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Villa Nova Basks in Star Light to Benefit the Children's Bureau

November 05, 1996|KATHRYN BOLD

It was hard not to ogle the crowd at the Villa Nova in Newport Beach on Sunday. More than a dozen celebrities, including singer Michael Bolton, comedian Red Buttons and actress Theresa Saldana, showed up for the restaurant's grand reopening to benefit the Children's Bureau of Southern California.

An Evening With the Stars lived up to its billing as the Hollywood veterans, many of them longtime friends of John and Donna Crean, joined about 160 guests for a dinner and live auction at the restaurant, owned by the Creans' son, Andy, and his wife, Charlene. The $100-per-person gala netted about $30,000 for the bureau, which is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.

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Stars Come Out

Although the new Villa Nova, which was rebuilt after being destroyed by fire a year ago, is more open and spacious than the old restaurant, it was hard not to bump into a celebrity at the cocktail reception.

Among the entertainers attending were comedians Norm Crosby and Stan Freberg, singer Helen Reddy and actresses Sandra Gould (Mrs. Kravitz of "Bewitched"), Gale Storm, Jane Withers, June Allyson and Margaret O'Brien.

"I grieved when I heard about the kitchen fire that struck this place," said actress Ann Rutherford, who remembered the original Villa Nova was on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Red Buttons delighted party-goers by delivering a stand-up routine during dinner. "When they gave me an Oscar in 1958, I never dreamed I'd be doing this--performing in an Italian restaurant," he joked.

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Big Night

Like the two brothers in the movie "Big Night," the chefs at Villa Nova pulled out all the stops for this grand-opening feast. The meal began with scampi atop a light tomato and basil pasta, followed by salmon in a creamy dill sauce, asparagus, filet mignon with eggplant and mozzarella, and a slice of spumoni for dessert.

Proceeds from the evening will go to the Children's Bureau's Orange County programs, which include in-home and school-based counseling, parent education and self-help groups for adults and fostering community volunteerism. John and Donna Crean founded the local division 10 years ago.

"One reason I believed in this group is they do not put children in institutions," said Donna Crean, board chairman of the bureau. "It's better to have foster homes. I don't think children can learn about family life in an institution."

Based in Anaheim, the local bureau provides services to troubled families at five county locations, including a new site at Mission Viejo Mall.

"We work with families with young children and try to help parents who may not have the parenting skills," said Philip Beukema, the bureau's director of development.

Also among the guests: David Gest, who donated celebrity items for a live and silent auction; Olympic medalist Gary Hall Jr.; actors Turhan Bey, Ruth Warrick, Sandy Morse and Anne Jeffreys; Ron and Betty Dominguez; Bob Clay and Peggy Goldwater Clay; Tom and Jolene Fuentes; Daniel and Denise Dimacale; Stan Tkaczyk; and Barbara Venezia.

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