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Diamonds, Rubies Add Sparkle to Tiffany Thank-You

September 15, 1988

Such style. Guests arrived by car, but the Tiffany jewels came by taupe limousine to the dinner party last Thursday at the Santa Ana home of Olivia and Andrew Johnson.

Where did the whopper pearls and the eye-popping ruby, sapphire and diamond necklaces sit in the limo? Tiffany & Co. reps wouldn't divulge (neither would the chauffeur). "Let's just say they were in the best seat, the safest seat," whispered one Tiffany spokesman.

The sparkling occasion was a thank-you splash for the folks who will be table hosts at the Tiffany Ball, the 25th anniversary benefit for South Coast Repertory Theatre on Oct. 8.

As guests arrived, many of them members of the gala committee, they plucked glasses of champagne and Chardonnay off silver trays and then floated into the Johnsons' walnut library to feast their eyes on the jewels.

"Oh. Ohhhhhh," swooned Arden Flamson, peering into a showcase at a $135,000 pearl necklace.

"What's the bottom price?" asked her husband, Richard, chief executive officer of Security Pacific National Bank. "I've never bought anything retail in my life!"

Among the breath-takers on display: hot-pink and hot-green tourmaline earrings by Paloma Picasso for $20,000; a ruby-and-diamond necklace valued at $595,000 ("queens have similar ones," noted a saleswoman) and an emerald necklace with a price tag of $290,000. And more.

The idea, of course, was for party-goers to enjoy a preview of the sort of jewelry that will become available when Tiffany opens at South Coast Plaza in October.

Some guests owned up to already possessing baubles by Tiffany. Maura Eggan, marketing director for South Coast Plaza, for one. Looking at her sapphire and diamond rings, she said: "When my mother gave me these, she told me not to lose them the way I used to lose my sweaters!"

Olivia Johnson, for another. "I have several pieces that I inherited from Andy's family," she said. (Andy's family and his family-run corporation--Williams Inc.--hail from New Orleans, where his mum was once Mardi Gras queen. Pointing out a portrait of her mother-in-law over the mantle, Olivia noted that the couple's peach living room walls were painted to "match her skin tone.")

Arden Flamson for another. And Pat Allen, almost. Her husband, Dick, said she wouldn't be wearing any Tiffany jewels to this year's gala, "but maybe next year's," he said.

Martin Benson, artistic director at SCR along with David Emmes, said he didn't plan to don jewels for the gala. "Oh, maybe an earring," he conceded with a chuckle. "But I'd better get my ears pierced first!"

Benson said SCR chose "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller for its season kickoff because the theater wanted to commit itself to American playwrights for its silver anniversary. "We received a nice letter from Miller," Benson said. "He said he was delighted we were doing the play and that he had only one excuse for not coming to see it, one he knew we'd understand--he was working on a new play!"

Also around the house: SCR board chairman Ron Merriman with his wife, Kathy (unable to attend the October gala, he said, because of a "client commitment in Europe"); Kenneth and Lydia Himes, chic in a black-and-white Ungaro; Jo Qualls, veep for the new store ("I don't live very far from here, I think ," said Qualls, who moved recently to Orange County); Cliff Faulkner, resident set designer for SCR; Louise and Kae Ewing; Judy Threshie; Gail and Peter Ochs; Dot and Ralph Clock; Catherine Thyen, and Trish and John O'Donnell.

Honorary chairwomen Barbara Bowie and Harriette Witmer, along with museum patrons, were saluted over tea and tiny sandwiches created by council members.

The all-day benefit promises to be one of the most unusual Orange County has seen. For $35 per person, 1,000 guests will get to tour local hotels and enjoy festivities at each. At the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach, for example, guests will watch a pastry demonstration by chef Jean-Claude Berger in the Pavilion restaurant. At the Irvine Hilton & Towers, guests can go on a docent tour of the hotel's contemporary California art collection.

Le Meridien in Newport Beach will host a crepe making demonstration in Antoine restaurant, and the Newport Beach Marriott will welcome guests for refreshments in its 18th-floor lounge. The Newporter will offer a peek at gourmet dining in its Wine Cellar and a tour of its gardens. The Sheraton in Newport Beach plans to serve refreshments in its bridal suite.

Event chairwomen are Junie Chong and June Donovan. Among guests at the tea: Peggy Spiess, chairwoman of the Museum Council; Lucille Adams; Kevin Consey, director of the Newport Harbor Art Museum; Judy Hemley; Ann McKnight; Elle Rice; Nora Lehman; Nora Jorgensen; Zada Taylor, and Sally Somers.

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