Liberty is a wonderful thing. Wanda Henderson at the Silver Kite Inaugural at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel placed the orchestra in the spot of Grand Entrances, placed key tables of guests on stage where the orchestra usually goes, placed the chief guest of honor in the loges, so to speak, far back, albeit with a scintillating table of guests. That established several things: Everyone had a top table; no noses were out of joint; everyone was in seventh heaven under the kites adorning the ceiling while celebrating the accumulation of funds to restore First Ladies' Inaugural gowns for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Guest of honor Roger Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, was succinct: "Wanda Henderson . . . is a vast natural resource. . . . The Smithsonian isn't so bad. . . . This continent is perfectly balanced; it is the Smithsonian on the East and Wanda Henderson on the West."
Confessed Wanda Henderson: "I flunked American history in high school. I have never been to the Smithsonian."
Still, her party concepts worked for Les Dames of Los Angeles, International Hostesses, headed by Toni Webb, as they launched their Pacific Coast Preservancy for the Smithsonian and the effort to preserve historical fashion. Honored host Sol W. Laykin, dean of Los Angeles jewelers, walked in with his wife, Alice. Designer Jean Louis was announced with wife, Maggy.
The Heritage Committee was saluted--six women who gave $12,000 each to restore a First Lady gown. They were escorted to the center of the ballroom by members of Young Californians, Les Dames' college-age support group, including Gary Powers (the next day he would fly to Las Vegas with his mother, Sue, to receive the Distinguished Flying Cross on behalf of his late father, Francis Gary Powers), and they included Mary Anne Chalker, Harriet Luckman, Francine Maroney, Sue Villicana, Joan Armstrong Williams (who attends this week's Senatorial Inner Circle Salute to President Reagan for $25,000-and-up donors). Heritage Committee donor Alice Tyler was absent.
It was jeweled splendor all the way. New president Elise Pasetta, trailing white fox, was in her 25th anniversary, David Webb, enormous cabochon emeralds; Toni Webb in Van Cleef & Arpels diamond and pearl earrings as well as Ralph Lauren paste antique pearls; Marilyn Lewis dazzled in a Rock of Gibraltar topaz.
Knowing that California's leading couture designers--Luis Estevez, Nolan Miller (Maureen Reagan was among his guests), Michael Novarese, William Travilla ("Femininity is the biggest weapon a woman can have")--would be presenting "great entrance gowns," the ladies leaned on black-tie gents in the fanciest of fashion.
Like Rosemarie Stack, combining Bulgari jewels with a Galanos silk tapestry, and Cyd Charisse, in Estevez's silk ribbon jacket and black velvet pants. ("I've worn Estevez since he first opened 32 years ago.")
Robert Stack emceed the evening. "I am married to a Dame, and if I didn't show up it would have been bread and water for a week," he said. Charles Luckman led the pledge of allegiance: "Didn't he leave out indivisible ?" noted William Holzhauser, dinner co-chairman with Alex Villicana, Charles Elkins, Angelo Pappas, Jacques Camus, Francis Ravel and Happy Franklin.
However, the evening was nearly flawless: June Haver and Fred MacMurray, Vernon and Adrienne Underwood, Dr. John and Jeanne McDonald, Afife and Sirak Baloyan of Tijuana, Carol King, Glenn Texeira (the architect remodeling the Beverly Wilshire as well as the Regent of Istanbul), Sheila Riddell (chairman of the fashion show), Loretta Young, June Van Dyke (for the show she provided three gowns designed by the late Academy Award-winning designer Edith Head and worn by Mae West, Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly) and Athalie Clark, as well as pianist Roger Williams and his wife, Louise.