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RSVP : The Party Goes On --as Does the Work

July 27, 1994|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Though the elections in South Africa were three months ago, the party's not over yet. At least that's what was said at "Free at Last: A Celebration of South Africa" held Monday at Georgia, a restaurant on Melrose Avenue.

"I've been celebrating since the election," said musician Lebo M., "I won't stop until I get tired."

Celebration was just part of the evening's message. The other was political: Apartheid might be gone, but many problems remain.

"The first step has been accomplished. Now we have to be engaged just as much as before," said Danny Glover, who co-founded Artists for a Free South Africa in 1990. AFSA hosted the event with the Reebok Foundation.

Since the party was as much a media event as a fund-raiser, there was a large press contingent wandering through Georgia's patio. "Information goes out in a form that's digestible, a media blurb here, a media blurb there," said Glover. "People sense what's happening in the world through media blurbs. Hopefully, then you can take them a little further in the process."

The process at Georgia began with a reception where 275 guests--among them Tom Hayden, Holly Hunter, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Robert Guillaume, Max Gail and Mike Farrell--reached for hors d'oeuvres of spareribs and fried chicken.

In the crowd, South African singer Letta Mbulu said Los Angeles reminds her of Durban. Frik Schoombee, the South African consul general, praised his country's Cabernet Sauvignon, "the product of 300 years of intensive wine making," which is available here now that the boycott is over. Howard Hesseman showed off his shirt that featured Nelson Mandela's picture.

Regarding his presidential shirt, Hesseman quipped, "You could have a Bill Clinton shirt, but you couldn't keep it on."

The formal part of the program varied between speeches and performance. A general rule: The music was fantastic, the speeches somewhat less than fantastic.

High points included the reading of a Mongane Wally Serote poem by Roscoe Lee Browne in his stentorian voice; remarks by Glover and Alfre Woodard and--best of all--the performance by Lebo M., who's best known for his music in "The Lion King."

"What we're trying to say here," said AFSA director Sharon Gelman, "is the struggle was victorious and the work has just begun."

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