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ANN CONWAY

'Brighter' Benefit Is a Starless Night

January 19, 1994|ANN CONWAY

They called the event "For Brighter Stars," and the 230 guests who anted up $150 each for the Laguna Beach Unified School District benefit probably thought Dustin Hoffman and Bette Midler would attend.

After all, their names were listed on the invitations as honorary chairpersons.

But, as benefit-goers are beginning to find out, "honorary" is often synonymous with "in-name-only" when it comes to celebs.

And that was the case at Sunday's dinner held at Five Feet restaurant and its next-door neighbor, the Engman International Gallery in Laguna Beach.

How did the Divine Miss M and Hoffman come to have their monikers on the event?

It goes something like this: Hoffman's wife, Lisa, is a pal of Joe Gelber, a business partner of Five Feet owner Michael Kang. During the October firestorms, words of concern were exchanged between the two pals.

Meanwhile, chef Kang was aching to whip up a benefit to help fire victims. Gelber jumped in, got Hoffman's support and Hoffman asked Midler (a part-time Laguna Beach resident) for hers.

Having their famous faces at the event for two seconds would have shot this benefit into the fund-raising stratosphere. But Hoffman had an early stage call the next day, explained a committee member. And Midler, well, she was busy too.

Guests found solace in bidding on T-shirts and baseball caps signed by the super novas.

The food wasn't bad either. Mingling al fresco in the Engman Sculpture Garden, guests sipped fine wines as they sampled mouthwatering appetizers from local restaurants.

After the event's major donors--including Taco Bell and Rockwell Corp.--were honored with commemorative posters, guests filed into Five Feet and the Engman gallery for a feast prepared by chefs from Five Feet, Bombay Duck, Cedar Creek Inn, Claes Seafood, Partners Restaurant, Renaissance Cafe and the Sorrento Grille.

On the menu: smoked sea bass with mango salsa; exotic greens with Stilton cheese, pears and hazelnuts; and lamb sirloin with white potato puree and a bouquet of garden herbs.

Event proceeds of $60,000 will help provide counseling for Laguna Beach students who were traumatized by the October firestorms.

Among guests: Ginny Ueberroth, Don and Joan Beall, Renee Kang, Nancy Hubbell, Sally Cohen, John Martin, Gregg and Kathleen Abel, Jim Clifton, Michael Harden, Greg and Carol Lindstrom and Glenn Engman.

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Melissa Gilbert to attend ChildHelp benefit: Melissa Gilbert, star of last year's NBC movie, "Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story," will receive the Inspirational Award from ChildHelp USA at its fashion show and luncheon on Feb. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. Karney, who is an incest survivor and a children's rights activist, will be honored at the event with the Children's Friend award. Actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., the event's honorary chairman, will present the awards. Tickets are $60 each. Call: (714) 974-2116.

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Nolan Miller featured at American Cancer Society show: Fashions and costumes by Nolan Miller--who has designed for stars such as Elizabeth Taylor, Lana Turner, Sally Field and Sophia Loren--will be featured at the South Coast Cancer League's annual show on Feb. 9 at the Irvine Marriott.

Tickets are $55 per person. Call: (714) 751-0441.

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