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Cancer Society's 'Casablanca' Is Well Worth Playing Again

June 18, 1987|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — Rick's Cafe Americain in old Casablanca may have been a jolly place, but if Sam the piano player had had any inkling of how often he would be told to "play it again," he surely would have taken a job in Newark instead.

In its guise as a party theme, "Casablanca" has been played again and again (and again ), with about the same frequency that the 1940s Humphrey Bogart classic plays on the late show.

But it probably has never been played so well as at Saturday's "Casablanca," the American Cancer Society's eighth annual dinner dance and auction. Given in the Champagne Ballroom at the Sheraton Harbor Island hotel, the gala attracted more than 550 guests for an evening of make-believe spun out in the best Hollywood tradition.

It was only too easy to believe oneself in wartime Morocco, with hundreds of men in white dinner jackets trying to outdo Bogart and with all the women imitating Ingrid Bergman's tough but vulnerable gamin. There was even an actor circulating through the crowd who was hired for his resemblance to Bogey's Rick and his mastery of the character's mannerisms--in his role as a greeter and mood-setter, he was something of a maitre d' without portfolio.

Chairman Norma Assam and designers Marc Tarasuck and Tedd Foley decorated the gala with such touches as the Moroccan street market set up in the silent auction room (jugglers juggled, belly dancers swayed, street urchins eyed purses and jewels), and the servers' turbans (stitched by Assam's manicurist). The mood extended to the ballroom, dubbed "Rick's Cafe Americain" for the duration, and tricked up with white cloth palm trees and those small, fringed table lamps that were so popular in '40s nightclubs.

Assam also arranged to have the music of the period played both as dinner and dance music. Early in the evening, she collared band leader Fro Brigham, who brought along his jazzy Preservation Band, and said, "Don't forget to play 'As Time Goes By,' and play it a lot!" Brigham & Co. played it again and again.

The first time the group swung into this inevitable golden oldie, master of ceremonies Tom Blair climbed up on stage to sing along. Later, he and singer Mary Wayne alternated with a medley of favorites from Broadway and the movies. The program also included several Italian favorites rendered by singer Tony Lanza, and the reading of a message from President Reagan, whose brother, Neil, was on the gala committee. (A family illness kept Neil Reagan from attending, however.)

Jack Berkman, who with Ron Oliver conducted the silent auction, also led the live auction that followed the dinner of salad, chicken and pastry. This auction, kept short so that guests could return to the dance floor, consisted of just eight choice items, of which the most unusual was a thoroughbred bay filly that fetched $5,000. A pair of tickets to the 1988 Super Bowl, to be held here in seven months and already generating a good deal of competition for admission, brought a high bid of $1,500.

Among those present were Bob and June Barrymore, Paul and Dee Zeigler, Jonathon and Carol Stark, David and Annie Malcolm, William and Joy Miller, Dallas and Mary Clark, Char DeMotte, Paul Goldfarb, Dick and Joanne Fuller, Mort and Noni Jorgenson, Tawfiq and Richel Khoury, Ernest and Sandy Latham, and National City car dealer Tony McCune (honest).

CORONADO--A guest at Saturday's "Moonlight and Roses," the 38th annual Symphony Ball, remarked that he was just about ready to believe in phoenixes, those mythical beasts that periodically resurrect themselves, because at the 11th hour the San Diego Symphony once again has managed to bring itself back to life.

Shirley Rubel, president of the Symphony's Auxiliary Council, which presented the ball, said that if the symphony were to be thought of as a cat, then it definitely is on its ninth life.

"This is the ninth life, but this is it," she said. "This is the renaissance, this is the wonderfulness, this is the celebration, this is our rebirth."

Rubel added that, as the auxiliary's contribution to that rebirth, she would be announcing a pledge by the group to sell out the scheduled Nov. 13 performance that will open the 1987-88 season.

The ball was given in the Crown Room at the Hotel del Coronado, lit dimly and romantically by the glow of hurricane lamps reflected by the silver crescent moons that nestled in the rose centerpieces. About 370 guests gathered for an evening that included entertainment by the Beverly Hills Cotillion Dancers; a dinner of sole Mornay, filet of beef and gateau marjolaine , and dancing to the Bill Green Orchestra.

Patron couples were invited to arrive early for a special reception, sponsored by Larry and Jeanne Lawrence, that was given in the hotel's new Centennial Pavilion. Candy-striped in red and white, and big enough to hold a traveling circus, the beachfront tent was erected as a reminder of the "Tent City" that sprang up next to the hotel every summer during the early decades of this century.

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