"It's ample proof of how much Southern Californians appreciate what Sen. Lloyd Bentsen has done," Howard Allen told the very top-drawer, very bipartisan crowd assembled Monday night at Chasen's.
The $1,000-a-head benefit for the Texas Democrat and his wife, B.A., had been billed as a "Southern California tribute"--and, with the 235-plus heavy hitters and $351,000 raised, there was ample proof that tribute in this neighborhood translates into hard cash.
Proof too that a political dinner could be fun--especially when tables were crowded with big names that mixed downtown corporate types with entertainment biggies, seated Republicans right alongside Democrats. Chairman Howard Allen (chairman and CEO of Southern California Edison) was talking to a crowd including Warner Communications' Bob and Nancy Daly and MGM/UA's Merv Adelson--who joined a table anchored by the evening's other chairman, Lew Wasserman, as did Bunny Wrather with Martin Manulis. At the other end of the room, co-chair Edie Wasserman had a table that included Dr. Armand Hammer, Bentsen and Kitchen Cabineteers Marion and Earle Jorgensen.
Among the crowd were Arco's Lod and Carole Cook; Marvin and Barbara Davis with their son John; Eli and Edye Broad, Michael and Jane Eisner, Lynne Wasserman, William Keck II, Philip and Mary Hawley along with Edward and Hannah Carter, and, in from D.C. after a seven-hour snow delay, Motion Picture Assn. President Jack Valenti.
Bentsen, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, told the crowded party room that there were "very tough choices" facing Congress this year--the trade deficit, the budget deficit and productivity. The trade deficit 10 years ago, he said, was "$12 billion . . . last year if it was a $12-billion month, we took some comfort."
Asking the group to give him advice on pending legislation, Bentsen extended his thanks for the show of monetary support: "I know you're the crowd that gets hit every time. You are the movers and shakers. You are the leaders. . . . "
The evening, as all evenings do that involve the Wassermans, ended early. By 9:30, the room was thinning out, but the dawdlers got treated to a Charleston dance exhibition by Andrea Van de Kamp and Walter Gerken. Then the Bentsens got their take-home package of Chasen's chili from Tommy Gallagher and went off to catch the redeye to Washington.
At the Palace on Monday night, it was a big time for scores of just-about-to-be-somebodies. Significant portions of the Hollywood Youth Brigade showed up to pay homage to one of their spiritual leaders, writer-producer John Hughes, following the premiere of his "Some Kind of Wonderful" at the Chinese Theater. Hughes lingered at the bar just long enough to be lionized, but other scene-makers who hung around a spell included the movie's stars--Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson and Mary Stuart Masterson, all of whom sported permanent squints from prolonged exposure to those omnipresent MTV and E. T. cameras. Also there--former Hughes stars Andrew McCarthy (just back from three weeks of blissful incommunicado in Ireland) and Molly Ringwald. All this, and rockers too: a couple of Bangles (arriving fashionably late), Ex-Policeman Andy Summers, main man-about-club Michael Des Barres, the Beastie Boys and two of "Some Kind of Wonderful's" soundtrack groups, the March Violets and Flesh for Lulu (both of whom turned in live mini-sets to boot). Rutger Hauer, Justine Bateman and, of course, that riotous pink Angelyne (much smaller in person, if you know what we mean) also helped themselves to Paramount's hospitality.
A SLIGHT SWITCH--Sure did look like Democrats gathered in the private dining room of the Regency Club on Monday for the luncheon sponsored by Norman Lear, Ted Field and several others--folks like Harold and Grace Willens and Max Palevsky and his bride-to-be, the sparkling Jodie Evans. But this was for Sen. Lowell Weicker, the Connecticut Republican. Palevsky (who keeps claiming that he's giving up politics) said he was there "Because of Norman . . . and her," pointing to Evans. Lear introduced Weicker--"There is no stauncher friend in terms of civil rights." And he returned the compliment, telling the crowd that when few in the nation took notice of civil liberties, Lear responded "in a way that everybody understood. Through the medium of television." And why were the Willenses there: "We needed a place to stop for lunch on the way to the desert," Howard quipped.