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Corona del Mar Family Gets Cracking at Holidays

December 14, 1991|PATRICK MOTT

Memo to: Mr. Peanut

From: Al, your agent

Subject: Your worst nightmare

Re your plans to spend this holiday season in Southern California soaking up a little local color in Corona del Mar: don't. Don't even think about it. Stay in Georgia with Jimmy Carter. Stay with your cousin Filbert. Stay anywhere but here. It's for your own good. Trust me.

There's this family here. They're the Lynches, but as far as you're concerned their name is Addams. They're a nice bunch. Dad's named Frank, a retired aeronautical engineer; daughter's Molly, the artistic director of Ballet Pacifica. Dad and mom live in this beautifully decorated house a few blocks from the beach.

But believe me on this, to you they might as well be wearing black hoods and carrying big axes and living in Dracula's castle.

They collect--get a grip, now--nutcrackers.

They've got about 70 of them. Every year just after Thanksgiving they haul them down from the garage and strew them all over the living room and the dining room of their house. They're everywhere. They're so pervasive that they actually become a design element. They even leave one of them out all year long, but we'll get to that later, after you've had a chance to catch your breath. First, a bit of briefing.

The Lynches started collecting the wooden nutcrackers about 25 years ago when Molly danced in her first production of "The Nutcracker" at age 10. She played a mouse. In succeeding years, she moved up the casting ladder to the leading role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, and now she runs the entire show.

She said that "because of the story, you just naturally get interested in nutcrackers" if you're associated with the production long enough. So, said Frank, the family obtained its first nutcracker the year Molly made her debut, as a kind of memento of what turned out to be the start of a successful dancing career.

Since then, they've been piling them up at the rate of about three each year. Every time the Lynches go traveling, they keep one eye cocked for nutcrackers. Europe, said Frank, has been a kind of mother lode for the things, particularly the German medieval walled city of Rothenburg where there are--count 'em-- two shops dedicated to Christmas ornaments and decorations. They represent ground zero of the nutcracker world.

I'm telling you, as your agent: don't ever go there.

Locally, Frank says, whenever the nutcracker urge strikes, the Lynches make a pilgrimage to Toys International in South Coast Plaza, where the things are regularly sold. Need I say that you might want to cross that place off your shopping itinerary, too

Meanwhile, back at the Lynch house (sounds kind of ominous doesn't it? Take it to heart), the stage is set for nut genocide. I'm telling you, it's a chamber of horrors. Here are just a few things you don't want to see:

In the front window on a display stand is one of the larger nutcrackers in the collection, dressed to look like a Buckingham Palace guard in a tall black bearskin. Nearby, on a large glass-topped dining table fitted with a small riser by the family's decorator, Joan Neville of Newport Beach, are figures ranging in size from about 2 inches to the fairly standard size of a bit more than a foot.

Each is fitted with clothing and accessories that designate individual characters. There is the aeronautical engineer with an armload of rolled-up blueprints who is holding a model of a Zeppelin, a carpenter with his tools, a figure of a pointing Uncle Sam, a fireman, a pilot, a hairstylist, a baker, a painter, a sailor, a pilgrim. There is a shepherd, a pilot, a doctor, a monk, a weightlifter and even a highly recognizable Sherlock Holmes, complete with meerschaum and deerstalker.

In the living room sit nutcrackers in the forms of an Arab, a kilted Scot, Merlin the magician and Christopher Columbus, complete with globe. Nearby at the harpsichord is a small nutcracker chamber orchestra in Mozart-era powdered wigs.

And--you'd better sit down--there's a traditional soldier-style nutcracker that the Lynch's bought at Neiman-Marcus. It's about 6 feet tall and they leave it up all year. It's big enough to nail you and your entire family and still crack a bowling ball.

"Every year there always seems to be one or two we find that we don't have yet," Frank said. "And interestingly enough, it's not hard to find unique ones. It's become a kind of traditional Christmas thing with us to try to find new ones each year."

That's about it. I can't really think of any good news to give you about all this except that it looks like none of nutcrackers in the house has ever actually cracked a nut. From the looks of things, they're strictly for show.

But stay away anyway. And stay in touch, babe.

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