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Marylouise Oates

Dancing on Air at Glittery Joffrey Ballet Gala


The folks at Maxim's the night they invented Champagne probably had a good time, too, but they had nothing on the glamorized guests at the Joffrey Ballet Opening Gala on Wednesday night. The crowd was light on its feet, heavy on big names, and certainly as bouncy as the brand-name dancers still bopping and popping on the dance floor past midnight and as glittery as the gowns they wore.

Felisa Vanoff has already authored "How to Speak Ballet" for the Joffrey--but she and Patti Skouras no doubt will now do one on "How to Make a Party," since the evening chaired by them combined all the best elements--and payoffs especially since Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc. underwrote the festivities and Laurent-Perrier U.S. made sure that the Champagne never stopped flowing.

To cap it all--an announcement that Robert Joffrey would begin rehearsing the Joffrey's "Nutcracker" in June, for presentation in late 1988, with special thanks to David Murdock.

There was, first of all, the ballet in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center, where all this took place. At intermission in The Founders, a segue from pas de deux to politics as a tan and glamorous Marcia Ross bemoaned being trapped on the freeway Sunday from Palm Springs and missing the $425,000 fund-raising brunch thrown by Ted Field for presidential hopeful Sen. Joe Biden.

Former Sen. John Tunney said he was working hard raising money for former Sen. Gary Hart. And Corinna and Freddie Fields were still talking about the Tuesday night party given by Barbara Rush and Warren Cowan for author Danielle Steele--which included Paul Newman as a guest.

The Founders Circle at the Pavilion was crammed with the cream of L.A. night life. A single empty seat beside Dona Kendall prompted her to announce that "I bought this seat for my fur," then laughingly admit that her spouse, Dwight, was absent on business in Texas.

Trying the Champagne and Perrier--Anne and Kirk Douglas, Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse, Wendy Stark, Shirley and Saul Turtletaub, Mia and Dan Frost, Peter and Annette O'Malley, Bettina and Otis Chandler, Joan Quinn in a brand-new Zandra Rhodes (Jack Quinn was jet-lagged from their trip to Berlin and Russia) and her beautiful mother, Faye Agajanian; Keith Keischnick (in a rented tiara) and hubby Bill (who never left the dance floor), a spangled Joan Hotchkis with hubby John.

Dancing by were Doug Cramer and Ames Cushing, followed by First Best Friend Betsy Bloomingdale with Martin Manulis, she Renoir-like in a white and be-bowed gown. Like all good parties, the night abounded in one-liners.

At the end of the ballet, Shirley Turtletaub kiddingly asked: "Do you think they are any better than the SHARE girls?" Tony Martin danced by David and Roberta Haft, pointed to George Gradow who was wearing a large white silk scarf, and quipped: "Look. A rabbi. He's wearing a tallit."

"Is Gerald Arpino (associate director of the Joffrey) any good on the dance floor," Nick Vanoff asked Cyd Charisse, as she sat down to the cold chicken supper that the committee had cleverly ordered up instead of the usual late night nine-course disaster prevalent at these events. "I was so busy talking," she said, "that I didn't notice."

Gordon Davidson made a late entrance from his own star-crusted evening at the Mark Taper Forum, since agent Swifty Lazar and Michael and Shakira Caine were in the audience. No matter--since everybody got the same warm welcome. In fact, Felisa Vanoff was quick to point out in the pleasant and pleasantly short thank-yous that "it was lovely to see our old pals--and so many new patrons. We welcome you all."

She admitted that she was exhausted and had been "so busy cooking all day," then she and her partner in partying, Patti Skouras, orchestrated a general round of Champagne popping. Magnums had magically appeared from Maxim's hatboxes that, with fab balloons from Balloons Bouquets, were the centerpieces.

Then, in yet another surprise, Murray Korda played as amateur ballroom dancers from the Gloria Monighan Cotillion swept down the Grand Staircase and into the party. They did a number, then swept into the audience, getting partners to dance. One young fellow waltzed by with Bloomingdale, but a respectful contingent lined up beside Charisse to ask for her autograph.

When last seen, the crowd was having such a good time, who could believe it was a benefit?

It will be a hard act to follow, but Vanoff and Skouras must, since they have two more Patron Nights coming up in the next two weeks: May 7, the pre-performance "Pique-Nique" Supper, and May 15, "May in Montmarte."

JUST EIGHT MORE DAYS--And the Colleagues will hold their annual Glamour Sale (that translates as the best in secondhand and underpriced new merchandise) at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. In the past, bargain hunters gained admission only by invitation--but now the doors will be thrown open to all. The Colleagues (whose members include First Lady Nancy Reagan and the Kitchen Cabinet wives) does the annual benefit to support programs for abused children.

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