What do 1,500 guests wear when the invitation has read "black or white"?
In the case of Casino Cabaret '87, held at South Coast Plaza on Saturday night, most men adhered to the color code by wearing black tie. And while most of the women wore black or white or combinations, they also sported as little as possible.
Skirts with thigh-high slits, bodices with plunging necklines and slinky sequined dresses dominated the fashion landscape at the Cabaret chapter's annual fund-raiser for the Orange County Performing Arts Center. One woman wore what looked from the back like a bikini top.
But Cabaret members, because of their youth, can well afford to wear revealing fashions. The group primarily consists of unattached arts supporters ranging from their mid-20s to mid-40s.
Renegades wore color. "Every year, a couple of ladies dress in red and purple," said Casino committee member Caryl Scanlan, who wore a white frock spiked with gold. "They know how to get attention."
Having paid $45 each, the Cabaret supporters mingled in three wings of the shopping mall, gambling with faux funds at poker, blackjack and craps tables.
Cuisine represented the world's gaming capitals. At the Rio de Janeiro display, servers in carnival masks passed out paella. Formally attired waiters dispensed desserts from the Monte Carlo station, and salt water taffy spilled from pails at the Atlantic City tables.
Taking a cue from recent "bachelor bids" for charity, the event also featured a "dream date" auction. No sexist organization, the group put both men and women on the auction block.
You would think the concept was ideally suited to a predominantly singles group. But it wasn't. In fact, if bachelor prices (about $1,000 median price) at the November March of Dimes auction are used as a benchmark, Cabaret's dream dates were the bargains of the evening. Prices ranged from under $200 to $650.
Carol Nuss, president of Tustin's R&P Auctioneers Inc., tried to generate enthusiasm for the bachelors but to no avail. Her words were muffled by the public address system.
"Half the people don't have (auction) programs," she said. "I'm used to being organized. I'm used to selling $10 million to $20 million worth of real estate!"
The auction just couldn't match the action at the gaming tables, where most party-goers whiled away the night.
Still, a Catalina adventure with champion body builder Heidi Miller, president of Heidi's Frogen Yozurt Shoppe Inc., was worth $650 to Steve Miller, no relation. "It was the best deal of the night," Steve Miller said.
Darlene Covington, dressed in black leather, paid $300 for an evening with advertising executive Bill Bryan, a.k.a. Mr. Hot Sauce, a title he earned for his T-shirt-clad good looks at a recent Chili Cook-Off.
And Ginny McCormick was pleased with her $200 purchase of a date with investment broker George Norwine. "He was a steal. Just look at that face, " McCormick said.
With a freeway tanker fire causing delays, many guests arrived late. Event chairman Gail Roy said: "Our drummer is on the freeway. That sort of puts a crimp in the band." But even without a drummer, Motown-recording artist Carrie McDowell and the LA Band had non-gamblers doing the twist near Bullock's. The Sterling band kept party-goers dancing in the May Co. wing.
With music playing past 1 a.m., a few guests lingered into early morning. Roy and Scanlan stayed until 4 a.m. to clean up with other committee members Mike Dixon, Dave Funsten, Nancy Mains, Lisa Hilgren, Mary Miller, Karen Schaltenbrand, Jim Hellerman, Jim Handsel, Judy Chapel, Ginger Sherman, Skip Villerot and chapter president Julie Polhemus.
Other event organizers included Judy Brower, Maryann Marks, B. Scott Vaughn, Jan Peterson, Bob Carlson, Norm Denton, Linda Lewis, Jennifer Dorr and Ginger Sherman.
Proceeds from the event are untallied.
On the same night, the Masked Ball chapter of the Orange County Performing Arts Center staged its annual fund-raiser in a blaze of color. At $125 per couple, nearly 450 supporters filed into the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim for "A Carnival in Colour and Music," complete with Sun King, Rainbow Queen and an elaborate pageant.
Susan Levine was responsible for set design. She transformed the stage into an afternoon sky, filled with huge clouds of balloons and a rainbow of twinkling lights.
Dee Trujillo, the pageant's Rio Carnival Queen, designed costumes for all the players, while Joyce Helfrich, Alice Blue Gown, created the headdresses.
Barbara Kehke, dressed as Black Magic, said her headdress, which consisted of a Medusa arrangement of sequined serpents, weighed eight pounds. "I'll be so happy when I get this off," she said.
Bart Blakesley, played Kehke's partner Merlin.
Wearing a gown of gold sequins, Yolanda Jensen served as carnival queen. The queen is elected by the members, and the king is chosen by a secret ballot of the board of directors.