More than 500 supporters of the Pacific Symphony tucked themselves into their black-tie finest and plunked down $300 per couple for drinks, dinner and dancing at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel Saturday--an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new launching of the symphony's second decade.
The benefit had been known for the past nine years as the Viennese Ball, but planners decided to liberate it from the Austrian uber- theme "to reflect our new era," said Marcy Mulville, founding president of the Pacific Symphony Ball committee. "We wanted to diversify, as far as our decor and program."
Visual diversions were kept to a minimum in the Westin's newly refurbished grand ballroom (the fund-raiser was underwritten by the hotel and marked the debut of the redecorated ballroom, a symphony in beige). The only dress-up touches were the floral centerpieces, elegant all-white arrangements of tulips, roses, snapdragons, gardenias and delphiniums.
Ball chairwoman Ann Key, sheathed in black with a corsage of white gardenias on her right hip, surveyed the final dinner preparations as cocktail-hour sound and fury peaked outside the ballroom doors.
"One of my favorite memories is from the very first year (of the Pacific Symphony)," said Key, whose husband, Tom, was the board's first president. "We had 35 members of the symphony play in our garden at our home in Fullerton. It was a warm August evening. The crickets were chirping. I can remember it perfectly--it was like a mini-Hollywood Bowl."
Out in the cocktailing crush, Roger and Candy Kooi wedged toward one of the three hosted bars. "This is like the Straits of Mackinac," sighed Roger, as a tux-and-gown platoon temporarily blocked his route.
Bright spots in the traffic jam included guest Nancy Sorosky in a fuchsia gown by designer Scaasi.
Sally McCorgary wore a strapless green satin cocktail dress that bared her sunburned shoulders and back.
Ellen Shockrow, a college professor from Pasadena, was draped in yards of rose-print organza, with a bouquet of outsize fabric roses on the bodice.
"Say the roses are perched ," said Shockrow's date, Randy Johnson, incoming president of the Symphony board. "Make that, strategically perched ."
Lois and Buzz Aldrin, thematically in sync in all-white ensembles, were tailed around the party (and through the weekend) by a reporter and photographer from People magazine. Ducking out of the spotlight, Aldrin enthused about his upcoming Father's Day get-together with his two sons, one daughter and his first grandchild. "Jeffrey," the famous astronaut pronounced, with a hushed pride. "He's 4 months old."
The slow-paced dinner (soup 8:30; piano-shaped chocolate dessert after 11 p.m.) included garlic bisque, salad with smoked duck breast and roast veal with morel sauce.
Before, during and after-dinner entertainment was provided by Murray Korda and his 13-piece big band. Among dancers were Jerry Friede and Petrina Noor, who said they were practicing for their wedding next month, and Chris and Laura Hargreaves, he in a wheelchair and she making graceful steps and turns with him as they held hands.
Net proceeds from the benefit were about $80,000, according to Louis Spisto, executive director of Pacific Symphony.
The lowdown on the hoedown: The Orange County Trauma Society hosted its fourth Country Western Spectacular on Friday at Knott's Berry Farm, drawing 950 guests at $75 each and raising about $60,000, according to Virginia Knott Bender.
As they have in years gone by, Bender and her husband, Paul, donated the site for the benefit (the appropriately marked Gold Rush Camp area of the amusement park), as well as buffet dinners of fried chicken and beans, beef kebabs and rice, and the inevitable, irresistible slices of boysenberry pie. ("I was only going to take one little bite," said one grinning, purple-toothed guest, scraping the last berry and crust shard from his plate.)
The V-shaped picnic area was set with tables draped with red-and-white-checked cloths and filled with the C&W pickin' and croonin' of the Doo-Wah Riders.
Showing 'em how to do it on the dance floor were guests Barbara Towne, Norm Fast, Barbara Henry and Bill Cooper--a two-stepping foursome of friends who regularly attend local country music bars and dances.
Settling at a picnic table between tunes, Henry reeled off the names of some of their showier moves, including a line-dance called "slappin' leather."
Among guests were a gaggle of Goldwaters, including Newport Beach residents Bob and Peggy Goldwater Clay; Peggy's sister Joanne Goldwater, and brother Mike Goldwater (who with his sister and wife, Connie, flew in for the party from their homes in Scottsdale, Ariz.), and two of Joanne's grown children.
"My family is very supportive of this cause," said Clay, one of the party organizers.
Also supporting the cause were guests Mary Ann and Elon Wells; Jo Ann and William Stewart; Dr. Gerald and Sandra Brodie; Jim and Diane Slemons; Rogue and Judy Hemley, and Mary Lou Hopkins-Hornsby.
After dinner, guests headed to the park's Good Times Theatre to see a roller-skating show, and then (for inveterate thrill-seekers) off to the rides.