The madcap couple with the Scott-and-Zelda flair for party giving have done it again--staged a bash with a dizzy bunch of elements and run away with the social smash of the season. Newport's Len and Mary Ann Miller had a penguin, a Mercedes-Benz and a caribou at "Top Hats 'n' Tiaras," the New Year's Eve benefit for UC Irvine College of Medicine's Medical Research and Education Society or MRES.
Calling the romp in three parts "a trilogy of some kind," Mary Ann, clad in a double-take nude and black lace Valentino, darted about the luxe rooms of the Irvine Hilton's lofty presidential suite hosting the party of the first part--a reception staged for committee and society board members.
"There's a story behind that penguin," Mary Ann told some bubbly-toting guests who had wandered into the suite's marbly bathroom and found an ice-carved penguin sitting in a bathtub de deux. "Irv (Orange County Supervisor Harriett Wieder's husband) has formed a Penguin Club. It's for men who wear black-tie all the time and don't complain. They're the kind of men who support their wives in a lot of pursuits.
"Now, don't confuse them with wimps! They're just awfully good to their wives. They're even drawing up by-laws. One is: 'When the telephone rings, always answer with: 'Yes, I'll get her for you.' They know it's not going to be for them!"
The Millers bought the penguin to honor the two couples who together paid $1,100 to spend the night in the suite--Barbara and Ben Harris, a Penguin, and Margaret and Frank Greinke, a Penguin-in-progress, according to Mary Ann. "He doesn't quite understand it all yet."
The overnight stay had been auctioned at a patron party. "When we were planning tonight's benefit, the hotel offered Len and me the suite for the night," Mary Ann said. "We decided to put it up for bid and make some money for MRES on it."
A 1970 Mercedes may have been the sleekest item on the auction block during "Top Hats 'n' Tiaras" Part 2, but it took a caribou's noggin (lolling dangerously close to a microwave oven) to turn heads. "Hmmmmm. Look's like he died old," observed UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason, making his way around the ballroom reception area where auction items had been set up. "Tell that to the environmentalists," quipped wife Suzanne.
"Did you know a caribou was the only reindeer-y kind of animal where the females also have horns?"one guest asked her brow-furrowed companion.
"He's beautiful. Beeeeeeyoooootiful," said Ray Osterhout, who would later win the trophy and cart it grandly into the night. "I want him for our family room or our house in Mammoth." ("It's hanging in the garage," said Mary Osterhout, two days later.)
Eric Nelson, an MRES board member, won the Mercedes with a $9,000 bid. "I think we'll keep it," he said. "I like older cars. I drive a little 1967 sports car, too."
Nelson is chairman of the board of Nelson Research & Development Co., the first research company, he said, to physically locate its business on the UCI campus. "We're a pharmaceutical research firm. The location gives us the advantage of interaction with university scientists from all over the world. In turn, the college gets 40% of our building for its use. In 30 years, the entire building will belong to the university."
In 1987, Nelson hopes to see the society increase its membership and support. "Our funds go toward on-campus research. Right now, we're very excited about the strides being made in the area of neuroscience. Personally, I'd like to see schizophrenia more fully addressed. It's a disease for which we probably have a good chance of success but no really good treatment."
Goal Stays the Same
Society President Jack Baldridge said his goal for 1987 was "the same as always for MRES--be a channel of communication for the research and medical activity taking place at the college. And provide seed grants to young scientists.
"Also, in 1987, I'd like to see our group become a conduit for people who have an interest in a special disease area. For example, I know of a couple who, when they learned their daughter had juvenile-onset diabetes, found there was research being done on the disease right at UCI. They got in touch with the medical school and the dean put them in contact with people who were working in this area. The couple set up a foundation and, so far, have raised $100,000.
"Often, when people lose someone, or a family member is afflicted, they donate funds to a national group. With UCI, they can give right here and get hands-on involvement, actually see what's being done." Baldridge attended the benefit with wife Emily and daughters Kitty, a third-year medical student at Cornell University, and Jackie, a senior at UCLA.
Licking Their Fingers
Dinner included consomme of smoked duckling, filet of beef wrapped in spinach and filo with Cabernet Sauvignon butter (an item that had guests licking their fingers) and a chocolate cake flavored with blackberries.