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Mexican Art Preview at Southwestern Museum Gala

October 01, 1987|MARY LOU LOPER | Times Staff Writer

From its perch on Mt. Washington, the Southwest Museum's incredible night views of the city were being enjoyed to the hilt by the city's cultural and social leaders who flocked up the hill the other evening for Southwest's 80th anniversary gala.

John Sedlar of Saint Estephe Restaurant had the daring to serve authentic Southwestern cuisine--corn soup poured over a Hopi rain symbol; squash stuffed with beans--and the dash to deliver dessert in the form of a chocolate tamale on a corn husk with "Rockefeller" stenciled on the white plate in cocoa.

It was a night that brought fun and laughter, with Fred Hartley introducing the honored guests--major donors William Keck II (Keck Foundation), Robert Ahmanson (Ahmanson Foundation), Dr. Norman F. Sprague Jr. (Southwest's chairman), Harold Williams (president of J. Paul Getty Trust). C. Allan Braun, who gave the Southwest its library, couldn't attend. All received sizable Hopi kachina dolls.

Sprague and his joyous wife, Erlenne, greeted every guest at the landing along with museum director Patrick Houlihan and Betsy (they're excited about the purchase of a new ranch near Sedona, Ariz.). The waiters with margaritas were at elbow's length. Party chairman Mary Jane Large completed last-minute details on the silent auction, including the $4,000 beaded turquoise necklace.

Before dinner, which expropriated space in every patio and terrace of the museum, guests previewed the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection of Mexican Folk Art from the Museican Museum of San Francisco, as well as the sales exhibition of contemporary Indian art and the Federico and Ellen Jimenez Collection of Mexican Jewelry. (All currently are on exhibit.)

The displays fascinated Flora Thornton, who now has a condominium in Santa Fe, N.M., as well as a crowd including major Reagan supporters--Marion and Earle Jorgensen, Caroline and Henry Singleton, Virginia Milner (she attended with Dr. John Chandler) and Maj. Gen. Gwynn H. and Natalie Robinson.

Centers of attention, too, were honorary dinner co-chairs John Gavin, former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, with wife Constance Towers, and Nancy O'Connor (she's an adopted Crow Indian) with husband Carroll. Dr. Norman Sprague III arrived jubilant, without wife Marianne: "We just had our fourth child," he beamed. "A girl."

DILEMMA: The best of plans went awry. Paul A. Miller, chairman and CEO of Pacific Lighting Corp., received the Victor M. Carter Humanitarian Award on Monday afternoon in the Blue Ribbon Room at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Inaugurated two years ago by United Way, the award salutes a person whose life is a "humbling example of public service and commitment to his fellow man." Miller happens to be chairman of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was speaking at the World Affairs Council at the same time Miller was being honored. A dilemma. Where was Victor M. Carter, who received the first Humanitarian Award? He introduced Peres at the World Affairs Council, but he sent warmest wishes to the event at the Pavilion: "It makes me feel 10 times honored to have Paul named to this honor."

Cyril Nigg, last year's recipient, bestowed Miller's medal at the luncheon planned by Anne Kenney, and lauded Miller's "deft ability to involve other leaders in community efforts."

There was no lack of tributes, from Mayor Tom Bradley, Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Councilman Nate Holden, United Way Chairman Irwin S. Field and new United Way President Leo Cornelius.

In a wonderful tape concocted by United Way officials, praises came from Gov. George Deukmejian, Bob McIntyre, president of Southern California Gas; USC's Dr. James Zumberge and insurance executive Stephen D. Gavin, who noted that Miller's father, the late Robert Watt Miller, was "Mr. Opera" in San Francisco. They praised Miller's performances as president of the corporate board and as campaign chairman of United Way, vice chairman of the California Business Roundtable. But the prize commentary came from Miller's well-known mother, Mrs. Sheldon Cooper, San Francisco grande dame. She freely cast a motherly "Bravo!" and noted that Miller never did things half-hesitantly, only wholeheartedly, "so I think he deserves the award."

Wearing a bright Chanel suit, Miller's wife Marjory joined the throng; son Gordon Miller came from Santa Fe. More were Lucia Myers, James and Linda Dickason, Norman Barker, Gerald J. Lynch, Jane Messler, Ray Remy, Daniel Ridder, William D. Schulte, Jean Smith and Ann Shaw.

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