte between the sheets and sportswear and rocked to a '50s-style band beside the after-5 dresses. Three floors of festivities continued into the night.
"It's just happening and happening and happening," shouted Michael Kleiser over the dance band's enthusiastic rendition of "Roll Over Beethoven," adding that "I had the best smoked salmon I ever had in my life on the third floor."
In the Crystal Court, party-goers stared, at times awe-struck, at a fashion show that "seemed more like a Broadway play" according to Jack Matthess, South Coast Plaza's director of merchandising. The show was so elaborate that none was safe from the special effects. By the finale, Guilds chairman JoAnn Boswell was covered with confetti, and a sauce jar sailed from a model's basket, barely missing a front-row spectator, during what proved to be a too-high-stepping hoedown.
After viewing the finale, a wedding sequence heralded by white doves and highlighted by some rather impassioned players, event co-chair Thelma Friedel wondered if the bride and groom were really married. (Model Jeff Gifford later revealed that they are.)
"I've never seen anything like the wedding scene," Henry Segerstrom said. (Renee Segerstrom said she wanted to buy everything in the show.)
"I hated the wedding dress," admitted Fritzi Williams, but then she added, "I liked the boys with the fans."
While others partied, Cindy Rathbun compared notes. She said the next night's opening at the Broadway would benefit her chapter, Cabaret.
Carol Wilken, event co-chair, estimated that $75,000 went to the Irvine Guild, which consists of the Learned Ladies, Chapter Two, Applause and Stage Door chapters.
According to steering committee member Judy Cristiano, the Opportunity drawing raised another $12,000. Although grand prize winner Dennis O'Shannon wasn't present to learn that he had won a cruise to the Orient, she said that the situation was about to be remedied.
Said Cristiano: "I can't wait to call him. I'm going to wake him up."
Other committee members included Cassandra Gumpert, Mary Kunz, Nancy Wilson, Kristin Colgon, Dusty Burgmans, Diane Johnson, Marilyn Sullivan, Joan Stover and Evelyn Willis.