SAN DIEGO — The Gaslamp Quarter may not have witnessed such a lively Saturday night since the days when Ida Bailey operated her notorious Canary Cottage on the site now occupied by the Horton Grand Hotel.
Big Doings were afoot Saturday in the oft-sleepy Gaslamp, thanks to the unrelated but unrestrained efforts of the Young Buffs of the San Diego Opera and the management of the Gaslamp Quarter Theatre Company.
The Young Buffs chose the evening for the second of their annual costume balls, given at the Horton Grand for 80 guests who, getting quite into the spirit of the thing, masqueraded as their favorite characters from grand opera. Toscas, Mimis and Aidas abounded, and some couples came in matched sets: Siegfried and Brunnhilde, Carmen and Escamillo, Pat and Mike.
While the be-wigged, be-jewelled and bedazzled were be-bopping at the Horton Grand (oddly enough, the evening featured disco instead of Donizetti), a slightly more sedate and decidedly more formal (black tie was the rule) crowd of 250 gathered at the Gaslamp Theatre's new Deane Theatre for a VIP preview of this handsome new stage.
Among the several Aidas at the Young Buffs frolic was chairman Carol Jean Spicer, who commented, apropos the occasionally wild costumes, that "Everyone has to let his inhibitions go uniquely ." This remark perhaps applied best to Ann Campbell (wife of Opera director Ian Campbell), who masqueraded as the immensely popular--and just plain immense--tenor Luciano Pavarotti.
"You have to remember that I'm seven months' pregnant, otherwise I could never manage this," explained Campbell, adding, "I'm exhausted from staring in the mirror and laughing at myself all day." With her greasepaint whiskers, white tie and slicked-back hair, she did look remarkably like the redoubtable star of "Yes, Giorgio." The finishing brilliance of her costume came from the tape recording of Pavarotti renderings that she tucked inside her waistcoat; at the touch of a button, she could lip-sync the tenor singing "La Donne e Mobile."
Ian Campbell, who has a rather large theatrical wardrobe at his command, made no effort to compete with his wife, settling for the simple monk's habit worn by Count Alvaro in the final act of "La Forza del Destino."
As a final note, the group considered the costumes a sufficient homage to opera. When the music started, the band's first piece was "Wooly Bully."
Among committee members were Mary Ellen Cain, Barbara Bolt, Berneil and Donald Cole, Margi David Sargis, Beverly and William Smith, Rosalie and John Maynard, Nancy and Steve Howard, and Gina and Charles Kakos.
Trumpet fanfares, however, were the order of the evening at the Deane Theatre party, which although not officially a grand opening had all the trappings of one.
Charles Deane, the eponymous benefactor of the new theater, and his wife, Pendry, were on hand for the champagne reception and preview performance of Somerset Maugham's "The Circle." Major patron Ernest Hahn also turned up briefly before dashing off to yet another party.
Deane, standing beneath the elegant and very Broadway-style (as in Manhattan's Broadway) marquee that bears his name, seemed appropriately pleased with the moment.
"It isn't every day in January that I get a theater named after me," he said. But he added that, for him, the best part of the evening was to see so many people and so much activity in this long-neglected corner of downtown. It must be admitted that the bright lights did seem like beacons signaling the arrival of a new age for the area.
Deane Theatre Managing Producer Kit Goldman beamed every bit as brightly as her guests. "We've been working on this project for three years, and we're just begining to believe it's done," she said. "The building is up, it's beautiful, everything works--we're in business!"
Old Globe Theatre benefactor Helen Edison was among the guests, as were Meridian developer Walter Smyk and his wife, Mary. (Smyk gestured at the line of cars waiting to disgorge their occupants and said, "If you lived downtown, you could walk.") Others were Bill and Penny Miller, David and Darlene Schoenberg, Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer, Bob and Pam Dobson, Murray and Elaine Galinson, Bill and Amy Barnett, Harold and RoseLee Kvaas, George and Carolyn Saadeh and Mike and Virginia Wofford.
At "A Touch of Class," the fashion luncheon presented Jan. 21 at the Hotel Inter-Continental by the Auxiliary Council of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra Assn., one received the impression that there would be far fewer leaks in Washington if some of these women were in positions of power there.