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ANN CONWAY

Chateau to Open Doors for Opera

May 12, 1989|ANN CONWAY

They blew upper-crust society's minds when they did it last year. And Gaye and Art Birtcher are going to do it again on May 27--allow party-going underwriters of Opera Pacific to explore just about every nook and cranny of their 17th-Century style Chateau Tranquille in San Juan Capistrano.

There will be none of those keep-off-the-marble plastic runners on the floors. And no "Keep Out" ropes barring entrance to salons containing such treasures as 4th-Century BC urns and a bed built to imitate the slumbering place of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II (the bed pillows are covered with priests' vestments discovered at the Paris flea market). Last year, even the door on Gaye Birtcher's rose-marble shower was left ajar.

But the big news: Principal underwriters, donors of $800, will get to float around the mansion in the elaborate gowns Cecil Beaton created for the Warner Bros. production of "My Fair Lady." In fact, the entire gala has a "My Fair Lady" theme, and underwriters such as Jeanette Segerstrom, wife of mall mogul (South Coast Plaza) Harold Segerstrom; Janice Johnson, wife of Western Digital CEO Roger Johnson; and Judie Argyros, wife of Forbes 400 developer George Argyros, will be among guests sporting ensembles worn by "England's high society" in the film's ball and horse-racing scenes.

The reason for the fun? Opera Pacific's run of the beloved musical, set to premiere at the Orange County Performing Arts Center on June 23. Henry Higgins will be played by Noel Harrison, whose father, Rex Harrison, immortalized the role on Broadway.

Oh, Jackie O!: Jackie Onassis is his editor. And John Loring swears that the day will come when he'll have written so many books for Onassis that people will be able to throw out their coffee tables. "They'll just be able to stack the books up," said Loring, design director of Tiffany & Co. in New York and author of "Tiffany's 150 Years," "Tiffany Taste" and "The New Tiffany Table Settings."

Loring, who likes to lunch with Onassis in the corner at Le Cirque in Manhattan, was in town recently to attend a private supper staged at Casa Pacifica by the Center for the Study of Decorative Arts in San Juan Capistrano.

And while books are fast becoming his creative mainstay, Loring was careful not to ask Gavin Herbert--owner of Casa Pacifica--whether he could write about his historic San Clemente digs. "I would love to," Loring said. But he didn't pop the question. "I thought it would be a little crass and commercial."

Guests such as "Golden Girls" star Bea Arthur and Decorative Arts Center director Gep Durenberger mingled and dined with Loring and Herbert and his wife, Ninetta, in the former Western White House's library and dining-room areas.

Loring was delighted to see the veal chop with raspberries served up on Tiffany porcelain. And he didn't seem to mind the fact that Ninetta's ruby wedding ring was a Bulgari design. "Ninetta is so beautiful and charming she could wear anything and it would look lovely," Loring said.

Loring's next book, "Tiffany Parties," will be finished in September. "The book shows 1988 monied America as it entertains itself while doing good for others. And, sometimes, just entertains itself," he said.

Jolly wonderful: Dinner with Henry E. Catto, the new U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James and the former U.S. chief of protocol, is on developer Kathryn Thompson's social agenda later this month. Thompson will join guests such as President George Bush at a black-tie reception at the U.S. Embassy in London with dinner following at Catto's home. Thompson is a member of Team 100, donors of $100,000 to the Bush campaign.

And jolly wonderful again: Sir Antony Acland, Great Britain's ambassador to the United States, will be the guest speaker at a private reception for members of the Diplomatic Circle of the Protocol Foundation and the World Affairs Council of Orange County on Thursday at the Irvine Marriott hotel. The reception will be co-chaired by Gayle Anderson, vice president of the Protocol Foundation, and Sir Elden Griffiths, president of the World Affairs Council.

No Oscar de la Romance?: Fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's scheduled appearance today at a fund-raising fashion show at the Amen Wardy boutique in Newport Beach is looking "very doubtful," says Maria Crutcher, event chairwoman. "His schedule is hectic. But we're hoping he'll find a way to come." The fund-raiser, which was supposed to feature back-to-back appearances by De la Renta and Bob Mackie, will benefit Angelitos de Oro, a support group of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County. "But Bob Mackie is a sure thing for tomorrow night's dinner at Amen's," Crutcher promised. "He's definitely going to be there."

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