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Good Cause, Good Turnout, Great Results


In Los Angeles, it's not pennies from heaven. It's millions.

Monday evening, the Southern California Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society raised $2.1 million at its annual Dinner of Champions, the most ever raised by an MS chapter nationwide.

How did it happen? The entertainment industry. It turned out 1,300 strong at the Century Plaza Ballroom to give and to support honoree Peter Chernin, president and chief operating officer of the New Corporation, and Fox Group chairman and CEO.

But Chernin was having none of that. The real reason for the success, he said, was MS trustee Tom Sherak, dinner chairman and Fox executive. Said Chernin: "He has done more to make this dinner happen than anyone. He has shown us how to mix a job with service to the community. He is a stellar example of how to lead a well-rounded life." Credit also went to Richard Corgel and Arthur and Britta Schramm, co-chairs.

Sherak's daughter Melissa, who has MS, captured the admiration of the audience when she spoke. "Melissa has set a perfect example with her openness, courage and fierce determination," Chernin said.

Emcee Byron Allen had guests like Rupert Murdoch and Aaron Spelling laughing. Tracy Lawrence sang. Videos with Dr. Joseph Van Der Muelen ("Together we will eradicate this debilitating disease"), Sherry Lansing, Peter Roth and others were special. The salute to Zoe Koplowitz, who has MS and runs the New York Marathon, elicited emotion. Gladys Knight capped the night with "Midnight Train to Georgia."

Onward: A bird in the hand is always a plus in major fund-raising. Marlborough School has announced it has $10 million in early gifts toward the school's $17.1-million New Era of Excellence capital campaign to put computers in every classroom.

Yet the campaign council is calling its "Tribute to Neil Simon" on Sept. 28 a kickoff. John Lithgow and friends will interpret Neil Simon plays (friends are Christine Baranski, Jane Curtin, Phil Hartman, Jonathan Silverman and Alexis White) on stage at the Wiltern Theatre. They'll do readings from "Plaza Suite," "Come Blow Your Horn," "Barefoot in the Park," "Little Me" and "The Odd Couple."

Irion DeRouen and Jann McCord co-chair the Simon tribute.

The honorary campaign chairs are Robert H. Ahmanson, Nancy Barry Munger and Peter W. Mullin. Donna Frame Tuttle and Bruce A. Meyer are event co-chairs.

Generosity: UCLA is on the receiving end. The chairman of Campaign UCLA, Bob Wilson, and his wife, Marion, have pledged $5 million toward the $1.2-billion goal. The campaign was launched in May and the finish is set for June 30, 2002.

Their donations will benefit the School of Dentistry, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and the College of Letters and Science, as well as the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

Another Million: The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation will announce its second annual $1-million Humanitarian Prize on Sept. 30 at a dinner at the Beverly Hilton. The inaugural prize was awarded in 1996 to Operation Smile, which provides free reconstructive surgery to underprivileged children and young adults with facial disfigurement in the United States and developing countries.

Former President Jimmy Carter will be the keynote speaker. Cliff Robertson will emcee.

Humanitarian Prize jurors include Margarita Penon, Francis M. Deng, James R. Galbraith, Eric M. Hilton, C. Everett Koop, H. E. Anand Panyarachun and Robert A. Seiple.

More Midas: The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will go on another fund-raising binge Nov. 11 at its Angels Ball in the Grand Ballroom of the Regent Beverly Wilshire. The affair will toast Warner W. Henry and Richard D. Colburn, both of whom have donated millions to musical causes.

Joseph Troy chairs the ball, which features a silent auction, musical program, dinner and dancing. Jennifer Diener is vice-chairwoman. The night will feature new music director Jeffrey Kahane and members of the orchestra.

Glorious Opening: The new 17,000-square-foot, five-story Hermes store at 434 Rodeo Drive opened Tuesday evening with the raves of 1,300 guests. A portrait of Louis XV looked down on the crowd. Jean-Louis Dumas-Hermes is the 59-year-old chairman of Paris-based Hermes International and the fifth generation of the Hermes family to head the fashion house founded in 1837.

As guests massed on Rodeo Drive, he welcomed them to the location, designed by his architect wife, Rena. Then, in a Hermes tradition, a shiny black Friesian horse was the first to enter, through the front door. Only then did guests crowd in to roam the building, mingling with more than 40 of the Dumas-Hermes family and the 32 artisans they brought from Paris to demonstrate techniques such as sabrage (making cut velvet fabric by hand) and leather embroidery.

Alligator handbags, perfumes, china, jewelry and clothing surrounded Francine Bardo, who opened the first Rodeo Drive boutique 25 years ago, and Mark Tomlin, managing director.

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