When Wallis Annenberg gives a party, everybody comes. Even if it's a rainy night, even if it's a fund-raising kickoff.
She greeted her guests at the door to the Bistro Garden's party room Thursday night in her usual bubbly style, her silveresque Mary McFadden skimming above her knees, her one concession to fashion dictates.
Everything about Annenberg's parties is personalized--down to the biographical asides she makes at each guest's entrance. "She always travels with a priest in tow," said the effervescent Annenberg. Big kiss, big hug for Camilla Strub, "Camey to her buddies," who did not have a priest but a clergyman, David Howe, who described himself as "the family guru."
Tiny and Sedate
All big greetings stopped with the arrival of Annenberg's very close friend, Joan Rivers, looking tiny and sedate in a short black cocktail suit, a butterfly pin perched on one shoulder. She was set for a get-well visit today to Nancy Reagan in the White House, she told Annenberg.
The hostess whipped Rivers around and introduced her to the clergyman, announcing, "This is Westminster Abbey."
Even Annenberg was surprised at the turnout for the party kicking off the Nov. 18 fund-raiser honoring United Artists' Tony Thomopoulos and benefiting the American Cancer Society. Lots of little tasty things were passed, including baby tostadas and tiny potatoes filled with caviar.
The award Thomopoulos will receive is named for Allan K. Jonas, who has served the American Cancer Society as a volunteer for 35 years, including a stint as the national chairman. His involvement began, Jonas related, when, hating the family business, he volunteered to run the film projector for what he called the once "Eastern-oriented WASP-ish organization."
Thomopoulos said he was delighted at the honor, but agreed to accept it only if the evening was seen as a chance "to honor the cancer society for all the good things it's done," and not him as an individual. "Three members of my family have died of cancer," Thomopoulos said, explaining his gratitude to the American Cancer Society, and "I'd like the whole evening to have that tone," he said.
One thing is sure. The evening will bring out the Hollywood types. Turning up for the kickoff was Garry Marshall (his film "Overboard" opens in December); Charles Bronson and his wife, the eternally young Jill Ireland; Thomopoulos' wife, Cristina Ferrare; and their buddies Howard and Margaret Weitzman. Down from San Francisco were state education chief William Honig and his wife, Nancy. (Annenberg is very big on Honig, whom she described as "one of my favorite people in the world, one of the finest politicians in the world." She never spares the adjectives.)
As usual, with Annenberg around, there were wonderful anecdotes. She introduced her friend, Jeffrey Rhodes, explaining that when her father, Walter, was ambassador to the Court of St. James, he had planned a sit-down dinner for 18 for Prince Charles and included the Duke of Gloucester, "who inconveniently died the night before." Rhodes stepped--or perhaps it was sat--right in.
Rogers & Cowan's Dick Taylor was complaining about the newest form of London snobbery. A friend of his called the Connaught Hotel, asked for a reservation and was asked in turn if he had ever stayed at the pricey hotel. When he said that he hadn't, he was told, Taylor said, that to obtain a reservation one either had to have a history of staying at the hotel or a personal reference from a regular guest.
Barbara Bain said that a person wanting to make a big name in the arts would need no reservation--only the $4 million still necessary to fund the Dance Gallery. The organization has raised more than $1.3 million in the past four months, she said, and, "We need some one to come in and pluck it," which translates as having an angel decide that his or her name on such a facility would be a good way to be remembered.
ON LOCATION--"You just don't see this kind of work any more," said the elegant Caroline Ahmanson, waving at the marble columns spaced around the City Hall Rotunda. Benefactors got to see close at hand just what their dollars to Project Restore would be fixing up, as rain Saturday night sent the black-tie party inside.
"We've got cracks in the plaster. We really took a beating in the earthquake," said a blue-sequined Councilwoman Joy Picus, who with her husband, Jerry, had just completed "the worst drive in L.A.--the Valley to Beverly Hills to downtown."