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The Party Pace Picks Up During September

August 31, 1989|JEANNINE STEIN | Times Staff Writer

L.A.'s fall social season will once again be launched in style when the Los Angeles Music Center Opera's 1989-90 season debuts. . . .

From a press release for the opera's opening night gala.

What marks the beginning of the Los Angeles social season? When the overture to "Tosca" can be heard from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Wednesday? Is it when gadabouts return from their summer jaunts to Mustique and Martha's Vineyard, ready to hit the party circuit running? When cash registers start ringing up thousands of dollars worth of gowns and tuxedos?

While cities like New York and San Francisco claim the opening of the opera is the accepted start of the season, in L.A. several events take that title--depending on whom you talk to.

For restaurateur Michael McCarty, owner of Michael's in Santa Monica, "The beginning of the social season starts the day after Labor Day. It's just incredible. I have 34 parties booked at the restaurant for the month of September, starting after Labor Day. During August I have none."

According to Esther Wachtell, president of the Music Center, "The L.A. pace has become fast and constant. There is no longer a beginning and an end, except that we are all such independent individuals here that we make our own seasons. For me, the year begins when the music from the opera and symphony ring out from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the new theater season brings creative excitement to the Music Center."

The opening of "Tosca," by the Music Center Opera is the season's premiere event, says Nancy Vreeland, who happens to be co-chairman of the opera gala on Wednesday.

"I don't think years ago there was any particular beginning or end to the social season," she said, "it just went on and on." But, now that Los Angeles has an opera, "The opening of the opera, like in every major city, marks the start of the social season. Los Angeles has become an incredibly sophisticated city in the last five years."

Others would disagree. Pam Korman, president of the charity group SHARE (Share Happily and Reap Endlessly) said, "The opera in this town is not at the point where it is in New York or even Chicago, where it's viewed as the social event. Here it's that way for people who are involved directly with the Music Center and the opera."

Korman also serves on the board of Meals on Wheels, and for her the season kicks off with the American Food and Wine Festival Oct. 7, which raises funds for the charity.

The MOCA Contemporaries, a social and support group for younger members of the Museum of Contemporary Art, has its annual Grand Splash fund-raiser in August. "I like the timing of it," says Contemporaries president Mindi Horwitch. "The first year we did it some people argued that nobody does anything in August. Everybody was sure that no one would be in town to go to a benefit party. But we had 1,100 people."

Concern II, which raises money for cancer research, holds its big annual fund-raiser toward the end of September, according to Rick Powell, president and co-founder of the group. "The key thing for any charity," he said, "is to have their event after summer so there are no excuses for people to be out of town."

Actress Emma Samms sees a non-stop social season in Los Angeles, unlike in her native England. "I come from London, where there are strongly defined beginnings and endings to the social season," she said.

Samms, who is co-founder and president of the Starlight Foundation, which grants wishes to chronically, seriously and terminally ill children, added, "The social season as I see it has value only as a formula to raise as much money as possible to help less fortunate members of society whose sense of the social season is limited to whether or not they will or will not have food, a roof over their head or adequate health care."

The Music Center's 25th anniversary celebration this month marks the start of the season for Jacques Camus of the Westwood Marquis hotel, who added that he is out six nights a week. "When I moved here 10 years ago, L.A. was a dead duck if you want to know the truth. But with things like 'The Phantom of the Opera' and the ballet, that has all changed. I see the social season more in terms of culture than having dinner parties at home."

Caterer Mary Micucci of Along Came Mary didn't have a slow summer at all--her company was busy feeding the throngs who attended endless movie premieres, including "Batman," "Ghostbusters II" and "Parenthood."

"I see the social season as just a series of a lot of parties, with nothing that really kicks it off. But now, right after Labor Day, boom, it just starts. I guess everybody is back from their summer vacations."

For some the parties never stop. Take Cornelia Guest, for instance. The transplanted New Yorker/social butterfly/heiress once dubbed "Deb of the Decade" who is now pursuing an acting career, is still living up to her party girl status.

"What marks the beginning of the social season?" she gasped. "No one ever told me it ended!"

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