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Last-Minute Scramble For a Conch Blower Saves Day

July 23, 1987|DAVID NELSON

SAN DIEGO — Being a party chairman isn't everything that it's cracked up to be.

Glamour? Prestige? Adulation? Well, yes, these often come with the territory, but it is the little crises that make for the migraines and memories.

So Chris Andrews discovered when she signed on as chief of "Makua Hangs Ten," the 35th edition of the annual dinner-dance given by the Makua Auxiliary of the Children's Home Society. Held Saturday at the Kona Kai Club, this celebration of surfing and summer attracted a record turnout of some 560 guests.

The crisis Andrews encountered was a little out of the ordinary, since it had nothing to do with absent caterers or recalcitrant band leaders. Rushing breathlessly up to Makua President Judy Garrett, Andrews announced, "We've got to get somebody else to blow the conch shell. The guy who was going to do it got cold feet."

Someone was found to perform this task, fortunately, since the basso profundo blasts on the shell were the notes of the Siren song that summoned the guests to dinner.

Andrews probably knew that the unexpected was to be anticipated, since her mother, Yvonne Larsen, chaired the 1961 "Magic of Monaco" Makua party. Yvonne and her husband, Dan, were present for their daughter's evening; both were wearing Stars & Stripes regalia in what Yvonne termed an "advertising ploy" aimed at reminding guests that San Diego makes the logical choice for the next America's Cup race.

The Makua parties always gear themselves to a theme and carry it as far as possible. Last year saw the "Makua Vice" party given at the new San Diego Police Department headquarters, and 1985 witnessed an "Indiana Jones" spoof that emptied the local Banana Republic stores of certain lines of adventure-style clothing. This year's surf rat theme came naturally to many of the guests, who found the necessary baggies and Hawaiian shirts ready at hand in dresser drawer and closet.

Looking Froggy

It also proved popular. Quite a few guests demonstrated their allegiance to the surf by turning out with noses smeared with variously colored shades of Froggy, the sun-screen favored by the local surfing set.

The decor committee set the tone by building a palm frond beach shack, edged in surf boards borrowed from reluctant offspring, as an entrance to the Kona Kai pool area, which served as party site. A special hit was the "Surfer" action video game, which consisted of a sensor-mounted surfboard hooked up to an electronic video game machine. Any movements made by the person standing on the board were imitated by the computer-programmed, wave-riding surfer displayed on the screen. This device allowed numerous putative Big Kahunas to vie for supremacy of the electronic waves.

The best costume award was given jointly to Hugh and Betty Starkey, who spoofed the party by wearing inflatable (uninflated, however) life rafts suspended from their necks. Betty Starkey has had plenty of time to learn the Makua way of doing things, since she was on the committee that hosted the original Makua gala in 1953.

"In those days we had to do everything ourselves in order to make money, since we only charged $15 per couple," said Starkey. "That first party had a Hawaiian theme, and we built a two-story volcano called Tongeroa out of papier-mache right here at the club. It took us two months to paste all that newspaper onto the chicken wire frame."

Starkey added that as a final touch of realism, her baby's vaporizer was embedded in the summit to produce periodic eruptions of volcano-like steam.

Things have changed a bit since that first party--couples now pay $100 to attend, and proceeds are expected to top $20,000. The monies will be used to further basic Children's Home Society projects. In San Diego County last year, the group placed 39 children in adoptive homes, placed 34 others in foster homes, and counseled many unwed expectant parents. CHS also served more than 50,000 meals in its child care food program. It is unsurprising to learn that the Makua Auxiliary took as its name the Hawaiian word for "parent."

Stop at Surf Bar

The Surf Kings provided Beach Boys and other surfer tunes during and after the all-American buffet of pizza, hot dogs, teriyaki chicken, barbecued ribs and apple pie. As a special after-dinner entertainment, the guests were invited to bid on a single auction item, the " '60s Surfin' Extravaganza." This package probably is unique among the scores offered at charity benefits this year; the four guests will take a "woodie" to Kahuna's surf bar in Pacific Beach for cocktails, and then travel on to the Pennant in South Mission Beach for dinner and what the program described as an evening of "body watching." And as if all this weren't more than enough, the guests also will be given surfing tapes and a pair of surfer ties, which evidently are the last word in contemporary fashion.

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