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David Nelson / Society

A Night on San Diego Bay in the True Southern Style

March 12, 1987|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — "Jambalaya, crawfish pie, file gumbo. . . ." Hold on, that's Hank Williams. Let's start over again and try to get it right.

"Strawberries, honey, she crabs. . . ." Now that's George Gershwin, or at least as much of a menu as he described in his succulent musical smorgasbord, "Porgy and Bess."

But it was Williams' Cajun cuisine that carried the day March 3 when 150 supporters of the San Diego Opera and the Old Globe Theatre gathered aboard the paddle boat William D. Evans for "Catfish Row," an evening of jazz and dancing that benefited both institutions and celebrated the local presentation of Gershwin's classic opera.

The day also happened to be Mardi Gras, a point cheerfully pointed out by former New Orleans resident Phyllis Parrish, who along with other patrons and 40 or so members of the "Porgy" cast wasted little time digging into the buffet of andouille gumbo, barbecued ribs, oysters remoulade and rich Louisiana pralines. The Bahia Hotel kitchen even whipped up big pans of real Southern corn bread.

Arriving guests were urged to "have a good time on Kittiwah Island," and even though the boat never left the dock, the evening did seem like an excursion to someplace a little more exotic and sultry than the shores of Mission Bay.

Jeannie and Jimmy Cheatham and their band held sway on the boat's main deck, offering up a mix of jazzy blues and bluesy jazz that prompted party co-chairman Sally Fuller, who represented the opera, to pledge to dance all night. Globe co-chairman Bobbie Quick noted that the Cheathams had promised to play some Gershwin, and said that, with so many cast members present, "who knows, we may have 'Porgy and Bess' right here." They didn't, but Jeannie Cheatham's fire-and-ice rendition of "St. Louis Blues" echoed around the bay for quite some time, and as a tribute to "Catfish Row," the band also obliged with the Charleston.

The evening also was heralded as a moment of notable cooperation between two leading cultural institutions. "Porgy and Bess," a touring production co-sponsored by 13 American opera companies, including San Diego's, happens to have been directed by the Globe's Jack O'Brien, who also staged the Houston Grand Opera production in 1977.

Both O'Brien and opera director Ian Campbell were at "Catfish Row." O'Brien waved his hand at the dancing cast members and said, "These actors are proof that this is as good as it gets. This is our finest hour in America."

Campbell, who found himself about to present six performances, rather than the four normally allotted to San Diego Opera productions, was impressed by the cultural impact he felt the piece is having across the country. "More people will see 'Porgy and Bess' this year than in any year in its history," he said.

In addition to numerous cast members, the guest list included Joan and Irwin Jacobs, Veryl and Aage Fredericksen, Jo Ann and Lee Knutson, Jean and Jack Morse, Ann and Bob Plachta, Annyce and Jacques Sherman, Kay and Donald Stone, M'lafi Thompson, Det Merryman, Lilo and Glenn Miller, Eleanor and Art Herzman, Diane Annala, Kay and Paul Black and Anne and Bill Otterson.

LA JOLLA--Alice Cavanaugh assured guests that the flowers that ranged through her and husband Mike's waterfront home Wednesday were "just a mishmash."

Every house should be filled with such a mishmash at least once. For starters, there was a fantasy of pink and lavender roses spread through a yards-long labyrinth made of glass bricks. A small garden of mixed posies bloomed in an outsized market basket; a forest of spiky, blue delphinium soared from its bed in a classical urn; a huge bowl held a king's ransom of lilies and gerbera daisies, and--well, you get the picture.

It isn't that such floral exuberance is an everyday event chez Cavanaugh, but the pair did happen to be presenting the kickoff party for San Diego Museum of Art's sixth annual "Art Alive" festival, which will be held April 29-30. Patrons who wish to ante up $75 each will attend the April 28 gala preview, to be chaired by Barbara Malone.

It was a lively party, since most of the committee was present, as well as most of the 21 floral designers and nine interior decorators who will jam the museum's galleries with their arrangements of Mother Nature's favorite offspring. Also present were representatives of the five local garden clubs that will participate in the event.

"Art Alive" chairman Mary Allan offered a few tidbits about the upcoming visual fare. "It's going to be neoclassical, very dramatic and wonderful," she said, adding that the event will be spiced by the presence of British art historian Elizabeth Gordon, who will lecture on the topic of Monet's garden at Giverny. Noted floral designer and author Ronaldo Maia also will present a lecture.

The event will be open to the public in a variety of packages, from simple admission to the flower-filled galleries to luncheon, lecture and fashion show packages; call the museum for more information.

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