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Gala Guests in Costumes, Closet Whimsy Toast Centennial

September 28, 1989|PAMELA MARIN | Pamela Marin is a regular contributor to Orange County Life.

The yearlong Orange County Centennial celebration was officially put to bed Sunday with a thank-you party at the Newport Beach home of Ron and Kathy Merriman.

Thanking themselves for raising $1.6 million and organizing about 200 centennial events were 50 community and business leaders--several sporting period costumes from the past 100 years, as the invitation requested, others dressed in what Ron Merriman chidingly referred to as "contemporary closet."

The host himself wore a Gay '90s get-up, complete with spats and bowler and a stick-on handlebar mustache (which he ditched before dinner)--a costume-shop creation chosen to match his wife's Orange County orange-from-head-to-toes number.

Among the guests enjoying pool-side cocktails and a Mexican buffet was Darrell Metzger, who took a two-year hiatus from his consulting job to head the centennial fund-raising group.

Metzger, a county native, said he remembered riding his bike through orange groves to get to O'Neill Park when he was a kid and that those happy memories played a part in his decision to devote the past 24 months to the centennial.

"Most of my work takes me far from home," said the Irvine resident. "I saw this as a chance to do something to contribute to the community I live in."

While his wife, Beverly, chose '20s flapper garb for the night, Metzger had put together a costume by tucking his gray slacks into his socks, donning a cap and sweater vest and wielding a chopped-off polo mallet belonging to his 7-year-old son.

Joanne and Carl McGinn flaunted the '50s "because that was the best time of our lives," said Joanne, who topped rolled-up jeans with her son's El Toro High School letter jacket.

Nancy Martin wore what she called "a 1910 bathing costume"--purple-and-white-checked bloomers, top and ruffled cap (and Liz Claiborne deck shoes, but never mind).

"I asked my grandmother what they wore back then, and she said she wasn't that old," said the Irvine Marriott sales representative. "I said, Grandma, you're 87. C'mon."

Genevieve Southgate, a Santa Ana cultural arts activist and Centennial committee member, dug into her past for a costume and came up a perfect picture of the '60s: embroidered Mexican wedding dress, string shoulder bag and fresh flower laurel in her long dark hair.

Digging in her purse, Southgate produced a snapshot of herself when she was a street vendor in Greenwich Village, as well as her vendor's license, dated 1971. Other artifacts from what she called "my favorite, favorite time" included presidential campaign buttons for John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey and buttons marking the 1969 March on Washington and project Head Start.

"I'm a liberal Democrat, but I brought a few things for my Republican friends," she said, producing buttons from the campaigns of Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

In a brief speech before dinner, Merriman noted that the surplus from the centennial committee's fund-raising drive--roughly $500,000--has been set aside for an ongoing scholarship fund for qualifying county seniors. The $2,500 scholarships will be awarded beginning next year, he said.

Also attending the garden party were Marilyn and Tom Nielsen, Linda and Roy Lau, Carolyn and Stephen Clark, Elaine and Russell Carter, Rene and James Moore, Angie and Frank Reid and Diane and Werner Escher.

Caper chase: For the fifth year running (and we do mean running ), Neiman Marcus in Newport Beach was the site for a black-tie scavenger hunt. All in good fun, of course, and all for a good cause.

Dubbed the Great Catalogue Caper, this year's Southwestern-themed version of the game drew 440 guests at $175 each, raising $80,000 for the American Diabetes Assn., according to the organization's executive director, Charmaine Day.

The party kicked into gear at sundown when duded-out dancers did do-si-dos outside to the strains of Aaron Copland's "Rodeo."

Once inside, guests grabbed flutes of champagne and circled prawn- and caviar-laden buffets topped with ice sculpture cacti and a howling coyote.

At the top of the receiving line was Sue Perewozki, event chairwoman, flanked by Betty Jo Knickerbocker and Adrienne Brennan, who co-chaired the patron drive. This was the first year the party committee solicited patrons; 19 couples, at $1,000 per, are "founding patrons."

After a social hour or so, guests were given their first "clues" (this is a scavenger hunt, remember?)--which sent them scampering around the department store, visions of giveaways dancing beneath their coifs. After the capering came dinner from buffets laden with mahi-mahi, roast pork loin and stuffed chicken, with plenty of between-course dancing up the department store aisles.

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