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Athletic Fetes Put Party Set in a Sweat

April 05, 1990|ANN CONWAY

Orange County's glitterati got clubbed on Saturday night.

In San Juan Capistrano, 1,000 members of the smart-set swept into the $15.5-million Marbella Golf and Country Club to launch the 50,000-square-foot facility. And in Irvine, 2,000 members of the sweat-set jogged into the $30-million Sports Club/Irvine to christen its 130,000 square feet.

Not since a few thousand attended the gala opening of the Orange County Performing Arts Center in 1986 have so many celebrated so much. Eaten so much. Boogied so much. People-watched so much.

And the black-tie blasts, this season's hottest tickets (USA Today called the Sports Club party, the country's hottest ticket), were as different as golf and bench-pressing. At low-profile Marbella, tucked away in cricket-filled horse-country, the men and women came to ogle the club. At Sports Club/Irvine, which stands boldly near the corner of MacArthur Boulevard and the San Diego Freeway, the men came to see the women and the women came to see Pat Riley.

"I keep having to wipe the drool away from my chin," joked Gail Showalter, eyeing the lanky Lakers coach as he smiled for the paparazzi.

Riley, every inch the suave figure he cuts on television, limoed to Irvine to receive the club's Superstar Sports Award and raise funds for DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and Athletes and Entertainers for Kids.

But the toned and tawny women, dressed in the invitation-prescribed "slinky" attire--Showalter was poured into lipstick-red silk--were having none of Riley-as-philanthropist.

"He's just gorgeous, sexy!" cooed Kathie Beezley Butts, snapping a picture of Riley as he rapped with Nanette Pattee Francini, co-owner of the club with billionaire Marvin Davis and Michael Talla.

What's a basketball coach to do? "I just tell them I'm married with children," he said, looking over his shoulder to find Chris, his wife of more than 20 years.

Riley is not only true-blue, he's humble. "I've never been a superstar in my life," he said, referring to the award he would receive in the club gym at 9:30 p.m. "I coach superstars.

"But I'm here because I'm a firm believer in helping kids. Kids need to get the right message today. And here's mine: 'Any time anybody wants to do something for kids, they've got me.' "

"He's wonderful," said Chris Riley, decidedly unslinky in a black suit and white blouse. "As for anybody who appreciates him, well, that's great because they're appreciating the real thing, not somebody playing a part.

"People watch Pat on television 110 nights a year. And they get to know him well through sports. Sports is a great medium for understanding what somebody is all about. People may not realize that, but it's true."

There was no award-giving at Marbella, only kudos for the Mediterranean-style club from its dressed-to-the-teeth members.

"This place is gorgeous," said Lebanese-born Norma Owen, sporting a Christian Dior gown and a sapphire the size of a postage stamp. "Beautiful. I'm counting on having fun here. My husband is a golf-aholic and I just tag along, but this is the place to do it."

Gigi Grant wore a siren-red mink jacket over a poufed Victor Costa gown. "The jacket was a New Year's gift when we were in Monaco," she said, shooting her hubby a megawatt smile. "It's by Yves Saint Laurent."

When Marbella guests weren't oohing over the $1-million decor, they were biting into seafood spread on a table that was topped with pools of swimming sea urchins, starfish and shrimp.

"Yes, the legend of Marbella has finally come true," rhapsodized clubhouse manager Klaus Bruder, eyeing the dizzy sea creatures. "If their wives would let them, the men would play golf here every day. But, then, we've provided for the ladies too. We have tennis courts, child care, restaurants, exercise facilities."

"We wanted the ambience soft and earthy--like Marbella, Spain," whispered Becky Pollack, the club's interior designer. "People are going to find Marbella elegant and simple."

When party-goers grew tired of table-hopping at Marbella, they settled into stylish, overstuffed chairs.

Not so at Sports Club/Irvine. There, guests snagged workout benches to rest their aching feet (all of that rap and lambada dancing, no doubt).

"It's nice to sit here and not worry about somebody wanting to use it," sighed Norm Zadeh, who had plopped onto a shoulder-press machine by Body Master. "And watching this party is just as much fun as going to it."

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