"Where's Miss Kitty?"
That's what George Margolin asked when he arrived at South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court for Western Casino Night, a benefit for the Orange County Chamber Orchestra.
From hay bales piled with old saddles to gambling tables and taped country tunes, the tony shopping mall had the scruffy ambiance of a cow town's saloon.
But, as Margolin reported after further investigation, "the quality of the non-Kittys is exceptional!"
The fund-raiser, sponsored by Bravo!, a singles support group for the 4-year-old orchestra, attracted 130 guests at $25 each and netted an estimated $2,500, said Tish Braga, event chairwoman.
Bravo! is a cultural alternative to the singles scene, said Cynthia Selby, administrative director of the orchestra. "We organized the group so people who love classical music and good conversation can meet and have a good time."
One person having a good time at the Saturday benefit was Jeff Goodman, vice president of the orchestra. "I'm on a winning streak," Goodman said, raking in "chips" at a blackjack table.
An ace marksman and a champion of local shooting events, Goodman was outfitted in Western boots and jeans and a .44-caliber Ruger ("a reproduction of a Remington," he said, "the kind of gun they used in the Civil War") nestled in his hip holster. He said he'd considered staging a gunfight as part of the program but decided against it after checking the acoustics in Crystal Court.
"You know what kind of echoes you'd get in a place like this?" Goodman asked, gazing up at the domed ceiling. "I figured the first thing that would happen if we started firing blanks is the security guard would have a heart attack."
But the Ruger made a handy prop. "Ever since the dealer noticed I've got a real gun," Goodman said, "I've been getting some very good hands."
Hanging out by the provisions--thinly sliced sirloin steak, petite vegetable quiches and raspberry petits fours--Micah Levy, music director of the orchestra, waxed philosophically:
"A lot of people have this misconception of classical music. It's like a syllogism that goes: 'Classical music is just for the rich; the rich are stuffy; I'm not rich and I'm not stuffy, so classical music is not for me.'
"We take a broader view," Levy added, tugging at his red arm garter. "We say:'classical music can be fun!' "