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The Rich and Famous Find a Place in the Western Sun for a Benefit

May 04, 1987|NIKKI FINKE | Times Staff Writer

What happens when you put together scions of industry, show business, publishing, broadcasting and philanthropy in one place for the weekend, with some European royalty thrown in for good measure?

They play tennis and golf, organize a vollyball game and find loads to talk about over the massage tables.

"I love seeing all these people undressed," said cosmetics king Leonard Lauder of New York, trying to describe the unusual air of informality among the 300 guests attending the invitation-only La Costa weekend which precedes Tuesday's Embassy Ball in New York. Both events are part of a Franco-American effort benefiting AIDS research and the Los Angeles-based Friends of French Art Foundation's restoration of the San Francisco Legion of Honor Theatre.

The Friday-through-Monday affair was the brainchild of Merv Adelson, chairman of Lorimar-Telepictures, and one of La Costa's owners, to show off the Carlsbad resort's $85-million renovation. Enlisting the help of his wife, Barbara Walters, and party planner Clive David, the resort was turned over gratis to a select group of rich and famous so they could let down their guard and play.

And play they did.

The weekend began with many guests arriving by private plane, including investor Ronald Perelman and U.S. News and World Report owner Mort Zuckerman.

Developer Donald Trump and wife Ivana transported a bevy of New York movers and shakers aboard their newly bought Boeing 727, including literary agent Morton Janklow, publisher Lord George Weidenfeld, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and wife Mica, and Lee Stevens, president of the William Morris Agency.

Many Angelenos just drove down for the day. Film producer Sherry Lansing worried that she was the last to arrive by Saturday afternoon. But 20th Century Fox head Barry Diller came even later, showing up Saturday night for dinner and then leaving four hours later. "I have a network to run," he said.

Diverse People

Many were also good friends of ABC newswoman Walters, who was the weekend's semi-official hostess. She was responsible for the presence of such diverse people as retailer Geraldine Stutz, agent Swifty Lazar and wife Mary, former Ambassador John Gavin and wife Constance Towers, and retired business manager Gil Segel and wife Joanne of Malibu.

Because of the Walters' connection, there were lots of private jokes. On Saturday night, for instance, everyone sang happy birthday to New York Times Associate Editor A.M. Rosenthal and, as a gift, Carol Channing presented him with a huge fake diamond ring, an allusion to Rosenthal's impending wedding to Vogue editor Shirley Lord.

Walters and Adelson had returned Thursday from China and Tibet and were still battling jet lag. Coming to the spa for the weekend was just what her body needed, Walters said, adding she was "the only person living who gained weight in Tibet."

The spa facilities were at the guests' disposal. Employees had been primed with three pages of "do's and don'ts" on handling the celebrities. Among the admonishments was "don't point at anyone."

Men's Volleyball Game

One of the most sought-after invitations was to a men's volleyball game in the spa pool at 9 a.m. Sunday, pitting the Easterners against the Westerners. Lauder, captain of the Eastern team, thought his side had the advangage. "All the people from the West are short," he noted.

On the golf course, Trump played a sweaty nine holes and set people talking when he made a divot at the first tee. Quipped one of the resort's owners: "No matter where he goes, he starts construction on a new project."

Robert Crandall, chairman and president of Dallas-based American Airlines, worked out in the spa, then headed for the tennis courts in his favorite sneakers bearing the American Airlines logo. "I just thought I'd wander about and look for someone to victimize," he said.

The tennis courts were a hub of activity. MacArthur Foundation head Thornton Bradshaw watched as Adelson took on Washington superlawyer Vernon Jordan in doubles on the center court.

Though Adelson won he thought he might have overdone it a bit after competing all morning and afternoon. "I must have played 12 sets," he sighed. "I wish I knew why I did that."

No Tennis for Actor

Actor Richard Dreyfuss walked around in tennis clothes but decided not to play. Not having the energy of the corporate captains, he joked that the most exercise he'd gotten all day was "pulling up his socks."

The number of show-biz celebrities was kept to a minimum. Many were invited by Adelson, including such Lorimar stars as Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Deborah Shelton and Joan Van Ark. Most ambled around unnoticed, except for Linda Gray, who created a sensation Saturday night with a form-hugging evening dress she dubbed the "ultimate little black dress."

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