Or "Le Bal des Papillons," as the $200-a-plate benefit at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point called itself. The party was a fund-raiser for Interval House, a crisis shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. On Saturday night, 350 of the shelter's supporters showed up for a gourmet dinner, silent and live auction bidding and an emotional stage presentation by six "graduates" of the shelter's programs.
As in years past, the highlight of the evening was a brief blast of reality provided by the Interval House alumnae. In their glittery gowns and party makeup, they looked just like any crop of hobnobbing society guests when they walked onstage. But then they spoke.
"I . . . came from a home where screaming and beatings were common," said Charlene Booth.
"My husband (often) beat me . . . once to the point where I was unrecognizable," said Debra Davis.
"I was so isolated in my experience that I did not know what 'normal' was," said Nancy Adornetto.
Mixing autobiography with statistics--every 15 seconds a woman is battered in the United States; 85% of all battering is related to drug and alcohol abuse; five children die in the United States every day from domestic violence--the graduates kept their audience spellbound.
"I owe my life to Interval House," Adornetto concluded, as all six of the women onstage and more than a few guests fought back tears.
The 11-year-old shelter--which assists up to 70 women and children per month--netted about $150,000 from the night, according to Executive Director Carol Anne Williams.
In an interview during dinner, Williams said the shelter has had "a very hard year" financially, due to cuts in government programs and other fund-raising gaps.
"What we have to do (with party proceeds) this year is look at our critical needs and see what has to be done just to keep everything going," Williams said.
Co-chairing the event with Williams were shelter founder Isa Smashey Rogers and Cynthia Courtney.
Among the guests were former governor Edmund G. Brown, French Consul General Gerard Coste, Ritz-Carlton executive chef Christian Rassinoux, actresses Lee Meriwether and Beverly Garland, newscaster John Beard, emcee Stanford Freese, Nancy and Jack McNaughton, Pat Marchand (who flew in from her home in the Cayman Islands to attend the ball) and Adele Faulkner Quinn (who received a bouquet and round of applause for her help with the shelter's planned expansion).
As the seafood appetizers were being served, Interval House board member Msgr. Earnest Gualderon stepped to the podium. Leaning into the microphone, the priest began by asking if anyone knew the outcome of the USC-Notre Dame football game. ("Oh no!" he exclaimed when someone shouted the score. "I can't believe it! I'm an SC man!")
Then he bowed his head and turned to weightier matters. "For those of you who have already started eating," he intoned, "this prayer is retroactive."