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ANN CONWAY

Cindy Costner's Here to Serve

November 06, 1995|ANN CONWAY

She has returned, quietly.

For months, Cindy Costner has been overseeing the construction and design of Twin Palms, a Newport Beach restaurant that will open this week with a flurry of charity events.

The former Fullerton resident and ex-wife of actor Kevin Costner is the creative partner behind the 425-seat emporium that will offer Provencal cooking and musical entertainment.

It feels good to be on "familiar ground," Costner says. On a recent sunny afternoon at the unfinished Fashion Island restaurant, she is dressed for business--pin-stripe suit by Jil Sander, tailored black pearl ear-bobs by Lee Brevard.

"But," she adds, with a shy laugh, "it's not like I'm a returning hero or anything."

Some might disagree. In 1975, Cindy Silva, a student at Cal State Fullerton who worked part time playing Snow White at Disneyland, met the man who would become a superstar and the father of her three children.

Kevin Costner, also a student at Cal State Fullerton, fell hard for the raven-haired biological science major whom he would marry after a two-year courtship.

From the beginning, Kevin--a business administration major--had his eye on a movie career. And nobody seemed happier than Cindy when her husband went from being a stage manager to starring in blockbusters such as "Field of Dreams," "Bull Durham" and "JFK."

When he directed and starred in "Dances With Wolves," which snagged six Oscars, Cindy was at his side, helping him round up covered wagons and tossing parties for cast and crew.

But fame is expensive, and their marriage paid the price. Last year, after a brave attempt to keep it together, the couple with Hollywood's "storybook marriage" called it quits. Cindy declines to discuss details of their settlement, but People magazine has reported she walked away with $80 million.

Ask Cindy about her role in the new restaurant--a sister to an Old Town Pasadena bistro frequented by the likes of Sally Field and Steven Spielberg--and she talks about three things: her employees, the restaurant's look, and its musical atmosphere.

"I'm very proud of my role as a manager, how we treat our employees," says Costner, whose former husband founded the Pasadena restaurant with chef Michael Roberts, who will also oversee the menu in Newport Beach. "For example, we offer them health insurance, which not many restaurants do."

When it came to designing the interior space of the 17,000-square-foot facility, on the same block as the Four Seasons Hotel, Cindy said she wouldn't settle for anything less than "a comfort level I would expect in my own home" (an Italian-style villa in La Canada).

"We will have comfortable French garden-style chairs, vines growing on the wall and home-style cooking," she said.

And a stage with band shell, which gives the place the look of a Hollywood Bowl in miniature. Besides its rustic French Riviera-style food, the restaurant will offer guests a variety of musical entertainment: jazz, blues, gospel, salsa, reggae, swing and classical.

Cindy loves the idea of being able to dine while listening to good music. "I belong to a generation that really took possession of the music industry," explained Cindy, 39. "And now we've reached an age where its become very complicated to go and try to find that music.

"I don't know how to work the clubs in L.A. I don't know how to get in when there's a line at the door. And I don't want to wait," she said.

Guests at Twin Palms will be able to dine outside, under sail-like ceilings. When they look up, they'll see white canvas, blue sky and palm trees. "A real Newport Beach experience," said a restaurant spokeswoman.

When they look down at the restaurant's concrete floors, they will see artistic etchings, including footprints, seashells, beach blankets. The idea is to create a sea-to-sand experience for diners, said Roberts, a founder of Trumps in West Hollywood, a popular '80s hangout.

The area around the band shell will represent the sea, Roberts explained. And as guests move away from the shell, toward the huge rotisserie that will cook the chef's popular chicken, guests will see flames etched on the floor--representing a sort of beach-style barbecue experience.

When executives at South Coast Plaza heard that Twin Palms was looking for a location outside of Pasadena, they tried to woo Costner to Costa Mesa.

But Fashion Island--and billionaire Donald Bren--won out. "Don Bren really liked our food when he came to Pasadena," Cindy said.

Beginning Thursday, the restaurant will be launched with benefits for Futures for Children, the Laguna Art Museum, the Center 500 support group of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Will Cindy get to them all? "I'm going to try," she said. "I'm really going to try."

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