"We're going to be very laid-back tonight--typical Laguna," said Norma Glover, standing on stage at Laguna's Club Postnuclear.
Despite the hostess's admonition, Friday's benefit for the Laguna Art Museum--the first in a series of eight fund-raisers--was a tightly scheduled, mondo hip affair: a world away from laid-back.
"Only Laguna" it was called, the second annual, commencing at cocktail hour in the nightclub's 12-by-60-foot cement anteroom, filled to discomfort with nearly 100 guests.
While champagne flowed, dancers in silk bustiers and kneepads performed a piece by UC Irvine choreography student Karin Jensen. In their Madonna wannabee costumes, the dancers gathered on cement steps topped with nine TVs (playing three different videos) at one end of the room.
"This place needs some wallpaper," said one dancer distractedly.
"Maybe in salmon and aqua," said another, pounding a TV with her fists.
Are we having art yet?
After an hour or so in the light of video screens, guests proceeded into the darkened main room of the club, set for the night with 10 dinner tables decorated with blue fluorescent wands. (Guests soon decorated themselves with the pliable light sticks--fashioning headbands and necklaces or, in one case, a pair of punk eyeglasses.)
The indisputable highlight of the evening was dinner--a two-hour, four-course symphony for the palate and eye created by Michael Kang (owner of 5'0" restaurant in Laguna).
First: terrine of chicken, eggplant, arugula and pine nuts. Next: papaya and rock shrimp salad with almond-sesame vinaigrette. Then: grilled swordfish over baby greens with a spicy lime dressing. And finally: pastries and coffee, served on the club's terrace.
But dinner wasn't just a time to enjoy Kang's artistry; with each course, the Karin Jensen Dance Troupe served an opus, performed on stage to a room that was often too dark to let you see your food and too filled with sound effects to let you talk with table mates.
But guests didn't seem to mind. "This is really . . . different," said a smiling Claudette Shaw, museum board member, as she wrapped a fluorescent wand around her forehead. Turning to husband Don: "Do I look like an angel now, dear?"
Meanwhile, in the unisex restroom, men stood around with their hands in their pockets while women put their faces inches from the mirrored walls and dug into their purses for makeup.
The evening, for which museum trustees Glover and Anton Segerstrom and chef Kang were co-hosts, raised an estimated $10,000 for the museum, according to Glover. After dinner, the doors swung open to the public for a late night of dancing to a calypso band.