When it comes to wearing a white tie and gliding across the parquet with a beautiful girl in his arms, a man is hard put to find a better role model than the late Cary Grant.
So it was no surprise that Leonard South slipped into the father-of-the-deb role with consummate poise at the Children's Home Society's debutante ball on Saturday night.
South, a motion picture cameraman who worked with Grant when he made films for Alfred Hitchcock, was Grant's friend.
"Cary was charming," South said, sipping a cocktail beside daughter Ann-Marie at a pre-ball father-daughter party in the Newport Marriott. "I learned a lot from watching him. If Grant had had any advice for me tonight, it would have been: 'Be a gentleman. And then, go for it!' "
South went for it all right, along with 22 other suspender-bursting fathers. He dubbed his daughter "the most beautiful deb in the room." To which a blushing Ann-Marie replied: "Dad . You're not supposed to say that. "
He stayed by her fidgety side while she waited to enter the hotel's greenery-filled Pacific ballroom. He extended a strong arm when she made her debut before her mother and hundreds of gawking well-wishers. He steadied her as the two promenaded around the dance floor. He held his breath as she lowered herself on one knee to make her deep St. James bow. And he waltzed her grandly.
For most of the fathers, executing the traditional waltz steps was no simple task. In fact, waltz lessons had been staged for the group two weeks before. But for Dr. Kenneth Chong, father of deb Vanessa Chong, twirling his beautiful daughter around the dance floor was a Fred Astaire-breeze.
"My wife Junie and I have been waltzing for 30 years," Chong said. Although he and Junie do not go out to dance as often as they used to, Chong admitted, they do not need to go out to dance. "We have a ballroom in our home in Corona del Mar," the plastic surgeon said. "A marble atrium over 100 feet long and 50 feet wide."
Junie confided that when they weren't using it for parties, she had another use for it. "I jog there," she whispered with a giggle.
George Argyros had special reason to celebrate the debut of daughter Lisa. He and wife Judie had adopted her through the Children's Home Society when she was a few days old. "It was a very special opportunity. We are really blessed," Argyros said.
Lisa said she had wanted to be a deb "to give something back to the Children's Home Society (the 33rd annual event was expected to bring more than $25,000 to the society's Newport Harbor auxiliary). I know from experience how good the society is. I feel that being adopted is more special than anything else. My parents had a choice. And they chose me."
Also making their debuts were Kristina Arnold, Jennifer Busch, Melinda Dalton, Mary Elizabeth Du, Julie Evans, Suzanna Gates, Jill Goldman, Karen Grundhofer, Lucy Hartford, Laurie Hayde, Margaret Henson, Deanne Jacobs, Amy Larner, Denise Mallos, Melanie McGriffin, Donna Newcomb, Stephanie Strader, Moya Sullivan, Schellie Walsh and Janet Yesk.
Per Henrik Trebler, a member of the Orange County district board of Children's Home Society, hosted the affair. Marilyn Read chaired. Assisting were Nanette Sutherland, Paula Bastiaanse, Carol Dru, Pat Smith, Patti Bellitti, Debbie Benedict, Linda Bertone, Linda Marshall, Ann Foreman, Pat Middlemas, Sharon Rude, Leslie Cies, Jackie Treblet, Rosalind Chang, Sandee Kerr and Linda Hughes. In addition to adoption programs, proceeds will go toward Children's Home Society's parent-child counseling, foster family care, day care, child advocacy and public education programs.