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R S V P / ORANGE COUNTY : Bold Strokes: Parkinson's Awareness : 'Canvas of Hope' draws supporters to view artwork as a fund-raiser for research and services.

June 13, 1995|KATHRYN BOLD

Some guests at the "Canvas of Hope" benefit for the Orange County Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Assn. might not have recognized that the unassuming man in the Panama hat and the Hawaiian shirt was their host, Stanley Scher.

Scher, who has Parkinson's disease, and his wife, Renee, opened their grand Nellie Gail ranch home in Laguna Hills on Sunday to 500 association supporters for an afternoon of art appreciation and gourmet treats. The $30-per-person benefit was expected to net more than $25,000 for Parkinson's disease research and local patient services.

A Gathering of Friends

Party-goers entered the Schers' chateau through an elegant foyer and headed for the back yard, where they could walk around an exhibit of contemporary paintings and sculptures. Stanley Scher mingled among the guests, looking tan and relaxed.

"I have it easy. I'm still playing tennis and golf. With Parkinson's, fast movements are not affected," Scher said. "I have friends who can't walk, but if you turn on fast music, they can do the jitterbug."

His friends have helped him cope, he said.

"It's a neurological disease, and I cry so easily," he said, his eyes filling momentarily with tears.

Among the friends that Scher rounded up for the benefit was actor Cliff Robertson.

"I have a close friend stricken with Parkinson's disease--[former Rep.] Morris Udall of Arizona," Robertson said. "I've visited him in the hospital in Washington, D.C. He can't speak to me, but I know what he's saying through his eyes."

Robertson, who lives in La Jolla, where he was raised, just finished his 44th film, "The Sunset Boys," with Robert Mitchum.

Guests spent the afternoon buying art, shopping at jewelry and clothing boutiques and watching models show off clothes from Shebue, Mi Place and Chez Lui.

At tables set up on the Schers' tennis courts, supporters indulged in specialties prepared by Garden Bistro, Prego, Marbella Market, Farmers Market Fashion Island and Silver Spoon Catering. The offerings included mesquite grilled chicken breast, marinated shrimp with feta cheese, penne with Bolognese sauce and tiramisu.

Allies in the Parkinson's War

Masoud Karkehabadi, one of the benefit's special guests, could prove to be an important ally in the crusade against Parkinson's. At 14, the Mission Viejo resident has already graduated from UC Irvine and is headed to medical school next year to become a brain surgeon and researcher. He hopes to help find a cure for Parkinson's.

"When I was 4, I began reading [medical journals] and became fascinated with disorders of the brain," he said. "After I came across Parkinson's disease, I made a vow to help find a cure."

Parkinson's is a progressive neurological disorder that causes tremors in the body, followed by rigidity that can eventually immobilize patients.

"It's very sad. It takes away your life as you know it," Masoud said.

Many of the guests are in the early stages of the disease; all wore silver ribbons to help raise awareness of neurological disorders.

"There's a time bomb in here," said Abraham Lieberman, national clinical director of the National Parkinson Foundation in Miami. "The disease worsens. If you have Parkinson's, you won't be what you are 20 years from now."

How soon researchers can find a cure depends on the amount of money available for research, he said.

"If we had a billion dollars, we could probably find a cure in five years," Lieberman said.

Among the supporters were actor Troy Donahue; Paul Smedberg, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the APDA; Irving and Aggi Oschin, founding members of the local APDA chapter; Kimberly Kirkland Seidman, APDA West Coast regional director; Janet Chance, medical director of the local APDA chapter; Dean Jacques, medical director of the Neurosciences Institute at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles; Oleg Kopyov, principal investigator for the neurotransplantation program at the Neurosciences Institute; Art and Rosemary Knowlson; Cherie Grazier; Helen Monroe; Mignone Trenary; Ethel Stern; Sandra Charbogne, and Clyde and Carole King.

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