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Art Patrons Receive Star Treatment


Trustees of the Laguna Art Museum not only rolled out the red carpet for benefactors Saturday night, they paved it with stars a la Hollywood Boulevard, each bearing a donor's name.

And that was only the beginning of the star treatment given the 80 guests at the $500-per-person beginning of the museum's two-day fund-raiser, "Only Laguna."

The festivities began Saturday at the Diane Sassone Gallery, then moved along the carpeted "Walk of Fame" to Lippe-Warren Fine Crystal, culminating with dinner at Five Feet restaurant.

At the gallery, art lovers previewed the paintings of local artist Marco Sassone, whose works are also part of the Laguna Art Museum's permanent collection.

"I'm so pleased to be involved," gallery owner Diane Sassone said. "The museum is the backbone of the Laguna Beach arts community. It's important for art galleries, artists and patrons of the arts to contribute to it."

Exhibit admirers Pete and Cheryl Steffen expressed excitement over their purchase of a Sassone--"Marina III"--their first original oil. Also studying the paintings on display was Laguna Beach artist Dan McCaig, creator of a colorful "Only Laguna" poster, who praised Sassone's colors.

As guests moved along the red carpet linking the three party sites, museum trustee Bob Ehrlich noticed his star and remarked, "Well, I'm being walked on by the best of feet." Ehrlich lives in Pasadena, works in Beverly Hills but has "bought a little house down here," he said. "And since I had a small collection of early California artists' paintings, I became involved with the museum."

Benefactors who stepped into the shimmering lights at Lippe-Warren's gazed first at what appeared to be a huge crystal sculpture. A closer look revealed it to be an elegant ice-carved swan, a shimmering centerpiece for a tableaux of hors d'oeuvres.

While perusing exhibits of Lalique and Baccarat crystal, guests sampled appetizers from Five Feet restaurant and sipped champagne from crystal flutes engraved with the museum logo, their keepsakes for the evening.

During the stroll to dinner, Frank Smith, Irvine Co. vice president for community relations, considered his company's star. The Irvine Co. has "a long and plentiful history of involvement with the arts in Orange County," he said.

Dinner began with blackened ahi served with marinated cactus and grapefruit slices. Spicy pan-fried seafood ravioli, served over a sheet of Nori seawood, followed, along with a dynasty chicken salad and mustard herb potato soup. Parsley sorbet cleansed the palate for a handsomely presented veal chop Chinoise.

Fresh berries, served hot with Napoleon creme, figs and brown sugar, was served for dessert.

Tom Magill, a museum trustee, called the feast one of the "best meals I've ever had."

The idea of "Only Laguna" was conceived by co-chairmen Michael Kang and Norma Glover to "get the people of Laguna--small businesses and Laguna residents who work for corporations--together to see how much support we could find only in Laguna," Glover explained.

The support they found was nothing short of amazing, said Tara Madden, the museum's director of development. "People were . . . waiting to be asked," Madden said.

Glover, who owns Copy Cats Printing, underwrote all printing costs for "Only Laguna." Kang donated Saturday's dinner.

At evening's end, Tom Tierney, trustee president, lauded the event, which raised an estimated $35,000. "It brings the community together. . . . The positive energy for the museum is overflowing."

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