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ANN CONWAY

St. Clair, Girlfriend Make Their Local Society Debut

June 07, 1990|ANN CONWAY

Talk about the in-crowd. If you were a member of symphony society, there was only one place to be in Orange County on Saturday night: a suite at the Westin South Coast Plaza hotel in Costa Mesa.

There, above it all, about 50 leaders of the Pacific Symphony sedately sipped wine and sampled coconut chicken while they awaited their newly appointed musical director, Carl St. Clair, about to make his Orange County society debut.

And they waited. After 30 minutes of cocktail chitchat ("I hear he's fabulous--outgoing and vivacious!" whispered Shirley Kerstner. "I understand his girlfriend is a knockout," whispered another. "I wonder where he is ," said a third), St. Clair finally swept through the door with his longtime love, Jennifer Keeney.

"Have you all been waiting for me?" he teased with an impish smile. He was late, he explained, because he'd just hopped off a plane from Texas, where he was a judge for a young artists' competition in Houston.

"It's wonderful to be here," the 38-year-old St. Clair said, moving with confidence into the San Pedro Suite. "Wonderful to have a new home." Then he plunged into the bevy of well-wishers, each of whom had anted up $1,000 to underwrite the French-themed Pacific Symphony Ball, which was unfolding downstairs.

Keeney, who met St. Clair when she was attending the University of Michigan ("He was the school's symphony conductor; I played the flute," she said with a heart-stopping smile), said her boyfriend was a "perfectionist in an interesting, different way."

She used the black-dye-tipped white rose he wore as an example. "He would think of something like that to wear," she said affectionately.

There's been some speculation by single society types that the boyish-looking St. Clair would become Orange County's most available bachelor. Sorry. You forgot to do your homework. St. Clair and Keeney have been lovebirds for eight years.

Do they have marriage plans? "Not yet," said the statuesque Keeney, glittering in a flared black gown splashed with sequins. "But we plan to spend the rest of our lives together."

Watch for this talented and savvy couple to make their mark on the local society scene. They not only love to kick up their heels, Keeney said, but they love to play tennis, run and travel together. Keeney's idea of a perfect social evening? "A night out with a few close friends and some people we haven't met," she said.

While Keeney and St. Clair look forward to attending as many soirees as possible, their musical commitments next year will prevent them from being high-profile. "I'm the principal flutist for the New World Symphony in Miami," Keeney said. "And Carl will be here as much as possible, but he has commitments in Paris, Montreal, Toronto and Minnesota. He's going to be all over--his busiest year yet. Of course, we hope to be able to spend more time here the following year. He's making arrangements to be able to do that."

The 28-year-old Keeney has a secret. Her name is Rebecca. She's a traveling nurse. And she is her identical twin. Since Rebecca will be moving to Phoenix soon, there's a good chance that she will also become part of the local society scene.

"She really is my carbon copy," Keeney said. "People are always shocked that we are so identical."

And how does it affect Carl? "Oh, he enjoys having us around. We don't play tricks on him," she said.

Sometimes, though, when Jennifer is too busy to accompany St. Clair, he takes out Rebecca instead. "He doesn't pass her off as me," Jennifer said. "But he gets a real kick out of it!"

We'll be watching.

Leaving his heart in Costa Mesa: Tony Bennett called the Master Chorale the best choir he'd ever heard and Segerstrom Hall "the best hall in the world" when he attended the post-concert party held for Master Chorale supporters after his performance Saturday night. On hand for delicious appetizers at Scott's Seafood Grill & Bar: George and Maxine Trotter, representing the Murdy Foundation, winners of the chorale's 1990 Patron of the Arts Award.

Spreading goodwill: Developer Rogers Severson, president of Saddleback Associates, was presented with the Walter Knott Goodwill Service Award last week at Le Meridien Hotel. Severson established the Casa Colina Spinal Cord Injury Fund to provide therapy for disadvantaged individuals.

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