SAN DIEGO — Rumors had it that, at any moment, playwright Neil Simon would zip through the door like a streak of lightning, flashing his so-becoming smile and bearing gifts of wit and repartee, to distribute like party favors among the crowd.
Rumor also had it that, failing Simon, the Sculpture Garden Cafe at the San Diego Museum of Art would be graced by the presence of Gene Saks, director of Simon's new farce, "Rumors." Further rumors spread that Old Globe Theatre executive producer Craig Noel and artistic director Jack O'Brien would turn out to spread glad tidings at the formal Globe Guilders dinner that preceded Thursday's world premiere of Simon's work.
But Saks, Noel and O'Brien remained, along with Simon, safely ensconced backstage at the Globe, dealing variously with the gremlins and butterflies that make life in the theater so entertainingly tumultuous.
So the 195 guests were on their own when it came to anticipating the forthcoming pleasures of "Rumors," but that wasn't difficult.
Because the Globe has increased the number of productions on its three stages, the Guilders have discontinued the practice of preceding each with an opening night dinner; only selected plays now receive a gastronomic prologue. However, because the Guilders regarded "Rumors" as the most momentous entry on the calendar, the group pulled out the stops and specified black tie for the extravagant formal meal. It was unknown in advance that the play would poke gentle fun at social gatherings--one character asked another: "Isn't that the dress you got for Cerebral Palsy?" The response--which gained a knowing laugh from the fund-raiser-experienced audience--was, "No, this is the one I got for Sickle Cell." Many of the gowns in the theater previously had been worn to San Diego fund-raisers given for efforts to cure half--or so it seems--the major diseases known to man.
Gerri Fegarsky chaired the stylish event and said: "Since 'Rumors' is receiving global attention, we've tried to make tonight worthy of a world premiere. It's an honor for the Globe to be chosen to present a play of this status."
Fegarsky's arrangements included a dinner of smoked salmon, veal forestiere and chocolate pecan tart, a meal that proved so alluring that the Globe curtain rose 15 minutes late as cast and audience waited for the last of the diners to wander over from the Sculpture Garden Cafe.
The guest list included Donald and Darlene Shiley, who provided partial underwriting for the production of "Rumors." They also donated underwriting for the Globe's productions of "Into the Woods" and "Suds," both of which have moved to Broadway with the Shileys' financial participation.
"We've had a series of very successful underwritings, and 'Rumors' seemed like it would continue the string," Donald Shiley said. Darlene Shiley added, "The fact that this is a world premiere gives 'Rumors' some extra punch. Having this play is good for San Diego."
Globe board president Henk Hanselaar said he wasn't surprised by the enthusiasm for the new production.
"It's a privilege for the Globe to be selected by America's first-ranking playwright for the premiere of his new play," Hanselaar said. "It's a reflection of the work done by the people associated with this theater, especially the artistic staff. They've made people like Simon want to come to San Diego and stage their works here."
Among those attending the dinner were Annette and Dick Ford; Kathy and Ken Newton; LaRayne and Bill Penny; incoming Guilders president Yvonne Lindroth and her husband, Cliff; Mary and David Nuffer; Marge and Author Hughes; Dixie and Ken Unruh; Anne and Sam Armstrong; Eleanor and Art Herzman; Aline and Quinn Hornaday; Wendy and Richard Ledford; Sue and Ron Heller, and Marje and Larry Spear.
RANCHO SANTA FE--It costs the Boy Scouts $84 per year for each boy in Scouting. So it was something of an even trade when nearly 200 supporters handed over $84 apiece to attend "Friends Helping Friends," a cocktail buffet to benefit the San Diego County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
The crowd that gathered Saturday around the pool at John and Connie Desha's chateau-like home had a campfire-like full moon thrown in free as part of the party package. There were other attractions as well, such as trail grub in the form of grilled mahi-mahi canapes and stuffed potato skins (the caterer forgot to offer s'mores, but the guests were good scouts about it), and the chance to win a round-trip visit to Washington that includes lunch with Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and a V.I.P. tour of the executive mansion.