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ANN CONWAY

This Book Signing Possessed Dazzle

May 20, 1996|ANN CONWAY

Looking every bit as glamorous as the fictional heroines she creates, romance novelist Judith Krantz--

"Scruples," "Dazzle," "Princess Daisy"--swept into the Center Club in Costa Mesa last week for a book signing.

Not just any signing, mind you. This one came with appetizers passed on glossy silver trays and a polite reception attended by the likes of Orange County's First Couple, Henry and Renee Segerstrom.

Wearing a petal-pink Chanel dress with lipstick to match, a South Sea pearl choker and a thick gold cuff emblazoned with the "Scruples" logo, Krantz mingled with about 100 members of Orange County's smart set. They came Friday night to buy her new novel, "Spring Collection" (Crown, $24), a steamy, 358-page saga of three American models living it up in Paris.

Krantz hadn't really planned to do the social thing when she and her husband, television producer Steve Krantz, moved into their new weekend hideaway in Balboa--"between the pier and the Wedge"--a few months ago.

But already she has attended a gala on behalf of the Orange County Performing Arts Center and has plans to speak June 11 at a Balboa Bay Club luncheon for the Newport Public Library.

The Balboa house was to be the escape from her home at Bel Air Country Club, with its formal atmosphere and predictable view. "The only thing that moves on the golf course is golfers," Krantz deadpans.

"In Balboa, we look out our window and see clouds, the sea, birds, children flying kites, people playing with their dogs, and today, the waves were unbelievable! They came from a storm in New Zealand. Fascinating."

Not to mention the "open, warm people here," Krantz says, her blue eyes brightening. "We certainly have met wonderful people--marvelous people."

But don't look for her to become an Orange County society mainstay just yet. "Time will tell," says Krantz, who is a member of the Blue Ribbon 100 support group of the Los Angeles Music Center.

Right now, the most important thing in her life is finding "the perfect coffee table" for the TV room in the couple's country-style beach house. "That's really the big thing in my life," she says, laughing.

That, and spending time with Steve, the man she married in 1954. On weekends, "we take walks on the beach; we try never to miss a sunset," she says.

The secret to their marital success, he believes, is that the two are "strong finishers."

"We would never give up on anything to do with each other," Steve says. "One of the things we have learned to do, at times of difficulty, is to always fight fair--to never deal with issues that aren't related to the specific problem of the day."

Love is the great motivator, Judith says, smiling at her husband. "Without a great love, you don't worry about hanging on to something. If you are indifferent, you might not hang in there, no matter how strong you are."

*

Firebird Dinner: Keep an eye on your mailbox. Invitations go out tomorrow for the social event of the year--the Sept. 8 gala celebrating the Orange County Performing Arts Center's 10th anniversary.

Two thousand guests are expected to attend the Segerstrom Hall concert with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Larmore, baritone Gino Quilico and pianist Emanuel Ax. Festivities will conclude with an al fresco sunset dinner staged on the circular drive fronting the center.

Tickets are $500 each, with tables going for $10,000 to $50,000.

Come September, the center will have tossed 27 thank-you parties for center supporters, says gala anniversary chairwoman Catherine Thyen of Corona del Mar. "This event marks the only center fund-raiser in the anniversary year."

This is also the first time the center has used its carriage circle for a sit-down dinner, she says.

Proceeds are expected to be in the $500,000 range for the celebration, which begins at 5 p.m. with an outdoor champagne reception. For information, call (714) 556-2122.

*

Saying goodbye: Guests brushed tears from their eyes as they said farewell Saturday to Dr. Geni Bennetts, retiring director of hematology/oncology at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Gathered for a black-tie dinner at the Pacific Club in Newport Beach, about 120 guests paid $150 each to honor Bennetts and raise funds for the Ronald McDonald House in Orange, a home for critically ill children and their families.

"CHOC is going to miss her, and Ronald McDonald house is going to miss her--Geni has been president of the [McDonald house] board of trustees since the first day," said Pat Weiss, gala chairwoman.

Founded in 1989, the house provides inexpensive lodging for families while their children are being treated for illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and cystic fibrosis.

Bennetts is moving to Napa to grow wine grapes, Weiss said. "We'll be looking for bottles of Dr. B wine in our stores soon."

Looking back on more than 20 years of service at CHOC, Bennetts said her work with children with cancer was something she "was meant to do."

"I thought I was doing the right thing [by retiring], but now I'm not so sure," Bennetts said, looking around the room at her friends.

During the festivities, Bennetts received the Bill Moore Award for her work on behalf of Ronald McDonald House, which she helped establish.

Dinner was enjoyed at tables set with fuchsia trees. "We're going to plant those trees in a garden at Ronald McDonald House that will honor Geni Bennetts," Weiss said.

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