SAN DIEGO — The Mexican and American Foundation rolled out the red carpet for the 750 guests at Saturday's 16th annual "Evening With the Stars," but many of the out-of-towners were amazed by just how warm a reception they received.
The day was the hottest of the year and many at the late-afternoon VIP reception that launched the event sighed gratefully when they strolled into the Hotel Inter-Continental's air conditioning.
Golden Door proprietor Deborah Szekely, making a weekend trip home from Washington and her duties as president of the Inter-American Foundation, dabbed at a drop of moisture on her brow and said, rather pointedly: "It's cool and lovely in Washington." Later, Szekely was honored as the Mexican and American Foundation's 1987 role model for United States-Mexico relations.
Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), tapped by the foundation to present awards to Woman of the Year Maria Elena Borja de Leyva, wife of Baja California Gov. Xicotencatl Leyva Mortera, and to Man of the Year James H. Richardson, director of the Minority Business Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, took a swipe at his hometown's heat wave.
Wilson Offers a Joke
"I feel like the Avon lady who rang the bell and found it was Tammy Faye Bakker answering the door," said Wilson, to a gust of laughter that was almost cooling in its intensity. The senator also took time to be serious, commending Borja de Leyva for her efforts on behalf of disadvantaged children in Baja California, and Richardson for his assistance to U.S. small businesses.
Staged as the foundation's principal annual event and fund-raiser (the gala netted $200,000), "An Evening With the Stars" took as its major theme the promotion and enhancement of U.S.-Mexican relations.
General Chairman Salvatore Osio pointed out that the party attracted more than 100 guests from Mexico and said that it is "the event that encourages the social and economic integration of San Diego and Tijuana on a yearly basis." Proceeds will benefit such foundation projects as the monthly California Forum luncheons held here; the Business Forums held in seven other Southwest cities, and a multi-ethnic student internship program.
The gala probably is the most structured of any of the city's annual events. The formal program, which went on and on--and on and on --began with the first bites of the veal and frozen orange souffle dinner served in Pavilion Ballroom. The presentation of the Mexican and U.S. colors was accompanied by the singing of the national anthems, and followed by an invocation offered by the Rev. Gilbert Chavez, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.
Master of ceremonies was U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Coronado), who introduced a video message sent by President Reagan, who said that every time he returns home to California, he feels a deep appreciation for the role that Latinos have played in the development of American culture.
Several Leaders Honored
The evening continued with a presentation of a baker's dozen of role models, honored for their leadership in fields ranging from sports to medicine, business and community development. Among the honorees were San Diego Padres owner Joan Kroc, University of San Diego President Author Hughes, Imperial Corp. board Chairman Kenneth Thygerson, and Jess Aguirre, vice president of Anheuser-Busch. Among award presenters were Tijuana Tourism Bureau Director Alfonso Bustamante and National University President David Chigos.
In the eyes of the event committee, the true stars of "An Evening With the Stars" were the many guests who offer sustained support to the foundation. Party executive producer Desia Ritson offered the crowd a Hollywood star as well, however.
Singer Pia Zadora, backed by a 35-piece orchestra, opened her act with "For Once in My Life," then sang and danced her way through a full Las Vegas-style revue. (One astute guest noted that Zadora's closing number, "I Am What I Am," echoes the opening line of the ditty sung by Popeye the Sailor.)
Foundation President Tony Valencia and his wife, Gloria, headlined a guest list that included White House liaison Rudy Beserra; keynote speaker E.R. Torre, assistant sales manager of the Cadillac Division of General Motors; David Lizarraga; Carmen Elias; Jeanne Brace; Ruth and James Mulvaney; Craig Noel; Eddie Aladray; Ruth Jaramillo; Richard and Bristol Martin Ogner; Mark and Joyce Battaglia; Jose and Josepina Esquer; Helen Baker; George and Irene Chandler; Roque de la Fuente II, and Agua Caliente race track proprietor Jorge Hank Rhon.
LA JOLLA--Dr. Charles May, the nautical optometrist who will set sail shortly after Halloween on a dream cruise down the Mexican coast and across the Pacific to Tahiti and Hawaii, said that he has his wife, Athena's, full permission to have a girl in every port.
There is, of course, a catch.
May added at the bon voyage party his wife gave him the other day at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club: "Athena told me I could sail anywhere that she could fly to."