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Ann Conway

36 Years Later, Down Front for Sammy

August 21, 1987|ANN CONWAY

It had been 36 years since Bette Nance had seen a performance by Sammy Davis Jr.

"The last time I saw Sammy, I was honeymooning at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco," Nance recalled before Wednesday night's standing-room-only concert by Davis and Frank Sinatra at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa.

"And (husband) Ed and I had the worst seats in the house. We just didn't have the wherewithal, in those days, to slip the maitre d' something for a nice spot."

This time, Bette and Ed Nance and 200 other supporters of the Rehabilitation Center for Brain Dysfunction Inc. had some of the choicest seats. They were made available (from Sinatra's personal allotment) by Milton A. Rudin, attorney for Sinatra and board member for the rehabilitation center.

The "Summer Concert Party," which netted $20,000 for the Irvine-based center, marked the first sellout in the benefit's four-year history.

"I think we sold out because Frank Sinatra gave such an incredible performance last year," said Bette Nance, chairwoman of the $150-per-person affair, during a pre-concert dinner at the Westin South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. "That, plus the fact that Sammy was going to appear."

Chip Clitheroe, executive director of the center, gave the credit to Nance. "She put together a very active committee--and pulled in 36 guests from her Fullerton area alone."

A member of the center's board, Nance admitted her reason for getting involved with the group--which assists young adults with functional brain impairment--was personal.

"We've learned that our 17-year-old son has a learning disability. You never give up when your child is having a problem. So, when Frank (Dr. Francis M. Crinella, founder and board president) diagnosed our son 16 months ago as having problems with right and left brain dominance, it was nice to hear that there had been a reason for his problems."

Because he'd found work so difficult, her son had always had problems in school, Nance said. "And like many kids, he'd just bail out. But now, the center has convinced Todd he can work. It's a matter of trying to change established habits. Last year was his first year in a public high school--and he had a 3.0 grade average."

Most of the center's "clients," as they're called, are young adults in need of jobs. "Many come to us as the hard-core unemployed," Crinella told supporters after they had dined on buffet fare catered by Alfredo's restaurant.

"They are the down-and-out who are really having problems in life. We try to get them jobs so they can become taxpayers rather than tax consumers. Last year, we got 100 of them competitive employment," Crinella said.

"Without the services of the center (behavior training, communication skills, family support and vocational programs) some might end up in jail or drug abuse clinics, or in welfare lines. I think getting 100 of them working on our annual budget of $200,000--that's about $2,000 per child--makes us a pretty cost-effective operation."

Before guests boarded chartered buses for the concert, Crinella presented Randy Crockett--a Long Beach businessman--with the center's Milton A. Rudin award for his support. (Rudin, who didn't attend the benefit, arranged the center's premiere "Summer Concert Party.")

"I met Randy when he played in one of our benefit golf tournaments," he said during the cocktail reception. "We chatted for about five minutes over a drink, and then he asked, 'Just what do you guys do?' I told him our goal was to get our kids jobs, make them part of the productive community.

"He said he liked that and wanted to help. Six months later, a very generous check (for $25,000) came in the mail," Crinella said. "Randy's some guy."

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