SAN DIEGO — Iowa Hawkeyes Coach Hayden Fry, an occasional guest of the annual Poinsettia Ball, this year opted to stay home with his team in Iowa City rather than catch Friday's version of the popular Multiple Sclerosis Society-Holiday Bowl fund-raiser.
Fry's opposite number, Wyoming Cowboys Coach Paul Roach, likewise holed up in Laramie, doubtless with a playbook and pencil in reach at all times.
The two men missed the chance to meet on a friendlier turf than will be the case when their teams clash Dec. 30 in the 10th annual Holiday Bowl at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Given in the Pavilion Ballroom of the San Diego Marriott (formerly the Hotel Inter-Continental), the Poinsettia Ball attracted most principal backers of the bowl game as well as many leading supporters of the local chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. In all, some 650 guests turned out for the formal event.
The draws were numerous; tradition certainly motivated much of the attendance, but the presence of singer Jack Jones, who presented a Las Vegas-style routine, surely helped to sell tickets, too. It had been rumored that the official Holiday Bowl hostess and reigning Miss California, Simone Stephens, would take the stage to deliver one of the stand-up comedy routines for which she has become famous, but she limited herself to delivering humor on a one-to-one basis.
Holiday Bowl chairman Herb Klein was among the first to arrive. "Everybody takes this game seriously," he said, noting that the governors of both Iowa and Wyoming and their U.S. senators have pledged to be in the crowd at the stadium.
Another early arrival was businessman Dirk Broekema Jr., designated guest of honor for the evening and tapped to receive a plaque honoring his efforts on behalf of the bowl and Multiple Sclerosis during a brief post-dinner ceremony.
"I don't know why I'm being honored," said Broekema during the cocktail hour, although he very well did know, of course; having served previously as both chairman and president of the Holiday Bowl, Broekema also has been a director of the Multiple Sclerosis Society for several years. He said that he is a loyal fan of the bowl game for several reasons.
"The Holiday Bowl is economically important to San Diego, and it also livens up the town during a period in which there is little other athletic activity," said Broekema. "It's the most exciting bowl game in America and besides, it brings those Hawkeyes to town every year."
(Broekema was decidedly more taciturn on the stage--after accepting his plaque, he offered what incontestably was the swiftest acceptance speech in the memory of anyone present. It consisted simply of a broad smile, and a quick exit, stage left.)
Perhaps because of the sports-related nature of the event, men filled most of the organizational roles. Ball chairman Bob Hodgson, who by coincidence happens to be executive vice president of Broekema's Bowest Corp., said of his committee, "We're enthusiastic about what we can do for charity tonight. The bottom line of all this is the money we're making for multiple sclerosis."
The ball did, in fact, bring some $40,000 to the health organization, with another $20,000 going to the Holiday Bowl. Local MS board chairman Matt Shevlin said that the proceeds will be used partly for the group's expanding patient services programs.
The good news for the beneficiaries was the icing on the cake for the evening's guests, who also found the entertainment-oriented program much to their liking. A string quartet virtuously offered up Christmas carols during the cocktail hour, but the mood became a bit racier when the Bill Green Orchestra struck up such dance tunes as "Mack the Knife," and intensified further when Jones brought his jazzy style to the stage.
Dinner was in the midst of all this merrymaking, and it had been much anticipated by some of the more active party planners in the crowd, since the Poinsettia Ball would be the first time that the new Marriott management had been put to the test by a large society event. The fact that all of the hotel's function rooms were occupied by holiday parties must have made the evening seem endless for the kitchen staffs. In any case, the meal, which was served on very large, flower-patterned plates, concluded with frozen orange souffles.
The bowl game officially is known as the Sea World Holiday Bowl, but the sponsorship role of the marine park, which recently went through a widely publicized management shake-up following a series of accidents at the Mission Bay facility, was not loudly emphasized during the ball. Sea World was represented by new President Robert Gault. Also attending was former Sea World President Jan Schultz, who repeatedly found himself the center of groups of well-wishers, and who remains on the bowl game's board of directors.