"You gotta get down in my hometown!"
So said Detroit-born Mary Ann Miller, her blond hair smoothed into a delicate bun, her lithe figure wrapped in a turquoise gown--the picture of a demure, sophisticated gala chairwoman. Then she kicked into a bent-kneed, arm-swinging twist.
Such was the mood in the main ballroom at the Irvine Hilton on Saturday night, where chefs from local restaurants prepared and served regional delicacies in 13 elaborately decorated booths. More than 500 guests paid $175 each to attend the cooking competition, a fund-raiser for the local chapter of the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation.
"This Is My Country" was the theme, a nod to the presidential race and the county's centennial, according to Miller, who conducted the benefit with her husband, Len.
Miller performed her impromptu boogie in front of the booth the couple sponsored (each booth was underwritten with a $5,000 donation)--a tribute to her Motown hometown complete with a Stevie Wonder look-alike and bite-sized chocolate-covered cars filled with passion fruit mousse, prepared by chefs Michel Pieton and Jean Claude Berger of the Four Seasons hotel.
Elsewhere in the ballroom, guests chowed down on such culinary exotica as "doryman's sausage," a seafood concoction prepared by Karen Hart of From the Heart restaurant in the Orange County booth; crab-and-corn cakes, created by Ed Mitchell of the Center Club and served in the Boston Tea Party booth, and cucumber gravlax spaghetti, dreamed up by Bistango chef Eugenio Martignago and dished out at the left flank of a life-size plastic horse occupying the better part of the "winner's circle" decor in the Kentucky booth.
Hanging out near the Texas booth were honorary chairwoman Kathryn Thompson, her escort, Gus Owen, and Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley--all topped off with gold-plated hard hats that Thompson supplied for the night.
The cocktail hour took a titillating turn when Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal swept in with their close personal friends, Dr. Michael Elam and his wife, Amanda.
Posing for photos before the New Orleans booth that the Elams sponsored, Farrah tossed her loose curls and flashed her pearlies, while Ryan kept the patter flowing: "Pictures, pictures, here we go--hey, I'm usually pushing these guys (photographers) away. . . . You want smiles? This is a good one--look honey, it's the sun coming up."
Soon they adjourned to their table, which became the focal point of the room and the vortex of a swirl of gawkers and greeters.
With the booths and the stars and the music, guests didn't stick long to their dinner seats--who could eat a four-course meal after all that noshing anyway?--choosing instead to table-hop and mingle and dance until the party ended at midnight.
Other booth sponsors were: Donna and John Crean; Zee Allred; the Lusk Co.; Costain Homes; "The Ritz Brothers" of the Ritz Restaurant in Newport Beach; Southern Counties Oil Co.; Gabrielle and Bill Yacobozzi; KitchenAid Inc.; Nora and Charlie Hester; Kathryn G. Thompson Development Co. and Owen Properties, and the Fieldstone Co.
Net proceeds were $100,000, chairwoman Miller said.