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R S V P / INTO THE NIGHT

A Cool Time Was Had by All

October 11, 1994|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Sunday's seventh annual "Cool Comedy--Hot Cuisine" fund-raiser for the Scleroderma Research Foundation at the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. The concept of combining restaurant chefs and stand-up comics has been such a success, "We're thinking of taking it on the road with a chuck wagon," Lily Tomlin said. "If they're fed well, audiences are more forgiving of the comedy."

Who Was There: Foundation founder Sharon Monsky and 500 guests, including Diane Keaton, Linda Gray, Marilu Henner and Robert Lieberman, Vincent Schiavelli, Kelly Lynch, Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss and Lesley Ann Warren.

The Hot Cuisine: From Border Grill chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken came a fideo soup of roasted noodle and smoked chili broth; salad of quinoa, grilled cactus and smoked beans, and a main course of Chilean sea bass veracruzana .

The Cool Comedy: Beginning with Bob Saget (who received this year's Founder's Award), it proceeded with Tomlin as her pearl-drenched, Diana Vreeland-esque character Madame Lupe, "the world's oldest living beauty expert" (her advice to Somerset Maugham, "whose furrowed forehead fell in folds over his eyes like a theatrical curtain," was, "live by candlelight"); Garry Shandling on his Arizona childhood ("They say it's a dry heat. So's a welding torch, but you don't put your face in it"); George Wallace on his confusion over the O.J. Simpson case ("I don't know who to believe, 'Hard Copy' or 'Inside Edition' "), and Robin Williams on the irrationality of living in Southern California ("How many signs do you need? There's fire, floods, earthquakes--all you need is toads. Maybe earthquakes are God's way of redecorating. 'Freeway!? Here!? I don't think so.' ").

The Cause: Scleroderma is an often fatal, degenerative disease that causes hardening of the skin and internal organs and afflicts an estimated 500,000 Americans. "This disease is vastly underfunded, tragically unknown to the public and deserves all the research money it can get," said Dr. Bruce Wintroub of UC San Francisco's School of Medicine.

Money Matters: With tickets priced from $250 to $1,000, more than $300,000 was raised. A spirited live auction was led by John Moschitta Jr. (the fast talker of the famed Federal Express ads), who said his aim is "to suck the crowd as dry as I can and make them feel good about it." He disengaged $10,000 from Williams when the comic bought a "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" walk-on part for his daughter.

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