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Center 500's Magical Evening Proves No Illusion the Second Time Around

January 05, 1989|PAMELA MARIN | Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Live and party. Party and learn.

Smoothing the kinks from last year's format, members of the yupwardly mobile Center 500, a support group for the Orange County Performing Arts Center, played hosts to a black-tie bash at South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court that carried more than 700 celebrators into the New Year.

Saturday's second annual, $85-per-person get-together was notably free of the long lines and dead air that marred the '87 fete. And it was blessedly full of the git-down sounds of local blues-circuit favorite James Harman and his band.

Dubbed "The Magic of Opening Night," the event started just outside the mall, where guests left their cars with valets and strolled up a red carpet past bleachers of cheering "fans" (actually Cal State Fullerton students) and a fake TV news crew (three guys from a local cable company making a video for the Center 500).

Inside, the first and second levels of the cavernous shopping center were open to all--and stocked with bars and buffet tables, waiters and waitresses snapping Polaroids, full-stage magic shows and strolling sleight-of-hand artists. The third floor was reserved for $1,000-per-table corporate sponsors, some 200-plus guests partaking of free champagne and slightly fancier fare, such as oysters on the half-shell and blackened sashimi.

As giant digital clocks ticked toward 1989, the dance floor drew an increasingly large and free-spirited crowd, including Patricia Fredericksen, in silver dress and silver shoes, who clutched a silver balloon plucked from a centerpiece as she two-stepped with Hadley Chamberlain.

Bob Inzano said he resolved to give up drinking for 1 year "to lose weight." That said, he dug into a plateful of Thai munchies he was sharing with his wife, Martha Chavez.

Also planning to be food-conscious in the New Year is Ron Meer. "I'm going to stay off the rubber-chicken circuit," said the jovial Center 500 board president.

On the chicken satay circuit (a.k.a. the buffet table provided by the Newport Mandarin and Gandhi restaurants), Petrina Noor and David Semrau beamed at the thought of the New Year.

"I'm starting the rest of my life," Semrau said.

The event raised enough money to cover costs plus "a very modest surplus," according to Gary Babick, who co-chaired the party with Linda Ward.

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