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Friends of Scripps Honored at Kleins

August 06, 1987|DAVID NELSON

RANCHO SANTA FE — The massive, cross-barred plank doors at El Rancho del Rayo, the Gene Klein estate, most recently adorned San Simeon, the castle that William Randolph Hearst erected as a monument to himself. But for centuries before that, they stood as broad-shouldered guardians of the entrance to one of the great houses of Spain.

Thrown fully open, these doors create a space sufficient to admit the passage of a company of mounted horsemen. However, a smaller door within them accommodates foot traffic, and it was at this threshold that Joyce and Gene Klein waited Friday to welcome the 320 patrons of the 14th Committee Dinner Dance.

The guests lingered in the house just long enough to greet party chairman Karon Luce and other members of The Committee, the very select women's group that gives occasional fund-raising galas for the benefit of Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation. The common destination was the spacious grounds behind the house, a remarkable hilltop sculpture garden studded with monumental works by Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and other modern masters.

The view from up there isn't bad--it looks over much of the Rancho Santa Fe chateau country, and is bounded only by the higher mountains that form the community's eastern perimeter. But, as is typical at such events, the important view was of the guests themselves.

The Klein estate made an unusual site for The Committee's party because the group typically opts for a ballroom that it decorates more or less spectacularly. But chairman Luce said that when El Rancho del Rayo was offered, she leaped at it as eagerly as some of her guests did the steak tartare canapes served on the terrace.

"We didn't want this party to be glitzy," she said. "We just wanted it to be like a garden party in France, but with Southern California style, too, to make it casual and elegant. It really is the easiest party I've ever put together."

And perhaps it was, though it certainly didn't look to have been easy. The decor and menu were typically elegant, and to make the event different from the calendar's hundred other galas, the David Perrin Orchestra was fetched down from Beverly Hills. The relatively small guest list, too, reflected The Committee's copyrighted low-key approach. Longtime Committee member Ruth Robinson said one of the group's maxims is: "We don't like our parties large."

Sharon Siegener, whose mother, Peggy Siegener, is a founding member of The Committee (Peggy attended with John Paul Jones), outlined the gala's consistent theme. "This dinner dance is really like a private party, given as a thank you to those who support Scripps Clinic," she said.

That's pretty much the key to this party, but it is very much a fund-raiser; proceeds from the Friday event probably will be marked for the care of cancer patients.

Scripps Clinic chief Charles Edwards, on hand with his wife, Sue (herself a Committee member), said he is grateful to the group for more than the funds it provides his institution.

"Philanthropy is important to Scripps, but equally important is to know that we have all these friends who are here tonight," Edwards said. "It's a vote of confidence in us."

The cocktail hour continued until the sunset brought down the curtain of night, an act that was tantamount to ringing a dinner bell, since everyone suddenly felt prompted to head over to the tables arranged around the T-shaped pool. The French Gourmet caterers served Caesar salad, roast duck and profiteroles au chocolat while the orchestra dished up alternate courses of rock 'n' roll and big band music.

Norma and Ollie James were there, along with Sue and Art Bell, Burl and Bill Mackenzie, Lois and Donald Roon, Liz and Arthur Jessop, Mary and Dallas Clark, Ann and Charlie Jones, Beverly and Bill Muchnic, Anne Evans with her son, Bill, and Jo Bobbie MacConnell with Guy Showley.

Others attending were Carolyn and Cliff Colwell, Virginia and Jack Monday, Lollie and Bill Nelson, Mary and Bob Allan, Elizabeth and Joseph Taft, Pam and Don Allison, Emma Lee and Jack Powell, Mary and Jim Berglund, and Jeanne Jones with Victor Grinius (Jeanne, mosquito-bitten but happy, had returned that morning from a canoeing trip in northern Minnesota with the Voyager Outward Bound School, whose trail menus she rewrote "to give them a little pizazz.")

Is it possible to be a pukka sahib in the middle of a chukker?

Certainly, as long as one is astride a horse and racing down a polo field with mallet in hand.

In San Diego terms, polo might be considered a kind of over-the-line for the well-to-do. Or you might say that "the sport of kings and the king of sports" looks in a fair way to catch a major following in North County, at least if the doings at Sunday's inaugural match at the new Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club are any indication.

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