"It's to improve--not overwhelm!" That was how Nicola Bulgari described adornment last Thursday night at the Four Seasons hotel.
"I do not like to see a lady over-bedecked," he said, floating among $5 million worth of Bulgari jewelry flown from New York to dazzle guests at a browse-or-buy soiree.
"She should not wear all her jewelry at once. I prefer that she wear a little something--a pair of earrings, perhaps, a necklace or a bracelet--with a black dress. That is the answer."
While those "little somethings," designed by Bulgari of Rome, Geneva, Monte Carlo, Paris and the Big Apple can have huge price tags (a bib of baby-blue and yellow sapphires cost $400,000, for instance), none were in evidence on Thursday night.
"I guess that means if you have to ask, you can't afford it," pronounced one party-goer.
Indeed. Cost was not on the minds of the 300 guests at the benefit for the creme de la creme of the Orange County Performing Arts Center's support groups: the Angels of the Arts, the Center Stars, the Performing Arts Fraternity and the Sound of Music Chapter of the Guilds (10% of jewelry sales will go into Center coffers). They were simply too busy gazing at the glamorous contents of the Greco-Roman-style vitrines flown in from Geneva and Paris to think about money.
"I'm speechless," whispered Diana Sterling. "They are all so breathtakingly beautiful." Which piece did she covet? "Oh, I don't know. Eenie, meenie, minie, moe!"
Marta Ortega, a sales rep for Bulgari, said she has little patience with women who come into the New York store and say they "really don't need anything."
"I say: 'Heaven forbid you should need it! It should be a joy and a pleasure!' "
Ortega, who once counted Andy Warhol among her clients, also tells women not to try to match jewelry to their dresses. "I say change your wardrobe. It's the jewelry that counts."
Guests streamed into the ballroom to the strains of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" (fitting, considering the pot of gold that waited around the corner) plinked sweetly on a baby grand. Cocktails and bubbly awaited as did linen-draped tables, some smothered with heavy hors d'oeuvres, others arrayed with dainty tarts and petits fours.
At one point, the entrance of dashing opera star Placido Domingo upstaged the beautiful baubles. Domingo was the guest of friends Jose and Sue Perewozki, party chairwoman, and Susie and Joe Bertagni. Both women are members of Sound of Music.
After an hour of hobnobbing and jewel-gazing, special guest Lalo Schifrin, the composer and conductor of the Paris Philharmonic, entertained the crowd with selections on the piano. Among them: the theme from "Mission: Impossible," which he composed.
Faces in the crowd: Henry and Renee Segerstrom, who had her big brown eyes on the big, green emeralds; Peter Hemmings, general director of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera; Jim and Barbara Glabman; Jerry and Sandra Beigel, wearing Bulgari knock-offs by designer Gildas; Catherine Thyen in a cabochon coral and amethyst necklace by Bulgari; Barbara Bowie, wearing a stunning Bulgari choker; Deeann Baldwin; Ron and Kathy Merriman; Stephen and Kit Toth; Sam and Pam Goldstein; Nancy Tarnutzer; Mildred Mead; Annette Hurwitz; Karen Betson and Lois and Buzz Aldrin, recently returned from the Deauville Film Festival.
Sponsored by the Huntington Harbour Guilds of the Performing Arts Center, the event featured bands, belly dancers, and the fare of 15 area restaurants. Among the restaurants were: Zia's; El Matador; MacArthur Park; A La Carte; Catch of the Day; Greek Corner and Maxwell's. Proceeds from the $30 per-person event were estimated at $20,000. Carolyn Noring was chairwoman.