LA JOLLA — Mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow, or, the unintended consequences of a campy high society spoof given in 1983 ("The Coffee Cup Caper"), resulted in an attendance of more than 2,000 at Sunday's ninth annual "Off the Wall" street dance.
A sophisticated takeoff on a traditional neighborhood block party, the benefit for the UC San Diego School of Medicine and Medical Center has its roots in a three-day escapade in which about 20 socialites took over all duties at The Coffee Cup, a no-nonsense cafe on this two block-long street, so the staff could take a brief vacation in Mexico. Local response to that temporary arrangement inspired Off the Wall, which on the fourth Sunday of every August now lines Wall Street and a stretch of Herschel Avenue with food and game booths, and erects three stages for continuous live music.
The event, which backers describe as intended to "build a bridge" between the community and the medical school, traditionally ranks among the higher grossing fund-raisers in the county. In 1990, $500,000, the proceeds saved from several Off the Wall events, was contributed for a new trauma operating room at the medical center.
Chairman Bette Biddulph Smith, who reprised the role she played at three other Off the Walls and announced the intention to take the helm again next year, estimated net proceeds from Sunday's installment at $80,000, an amount that she said was down from previous years, but nonetheless a solid figure "given all that's gone on in the world and the economy this year." (Since January, this assessment has become a sort of mantra recited by most chairmen of major annual benefits.)
On the fourth Sunday of August, rock 'n' roll rules Wall Street, as it did again this year--but to add a little Lawrence Welk leavening to the rock routine, the committee placed bubble machines at the entrance. Once through the gate, attendees found themselves faced by the usual overwhelming assortment of diversions, which this year included clowns and face-painting for the junior set as the event increased its efforts to become more family-oriented. Quite a number of guests carried around padded, Off the Wall-logoed sports bottles as hard-won trophies of triumph at the challenging horseshoes, ring toss and Ping-Pong Fling booths.
It remains possible to make a splash in La Jolla for $1. This sum purchases the right to throw tennis balls at the lever that controls the ever-beloved dunking booth erected at the corner of Herschel and Wall, traditionally reserved for some of the town's more popular characters. The list changed somewhat Sunday--UCSD Chancellor Richard Atkinson understandably bowed out after putting his unquenchable grin to the test several years in a row--but self-billed "unknown celebrity" Bill Hippe took the plunge wearing a Richard Nixon mask, a ploy that increased ticket sales during his spell in the booth. Among others who attended the event in bathing suits were San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Burt Grossman, tennis pro Jack Kruger and perennial favorite Manny Silva, maitre d' at the clubby Whaling Bar at the La Valencia hotel.
The chance to indulge seriously in food and drink, especially in the offerings of many noted La Jolla eateries, always is one of Off the Wall's chief lures. The cuisine Sunday included "No Problem Burgers" prepared by a group that unremorsefully called itself The University of Light Hearts; chilled avocado soup from the Marine Room; gnocchi Bolognese from Sante; fish tacos from Alfonso's; Sammy's Caesar salad; stuffed clams from the Avalon; pasta salad prepared by Top O' the Cove; Sluggo's hot dogs and George's at the Cove's rock shrimp fettuccine.
Some guests worked off the fare to a band rather appropriately named Haute Chili; others stepped out the hot Sixties numbers of Dr. Feelgood and the Interns of Love.
Jean Johnson chaired an immense committee that included Rudy Rehm, Jim Laing, Deirdre Dooling, Randy Cutting, Pam Mueller, Gina Hixson, Rosina Beaver, Arleen Konor, Melissa Elliott, Jody Fletcher, Dotti Howe, Blake Biddulph, Sally Grewe, Martha Ehringer, Melanie Cohrs, Maryl Weightman, Ken Smith, Sandy Atkinson, Joe Basquez, Lisa Gilmore, Dave Ish, Susan Stone and Carole Mayo.
SAN DIEGO--Celebrity true confessions reverberated through the moonlight at Saturday's "Tropicana Night '91," given for the benefit of the Scripps Memorial Hospitals' McDonald Center for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. Proceeds from this second annual summer gala were earmarked specifically for the center's adolescent long-term treatment facility.
Actors Desi Arnaz Jr. and Margaux Hemingway, who teamed with jockey Laffit Pincay Jr., as celebrity hosts--and, interestingly enough, met for the first time on the stage at the outdoor nightclub constructed on the tennis courts of Fairbanks Ranch Country Club--both recounted their own tales of recovery to the audience of 600.