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Party Hopping

When Motor-Home Magnate John and Donna Crean Invited Their Friends to a Bash, They Really Meant It

January 28, 1988|ANN CONWAY | Times Society Columnist

Talk about a bash .

Sunday's demolition party staged by Donna and John Crean in serene Santa Ana Heights was a bash, a blowout and a down-and-out smash.

The born-to-party couple--he's chairman and CEO of Fleetwood Enterprises, the Fortune 500 Co. that manufactures recreation vehicles--love surrounding themselves with friends and family.

So it was only natural to invite 100 nears and dears to participate in the destruction of a two-bedroom, two-bath bungalow to make way for the 11-bedroom, 14-bath mansion they plan to build. Especially since the mansion will be erected primarily for friends and family.

Yes, the shocking, only-in-Orange-County truth is, the Creans, whose four children are grown and gone, plan to occupy but 1,500 of their proposed 21,000-square-foot palace. "We're going to live in an apartment inside of the house," said Donna Crean, who resides with John in a 3,000-square-foot home in Corona del Mar. "So we don't get lost. So we always have our own little corner. We've lived in several big houses, and, you come in the front door and nobody answers because they're way at the other end somewhere. . . ."

And the home's remaining 19,500 square feet? "Oh, it'll just sit there, I guess, " she said, laughing. "Except when the kids come, or we ask friends to stay over. It all started two years ago. Our children came home for the holidays with our nine grandchildren and we had to put half of them up at a hotel. I told John I liked having them all together in the same house . . . ."

Minutes before guests arrived on Sunday, the couple was hard at work in their 40-foot motor home, parked on the 3.8-acre property. A sweat-shirted Donna Crean, dazzling in diamonds, was whipping up cherry-flavored Optifast 70. "This is all John and I get to eat today," she wailed. "We started dieting after I saw a picture that made us look like two balloons somebody blew up."

John Crean, the man who in 1981 donated his 93-acre, $10-million Rancho Capistrano to the Rev. Robert Schuller's ministries, was doing dishes in diamonds. Among other sparklers was an eagle-shaped belt buckle paved with stones from "old cuff links I took to Van Cleef and Arpels."

"This is a great excuse for a party," he said. "Donna loves giving parties."

At 1 p.m., the Creans stepped out onto their sprawling, sun-dappled estate to greet family, new neighbors and celeb pals who included Buddy Ebsen, Ray Conniff, Jane Withers, Mr. Blackwell and Pilar Wayne. Politicos on the scene included Orange County Republican Chairman Thomas Fuentes and Orange County Supervisors Don R. Roth and Thomas A. Riley (all of the supervisors were invited).

"Don't be so quick to destroy!" Donna Crean yelled, spotting a grandchild who had begun to pummel a wall with his foot.

For the Creans and several guests, this was demolition deja vu. Only "this time, I didn't provide sledgehammers," she noted, looking down at a fireplace hearth set with crayons and water-base paints. "When we did this on a property in Beverly Hills a few years ago, somebody put a hammer through a wall and just missed a woman in the bathroom on the other side."

On Sunday, a bathroom wall was the first to go. Wielding a used brick, grandson Con Crean, 17, began to hurl it hard against a wall, so hard it bounced back and grazed his face. "Feels great," he said. "Really great."

Guest Judie Manto toted her own sledgehammer. Bam. "I'm thinking of my high-school teacher who gave me a 'B' in geometry," she said. Slam. "When I did this in Beverly Hills, the bartender asked me to do a few for his mom too." Pow. "Between the two parties," she said, huffing and puffing, "I think the Creans have given me good mental health."

Don Roth was looking forward to smashing a few walls. "But, on the other hand," he said, "I hate to see the building come down." As it turned out, Roth never got around to home wrecking. Instead, he scribbled a red heart over the fireplace and wrote his and wife Jackie's names inside of it. "Guess I'm inspired by the Back Bay view," he observed.

Guest Dorothy Davis drew a self-portrait in black crayon. "Hmmmm, better add a few wrinkles," she said, sketching some wiggly lines on the cheeks. "And a few hairs on the chin. . . ."

"Can't believe I did that," said Riley, taking a patio chair near a forgotten pool swimming with algae. "Can't believe I tried to hit a wall in a place where all the studs come together."

"What could be better than a place where all the studs come together?" deadpanned PR practitioner Gloria Zigner, attending with husband Irv Goldberg.

Mr. Blackwell, who designs most of Donna Crean's evening gowns, didn't have time for bashing. He was too busy playing kissy-huggy with friends. "You've got lipstick on your cheek," chided one female guest, attempting to banish it with her fingers.

"Is it my color?" Blackwell wanted to know.

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