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What a Party! : Security Pacific's Gala Gives New Meaning to Corporate Entertaining at Plaza Opening

June 16, 1989|ANN CONWAY

And Security Pacific Corp. said, "Let there be light!"

And there was light-- rows of the megawatt kind used to illuminate airport strips--beaming down on the bash that redefined corporate party-giving on Tuesday night, the opening of Security Pacific Plaza in South Coast Metro Center.

And there was food. For starters, 80 feet of table space smothered with desserts, everything from homemade madeleines to chocolate-dipped raspberries. Not to mention the 20 food stations piled with blue-corn lobster taquitos and cilantro cream dipping sauce, the grilled baby lamb chops and papaya mint salsa, the zucchini pumpkin pancakes and apricot creme fraiche, or the homemade potato chips with onion and goat-cheese mousse garnished with fresh violets (Ambrosia did the culinary honors).

But with all of the elegant hype--including the violinists serenading 1,800 guests (if you weren't there, check your social IQ--you may be out of step), the towering cylinders bursting with peonies and the 10 open bars--the focus was on art. Breathtaking, museum-quality art. Specifically, the art ensconced in the new Security Pacific Gallery--nearly 9,000 square feet of glass, concrete and black granite.

But the big news for party-watchers, straight from Security Pacific CEO Richard Flamson's mouth: "We intend to cooperate with the community." That is, the gallery will be available for use as a party place for benefits. (Are you listening South Coast Repertory and Orange County Performing Arts Center?)

Meanwhile, party-goers will have Security Pacific's gala-giving style to remember, a style so gracious that the second guests waltzed down the brick walkway to their cars, attendants snatched their tickets, talked their ID numbers into walkie-talkies and, voila ! cars appeared in minutes. Another gracious touch: a sign proclaiming "Gratuities Provided by Host." Now that's a party.

Historic hoopla: Santa Margarita Co. did a little corporate partying of its own on Tuesday, with CEO Dick O'Neill hosting supporters of KOCE-TV for lunch at his historic El Adobe restaurant in San Juan Capistrano. On the agenda: a thank-you party for participants in KOCE's television documentary, "The Story of Orange County" (premiering Wednesday at 8 p.m.).

O'Neill, the laid-back owner of the 40,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo, said he had participated in the movie made for television. "I did a few scenes," he said, sipping one of his restaurant's smooth "Santa Margaritas." "It was great. But it took all morning. I just talk about the future and the past around here." In San Juan Capistrano, the past was a time "when a dog could lie in the middle of the street and nobody would bother it," O'Neill said. But now even the slow-paced city has a good share of traffic. "Now, a dog can't walk across the street without getting run over," O'Neill said.

Marion Knott, daughter of Walter and Cordelia Knott--founders of Knott's Berry Farm--discusses the growth of Orange County tourism in the film. "I had to say 'entrepreneurial skills' in the program," she said. "And I had a terrible time getting that out! My husband said it was because they didn't use those words when I learned how to talk."

Also on the scene: Ernie Chapman, whose father, Charles, pioneered the Valencia orange industry. "When dad came here from Chicago in 1894, they told him to get rid of the Valencias. They told him that nobody would want to buy an orange in the summer when there were peaches, apricots and plums for sale. Well, since there were Valencias on his ranch, he started shipping them. And they sold well. And he kept shipping them and shipping them until Orange County became the Valencia capital."

What they're talking about: China. "I am stunned," said Norman Watson, chancellor emeritus of the Coast Community College District on Tuesday during the party at El Adobe. "I could never have believed the student demonstrations. They don't do that in China."

Watson knows. For the past four years, he has been a member of an international advisory panel to the People's Republic of China. "We're working on a world bank project and on modernizing higher education there," Watson said. "There has been a feeling there that as long as people are making money, they've got to be satisfied. But they didn't reckon with the students. The students want more than bread. They want freedom.

"They're on the right track. And they were proceeding in a non-violent manner. In my opinion, the whole tragedy could have been avoided if the students had been invited to set up a youth committee, some kind of panel where they could be heard. That's all the students wanted."

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