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Photo Museum Benefit a Snappy, Lively Affair

May 21, 1987|DAVID NELSON

LA JOLLA — It only takes two to tango, but since the Museum of Photographic Arts attracted some 200 patrons to Friday's "Tango MoPA" fund-raising gala, the dance floor at times threatened to become a maelstrom of dangerously whirling couples.

The museum baited its invitation hook with rather more than the usual treats, which resulted in an especially finely feathered flock showing up for this fourth anniversary celebration. Among the lures was the party site: the new, massive and admittedly magnificent residence of fine arts patrons Liz and Mason Phelps.

Built rather like a museum itself, the house includes such interesting features as the "hostility room" (a bathroom decorated with epithet-bearing wallpaper), and light switches embedded in the floors, since Mason Phelps believes that they intrude upon walls. One guest described the residence as "larger than Liechtenstein."

Other draws included the beneficiary--the Balboa Park museum is very popular with influential supporters of other fine arts institutions--and the party theme, which made much of the sultry tango mood first popularized in the 1920s. In keeping with the '20s nightclub atmosphere, cigarette girls snapped Polaroid pictures of the guests, some of whom posed against the palm trees (silhouettes picked out in tiny lights) that decorated the walls of the black tent used to shelter the dinner and dancing.

Event organizer Carol Randolph said she chose the tango theme "simply because it sounded like a good time." And so it must have, since quite a number of guests accepted the challenge to dress in tango attire. In its more extreme moments, the South American mood erupted into such exuberances as one guest's Carmen Miranda outfit, complete with life-sized banana earrings.

Many also accepted the challenge to tango, especially after several professional couples showed them just how it is done. A salsa band, called Storm, agreeably accommodated with other, more slowly paced Latin rhythms; all this activity helped guests to work off a lavish Spanish meal that included black, squid-ink pasta; empanadas ; a spicy beef stew and a dessert bar devoted to chocolate creations.

One guest who looked especially satisfied with the proceedings was MoPA director Arthur Ollman, who said he was gearing up for the museum's next exhibit, "Supreme Instants," which opens June 2 and is a collection of the photography of Edward Weston.

"This is probably the most impressive show we've ever staged," said Ollman. "Edward Weston is the most influential of all California photographers and we're opening the show. After us, it will go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and then the National Museum of American Art in Washington. I love scooping all these major institutions."

Among the guests were museum President Scott Ferguson and his wife, Barbara; Murray and Elaine Galinson; Michael and Susan Channick; Jeanne Lawrence; Joe and Nancy Manno; Ted and Roz Odmark; Bob and Bea Epsten; Elizabeth Brafford and L.J. Cella; Heather and Jack Metcalf; Carol and Mike Alessio; Robert Dinnerman; Liz and Joe Yamada, and Judith Harris and Robert Singer.

SAN DIEGO--A somewhat surprised but also serene-looking puppy named Second Chance attended his first dinner-dance Saturday.

Given in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Harbor Island, the gala, called "Celebrate," attracted some 450 guests to toast the 60th anniversary of Episcopal Community Services. The evening included both silent and live auctions, which explained the presence of Second Chance.

"Our live auction puppy is named after the the spirit of the evening, since ECS gives the down-and-out a second chance," explained party chairman Melesse Traylor. "He's a pound puppy, and this auction is his second chance at finding a home."

The pooch often was glimpsed in the vicinity of a canned goods-laden table near the entrance; by tradition, many guests brought cans of food for distribution to the needy. The guests also added to the party proceeds by snapping up the auction items, which included vacation packages, a key to the city of San Diego, and the purchaser's very own wall at the organization's new emergency assistance office downtown.

Funds raised by the gala will go to support a number of services, especially to the homeless. Episcopal Community Services Executive Director Glenn Allison said that among the services to be offered at the new site at 12th Avenue and Broadway will be an office to assist homeless veterans, whom Allison said constitute 40% of the homeless population.

The Rev. Patricia Backman added that another new program, Julian's Anchorage (named for patron saint Julian of Norwich, the English mystic who described God in feminine terms) will offer long-term shelter to homeless women and their children.

"We hope that by providing shelter for six months to a year, as well as supportive services, that we will be able to assist these women to become truly independent," said Backman.

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