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ANN CONWAY

When an Ex-Chancellor Picked Up the Baton, It Evolved Into a Sculpture

June 08, 1989|ANN CONWAY

Thank goodness for pianos.

Or where would Daniel Aldrich Jr. put the Golden Baton Award he received from the Orange County Philharmonic Society on Saturday night?

"I expected a baton!" said Aldrich, smiling down at the weighty sculpture of a hand poised with a tiny gold wand. "We're going to have to build another room to accommodate this!" ("Let's put it on the grand piano," the founding chancellor of UC Irvine told his wife, Jean, after he took his seat.)

Thank goodness for pianos.

Or who would have awarded Aldrich his coveted prize? On hand to do the honors was last year's Golden Baton recipient, Masahiko Arimoto, president of Yamaha Corp. of America.

Thank goodness for pianos.

Or how would Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom have accompanied mezzo-soprano Joan Morris in some of the most delightful entertainment to hit a local ballroom?

Nearly 400 guests gathered at the Four Seasons hotel in Newport Beach to attend the "Golden Baton Gala," a $150-per-person affair that raised $40,000 and featured a dinner to die(t) for: bibb lettuce with cheese profiteroles, smoked filet of trout with red pepper and horseradish cream, filet of beef with peppercorns and enough white chocolate to start a candy store.

After the second course, arts activist Floss Schumacher (also a Golden Baton recipient) introduced Arimoto, who told guests: "You can understand my concern about giving up this beautiful award. But, this year's recipient is most qualified to represent musical life in Orange County."

Indeed. For years, Aldrich and his wife opened their home to society members for meetings and receptions and it was the chancellor who once welcomed Philharmonic concerts to Crawford Hall.

"Nineteen-eighty-nine is a vintage year," Aldrich told guests. "We're celebrating the 100th anniversary of Orange County; I just celebrated my 50th anniversary (since his graduation) at the University of Rhode Island, and it's UCI's 25th anniversary.

"My education in music really began with the Philharmonic. And it's because of the likes of you that people like the likes of me have to measure up. You insist on it."

Faces in the crowd: Fred and Eva Schneider, gala chairwoman (in glittery petal-pink chiffon--"I chose it to blend with the ballroom wallpaper!" she said); Erich Vollmer, executive director of the Philharmonic Society; Frank and Nancy Posch, society board president; Nancy and Jack Caldwell, board chairman; Joann and Ed Halvajian, incoming board president, and Suzanne and Jack Peltason, chancellor of UC Irvine.

Oh, and thank goodness for pianos. Or how could Raoul LaBate have won the stunning Yamaha Disklavier that, he told guests, could only be placed in his Laguna Beach manse via "a crane to bring it over the ocean"?

A classy Classic: It was the same old (wonderful) thing on the final day of the Oaks Classic, the annual horse-jumping-cum-food extravaganza tossed Sunday by heiress Joan Irvine Smith and her lovely mum, Athalie Clarke.

The same gorgeous horseflesh galloping across the turf. The same pots exploding with red geraniums and yellow and coral hibiscus. The same towering oak trees dotting the landscape. The same block-long canopy shielding VIP guests from the sun. The same groaning board of delectables: heaps of lobster, shrimp, crab and oysters; quarts of bubbling chili; mounds of tender beef filet, and everybody's favorite--the sundae bars arrayed with choices of chocolate syrup, whipped cream, cherries, nuts, M&Ms, you name it.

But there were new faces. Newport Beach's Thais Baker Bren, daughter-in-law of Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren for one. Judy Fluor-Runels of Santa Ana for another.

Both are equestriennes. And both came as guests of their trainers. Baker, lean and elegant in a Donna Karan pants ensemble, rides her horse, Fiddle, at the Nellie Gale Equestrian Center. Runels recently showed her fox hunter, Paper Lion, at Del Mar.

"I love horse jumping," said Runels, fingering the silk Hermes scarfs displayed in the Hermes boutique (more than one guest succumbed to the $165- per items). Mary Lou Hornsby bought one. So did Debi Hausdorfer. Maria Crutcher bought two.) "It's an art to get a horse to do what you want and do it beautifully. You have two minds working that have to come together as one."

Bren, wife of race car driver Steven Bren, said her husband loves to ride cars, not horses. "He does have his weaknesses," she said, laughing.

And something else was new. Gone was Joan Irvine Smith's trademark ponytail. She wore her silver-streaked locks in a blunt-cut bob. "I grew it long to make a switch," said Smith, laughing when she added that the switch was "hiding in a bathroom drawer."

Smith dressed classic for the Classic, wearing a $3,500 Hermes silk --designed in a red, white and blue print to commemorate the French bicentennial. Clarke was regal in baby blue Chanel and pearls.

Also on the scene: show manager Marty Cohen; Mary and James Roosevelt; Aissa and Pilar Wayne; San Juan Capistrano Mayor Gary Hausdorfer; Virginia Knott and Paul Bender; Garth and Sen. Marian Bergeson and Margaret and Carl Karcher.

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