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RSVP : Paying Tribute to Peace and Hope

October 24, 1994|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Never mind that her grandparents on her father's side were Italians. Dolores Hope was all colleen for the night. The American Ireland Fund paid tribute to Bob Hope's wife Thursday night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel and you could have sworn her brogue was more County Clare than Bronx.

At its 10th annual fund-raising dinner in Los Angeles, the nonpolitical organization--whose motto is "peace, culture, charity"--decided Hope was Irish enough for it.

"My Irish grandmother, Nora Kelly, was the delight of my life," she told a crowd that included Frank and Katherine Price, Buzz Aldrin, Buddy Rogers, Gretchen and Michael Wayne.

Privately, Hope confided, "I'm not too comfortable without Bob standing beside me, I must say."

But the spirited, silver-haired honoree so gracefully managed to barely let her husband get a syllable in edgewise when she invited him onstage, you would have thought it was perfectly normal for her to be up there and for Bob to be the admiring spouse beaming from the audience.

Utterly relaxed at the microphone, as well, Hope--a professional singer before she started to raise her family--didn't miss the opportunity to plug her first album, "Now and Then," which guests received in their gift bags along with Hennessy cognac.

It so happened that Mark and Jack Hennessy and Jack's wife Shirlee--Toluca Lake neighbors of the Hopes and distant descendants of the Irishman who established the cognac company--co-chaired the dinner, at which the St. Ambrose Ceili Dancers did Irish jigs and reels and Constance Towers Gavin brought down the house, as she does every year, with her renditions of the American and Irish national anthems, the latter sung in Gaelic. This year, Ann Blyth also sang several Irish melodies.

While restaurateur Jimmy Murphy was insisting that "nobody knows how to party as much as the Irish" and invited seemingly half the crowd back to Jimmy's for "a little poteen" afterward, there was other cause for celebration.

The cease-fire in Northern Ireland certainly had a role in lending the evening a more upbeat mood than usual. Indeed, the fund takes partial credit for influencing the peace process through social programs it supports in Northern Ireland, particularly its 21 integrated schools for Protestant and Catholic children.

The Boston-based fund holds similar dinners in 13 other cities annually, raising a total of $2.1 million this year.

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