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Hope Murray Makes Parties Into Special Events : Former Hollywood Tour Operator Devises Galas--With Lyrics, If Necessary

February 26, 1987|DeWAYNE B. JOHNSON | Johnson is a Times copy editor. and

It was like a scene out of "MASH," complete with first-aid tents marked with big red crosses, rescue helicopters, camouflaged ambulances, portable latrines, a ragtag cadre of medical and other military personnel.

The Hollywood-style activity on the ground was just as real, but this Mobile Army Surgical Hospital look-alike was not in the shell-pocked South Korean countryside. It was nestled in the Southern California hills for an innocent mission of a different sort.

How were the pilots and crews flying helicopters on training exercises for the U.S. Marines to know? They had to check it out.

They found no foreign invaders. No major catastrophe. They found Hope Murray of Tarzana, a special-events producer.

Grand Dimensions

MASH stateside was the handiwork of Hope Murray's Hollywood Inc., a company that specializes in special events of grand dimensions for a clientele ranging from Fortune 500 firms to regional travel agencies.

The MASH event was staged by Murray for Davol Laboratories as a special treat for its top salesmen. It was done on a scale that matched the Western outing staged during the 1984 Olympics for Saab International. Held at Irvine Ranch, that one included a rodeo, a frontier saloon with a complement of saloon girls, stagecoach ambushes, and whatever else might be expected in a real life "oater."

The special events company is a 2-year-old enterprise that was until recently operated out of a cramped guest bedroom in the home of Warren and Hope Murray in a Tarzana hillside neighborhood. The business recently moved into a Tarzana office.

The Murrays were married in 1970. Warren, a teacher of U.S. history, had come to Hollywood from New York in 1964 wanting to be a writer, and Hope was working on the television show "Hollywood Squares," where they met. Warren is the son of comedian Jan Murray and writes for a television show called "Small Wonder."

While Hope Murray's Hollywood Inc. is an infant enterprise, its annual gross is between $600,000 and $700,000.

Operated Tour Service

The company is a spinoff of Hope Murray's earlier Inside Hollywood Tours. Begun in 1979 as a service to wholesale bus tour operators, Inside Hollywood provided tour participants from all over the world a look behind the scenes in Hollywood, a visit to the taping of television shows and meals in the studio commissary.

Murray also has worked as a real estate agent and for the Hollywood Foreign Desk of United Press International in Los Angeles.

When the Greater Los Angeles Visitors and Convention Bureau threw an indoor beach party for 2,000 people in Seattle, they called on Murray.

When the bureau scheduled its 1986 annual membership meeting and luncheon, it called on her again, this time with a "Salute to Los Angeles" directed by John Spindler and a theme song, "There Is Nothing Like L.A.," with lyrics by Hope Murray.

Long Beach Gala

When the Queen Mary Hotel needed specialty entertainment and the Spruce Goose needed celebrity look-alikes for their Summer Entertainment Gala, Murray helped make it an overwhelming success, according the Darlene D. Lynch, public relations director for the two Long Beach attractions.

And several months of planning and execution went into the fund-raising for the Olive View Medical Center Foundation preceding the April, 1986, dedication, winning the thanks of Douglas D. Bagley, hospital administrator.

The year 1986 included at least 15 major events from a primarily one-person operation. The year 1987 began with New Year's Day celebrations and a "Cotton Club" party in Art Deco style for ORT in Palm Springs.

On call for Murray's business are celebrity look-alikes, performers ranging from stand-up comics to magicians to dancers to singers, bands and orchestras. Notable among the latter are Horace Heidt Jr. and his orchestra, and Myron Floren and Orchestra from the Lawrence Welk Show.

A 1964 journalism graduate of San Fernando Valley State College, now California State University, Northridge, Murray began first as a reporting intern in UPI's Los Angeles office, where Hank Rieger was bureau chief.

Murray credits Rieger, who was involved in the early planning of the 1984 Olympics, with being one of the most influential persons in her life. He supported her growth and helped build her self-confidence, she said.

Years ago Murray preferred to do work that allowed her to stay home as much as possible with her daughter Meredith, 14. Now she's ensconced in a new office away from home and predicts that the business will hit the $1-million mark in the next few years.

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