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ANN CONWAY

Shielding Children : Brooke Lends Her Support for Olive Crest Foundation at Newport Beach Gala

March 14, 1994|ANN CONWAY

Anybody who thought Brooke Shields would sweep into Le Meridien Hotel in a cloud of greasepaint, baubles and chiffon got a surprise on Friday night.

The actress/cover girl wore little makeup, her signet ring from Princeton and a simple black jumpsuit to the Black and White Ball in Newport Beach that benefited the Olive Crest Abused Children's Foundation.

And she walked with a cane. "I just had foot surgery," she confided. "They had to break and readjust some of the bones in my feet or I would have had chronic bunions."

Shields, 28, came from the East Coast to help fight child abuse because both she and her boyfriend, tennis ace Andre Agassi (who did not attend) are child advocates. In fact, Shields and Agassi posed for the current cover of a national tabloid because "it benefited a cause for children," she said.

"I care very much about abused children. We really need to make people more aware of the gravity of the situation," she said. "This event for Olive Crest is a great way to highlight what can be done."

Before her arrival at the black-tie gala, the star of "Pretty Baby" and "Blue Lagoon" sat with her mom, Teri Shields, and her godfather, Hank Snyder of Costa Mesa--her driver and bodyguard--in the Lincoln Town Car that ferried her to the event. (Patiently, she waited for event volunteer Robert King to book her a room so she could step out of her sweats and tennies.)

With candor, she answered the inevitable questions:

How serious is it with Agassi (formerly Barbra Streisand's squeeze)? "We care very much about each other." Advised her mom: "Be patient, Brooke; make sure you're both happy."

How does she feel about the troubles of her pal Michael Jackson? "He is a good person. I think I have said all I can about him in the past." Added her mom: "He loves children."

Was it her first visit to Orange County? "I grew up coming here. Mother and I would come to visit Hank and we'd hang out at the flea markets. I still shop here at offbeat places. South Coast Plaza is great, but I have to disguise myself to shop there."

Will she attend the Academy Awards? "No, I'll be watching it on TV with my mom and Hank and a big bowl of popcorn."

Once inside the private VIP party that saluted gala donors, Shields walked carefully with the colorful cane she bought in Africa during the filming of her new flick, "Running Wild," with Martin Sheen. "I collect canes," she said. "I never dreamed I would be using one."

Then, before guests could say "May I have your autograph?" she was whisked into the ballroom for a photo session with Olive Crest benefactors, who included American Savings Chairman Mario Antoci. "He can't wait to get his picture taken with Brooke Shields," said his wife, Diane Antoci, laughing.

While hundreds of flashbulbs exploded, Shields stood there, calmly, ever the good sport, flashing her huge baby-blues at the cameras.

Also getting the attention of the paparazzi was comedian Cindy Williams, who emceed the event with actor Perry King. "I'm here because I'm a child advocate," she explained. "All people have to do today to understand the scope of child abuse is watch television.

"If people are asking 'what can I do to help?' the answer is, 'support projects like Olive Crest.' "

Olive Crest, a network of treatment and care facilities in Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Riverside and San Diego counties, was founded in 1973 by Don Verleur, a psychologist, and his wife, Lois.

"We thought we'd just do a little project with four young girls who were incest victims," said Don Verleur, who lives in Orange. "We provided them with a home and extended family."

Since then, Olive Crest has provided more than 7,000 abused, abandoned and neglected children with a safe and loving environment.

Gala festivities included a sit-down feast of filet mignon and breast of chicken taken at tables decorated with film reels and floral bouquets. The event's theme, "Spotlight on Our Stars," saluted the children and volunteers of Olive Crest.

Receiving awards for service were Bill Gibson, Helen Viviano, Jan Adams, Carol Munaretto, Sue Duckor, David Wensley, JoEtta Brown and Maurice Sanchez. Other winners were John Angeli, Jim Burton, Margo Bender, Susan Jelinek, Sylvia Burnett, Betty Belden-Palmer and Jim Paulus.

Ann Grassie Hall and Kathy McClister were gala co-chairwomen. Also among guests were Darrel Anderson, chairman of the Olive Crest board; Steve Charton, president of the Olive Crest Foundation in Orange County; Sue Pharris Tallman (who presented Olive Crest with a donation of $100,000 in honor of her parents, C.L. and Genevieve Pharris); and Mary and Peter Muth.

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