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Keeping the Mall Rolling

After-Hours Blast at South Coast Plaza Salutes Arts Center Guilds

May 14, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

Looking for a place to hang out, organizers of the Orange County Performing Arts Center's "Salute to the Guilds of the Center" did what a lot of teenagers do: They went to a mall.

As a few curious evening shoppers looked on, 800 party-goers began filling two levels of South Coast Plaza's Jewel Court in Costa Mesa Saturday for an evening of fine dining and dancing that really got going after the mall's closing time. The center's board and Tenth Anniversary Cabinet, along with hosts Byron and Ronnie Allumbaugh, staged the gala as a thank-you to guild members for their support of the 10-year-old center.

Jewel Court Sparkles

"If you haven't done your Mother's Day shopping, Macy's is open until 9," center President Tom Tomlinson joked to the crowd of people clad in sparkling cocktail attire. That, however, was the only reminder that guests were inside a shopping center amid darkened St. John and Burberrys storefronts.

Guests danced to romantic music under the glow of Jewel Court's stained-glass ceiling. Well-stocked buffets and tables draped in mint-green cloths and adorned with candles were set up throughout both levels.

Guests filled their plates with fare prepared by the Four Seasons Hotel: traditional Caesar salad, charred corn salad with cumin vinaigrette, asparagus and mushroom ravioli, black bean lasagna, turkey breast and a selection of mignardise--little desserts.

After dinner, Tenth Anniversary Cabinet member Sue Feldman asked all guild members attending--about 400 in all--to come to the middle of Jewel Court to pose for what turned out to be a big class photo. The photograph will be among the memorabilia included in a time capsule to be buried in front of the performing arts center and opened in 40 years, when the center celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Guild Grows

Center supporters are enjoying events all year marking the center's 10th year, culminating in a grand gala concert in September. The center opened Sept. 29, 1986.

"We've packed a lot of famous people into the center during these 10 years," said Shari Esayian, former guild chairwoman.

Many guests recalled their favorite performances at the center. For Ronnie Allumbaugh, a solo concert by Sarah Brightman, the original Christine from "The Phantom of the Opera," proved a memorable night.

"She put me away," Allumbaugh said. "Her singing was pure, clean and wonderful."

Georgia Spooner, founding chairwoman of the guilds, recalled the guilds' early days before the center opened, when only about 15 people met at members' homes. Today there are 43 chapters, along with six Performing Arts Juniors' organizations, with a combined membership of 4,400, according to Spooner.

"I felt we needed a [support] vehicle that would expand rapidly," she said. "It just grew like crazy."

Among those attending were: Mark Johnson, board chairman; Jeanette Kleist, guild chairwoman; Marlene Short, past guild chairwoman; Vesta Curry, Gloria and Irv Gellman; Catherine Thyen; Roger and Gail Kirwan; Donald Castle; and Dean and Cindy Rathbun.

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