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Defending the Integrity of the Titanic

February 07, 1988|MARY LOU LOPER | Times Staff Writer

"The lady has aged, but she still has a lot of class." That was Robert D. Ballard, captivating Friends of Harvey Mudd College at a dinner party aboard the Queen Mary this week as he spoke about the Titanic and his 12-year endeavor to locate the majestic liner that struck an iceberg and sank beneath the icy waters of the North Atlantic in 1912.

In May, Ballard, who attended Downey High School and graduated from UC Santa Barbara, will explore the Mediterranean: "I think our next expedition may be more exciting than the Titanic," he said. He'll cover the ancient trade routes between Sardinia and Italy that lead to Naples. "Rome lost 10,000 cargo ships. . . . There may be more treasure under the water than on land." The expedition will be launched, "thanks to a fine gentleman in Los Angeles who wishes to have anonymity a bit longer," Ballard said.

Marianne Ridgeway, who works for Donald Koll, the Orange County developer, joined Ballard at the head table with Dixie and Willis Wood, who introduced Ballard. Wood is chairman of Harvey Mudd's development council and executive vice president of Pacific Lighting. At the same table was attorney Bob Hastings escorting Phyllis Diller.

Before the Mediterranean foray, the expedition leader is hoping to get the Los Angeles Museum of Science and Industry to become the 10th museum to participate in a unique project using fiber optics and satellites to beam the Mediterranean expedition to thousands of schoolchildren--with transmission six hours a day for 14 days. "We feel role models for our children need to be changed--they need not be football players," Ballard said.

Meanwhile, Ballard is campaigning vociferously to have the Titanic left alone: "Telecommunications is the way to go . . . it will be easier to 'travel' to the Titanic (by seeing it on film) rather than visit it and bring up a pot. . . . We have no right to destroy these sights," he said.

The sophisticated crowd, including Nancy and Louis Myers, Jane and Phillip Williams, Henry Mudd, Rosemary Herd, Kenneth Baker (Harvey Mudd's president) and Vivian, Joe and Jean Platt, Alexander and Adelaide Hixon, Robert and Louisa Miller and Trude and Joan Taylor, hung on to every word, and some even inched up with Harvey Mudd student Brian Fleming to ask for Ballard's autograph.

That the party was held on the Queen Mary in the Queen's salon was a wonderful touch (Henry Mudd thought maybe he had sailed on the Queen Mary six times), but when it was announced that the menu being served for the evening was that for the Titanic on April 14, 1912, there were a few gasps. It was hard, though, not to down it all from cream of barley soup through the filet mignon to the chocolate and vanilla eclairs.

BACHELORS: Looking forward to that annual colossal date--the 83rd anniversary Bachelors Ball on Feb. 19 in the Beverly Hilton--are president Andrew Woodward and vice president and ball chairman Casey Griffin. The theme is a secret until the night of what the Bachelors have always called their Fancy Dress Ball (a costume affair).

For a raft of prominent young men, it will be the first Bachelors Ball as members: Scott Albrecht, John Alphson, David Archibald, Christopher Colbert, William Rogg Collins, Christopher Cuse, Brent Enright, Christopher Jones, Nicholas Kahrilas, Christopher Liebes, Robert McNamara Jr., Richard Francis Mogan IV, Arthur Rasmussen Jr., Martin O. Riley Jr. and Steven Rottman.

CLASSY COLLEAGUES: Those Colleagues, who have raised $3.5 million to combat child abuse, never miss a chance to party. They were laughing and trading stories the other noon at Billie Converse's home in Holmby Hills. And they were expressing their pleasure over their new members: Nancy Powell, Felisa Vanoff, Katrina Cord, Doris Coleman and Mary Jones.

President Dorothy Clark officially welcomed the newcomers. Ann Petroni, borrowing the tune and paraphrasing, "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones," put her welcome in song. Said Lupe Hinckle (on her way to Puerta Vallarta for a week): "Ann's the bubble out of a bottle of champagne."

Nancy Reagan's a member of this group. She wasn't there, but her good pals Erlenne Sprague, Marion Jorgensen, Natalie Robinson and Marian Scharffenberger all were. And so were Jean Trousdale, Alice Hartfield, Marilyn McDaniel, Arlis Morton, Frances Skipsey, Mary Lou Maison, Lady Dodge, Onnalee Doheny, Noorna Eversole and Eleanor Colt.

There was some chat about all the Republicans moving back to California. U.S. Information Agency Director Charles and Mary Jane (she's a Colleague) Wick already have their home in top shape, the swimming pool moved from the side of the house to the rear. And Ambassador to Belgium Geoffrey Swaebe and his wife, Mary, anticipating their return, we hear, have bought a Century Park condominium.

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