Just try to stay away from this one.
Orange County's only billionaire, Donald L. Bren, is the gala's honorary chairman. It has a seven-figure budget. Its food will be served up by Orange County's hottest caterer, Thymes Special Event Group of Newport Beach. Les Brown and his Band of Renown will entertain, as will a slew of ultra-hot, new musical ensembles such as High Society and the Palm Springs Yacht Club.
And, oh, the romance. They're calling it "Moonlight Over the Mediterranean," and if Newport Center Fashion Island has its way, the alfresco gala that will celebrate its $100-million expansion on Oct. 25 will have 3,500 guests feeling like they've hit lunar heaven.
Set for a Wednesday (midweek splashes are becoming a trend--everyone seems to be nervous about competing with the stacks of parties that crowd weekends), the gala will benefit six local children's support programs: Childhelp USA, the Irvine Children's Fund, the Irvine Theatre Children's Programs, the Mardan Center, the Orange County Bar Foundation Inc.'s Shortstop and the Orange County Philharmonic Society's Youth Programs.
Why a benefit for kids? "They're our future," says Bridget Lehman, director of special events for Newport Center. "If we take good care of them, maybe they will take good care of us."
While the gala unfolds on the new Mediterranean-esque paseos of Newport Center, a party for children will be staged in another area. But the two gatherings will converge during the evening's finale: the children will participate in a procession of light and present thank-you notes to guests. (Proceeds from the $75 per-person event, which will be totally underwritten by the Irvine Co., are expected to pencil out at a whopping $250,000.)
Actually, the grand reopening festivities that launch Orange County's shop-till-you-drop destination near the bay begin on Oct. 23 with an event organizers are calling a "Tour and Travel Dine Around." Now, to get invited to this free splash, you have to belong to the travel industry and live locally or in San Diego, Palm Springs or Los Angeles. About 500 guests will get to sample goodies from five of the center's trendy bistros--El Torito, Five Feet Too, Farmer's Market, California Pizza Kitchen and Tutto Mare. "Every half hour, guests will rotate to another restaurant with strolling musicians leading the way," Lehman says.
The next night, the center will stage a "Business Community Mixer" with food and beverages provided by Thymes, owned by Janet Rosener of Newport Beach. Fifteen hundred local movers and shakers will attend this party.
Now, of course you're wondering who gets to go to the gala the following night. The good news? Anybody can buy a ticket, Lehman says. "They just need to call us at Newport Center."
But in the meantime, the mailing list includes the support groups of the gala beneficiaries as well as local VIPs. But the twist, says Lehman, is that this is not an "elitist party" (something, some say, is the only kind of bash tossed in ritzy Newport Beach). "Everybody is invited."
More good news: With the advent of its expanded outdoor areas, Newport Center will become available as a site for local charity soirees.
The only thing that can put a damper on the outdoor gala is rain. "We don't even want to say that four-letter word," Lehman says, laughing. "But we'll have a tent on standby, just in case."
Delightfully spooked! The poor phantom of the opera--singing like mad for months without a full day of play. Well, Michael Crawford, currently thrilling thousands at the Los Angeles Music Center in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "The Phantom of the Opera," decided to do something about it. He got on the phone and called Sassy Luby of Newport Beach.
Luby met Crawford a few months ago when she'd gone backstage in New York after seeing "Phantom." The Newport Beach socialite gave him her phone number, telling him to call if he wanted a tour when he came to California.
Actually, Luby--formerly married to Roger Luby--didn't think she stood a ghost of a chance. But the phone call came last Saturday. Crawford told Luby that he was tired, dying to take a fun-filled day off. So, Luby called her buddies Dick and Joan Stevens of Bel Air and Barbara and Terry O'Neill of Newport Beach and set out with Crawford for a Newport Bay cruise and picnic aboard the Queen Joan, a cocktail cruiser belonging to the Stevenses.
Well, there were lots of chandelier jokes until everybody loosened up (chandeliers fill the stage area when the "phantom" cruises the "lake" under the Paris Opera house in the musical). Then it was smooth sailing all the way.