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ANN CONWAY

Prince of Fizzazz : At Wine Festival, Robin Leach Won't Keep Admiration for U.S. Bottled Up

November 05, 1990|ANN CONWAY

He's so fond of the fizz he's been known to dab it behind a woman's ear.

And who hasn't seen Robin Leach--on his "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" TV show--raise a glass of bubbly when he toasts "champagne wishes and caviar dreams"?

Leach, a.k.a. the Gulliver of Glitz, will hole up in Orange County this month when he participates in the World of Wines festival Nov. 16 through 18 at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point.

His mission? Not as carbonated as you might think. When he speaks at a brunch for 700 guests Nov. 18, his topic will be "Champagne: To the Good Life," but his hidden agenda will be patriotism.

"I'm coming to tell Americans to be proud of their country," says Leach from his office in New York. "The American wine industry is now so much better than France or Italy that we have their hoi polloi coming over here and doing co-ownership venture deals with American vineyards.

"I'm coming to give a pat of encouragement to the people of Napa and Sonoma," he says. "They're doing the kind of thing that everybody in America needs to do: produce quality product with service and pride."

Leach is no stranger to Orange County. He has chronicled the rich-and-famous lives of Pilar Wayne, Mamie Van Doren and Buzz Aldrin. And someday he hopes to snag billionaire Donald L. Bren.

" Someday ," Leach says about Bren. "I don't have him on my target list yet, but one day I will.

"I think he's another one of those adventurous guys who lives life constantly on the edge of the envelope. He encourages everybody to think big, work big, and develop big--be successful."

Meanwhile, Leach will just keep on visiting Orange County. "I was there two weekends ago," he says.

He sneaked into the Festival of Britain wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, he says: "I was very anonymous. Nobody caught me."

But when he lunched at Bangkok Four at South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court, he had to let his guard down. "They recognized my voice when I ordered," he says.

What does the arbiter of the good life order when he dines? "I leave it to the chef," he says. "I believe in doing that. I just tell them to make an assortment of hors d'oeuvres and entrees. That way, you get what the chef thinks is best, not what you think is best."

Ritz-Carlton general manager Henry Schielein will welcome Leach to the hotel Nov. 17. "We'll have the red carpet out," Schielein says. "I've rarely seen a guy like him.

"Celebrities can be distant. But I've known this fellow for six years. He's a genuine human being, a fun-loving guy."

So fun-loving that Schielein plans to bestow the Festival's Bon Vivant Award on the personality some call the Jacuzzi journalist.

Not to mention the fact that Leach, in his recent TV special--the "World's Best" edition of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"--named the Ritz-Carlton the No. 1 resort in the continental United States.

Social Scoops: Toni Tenille will perform in concert at the Santa Ana Heights home of Donna and John Crean on Nov. 17 at a benefit for the American Cinema Awards Foundation. Angie Dickinson is gala chairwoman. . . . Tad Devine, son of the late comedian Andy Devine, will recite "The Night Before Christmas" at the 25th annual "Christmas Carol Ball" to benefit Hoag Hospital on Dec. 1 at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Tennis Club. Les Brown will entertain. Price tag? $552 per couple, but of course. . . . The Irvine Cove home of Michael Gray (son of St. John Knit founders Bob and Marie Gray) will be the site of a Dec. 6 kickoff party for "Christmas by the Sea," an annual home tour staged by the Chopin chapter of the Guilds of the Performing Arts Center. . . . William Steiner, executive director of the Orangewood Children's Foundation, will receive the coveted Alexis de Tocqueville Award from United Way of Orange County at the Ritz-Carlton on Nov. 14 (watch for this one to be attended by local society's who's who). . . . Lisa Nicole de Kruif, daughter of Jack and Dori de Kruif of Corona del Mar, will be formally presented at the 70th New York Debutante Assemblies at the Plaza Hotel in New York on New Year's Day. The event is New York's oldest and foremost debutante presentation. . . . Young Professionals Against Cancer, supporters of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society, will benefit from the grand reopening of Atrium Court at Newport Center Fashion Island on Nov. 15. If this blast is anything like the first opening, watch for the food to be nonstop and the champagne to flow like the court's new fountains. (The benefit kicks off a four-day celebration of the $6-million renovation.) On the party agenda for the Friday night fling: music by Dr. John, the Grammy Award-winning New Orleans musician. . . .

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