You didn't have to be a California native to appreciate the People for Irvine Community Health's beach-themed "Summer Memories" bash at the Irvine Marriott.
You just had to be hungry--and like to dance. But since Saturday's gala marked the group's fifth annual "Celebration in White," it didn't hurt if you'd spent part of this summer sunning yourself to basic bronze to set off the white tuxes and gowns.
"What I wanted," event chairwoman Carol Palermo said, "was a really elegant surfer stomp. Oh gosh--are you quoting me on that? What will people think?"
No doubt the 370 guests, who paid $125 each, thought they got their money's worth.
The evening began with a champagne reception on the hotel patio, where ice sculpture palm trees and clusters of white balloons reflected the sunset glow. Guests homed in on a world-class selection of appetizers, including gigantic platters of sushi and sashimi; ice-carved bowls loaded with lobster, shrimp, crab claws and oysters; smoked salmon; carnitas (Mexican-style roasted pork); teriyaki chicken, and monk fish simmering in garlic butter.
"Who needs dinner after all this?" asked PICH member Dennis Wilkinson, devouring a second plate of maguro (raw tuna).
As guests moved into the dining room, which was decorated with a lifeguard stand, a beach umbrella and a still-life composition of seaside accessories--sailboat, surfboard, beach ball, shades and suntan oil--retro band Papa Doo Run Run kicked into a calorie-burning first set.
Between twists and shouts on the dance floor, guests boogied back to their seats for a seven-course dinner that included a vichyssoise and watercress soup, poached salmon, veal chop in tarragon butter, pasta stuffed with garlic cheese and lobster salad.
Proceeds from the evening, an estimated $20,000, will go into a fund to provide a day-care center for "mildly ill" children, according to PICH president Dr. Howard Fishbein.
"We don't have an actual site for the center," Fishbein said, "But we know there's a need for one here. Irvine is a community where there are a lot of two-working-parent families.
"When kids are a little bit sick--not sick enough to stay home, but too sick to go to school--one parent has to take a day off work, stay home and lose pay. That can be a major inconvenience, and for some it becomes almost impossible."
Marriott manager Ron Cribbet, a PICH board member and recipient of the group's award for outstanding support of community activities, said he was surprised at being honored for things he does "because I enjoy (them)."
"Every year PICH calls," Cribbet said, "And every year we host (the Celebration in White) below cost--that's our donation. This spring, they invited me to lunch, and the whole time I'm thinking: 'Uh-oh, they're going to ask me for more money.'
"Then they told me about the award. I'll tell you, it's a humbling experience."