Braving freeway gridlock and ferocious heat, around 30 of L.A.'s consuls general and deputy consuls buzzed south mid-holiday-weekend to attend Harold and Winifred Voegelin's 12th annual lawn party and bay cruise.
Dressed casually and perspiring profusely, more than 200 guests descended on the Voegelin's Harbor Island home for an afternoon their hostess described as "our bit for international peace."
The event, launched as a modest picnic for a few friends in 1976, has grown over the years into a lavishly catered mixer for diplomats and local notables.
"There's no power structure, no pecking order at this party," said Voegelin, who, like his wife, was dressed in cool white cotton pants and shirt. "This is the opposite of what so many of (the diplomats') events are like--the long evenings of what I call pomp and circumstance."
Jim Elliott, assistant consul for Canada, and his wife Peggy dressed for the day in decidedly non-pompous matching sweat shirts. Plastered on their chests: a beaver--Canada's national animal--riding a pink surfboard in maple-leaf jams.
"We had them made up for the whole office," said Elliott, wiping his sizzling brow and wondering aloud if his sweat shirt was an optimistic or a foolish choice for the sweltering afternoon.
"I see Joan (Price Winser, Canadian consul general) didn't wear hers. "
Among guests gathered for a pre-lunch cocktail and nosh (appetizers included duck pate, Brie tartlet and guacamole with chips) was An Wenbin, deputy consul general of the People's Republic of China. China, which has had a consulate in San Francisco for many years, opened an L.A. branch four months ago.
In the shade of a white umbrella sprouting from a nearby picnic table, An huddled with L.A. lawyer Don Brady, who wore a George Bush watch (red, white and blue on the face).
"I met the vice president in 1971, when he was the representative of your country in Beijing," said An, pointing to Brady's watch. Then, with the broad smile of a born diplomat, he added, "I thought he was a very nice man."
With an hour to spare before the bay cruise, guests filled their plates from a lunch buffet of orange and jicama salad, cashew chicken, rice with raisins and apples, fruit and pastries.
Among prominent locals attending the international get-together, which was co-sponsored by the Protocol Foundation of Orange County and the International Commerce Council of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, were Carl and Margaret Karcher; Robert and Gayle Anderson; Judie and George Argyros; Dr. Howard House; Orange County Supervisor Tom and Emma Jane Riley; Mary Bonino Jones, chief of protocol for Orange County; and Bee Canterbury Lavery, L.A.'s protocol chief.
Among the diplomats were John Kelso, Australian consulate general, and his wife Helen; Irene De Hertogh, acting consulate general of Belgium; Setijanto Poedjowarsito, Indonesian consulate general; Jan Bure Burman, deputy consul for Sweden; and Alejandrina Vallejos, Paraguay's consul general.
Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.