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Ice Ax, Rope, Pitons for the Social Climber

September 29, 1989|ANN CONWAY

To climb or not to climb?

That is the question Washington society types don't have to ask themselves this social season. Sally Quinn, the revered social chronicler who once wrote for the Washington Post, summed it all up in a recent issue of Women's Wear Daily. "This will be a terrible season for (Washington) social climbers," she said, referring to the First Couple's being pure Greenwich, Conn., folks who don't cotton to capital social schmoozers.

Not so in Orange County, say the local cognoscenti. In the land of 28 cities and at least as many social cliques, social climbing is always great sport. The question is: What's the best way to climb?

According to one socialite at the top of the heap, the most effective way for a woman to begin an ascent begins with knowing her economic place.

If she's at a high economic level--if she doesn't have to work--and she's married, she should use her husband's business connections to help her find a worthy charity to join, she says.

"Women with husbands at very high income levels are always involved with charity," she says. "So, let's say my husband is the vice president of Fluor Corp., and I'm wanting to become very social. Some of the events in my husband's company will connect me with people who are interested in charity. So I would watch for a charity that sounds interesting. And then, when I've decided on one I like, I ask one of the women to take me to a meeting."

That gets her well-heeled foot in the door. Then, if she's charity-effective, donation-wise and a pitch-in-and-helper, social higher-ups will become eager to have her on their benefit committees. And serving on those panels leads to the something-in-common syndrome that in turn will lead to invitations to the right parties.

The woman alone, or the woman whose husband is not a corporate bigwig, has a longer row to hoe, she says: "She should begin by reading the society columns. If she reads about a charity she likes, she should call the charity, offer her time and go for it."

Another way to climb is to get your picture in the columns, says another insider, who, though she didn't set out to be a social celeb, became one the first time her megawatt smile hit the society pages.

"That first picture put me on the map," she says. "People are so enthralled with pictures you can't believe it. If socially connected types see you in the paper, they figure you're somebody, and the party invitations begin to arrive."

This is such an effective way of climbing, she says, that some people spend much of their time following society writers around "talking to them and hoping they'll end up with their pictures in the paper."

Another route to county climbing is playing the game of "impressing," she says. "If you see a couple you really want to get to know, you ask them out to dinner or ask their friends out to dinner and spend a lot of money on them. Then you tell them about your business, your worth, your address, your talents, the car you drive, the glamorous vacations you take. And they become impressed and begin to think you belong in their group."

A mega-donation to the Orange County Performing Arts Center is the surest way to land on the top of the heap, confides one woman. "That gets you to the top in a minute, puts you in circles with people like the Segerstroms and the Lyons," she says.

And how does a single gentleman climb? "I'll tell you how," says a member of the Forbes 400. "First, you become a contributing Republican. Then you join the Lincoln Club. That moves you along faster than anything else. And having gone to Stanford helps."

Tidbits: Beverly and Robert Cohen, residents of John Wayne's old manse on Newport Bay, staged a birthday blast Saturday night that celebrated Robert's "annual 39th." Locals on the guest list included author Joseph Wambaugh and his wife, Dee. The party included a Newport Bay cruise on the Cohens' plush yacht, P'zazz. . . . Margaret and Carl Karcher will celebrate their 50th anniversary Nov. 11 with a luncheon for friends and family at their Anaheim home. . . . Patrons of the Newport Harbor Art Museum said goodby to director Kevin Consey and his wife, Susan, at a bash Thursday night. Consey is going to Chicago to become director of the Museum of Contemporary Art. . . . Comedian Steve Allen will spend an afternoon at the Balboa Bay Club this week in connection with his appearance at the club to talk about his book, "Murder on the Glitter Box."

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