People who weren't Irish joked that they were. It was the thing to do among the 900 power elite who joined restaurateur Jimmy Murphy, the dinner chairman, at the American Ireland Fund gala toast to entertainer/entrepreneur Merv Griffin at Griffin's own Beverly Hilton.
Griffin, whose ancestors hail from County Clonmel, seat of Irish art works and hand-designed clothes, rolled those Irish eyes and sang two of his favorites, "Look to the Rainbow" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." And he received the American Ireland Fund's Premier Heritage Award in a tribute raising "pennies short" of $800,000 for the fund, which is dedicated to preserving and fostering Ireland's cultural heritage and to peace in Ireland.
Anthony J. F. O'Reilly, chairman of the fund and head of A. J. Heinz in Pittsburgh, flew in for the presentation. Because of Griffin's love of tennis, the 1988 award was a 2 1/2-foot Waterford crystal tennis racket and ball mounted in mahogany. More than once, during the crowded cocktail period with \o7 paparazzi \f7 shoving, Burks Hamner placed a steadying hand to the prize.
Much to Jimmy and Anne Murphy's pleasure, Broadway star Colm Wilkinson (whom they met at the Irish Derby last summer) flew in from Dublin with his wife, Deirdre, and sang hits from "Les Miserables" (he created the role in London) and from "Phantom of the Opera." (He opens in Toronto in September.)
It was a night of Irish toasts. Murphy offered \o7 "Cead Mile Failte!"\f7 (a traditional Irish greeting meaning "100,000 welcomes"). U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Margaret Heckler offered a toast to the president of Ireland. Irish Ambassador Padraic MacKernan toasted the President of the United States. In his invocation Bishop of Meath Michael Smith of Ireland asked for peace.
Also it was an evening for vichyssoise Clonmel, rack of lamb Tipperary, Kerry Pinks new potatoes, Shannon and Blarney cheeses and Kilkenny sherry trifle. But the champagne was Taittinger's Brut la Francaise, and the wines were California Chardonnays and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Among the Irish and the "Irish" were Don (he at Anne Murphy's left, Jimmy at her right) and Barbara Rickles, Tony Griffin with Kim Williams, Eva Gabor (with Merv), Dominic McNamara (who sang both the Irish and the U.S. anthems), Fred Nason, Tom and Kathleen McCarthy, Pam and Peter Mullin, Ed McMahon (the master of ceremonies), Ellen and Berny Byrens, Carolbeth and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Lester Korn (their first social outing since their return to Los Angeles), Barbara and Marvin Davis, Stender and Polly Sweeney, Charles and Jill Bronson, Kirk Kerkorian, Bill and Marianne Gould, Josephine Wayne with Michael and Gretchen and Patrick Wayne, Robert and Rosemarie Stack, and Father Maurice Chase.
THE CROWD: The Group belies its name: At its bustling Art Wine Travel Auction at the Century Plaza Tower, the support group for Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design was more like the family. President Kathy Offenhauser brought in her son, Madison, for help. Co-chairman Missy Stuart's daughter, Carolyn Barr, modeled the Estevez strapless dress. Virginia Rogers brought three sons--Derek, Ian and Stephen--for last-minute cooperation.
The result may be not only $80,000 for scholarships but the nucleus of a youthful new support group for Otis.
Marie Humphreys hosted a party at the Bel-Air Bay Club for the crowd several weeks ago, and at the auction last week the young generation was acting like professional volunteers, picking up bids, rushing them to coordinators, carrying wine, paintings and certificates to buyers, generally being extraordinarily hospitable. Among the young group: Dina Humphreys, Hilary Whiting, Leslie Graham, Don Beck, Adrienne Sully, Linda Stuart, Ann Hyslop, Michael and Beth Laney, Susan Kee, Jeannie Sheller, John and Holly Garnish, and Lisa Lange.
Buyers picked up wonderful prizes: Morris and Rita Pynoos purchased an MGM Grand Air trip to New York for $3,250, in bidding against Jerry and Virginia Oppenheimer. Andrew Galef got a private yacht sail for $3,000. Molly Barnes walked out with a Laddie John Dill painting. Clara and Bill Burgess watched with delight as dinner for eight at their hilltop home in Palm Springs, hosted by Clara, was sold; she planned to throw in bed and breakfast. Maggie and Harry Wetzel donated their 1860s schoolhouse guest house overlooking the Alexander Valley for bid. Mary Carol Rudin picked up some Neiman-Marcus $1,000 earrings as the door prize. And Ginna and Marshall Rutter walked away with nothing, "though we bid things up a lot."
Surveying Peter McCoy's auctioneering from the rear and commenting on how much effort it takes to produce an auction were his wife, Kasey; Nancy Dowey; Babe Eagle; Betty Stickell; Marlene Billington; Faith Porter; Otis Art Institute dean Roger Workman; Billie Converse; Doris Heller; Carrie Ketchum; Bronya Pereira; Jeanne Sully; Marilou Yoell; Karen Gould; and Carol and Doug Mancino.