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Donors Put in a Good Frame of Mind

June 29, 1989|ANN CONWAY

Who framed Juan Cabrillo?

Bowers Museum, that's who.

A statue of the explorer holds court in a beloved fountain in the Santa Ana museum's tree-studded courtyard.

But on Saturday night, the fountain had been drained of water (with 700 pounds of crushed ice poked with bottles of bubbly taking its place) and Cabrillo was surrounded by a gilt-drenched frame.

The frame-up, one of several on the museum grounds, was all part of the fun at "La Fiesta . . . Framing Artistic Fantasies," a $150-per-person benefit that attracted 300 guests and brought $60,000 to museum coffers.

Arriving guests, elegant in black-tie and chic cocktail wear, were directed, not into museum portals as in Fiestas gone by, but through a huge gold frame that led them directly into the courtyard. Closed since January, the museum is undergoing a $9.2-million renovation. It's expected to reopen in 1991.

"We're on the threshold of exciting development," said Josie De Falla, museum director. "But while we're developing, we're also flourishing. We want people to continue to come and enjoy our classes."

During a lengthy cocktail hour (7 to 8:30), guests had several options: pluck delectables such as chicken and mushroom strudel from silver trays; throw on a smock and create a mini-masterpiece on one of several blank canvases set up under a portico; bid on artworks created by such celebs as tennis star Vic Braden (who created a "Life Clock" drawing, which depicted his 60 years of living--"It's only seemed like an hour" Braden wrote on the canvas) or state Sen. Marian Bergeson (her work showed a flag-waving woman holding a briefcase. Its title--"I Make Better Laws Than Pictures), or just plain hobnob and sip champagne under the stars.

Fashions, frequently conservative at north county locales, were on the cutting edge: Judy Fluor Runels, a co-chairwoman, sported the newest of the new looks--billowing black chiffon cocktail trousers topped with a goldenrod jacket trimmed in passementerie. Donna Karlen, event chairwoman, wore an ultra-chic black cocktail suit by Paris designer Sonia Rykiel and a cluster of fresh gardenias in her hair (fresh gardenias--in the hair, on the gown or on the table--are very in at black-tie affairs). Harriet Harris, outgoing president of the Bowers board, carried a magenta-colored sheared beaver coat. "It was an anniversary present," she said, beaming a megawatt smile at her husband, Bill. Newport Beach lawyer Marlena Fox wore--what else?--a fox boa over her silk dress.

As for those masterpieces that were supposed to be created by guests, well, while they were simply adorable, Frank Stella has nothing to worry about. Karlen used felt pens to create stick figures of her committee members. Dick Runels sketched a bigger-than-life wine glass. And Ria Carlson and Katie Beall created a scribbly work that combined Big Ben, a grinning jack-o'-lantern and a tree that looked like an arrow (or was that the Eiffel Tower?).

Kevin Consey, director of the Newport Harbor Art Museum, didn't even try. "I can't draw," he said. "But my wife, Susan, paints houses!"

Dinner, catered by Pennington and set up on a parking lot-turned-French pavilion, featured cream of asparagus soup, Caesar salad, filet mignon with rosemary-cognac sauce and champagne poached pears in ginger Zabaglione (presented in a chocolate frame, but of course).

Also on the scene: Arthur Strock, new president of the Bowers board of governors; former heavyweight contender Ken Norton (who contributed an artwork to the silent auction); Mike Nason and Vikki Vargas; Judy and Rogue Hemley; Marilyn and Tom Nielsen; Paul Apodaca, and Jim Delamore (who designed the white tulip and rose centerpieces). Roger Torriero was honorary chairman. Irwin Schatzman and Thomas Wilck were co-chairmen with Runels.

Also on the committee: Nadine O'Connor, Nanuca Benitez, Carol Campbell, Laura Fischer, Bradd Linn, Teryl McEfee, Mary Anne Miller, Dori Owen and Duci Ziegler.

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