Even in Beverly Hills, there wasn't a bidder on the $50,000-minimum Mercedes-Benz or on the $115,000 George Segal sculpture of the winner. No matter. The Museum of Contemporary Art racked up a $300,000 profit Friday night--and this in what was termed an "off-year" in planned MOCA fund raising.
Last year's extraordinary sneak look at the downtown museum facility--and the accompanying art auction--had raised a whopping $800,000. But, in an interesting plan that some of the other benefit-heavy cultural institutions in town may start copying, MOCA decided to do a "minor" event this year. And then come back next February with another giant art auction.
But then, as MOCA Projects Council chairwoman Jane Nathanson explained it, the five co-chairmen of the Beverly Wilshire MOCA Gala had turned an off-year event into a big money raiser. Nathanson gave the credit to Joan Hotchkis, Kathy Offenhauser, Mimi Meltzer, Gloria Lushing and Linda Janger--who put together an auction that included a $30,000 necklace from Tallarico that went for $20,000. (See the bargains one can pick up in the name of charity?)
The packed Beverly Wilshire ballroom included MOCA's usual interesting, eclectic people mix--and probably reflected the best dressing seen in lots of partying. There were downtown corporate types--like Keith and Bill Kieschnick (they'd been at the National Press Club in D.C. until 4 p.m. that afternoon and had flown in and whipped into black-tie). And, of course, MOCA favorite Fred Nicholas and his wife Joan, chatting with Andrea Van de Kamp and MOCA trustee Lennie Greenberg and husband Bernie. Nancy Vreeland (still partying after her Saks Fifth Avenue benefit at the Music Center that netted $100,000) along with husband Tim chatted with Sheldon Ausman (County Chief of Protocol Sandy was home sick).
Annie and Gary Gilbar heard the details of the new home of producer Sarah Pillsbury and her husband, Richard Kletter. (Pillsbury, who produced "River's Edge," is working on "Eight Men Out," a film about the Black Sox baseball scandal.)
Although many partygoers were repeats from last year's gala, Meralee and Leonard Goldman explained that they had missed that party because they were gorilla-watching in Africa. Watching politics--and even willing to talk about it for a few minutes--were perennial travelers Carmen and Lou Warschaw, who were greeted by just about every other person who came through the door. Telling Marc Nathanson about their trip (but just to Connecticut) were Bonnie and Irv Fuller--thrilled . . . both about their son Brad's graduation from Wesleyan and also about the honorary doctorate given by Wesleyan to Bonnie's twin, Bruce Corwin.
Ava Ostern and Chuck Fries, Councilman Joel Wachs, MOCA trustee Bea Gersh and husband Phil (as usual, putting together a battery of tables), Diane and Harold Keith, Richard and Judy Rosenzweig, MOCA Director Richard and Betty Koshalek, MOCA trustee Bill and Merry Norris were all obviously having a wonderful time.
At the auction, the most novel items drew the biggest money--starting off with a lucky bidder paying $3,500 to have a luncheon party with MOCA trustee Douglas Cramer at his Santa Ynez Valley ranch. And a fantasy Paris visit, including lunch with Paloma Picasso, went for $8,500.
And, perhaps, the Mercedes will be back next February at the Gala Gala Art Auction at the Temporary Contemporary. Sure, paint a few lines on it and maybe it will go as art.
KUDOS--To the Concern Foundation for Cancer Research, which netted more than $600,000 at its annual Rodeo Drive Block Party. . . . And congratulations to the dozens of women chefs, restaurant execs and caterers who will create the "Food Is Art/Art Is Food" benefit Sunday at the Four Seasons. Proceeds go to the Woman's Building and the Women's Culinary Alliance.
WHAT GOES AROUND . . . Actor-producer Mike Farrell has always credited the late congressman and activist Allard Lowenstein with getting him really involved in politics. No surprise then that the current filming in Pittsburgh of Farrell and Marvin Mintoff's latest, "Dominick and Eugene," has been punctuated by visits from all three Lowenstein offspring, now in their late teens. Thomas Kennedy Lowenstein, Franklin Graham Lowenstein and their sister Katherine Lowenstein have all made visits. But, those on the set say, minor delays have occurred at a few points when the Irangate hearings have gotten too hot for Farrell to tape and then watch later in the day.
LUNCH LAUNCH--It's not all Liberty Bells and 13 Colonies. Friday, the California Bicentennial Foundation, along with Town Hall of California, launches the four-year campaign celebrating the Constitution's bicentennial. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and Howard K. Smith will be featured at the lunch at the Biltmore Bowl.