LONG BEACH — Mayor Ernie Kell endured round after round of political fund-raising dinners to win election last month to a two-year term.
Then, as if to demonstrate his stamina for long-winded testimonials and hotel banquet food, he decided to throw one more big bash--an inaugural ball.
"It makes a statement to the people," said Kell, who was sworn in Tuesday as the city's first full-time elected mayor. The governor and the President celebrate their inaugurations, he reasoned; why shouldn't the full-time mayors of Long Beach?
It was billed as an "event for the whole city." At a cost of $75 a head, however, most of city decided not to come.
That left 700 of the mayor's friends and supporters, many of whom donned tuxedos or gowns for the banquet Tuesday night at the Ramada Renaissance hotel.
The mayor's campaign committee organized the celebration, but tickets were priced to cover the event's expenses, a Kell spokesman said. No city money was involved.
It was slick, but folksy.
"We are going to have a barn-burner of an evening!" promised emcee Jim Serles, a dentist and city planning commissioner, as guests plunged into a first course of papaya halves topped with blueberries and raspberries.
While no barns were burned, there was plenty of pomp. Guests ascended a winding staircase lined by members of the Long Beach Junior Concert Band in bright red, blue and gold uniforms.
The mayor and the city's new first lady, Jackie Kell, greeted party-goers in a receiving line. Among them were Los Angeles County Supervisor Deane Dana, Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-Long Beach), the city manager, auditor and attorney, three councilmen, members of the city Planning Commission and most members of the Harbor Commission. A Kell spokesman said the participants included a cross-section of Long Beach--from the arts community to developers.
Once everyone was seated, a beaming Kell burst into the grand ballroom in his custom-tailored tux to a rousing chorus of "California, Here I Come!" He received a standing ovation.
The four-course dinner featured petite filet mignon and sole Florentine.
As guests devoured baked apples served in a pastry shell, the mayor was praised by a variety of speakers. But at least one noticed his ringing words were becoming lost amid the chatter and clatter.
"Is anybody listening to me?" asked Maurice Anderson, chairman of the Black American Political Assn. of California, pausing between platitudes.
Kell, who table-hopped and glad-handed the night away, thanked everyone for coming, marvelled at the city's accomplishments and urged everyone to dance.
The mayor, himself, appeared reluctant to join the dancers until campaign press aide Jeffrey Adler conferred with him.
"He's willing. We need Jackie," Adler reported. The Kells danced long enough for a few clicks of the cameras.
It's not that Ernie Kell is bad dancer, Jackie confided. "He took lessons at Arthur Murray's years ago," she said. He is just a bit reluctant. "I don't think he relishes it."
Kell worked the tables all night long. And as the band stopped playing and the lights dimmed in the ballroom, Kell kept talking away.