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ANN CONWAY

Turning a Host's Head Takes Careful Planning

December 16, 1988|ANN CONWAY

Let's pretend. You've received an engraved invitation to the soiree of the season, a posh holiday splash tossed by the likes of an aspiring Ivana and Donald Trump.

Of course, you have to tote along a treasure for the couple, a gift that says "thank you for inviting me. I'd love to come again."

But what do you buy for the woman whose closets and trinket boxes are already stuffed with the best of everything? Someone who has the Cartier tank watch, the Paloma Picasso kunzite pendant, the perfectly matched megamillimeter pearls, the fur vault, the Rolls and a partridge in a pear tree?

And what for the man who already has a wallet, belt and briefcase to match his mirror-finish alligator shoes? The man with his own jet (not to mention the monogrammed yacht). The man whose hairpiece looks more natural than his neighbor's coif au naturel ?

Restaurateur Hans Prager has an idea. And so do Ritz-Carlton Vice President Henry Schielein, Neiman Marcus Vice President Gayle Dvorak and Disneyland Vice President Ron Dominguez. They make it their business to know the type of gesture that can send a worldly head spinning in appreciation.

Prager would bring her a bauble. "A woman simply can't have too many baubles," says the owner of the Ritz in Newport Beach. And the man? "A great pair of sweats. There is nothing quite like sweats to let down in."

Schielein would choose something that perfectly suits the person. "A favorite gift of mine to give is a vintage wine bottled the year of the recipient's birth," he says. "A 1934 Chateau Lafite, perhaps, or any exceptional vintage."

Schielein also likes to bestow beautiful antiques: "For example, if I knew someone collected Western art, I would try to find him or her a one-of-a-kind Navajo peace pipe, or a tomahawk, definitely something that is not mass-produced."

For the man who has everything, Dvorak would wrap up the book "Illusions" by Richard Bach. "I think there is room for all of us to lead with our hearts," she says. "It's my favorite book. And I like to share a part of me.

"I would also give it to the woman, but, if I knew her very well, I would have a charm bracelet made for her that represented the things she holds close to her heart."

You have probably guessed what Dominguez would present to the man or woman who seems to have everything: "A Mickey Mouse watch. Mickey is a universal figure who is loved by everyone. Our history (at Disneyland) tells us the watch is something treasured by people from all walks of life."

Other creative gift-givers share their ideas:

Four Seasons manager Dan Camp would bring her "two dozen calla lilies. And I would bring him a 1928 bottle of Krug champagne."

Jo Qualls, vice president of Tiffany & Co. at South Coast Plaza, would choose something that would enable the couple to have "a bit of peace in their harried world." She would give each a copy of "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran with a sterling silver bookmark. She might also bring along a crystal obelisk. "It brings with it a beautiful light that triggers the imagination," she says.

Stewart Woodard, president of the Pacific Symphony, would bring along a little fun. "I would bring him the new toy rock that, when you throw it on the floor, sounds like an avalanche crashing down. It would remind him of the crash of '88. And I would bring her an invitation to have a burger at sunset on the roof of Ruby's at the (Balboa) Pier in Newport Beach."

Judy Morr, general manager of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, would give "a season subscription to the ballet. What could be more wonderful?"

Erich Vollmer, executive director of the Orange County Philharmonic Society, says he would give soprano Kiri Te Kanawa--his idea of the woman who has everything--a road map of Orange County. When Kanawa appeared at the Orange County Performing Arts Center last year, Vollmer says, she arrived 5 minutes before curtain time. "Her limo driver had been given incorrect information, and, instead of the Center, he brought her to our offices on 17th Street in Costa Mesa. Then he took her to Laguna!" For the man who has everything: "The book 'The Joy of Music' by Leonard Bernstein."

The general manager of Le Meridien hotel, Bernard Jacoupy, also likes to personalize his gift-giving. If he was invited to be the guest of someone like Malcolm Forbes, he says, he would wrap up an "antique ballooning map. They are very difficult to find. And I am sure Forbes would love it." And for the woman with everything? "Oh, if she was single, I would take her to Paris on the Concorde and show her all of the places she has never been."

Virginia Knott Bender, proprietor of Virginia's Gift Shop at Knott's Berry Farm, would bring the couple Christmas ornaments, "Beautiful ones by Lalique or LLadro."

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