SAN DIEGO — Even Father Time would have had to show identification last Thursday to gain admittance to Horton Plaza.
To avoid complications with its liquor license, the San Diego League insisted that each and every one of the more than 3,000 guests at its third annual New Year's Eve Masked Ball offer proof that he or she was at least 21. Far from causing hard feelings, the requirement caused a certain glee among the older elements in the crowd, as if the nearness of the new year had somehow shaved a bit off everyone's age.
But, in a sense, the weightier trappings of maturity were abandoned at the plaza's portals, because this monumental frolic under the stars reached its midnight apex with a flashy display of kids' stuff: Cannons fired cartloads of confetti over the wildly cheering throng, rapiers of white and green laser light slashed through the onyx skies, and smoke bombs enveloped the crowd in a rather magical fog when the echoing countdown reached 1988. Old graybeards (there were a few present), and Pretty Young Things in long gloves and short gowns, kissed and danced when the moment for Auld Lang Syne arrived.
The league's confetti-spotted invitations urged prospective guests to "Forget 1987, Celebrate 1988," and the response to this suggestion was quite impressive, since the mailing of 4,200 invitations resulted in an attendance of more than 3,000. Most fund-raising organizations consider a one-in-five acceptance rate more than satisfactory.
Event chairman Jill Pedersen said that a decision had been made to limit attendance after a crush of more than 2,000 last-minute guests bought tickets at the door for the 1986 gala. "We wanted everyone to have a good time, and we had to limit the guest list to do that," she said. Pedersen added that security was posted at some of the little-known entrances to the mall that last year were used by unexpected--and unticketed--revelers.
Pedersen also expressed gratitude for the clear skies; the previous day's winds and rains had forced the committee to consider moving to an indoor site, a feat not easily achieved on such brief notice.
"I'm glad the bad weather passed because so many charities are counting on us," said Pedersen.
Half a dozen charities, in fact, will share in the approximately $100,000 raised by the ball. In keeping with the San Diego League charter, all are charities that specifically benefit children and young adults, ranging from the "Scamp Camp" sponsored for asthmatic children by the American Lung Assn., to the Holiday Food Drive. The others are the Boy Scouts of America, Children's Hospital and Health Center, the San Diego City Schools' program for the developmentally disabled, and a program for recovering alcoholic teen-agers.
At a VIP party given in the Presidential Suite of the U.S. Grant Hotel before the ball, league President Theresa Castagneto said that the evening marked a turning point for the 4-year-old organization, the first of its kind to be founded in San Diego for the specific purpose of introducing young professionals to the world of charity fund raising.
"We've established a source of funds for all of San Diego's child-related charities to look to as a means for help, and in some cases for their continued existence," said Castagneto. "We're a proven, established source of funds for them now, which we weren't when we were new."
Also at the VIP reception were league founder Don McVay and his buddy, retired San Diego Chargers place kicker Rolf Benirschke; the two served as honorary ball chairmen and headed an honorary committee that included Sam Bass, Branko Segota, Diana and Eric Sievers, Joan Embery, and Jenny and Bill Griffith.
The steering committee included Kimberly Kasitz, Leslie Wade, Margot Howard, Gene Louden, Maureen Gardner, Mark Maasch, Dee Walsh, Cristina Bremner, Victoria Olsen, Ross Schwartz and Paula Gottlob.
The same evening, the more than 400 guests at the Midnight Magic gala given by the Young Connoisseurs of the San Diego Museum of Art were alternately bewitched and bewildered by the cavalcade of magicians, prestidigitators, prognosticators and palmists that periodically swept through the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel.
The insistence on magic as the theme for the group's welcome to 1988 began with a decor of moss-hung trees--strung with tiny lights that twinkled like sprites darting through a swamp--and continued with private magic performances given for small groups in several anterooms. Guests entered the ballroom through a black-lit, Day Glo-painted tunnel that event chairman Suzanne Barajas said was designed to make them feel "as if they were falling through the rabbit hole to Alice's Wonderland."
Barajas also predicted proceeds of about $5,000, which she said the group hoped would be used by the museum for new acquisitions or art restoration.