Jimmy and Gloria Stewart--handsome, tall, straight--were in the klieg lights, the spotlights, the limelight, brushing against the frosting on a luscious 100-layer cake with 15 million calories (baked by the Biltmore Executive Pastry Chef Albert Cruz) at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
It was all part of the gala pizazz (and a lot of it) to launch the 75th year of the museum and "Hollywood: Legend and Reality," the grand finale of Hollywood's 100th birthday celebration.
It also was a night for museum director Craig Black, chairman Bob Attiyeh, and new president Stephen Onderdonk to think big, and they did: black-tie guests arriving on red carpet walked into a huge Technique Mirage image of Jimmy Stewart from "The Stratton Story" and other ever-changing Hollywood images.
The Stewarts wanted to be photographed with their good friends (Northrop chairman) Tom and Ruth Jones; everyone else wanted to be photographed with the Stewarts, and practically everyone was, with John Strauss' persuasion. The cake survived.
It was a night for the Old Guard to shake hands with Hollywood. Dr. Richard and Nancy Call and Mary and Arthur Crowe, all museum devotees, were there before going on to the Huntington Library's Christmas party (more about that Sunday). Jane Withers, with her husband, Tom, Lee Minnelli, Stewart Granger, Drew Barrymore, Eddie Albert and George Hamilton were among the stars.
Turner Entertainment Co. president Roger Mayer was all smiles. And the conversation between Jane Withers and Mayer went like this.
Mayer: "The man to talk to is Barry Diller." Withers: "I don't know Barry Diller." Mayer: "He would return your call."
Onderdonk, with his wife, Kay, in black lace, was aglow about the museum's goals: finishing the Great Bird Hall and the Indian Hall by 1989. Oscar-winning actor Stewart (Medal of Freedom winner 1985) has already taken the bird hall under his wing; he's taped a museum artifact video tour, coaxed by wife Gloria, who has been a museum trustee since 1976.
Patricia House, president of Fellows of the Natural History Museum, awarded the Stewarts the first Distinguished Service Award given by the Fellows. It's a Shona carving from Zimbabwe titled "Loving giraffes portray the spirit of devotion and gentleness."
Throughout the evening, musicians at white baby grand pianos played Hollywood show tunes and guests moved from Somerset Caterers' movie-inspired tables--escargot and pate de campagne for "American in Paris," chilled mussels for "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea," cherries jubilee for "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
But there was plenty of time for partygoers to tour the fabulous exhibits. Among them: William Mingst, Sylvia and James Thayer, Frances Bergen, Dr. Leonard Britton, Susan and Stephen Chandler, Dick and Tracy Hirrel, Shelton Ellis, Terence and Connie Lynch, Ray and Nancy McCullough, Tom and Betty Reddin, James and Brooke Young, Alfred Bilgrai, Fay and Michael Kanin. Some picked up movie postcards at the souvenir shop.
The exhibition is funded in part by Target Stores, Turner Entertainment, Northrop and the Mary Pickford Foundation.
HOLIDAY TEA: Twenty-three June debutantes of the Pasadena Guild of Childrens Hospital will be honored at a traditional Christmas Tea at the elegant home of Mrs. Henry August (Ginie) Braun Wednesday in San Marino. Mothers and grandmothers will join guild members.
Welcoming them all will be guild president Helen Whitehead, debutante chairman Joni Baker, tea chairman Harriet Plunkett and the hostess. Debutantes are Victoria Bohr, Lisa Bollinger, Thekla Brumder, Tawnia Cannell, Mary Ellen Doll, Ann-Marie Ferry, Kelsey Garrett, Katherine Gillespie, Melissa Goodell, Cynthia Hubbard, Helene Jones, Susan Lytle, Rebecca Mielke, Elizabeth McDonald, Andrea Nasser, Kerry Pejsa, Kimberly Popovich, Leslie Reeves, Joanne Schroeder, Julia Stubblefield, Kristin Techentin, Ellen Waller and Amanda Zimmerman. Miss Popovich and Miss Doll will be following in their mothers' footsteps--they were presented at the first June Ball in 1962.
JUNIOR LEAGUE: "By coming here, you have demonstrated a commitment to our city," said Los Angeles Junior League president Peggy Jo Clark, praising the antiques dealers who had arrived from all over the country for the Los Angeles Antiques Show at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. In a way, she said, it's a show of support "for our volunteers going out spending a lot of time and effort to make Los Angeles a better city by (the year) 2000."