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ANN CONWAY

A Silver Postscript to a Rose Garden Wedding

June 17, 1996|ANN CONWAY

At her White House Rose Garden wedding 25 years ago, Tricia Nixon Cox wore a dress with a plunging neckline.

The first time Pat Nixon saw the dress, she was shocked, the designer of the dress recalled last week as friends and family gathered at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda to wish Ed and Tricia Cox well on their silver anniversary.

"Pat said, 'She can't have the neck that low!' " said Priscilla Kidder of Boston, creator of Tricia's wedding attire, a silk organdy gown sprinkled with pearls and Alencon lace roses.

But the 25-year-old bride insisted, so Kidder, who also designed the wedding party dresses for Princess Grace of Monaco, set out to please mother and daughter.

She camouflaged the neckline with a lace rose for the bride's "walk down the aisle. But, when Tricia got back up the aisle, out it came!"

The anniversary event last week in the Pat Nixon Amphitheater drew 700 well-wishers. It capped the library's lecture series on White House fashion, "Dressing the First Lady."

Major donors to the library mingled with the Coxes during a private reception before the couple renewed their wedding vows under a rose-festooned gazebo.

Reception guests included Meredith Khachigian, whose husband, Ken, is director of Bob Dole's California presidential campaign, and Ninetta Herbert, who lives at Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, once President Nixon's Western White House.

Relatives of the Nixon family also attended. Beth Nixon, daughter of President Nixon's brother, Ed, was 11 years old when she was a flower girl at the 1971 nuptials. "It was fun but very regimented," she said. "Walking down the stairs in the White House was the best part."

She has lent the dress she wore--a lavender organza with ruffled neckline--to the library for display. "It makes me nostalgic to look at it," she said. "I wish I could just put it back on again."

Laurie Nixon of Lake Forest, who has been married to the "other Richard Nixon" (the president's nephew) for six years, was also among guests. "I have a 3-year-old son with the Nixon nose," she said.

Joining Tricia and Ed as they greeted guests was their son, Christopher, 17.

He was proud. "In this day and age, it's unbelievable to see a couple stay together 25 years," said Christopher, who wore an Old Glory pin on his lapel. "You turn on 'Hard Copy' and hear about people staying together three weeks. I'm really proud of them."

Cox has his eye on a political career. He hopes to attend Princeton--his father, a New York lawyer, attended Princeton, Yale and Harvard--and major in political science.

Would he like to be president one day? "Yes, I think so," he said.

Caroline Leonetti Ahmanson remembered attending the nuptials. Though it rained, "it was a beautiful day," she recalled of the afternoon. "The love of the Nixon family for each other was so evident."

After the Coxes pledged their love under the same gazebo used at their wedding, White House curator Rex Scouten spoke to guests.

"This wedding was so important we actually planted roses in the Rose Garden," he joked.

President Nixon calling Scouten to the Oval Office that day to discuss how they should deal with the rainy weather. What could they do? "I thought we should wait as long as we could" for the skies to clear, Scouten said.

He and Nixon established an open line with Andrews Air Force Base. "They advised us that in 15 to 20 minutes there would be a break in the squalls."

They were right. The wedding went off without a hitch and only one guest, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, complained.

"She seldom had anything good to say," Scouten said of the daughter of President Theodore Roosevelt. "She said her chair reminded her of sitting on a wet sponge."

*

Partying on the pier: Fishermen cut bait a few yards away from guests who were sampling seafood appetizers at the first society event held on Aliso Pier in South Laguna.

It was all part of the plan, says Scott Maxwell, who helped organize last week's benefit for the American Diabetes Assn. and the Orange County chapter of the National Assn. of Catering Executives.

Because the property belongs to the Orange County Department of Harbors, Beaches and Parks, areas of the pier had to remain open to the public during the "Sand 'n Silver" gala.

The county hopes to generate revenue by allowing private social events on the pier, said Sue Gothold, director of special events for the department.

For about $200 an hour, party planners can have as many as 200 people on the pier. "All of the money goes back into the park system," she said.

Catering executives staged the $75-per-person gala, attended by about 150 guests.

Canopies sheltered party-goers, who feasted at buffet stations decorated with battery-driven silver candelabra. Because electricity was in short supply, flashlights were propped up next to auction items to illuminate them.

As guests dined, they could watch the sunset, the crashing surf or the birds that swooped in the sky.

Gothold got the idea for a pier party after attending a similar event in San Francisco.

"I think this is pretty groundbreaking for Southern California," she said.

The county has 40 sites available for social events. For information, call Gothold at (714) 834-5536.

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