There was no ignoring it: Pageant for Life, a benefit for the AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County, was as notable for those who came--entertainers, designers and prominent business people--as those who could not, the victims of AIDS.
"I went through my address book to help sell tickets for this event," said Ed Smith, Emmy Award-winning head of ABC Television's costume department. "And I was amazed at the number of people who were not with us anymore, at least 20. I had to put the book down." Half were friends who had lived in Orange County, said Smith, who maintains homes in Laguna Beach and Los Angeles.
"Just two weeks ago I asked about someone I hadn't seen in a while and was told they were gone. It's frightening to inquire, 'How is so and so?' anymore. You're afraid you'll learn they're not here."
The Friday event, sponsored by the Costa Mesa-based foundation, marked the first time a Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters performance had been sold to one organization. The foundation paid $52,000 for the privilege. Tickets ranged from $25 to $250.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 25, 1987 Orange County Edition View Part 5 Page 4 Column 1 View Desk 2 inches; 54 words Type of Material: Correction
In a View story Tuesday, a spokesman for the AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County was quoted as saying that none of the five members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors had agreed to serve on the honorary committee for the foundation's July 17 benefit at the Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters. In fact, Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder had agreed to be on the honorary committee.
"I've lost many people I've known and worked with," said Stephen Chase, Palm Springs resident and interior designer for such stars as Farrah Fawcett and Johnny Mathis. "And three or four personal friends. I don't feel entirely helpless, but pretty much. We need to do what we can."
Comedian Martha Raye's appearance at the event, which also included a formal dinner in the Tivoli Terrace restaurant with 300 guests who each paid $250, was the result of her 31-year friendship with actor Rock Hudson. Hudson died in 1985 of acquired immune deficiency syndrome, for which there is as yet no cure.
"When Rock was in the hospital in Paris, I called to see what was wrong. He told me he had the disease and said to go for a cause that would help," Raye recalled. "He was my primary inspiration (for attending tonight). He was beautiful, inside and out."
It was Hudson's friend, Tom Clark, who invited actor-producer Tab Hunter to attend the Friday night benefit.
"This is only the third time I've been to the pageant in my whole life," said Hunter, looking at least a decade younger than his 56 years. "When Tom called and said there was a benefit he wanted me to attend in Orange County, I thought it would be nice, since I used to live here (Dana Point)."
Actress Cloris Leachman, who missed the sit-down dinner because of traffic en route from Los Angeles, said she was particularly thrilled to see the pageant used as a vehicle to help AIDS victims. "It's a wonderful way to raise money and inspire at the same time. We (in the movie industry) have lost so many to AIDS--the cream of the crop, creative people with wonderful imaginations. People may not know someone who has it, but the loss to our culture will drift down to all of us."
For event co-chairmen Dr. Mel Lewis and Al Roberts, both Laguna Beach residents, AIDS victims were not the only ones who were "significantly absent." So were Orange County politicos.
"Not one of our Orange County supervisors would agree to have their name on our honorary committee," Lewis said. "Some elected officials have been supportive in very quiet, subtle ways. But, there is such a conservative groundswell in Orange County."
Roberts, foundation board president, added, "Some politicians in Orange County have willingly supported projects, but there are still many who do not. You can't even drag them into it. We need to work on that."
The foundation provides direct support to people with AIDS and ARC (AIDS-related complex), said its executive director, Parrie Graham. Since she began working as a volunteer there, Graham said, "I've never seen so much fear and discrimination, so much need. I came to the group as a volunteer to get connections in the public health area. And I couldn't leave. We've grown from helping 38 clients to 120 clients."
Event proceeds, as yet untallied, will go toward establishing a much needed hospice for AIDS patients locally, Lewis said. "Many of the people in Orange County don't realize that AIDS has become a countywide problem."
But many from outside Orange County are well aware of the need, Lewis said. "Los Angeles has been very supportive. Quite a bit of the money we are raising here tonight is coming from people who live in Los Angeles."