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ANN CONWAY

A Science Social

Discovery Center Inaugural Gala Benefit Mixes Fun and Technology

October 13, 1998|ANN CONWAY

Even Gov. Pete Wilson admits it: Science and math can be tough.

"Science, mathematics and technology are so remarkably affecting our lives," Wilson told 650 guests at a gala black-tie opening for the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana.

"Fortunately, I've had a great deal of tutoring in these disciplines--my wife, Gayle, is the scientist in the family. I liked physics so well, I took it twice."

Wilson was the keynote speaker at Saturday's dinner in the center's main exhibit hall.

A talking robot greeted guests arriving for the cocktail reception held under a tent outside the earth-toned structure at Main Street and Interstate 5.

Once in the two-story, 59,000-square-foot learning facility--set to open to the public Dec. 19--guests schmoozed at cone-shaped neon cocktail tables and got a taste of interactive exhibits, including the much-touted bed of nails, where they painlessly learned about the distribution of mass.

"Don't get off the bed while the nails are raised," warned gala chairwoman Catherine Thyen of Corona del Mar. "Those nails are sharp."

Guests such as UC Irvine Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone, an internationally respected atmospheric scientist, called the state-of-the-art center a "tremendous resource for children."

"In the area of education, you never know what's going to turn a kid on--and when you find it, you go with it," he said. "This exciting, after-school place for kids of all ages is going to allow things to happen that you'd never have seen without it."

Of the 108-foot, cube-shaped structure that soon will crown the Discovery Science Center, board president James "Walkie" Ray told the crowd, "[It] will rise 10 stories over the freeway standing on one point--seemingly defying gravity.

"We believe the cube will become the architectural symbol for Orange County much like the Eiffel Tower is for Paris."

During the cocktail reception, center architect Cristopher Coe of Los Angeles called the cube "an icon, a technological marvel that will represent science, technology and math--what the center's exhibits are all about. It will balance on one point--intriguing people's minds about how this could happen."

The cube's secret? "It is actually a very lightweight structure--mainly air, like a tree," Coe explained. "It will look solid but it's not. It's a space-frame made out of zig-zag elements that tie together."

Net proceeds from the center's inaugural gala benefit were estimated at $125,000.

Also among guests: center President Karen Johnson; Ed Arnold, event emcee; Judie and George Argyros; Garth and Marian Bergeson; Santa Ana Mayor Miguel A. Pulido Jr. and his wife, Laura; and Arnold Beckman.

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Blast Off: Science was also at the heart of a benefit last week at the Hyatt Regency Irvine for Girls Inc. of Orange County--a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to helping girls develop strategies for successful living.

Along with about 50 girls who participate in the organization's after-school program, hundreds of Girls Inc. supporters Wednesday dined on poached chicken before hearing from guest speaker Donna Lee Shirley, an aerospace engineer who recently retired as manager of the Mars Exploration Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

"If you study hard and you believe you can do it, you may be the first person on Mars," Shirley told the young girls.

Among guests: Lynn Cornelius, event chairwoman and president-elect of Girls Inc.; and Judie Argyros, honorary chairwoman. Gross proceeds of more than $150,000 will go toward Girls Inc. programs.

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Tinseltown honoree: Academy Award-winning actress Claire Trevor Bren of Newport Beach will be honored for her work in the film industry at the gala opening Nov. 11 of Tinseltown Studios in Anaheim.

Bren, who won her best supporting actress Oscar for the 1948 flick "Key Largo," will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from Ogden Entertainment at the black-tie gala for Children's Hospital of Orange County: "It is an honor," she said.

Bren keeps her Oscar at home on a bookshelf in her favorite sitting room. Receiving it "was the thrill of my life," she said.

In early days of the movie industry, Tinseltown was less glamorous than it is today, Bren observed. "It was hard work--we worked into the night every day but Sunday."

For the gala, event chairwoman Margo Chamberlin of Newport Beach will wear a Nolan Miller gown worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor at the Academy Awards during the '80s.

The gown is one of several Taylor has donated to be auctioned off next spring at Christy's in New York to benefit the American Federation of AIDS Research. For information on the $200 per-person Tinseltown opening: (714) 532-8690.

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Dressing the part: Monica-and-Bill get-ups may be the trendy look for Halloween, but organizers say Generation Xers attending the first Masquerade Ball for the Arts on Oct. 31 at the Orange County Museum of Art will sport tuxes and Venetian-style masks.

"I think I'll pass on the Clinton and Lewinsky costume fad," said Bill Lyon, 25, an honorary chairman of the benefit for four local arts institutions: the Orange County Performing Arts Center, South Coast Repertory, the Orange County Museum of Art and the Pacific Symphony.

"I'm wearing a tux and looking for a cool mask," he said.

A recent graduate of Stanford University, Lyon--son of developer and former performing arts center chairman William A. Lyon--now has time to carve out his own niche on the local charity scene.

"My parents and I have discussed what an unusual facility the center is--that it doesn't rely on government funding," he said. "I think it's very important to help keep the arts alive in Orange County."

Party tickets are $60 each for the Newport Beach ball. Call (714) 556-2122, Ext. 546.

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