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The Stars Come South and Go Nuts : Celebrities Loosen Up, Get Down at Action-Filled Ritz-Carlton/Coca-Cola Classic

June 15, 1989|ANN CONWAY

Robin Leach got racy and dropped his trousers. Robert Wagner got kissy-huggy and sang with Mike Connors. Gene Simmons (once the bizarrely painted lead singer of the rock group Kiss) got homey and flashed a pic of his baby boy.

Such was life when residents of La-La Land zipped down to the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point to spend the weekend and enjoy the first Ritz-Carlton/Coca-Cola Classic. The action-filled getaway raised more than $100,000 for Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, a summer haven for children with cancer.

After competitive rounds of golf and tennis on Friday and Saturday, the stars--who included Harvey Korman, Jill St. John, Cheryl Ladd and Sally Struthers--dressed in their glitzy best for a black-tie romp on Saturday night in the hotel's dressed-to-impress ballroom.

A movie set never had it so good. Gold lame panels, superimposed with five-point stars made of light, shimmered on the brocade-covered walls. Gold metallic lace tablecloths, swagged and accented with nosegays of white orchids, gleamed on the tables. Centerpieces of clear crystal globes, looking like huge bubbles, were filled with sprays of more orchids. Big orchids. Huge orchids. Flickering votive candles lit up the cobalt-blue water goblets and the glittering lineup of monogrammed wine glasses.

"Well, this is a classic," said Ritz-Carlton vice president Henry Schielein, eyes dancing as he drank in the sight during the cocktail hour. "We wanted something better than the old linen cloth you get at home. It's beautiful, isn't it?" The understatement of the year.

The weekend, masterminded by football great O.J. Simpson, a resident of Laguna Niguel, and big guns from Coca-Cola and the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain, marked one of the loveliest (and zaniest) nights of the year.

For starters, the starry set and such locals as Judie Manto and her husband, Carmelo (owner of the popular-with-celebs Carmelo's bistro in Corona del Mar), mingled in the Monarch Bay courtyard, sipping something cool as they rubbed elbows beside a gushing fountain.

Once inside, the 300-strong crowd settled down to a repast to remember: grilled scallops served up in Cassis vinegar butter (ooh); Virginia veal entrecote presented on a feuillette with essence of port; and a dessert that kept guests guessing-- pruneau Armagnac mouselline (a dreamy, creamy number flecked with prunes). And, before you could say "Enough! Enough!" a cadre of white-gloved waiters swept up to the elegant tables with petits fours and Roederer Estate sparkling wine (double ooh). The dinner wines were some of California's choicest: a 1986 Sauvignon Blanc by Simi was poured with the scallops, and a 1987 Pinot Noir by Robert Mondavi accompanied the veal.

After welcomes by Horst Schulze, president of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., and Ira Herbert, president of Coca-Cola USA (who presented a $100,000 check to Pepper Edmiston, director of Camp Good Times), the nutso fun began.

Emcee Korman ("Please, take your seats!" he deadpanned when guests didn't budge after he was introduced) brought on Leach. To up the bid on an auction item, the star of TV's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" dropped his dress pants, bringing the house down at the same time. Then Wagner and Connors took the spotlight, cracking guests up as they gazed into each others' riveting orbs to spoof "Strangers in the Night."

Rousing sets by Trini Lopez and Frankie Avalon followed, with an impromptu version of "Donna" sung by a crackly voiced Struthers. Comedian Scott Record topped off the entertainment.

Oh! Jackie, Oy: They expected him for appetizers, but patrons of the Jewish Senior Center who anted up a cool $1,000 to dine with Jackie Mason at the Center Club before his show at the Performing Arts Center on Monday night ended up partying with the comedian during dessert.

Their second dessert! Due to a hectic schedule, Mason missed dinner. But post show time, he lived it up with patrons while they tipped bubbly and dipped into chocolate-dipped strawberries. He also signed copies of his book, "Jackie, Oy."

Here's the way it went at the gala event that brought a whopping $150,000 to the Garden Grove-based center: Ninety patrons gathered at the private club to sip cocktails and dine on stuffed sole or pheasant and a pyramid of dark and white chocolate (embellished with chocolate masks of comedy and tragedy, a theme echoed in the exotic floral centerpieces).

Welcoming guests were senior center President Raya Jaffee and husband Mel, event chairman. "The Jewish community has come of age in Orange County," said Raya--radiant in a hyacinth-pink cocktail suit--referring to the event's mega-hit status (2,523 seats were sold for Mason's one-night stand at the Center).

"This event marks the most successful benefit performance ever held at the Center," noted Mel, who is president of National Lumber & Supply Inc.

Calling the event "a dream" and her husband "the dreamer," Raya said its beneficiary was a place where the elderly can enjoy "good food and a feeling of family."

The same could be said for the benefit, with its divine pre-show-time menu and Mason's acclaimed Broadway show, a nonstop parade of ethnic side-splitters.

On the scene: Joyce and Tom Tucker (president of Pennhill Group), event co-chairman; Ygal and Sheila Prell Sonenshine (elegant in Christian Lacroix and rhinestone-studded satin pumps); Sheila's mom, Debbie Prell (sparkly in a Bob Mackie), who employed Mason when, with her late husband, she owned the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas; Elaine Ornitz, stunning in an emerald and black silk theater suit purchased in Paris; Tom and Elizabeth Tierney, in an off-the-shoulder black silk dress, and Maria Crutcher in black lace and velvet by Valentino.

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