Keep it under your holiday tree, but you aren't going to see the Mercedes motoring along Newport Bay during this boat-parade season.
The splendiferous yacht with the pink marble counters, the gold-plated fixtures and the teak paneling will not partake in Newport Beach's 80th annual "Christmas Parade of Lights," says its owner, Jim Slemons.
The reason? 'Tis the season the U.S. Coast Guard has decided to clamp down on party boats that transport employees or business clients. According to Coast Guard Lt. John Sarubbi, such boats are no longer considered pleasure boats and must meet the strict safety and construction standards for commercial vessels.
Sarubbi said that investigators will inspect boats during the Newport parade, which begins Dec. 17, and possibly during the Huntington Harbour boat parade this weekend.
"I'm afraid to take the boat out," Slemons says of the 83-foot yacht, which was named Boat of the Year in Italy last year. "I don't want to embarrass my guests. Can you imagine cruising down the bay and being boarded by the Coast Guard and asked a lot of questions?"
"I hear some other boats are going to be dropping out," says Slemons, who, as a Coast Guard officer and owner of a lucrative Mercedes-Benz dealership, finds himself between the devil and the deep blue sea on the matter. "I don't think the Coast Guard should do this stuff."
Meanwhile, back at the manse, the hosts famous for their glitzy bayside party-giving are proceeding as planned. Mary Anne and Bob Emett, former chairman of Emett & Chandler in Los Angeles, have planned an elegant bash for Dec. 17 in the "Japanese wing" of their Bay Island home, Mary Anne says.
"We'll have a string trio and have those silly food stations. You know, one for Greek food, one for Mexican, one for Chinese, that sort of thing, so people can hop around and nibble till their heart's content."
No decor is planned. "You don't need any when you have the boat parade gliding by," Mary Anne says.
Harriet and Bill Harris of Balboa will serve up Malcolm Forbes' favorite hors d'oeuvre at their yuletide splash Dec. 20. "Forbes told us he adores Ritz crackers with peanut butter and bacon, so we thought we'd try it!" says Harriet, who met the billionaire in New York last spring when she and Bill attended a reception at the Forbes Magazine Galleries.
Lido Isle's Rusty and Bill Hood have picked Dec. 22 for their holiday celebration. "We've done it every year for 18 years," says Rusty, who will serve appetizers and dinner to 60 guests. "Christmas is our time. We go overboard with everything. And the boat parade really lends itself."
It lends itself all right, says Judie Argyros of Harbor Island (who will not toss or attend a boat parade party this year because she and hubby George will be in Sun Valley). "But I swear, the parties are so much fun, I never see the parade. One year we went to a party all seven nights, and afterward, I couldn't have told you what was on the water!"
In Huntington Harbour on Saturday and Sunday night, the Philharmonic Committee "Symphony of Lights Boat Parade" will unfold for the 26th time.
Grand Marshal Jim Miller has no concerns, he says, about the Coast Guard interfering with his parade. Miller will lead the 60-boat flotilla on Diana, the yacht belonging to Mario Antoci, president of Home Savings & Loan of America. "You have to be legal. You can't just go out and do it. They could stop the parade."
Harbour hot spots: Vidal Sassoon will be the special guest at Sheila Jaffe's party to benefit the American Friends of Hebrew University on Saturday night. Highlighting the dessert buffet will be fist-size strawberries dipped in Belgian white and dark chocolate. Sassoon, who built the International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism on the university's main campus in Jerusalem, will attend with his wife, Jeanette, and his daughter, Eden, 13.
The Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his wife, Arvella, and the entire staff of the Crystal Cathedral are invited to the Saturday night party at Jim and Susan Dawson's Southern colonial-style mansion. "We call it Tara by the Sea," Susan says.
And Paul Greenwald won't even get to attend the boat parade bash that will welcome 1,000 guests to his Harbour beach house Saturday night. "I'm a boat parade night captain," says Greenwald, a lawyer. "I'll get to my party about the time it ends." Greenwald, who will host the "five-digit budget party" with his wife, Isabel, says his private beach on Coral Cay will be carpeted with Astroturf. "Gotta keep that sand out of those party shoes," he says.
Parties on boats and in private clubs will surround the 14th annual Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade set for tonight and Saturday. Expecting big party crowds are the Dana Point Yacht Club, the Dana West Yacht Club and the Capistrano Bay Yacht Club. Tonight, members of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce will mingle with an attache from Corsica (lodging at the Dana Point Resort Hotel) when they party on the Charger, a charter boat owned by Dana Wharf Sport Fishing.
As for concerns about the Coast Guard, Jody Tyson, general manager of Dana Wharf Sport Fishing, says she has none. "Our charter boats are inspected by the Coast Guard twice a year," she says.