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You've Got to Play to Pay : Underwriter Party a Must for Those Who Want to Give

May 17, 1990|ANN CONWAY

Talk about megatrends. The local charity circuit has one bubbling on the front burner.

Time to say sayonara to the days when a check written in a hurry got your name in lights on a charity ball's souvenir program. Now it's becoming hot (and necessary) to attend an underwriter party to bid on the chance to pay for an upcoming ball's amenities. (Remember when it was always the other way around? You dashed off a check, then the ball committee staged a glittering party to thank you very, very, much.)

It all started two years ago when William Lyon and his wife, Willa Dean, threw open the doors on their luxurious Coto de Caza mansion and spoon-fed Orangewood Children's Home supporters mint juleps in their antique automobile museum and crab cakes in their turquoise pool-appointed back yard.

After a Southern-style dessert--something soothingly scrumptious like banana cream pie--the Lyons stood before their guests and whispered that five letter word that spells fund-raising success-- money. After their gracious hospitality, who could resist bidding megabucks on amenities for the Orangewood Ball? In minutes, thousands of dollars became available to cover the ball's entertainment, food, decor, wine and favors.

Ditto the recent social smash at the Lyons. Because they underwrote another underwriter party, guests thanked them and supported Orangewood with donations of $300,000, enough to more than cover expenses for the June 9 ball at the Irvine Hilton.

On Tuesday night, supporters of St. Joseph Hospital in Orange took a sophisticated stab at their first ball underwriting bash. Dubbing it their Annual Benefit Patron Underwriting Reception, hospital bigwigs gathered about 80 guests at the cozy Center Club in Costa Mesa to bid on amenity rights for their $300 per-person soiree Oct. 13 at the Anaheim Hilton. Among items on the block: a $100,000 chance to provide the evening's heavyweight entertainment--a high-stepping performance by the Pointer Sisters. Party organizers divvied up the opportunity--10 donors could bid $10,000 each. Also among items up for bid: five opportunities at $1,000 each to provide gala hors d'oeuvres; three opportunities at $1,100 each to underwrite the flowers, and three chances to underwrite limo service for special guests and the singing sisters at $1,100 each.

Also riding the underwriter party bandwagon: the Jewish Senior Center of Orange County. Thanks to a dinner held a few weeks ago at the Orange home of Marvin and Pat Weiss, Saturday night's Roaring '20s ball at Le Meridien landed $125,000 for the center. Guests, many in flapper attire (Elaine Ornitz shimmered in her daughter Jill's purple sequin sheath), dined on veal and fish and were entertained by singer Julie Budd and a bevy of dancing flappers.

Pat Weiss, stunning in a metallic gold and silver cocktail suit, said she got the idea for hosting the underwriter party from William and Willa Dean Lyon. (Along with Leo and Ruth Cook, the Weisses have underwritten the entertainment for the last two Orangewood Balls.)

Who gets invited to such parties? "You choose people you know are committed to the cause," said Pat, co-chairperson of Saturday's ball with her husband. "People who want to go to a ball knowing everything is paid for." And having the party in a private home helps cast the magic spell. "People get very warm and comfortable," Pat said. "They get a very loving feeling."

Also among ball guests: Center president Raya Jaffee, who eschewed flapper attire--wearing a thoroughly modern hot pink silk gown--and her husband, Mel, and the evening's honorees, Joan and Gerald Garner, president of the American Commerce National Bank in Anaheim.

Kudos: Home builder Jim Peters and his wife, Beverly, were honored by the Mardan Center of Education Therapy on Saturday night. Hundreds of guests flooded the ballroom of the Irvine Hilton to see the popular couple win the coveted award. The event marked the conclusion of the school's $6.5-million building campaign. Blair Armstrong and Tom Hover were co-chairpersons. Proceeds from the event were estimated at more than $170,000.

Arts activist Floss Schumacher was named Orange County Woman of the Year last week by Orange County Magazine at the publication's annual award luncheon at the Irvine Hilton. Schumacher was recognized for her high-energy involvement with the Orange County Performing Arts Center, the Orange County Philharmonic Society, Opera Pacific, Research Associates of UC Irvine, Recovery Residences for the Mentally Handicapped and Bowers Museum. Award finalists were Olivia Johnson, Irene Martinez, Sandy Sewell and Carol Wilken.

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