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There's Quite a Tale Behind These Chimps

January 19, 1989|PAMELA MARIN | Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

The year is young, but a strong candidate for Best Centerpiece of 1989 surfaced Saturday at a benefit held by the Anaheim Memorial Hospital Foundation.

Forget flowers. Never mind Mylar balloons. Susan Roys, co-chairwoman of the decorations committee with ball chairwoman Toddie Barbarosh, strayed far from the beaten track to select the table-toppers.

In fact, Roys and her physician husband, Gilbert, strayed all the way to Rosarita Beach to find suitably laid-back centerpieces for the "California Dreaming"-themed fund-raiser: surfin' chimps.

Foot-high ceramic chimpanzees in striped jams, riding surfboards over waves built from Christmas tree ornaments and turquoise carnations, centered the 55 tables up in the Grand Ballroom of the Disneyland Hotel.

Other decorations included huge murals of the sunny shore, surfboards, beach balls, lifeguard chairs, palm fronds and a dance floor bisected by a volleyball net--a truckload of accessories that were easier to come by than the chimps, she said.

Just one week earlier, she was piloting her 4-wheel-drive Jeep Cherokee down the Baja Peninsula toward Rosarita Beach, Roys recalled during cocktail hour.

"And my husband is riding with one leg hanging out the passenger door, in the mud (it had rained the night before), jumping out to buy these things at each little shop," Roys said.

After they had collected more than 60 of the statuettes--each hand-wrapped in newspaper after being bought--the Royses headed back for the border, where a cautious immigration guard unwrapped one and said, "OK, tell me the story."

Laughing, Roys said she told the guard how she planned to use the statues in an upcoming gala ball, and when he persisted her husband blurted: "These things are really great! They're piggy banks, and you can put anything in them!"

Deciding they were "too weird to be lying," the guard let them haul their primate banks north.

After cocktails, guests adjourned to the ballroom for a dinner of veal medallions and quail, followed by chocolate tulips filled with hazelnut and kiwi mousse and several hours of dancing to pop band Li'l Elmo and the Cosmos.

The benefit, attended by 575 guests at $150 each, raised about $75,000, according to Barbarosh. Proceeds will go into a fund for patients who are not covered by insurance or otherwise cannot afford medical care, said Mike Foxworth, who was named the hospital foundation's executive director last fall.

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