Thanks to Norman and Sadie Lee, the Sunday night performance of the Laguna Art Festival's Pageant of the Masters was a sellout. Actually, it sold out twice.
The Lees, British citizens and longtime Angelenos, bought tickets for every last red plastic seat in Irvine Bowl--then donated the tickets to the L.A.-based City of Hope for a benefit performance in honor of the charity's outgoing chairman of the board, Abraham Bolsky.
The 2,493 resold seats, priced from $25 to $100, raised about $100,000, said Karen Warren, City of Hope executive vice president.
Warren said proceeds from the evening will go into a general fund for the City of Hope Medical Center and Beckman Research Institute, a 55-building complex in Duarte dealing primarily with cancer research and the treatment of cancer patients.
Before the 8:30 p.m. performance, some of the charity's executives and volunteers dined at the Tivoli Terrace restaurant on the festival grounds. And there--in the last hours of sunlight and the first chill of dusk--thanks went to Bolsky.
"Abe is dynamic and brilliant and all that--but he's also a very warm and loving man," board member Iris Rothstein said. "I think that's why people are here to wish him well."
Sanford Shapero, president and chief executive officer of the City of Hope, said Bolsky's six-year tenure as the highest-ranking volunteer in the organization was marked by his activism.
"He is an extremely outspoken individual," Shapero said. "Abe was a real leader, not just a puppet with a big title."
Shapero also noted that the benefit represented "the first time we've had a public function involving so many people to celebrate an outgoing chairman." An official retirement ceremony will be part of the City of Hope's national biennial convention this weekend at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.
"That's when they give me a gift and I make a speech and all that other nonsense," said a cheery and relaxed Bolsky, who presided over a dinner group that included his wife, Helen, board members and friends from Los Angeles, and John and Nancy Lusk of Newport Beach.
The evening's honoree had kind words of his own for the charity he headed, and especially for his hosts.
"Norman Lee is a true philanthropist," Bolsky said. "He gives so that his money can help others, and he doesn't look for any honors or acclaim."
Among the Lees' many contributions to the City of Hope was the construction and funding of a pediatric resource center, which opened in 1983 with a ceremony attended by England's Queen Elizabeth II.
Walking the Art Festival grounds, Nancy Lusk recalled yearly childhood visits to the art exhibit and pageant.
"We always made a whole day of it. We'd go to the beach, swim, run around, eat all this strange food, then come here and see the pictures," recalled the Whittier native.
Lusk said she was looking forward to seeing the pageant for the first time in five years. "The great thing about this is that the show doesn't change--you change. You grow up and grow older and see things a little differently each year."