Flash and dazzle are fine, but how many parties boast their very own bag ladies?
The Pacific Chorale's "1940s Party Train" fund-raiser at the Irvine Marriott on Friday brought together 209 music and nostalgia buffs for a smooth ride back to a rocky decade--complete with faux poor.
The $100 per-person benefit, which raised estimated net proceeds of $10,000, chugged into gear at sunset in the valet parking area, where a miniature locomotive hitched to a passenger car ferried guests to the ballroom entrance.
Disembarking on the burgundy carpet of the "Pacific Chorale Depot," guests in period costumes and formal attire passed through two turnstiles and reached for glasses of champagne and bubbly water amid cigarette girls in fishnet stockings, skinny newspaper boys and a couple of scruffy hobo women.
"Where'd you get them fancy sparkles, honey?" asked Karen McBride (costumed as "Sally in the Alley"), pointing a bony finger at board member Sharon Fair's diamond necklace. "Them's beautiferous, darlin'. I wish I had me one of 'em."
Off to the side of the "Depot," chorale member Randi Larsen nd her husband, Bob, who won "Best Costume" later in the evening, stood tall in authentic khaki military uniforms.
"I borrowed these (outfits) from the Museum of World Wars in Buena Park," Bob Larsen said. "I told the guy I had to look good because I'm emceeing this party. Then my wife batted her eyelashes. . . ."
Brandishing a candy cigarette, Randi said the war museum curator taught her how to salute "and now keeps telling me I have to salute him. I guess he outranks me tonight."
Board member Patti Johnson looked demure in a yellowing lace dress--"my Miss Minnesota 1954 dress," she said. "I was Miss St. Paul that year, and the Chamber of Commerce gave me this dress. It was new then--I guess it looks like an antique now, doesn't it?"
Proud papa Charles Heim, whose daughter, Sharon Cole, sang with the Pacific Pops Ensemble after dinner, dressed for the party in an oversize zoot suit and floppy fedora. The costume might have been authentic, but what about that pencil-line mustache scratched across his upper lip? Heim looked sheepish.
Had to Improvise
"He had another mustache," his wife, Mary, explained. "But we couldn't get it to stay on him--it wouldn't stick. So the girl in the gift shop let him use her mascara pencil."
At 8 o'clock sharp, "conductors" crying "All aboard!" herded party-goers toward ballroom doors marked "Gate 1" and "Gate 2." To the taped accompaniment of train whistles and the heavy metal sighs of locomotives easing down the track, guests made their way to tables decorated with mock newspapers headlined "V-E DAY!"
"I know what they're going to feed us," chorale supporter Sheila Wouwenaar joked. "Spam and pork and beans!"
Fortunately, period verity stopped short of the cuisine. Guests enjoyed an elegant dinner of radicchio and bib lettuce salad topped with sauteed scallops, and breast of chicken entree with warm goat cheese.
After dessert of Grand Marnier mousse with a chocolate treble clef, the Pops Ensemble rode into the ballroom on the mini choo choo, entertaining with a 45-minute set of 40s standards, including "Sentimental Journey," "Seems Like Old Times" and "Chattanooga Choo Choo." The evening ended with a dance contest, won by Bobbie and Jerry Samos.
Warren and Marcia Coy co-chaired the event, with Bunny and Jeff Pero pitching in as creative directors.