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Such Good Friends

ANN CONWAY

Bill Cosby and Pals Give Cal State Fullerton Scholarships a $300,000 Lift

February 01, 1999|ANN CONWAY

Sporting a shirt emblazoned with the greeting "Hello Friend," Bill Cosby performed before thousands of fans Saturday at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim. Included in the audience were some of the comedian's longtime pals: show-biz greats Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar and Robert Culp.

Appearing at the annual Front & Center benefit for Cal State Fullerton that netted more than $300,000 for university scholarships, Cosby joked about friendships, saying they should be characterized by one person doing a good deed for another--no "I-told-you-so's" allowed.

"I have discussions about the word 'friend,' " he told the adoring crowd as he spoke from a colorful stage erected on the floor of the hockey arena. "When people ask if my wife is my friend I tell them 'no.' My wife is my wife--she got rid of my friends," he deadpanned.

"When my car breaks down at 3 a.m., I call Ed . . . and he says he'll be right there," Cosby continued, smiling. "If I call my wife, she asks me what time it is--then begins to tell me that she told me to get the car fixed."

Friendship was the theme of the fourth annual benefit, where Reiner--who helped Cosby land his spot with Culp on the '60s TV series "I Spy"--was the affable emcee and former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda received the university's Orange County Person of the Year Award.

More than 1,000 of Cal State Fullerton's friends enjoyed a $500-per-person black-tie filet of beef dinner--at tables set up on the Pond floor--before watching Cosby perform. After dinner, thousands more took general-admission seats in the stands.

After receiving a roaring musical introduction by university students--to the tune of "That's Entertainment"--Reiner welcomed the crowd: "I was supposed to be here last year but I was sick," he said. "This is awesome. I'm so glad I lived--I would have missed all of this."

Lasorda, too, received a musical tribute. With all of the panache of a Broadway production, students parodied Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Don't' Cry for Me Argentina" and "The Music of the Night" when they welcomed him onstage.

During his remarks, Lasorda stressed the importance of high school and college educations. "Education is always more important than winning," he said.

Until you hit the major leagues. "Then you've got to win. If you don't, you fall by the wayside."

*

Roll over, Beethoven: An exhibition of treasured musical instruments from the Beethoven era was launched Friday during a reception at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana.

Patrons of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County--co-sponsor with the museum of the exhibit--sampled appetizers, sipped wine and enjoyed a tour conducted by exhibit curator Andre P. Larson, director of America's Shrine to Music Museum in South Dakota.

On display were instruments such as an all-wood 19th century hand-painted Viennese piano, which was on loan from the Shrine to Music Museum. "The piano was made around 1815--during the time of the Congress of Vienna when all of the diplomats were gathered together to decide what to do about Napoleon," Larson noted.

Also up for ooohing and ahhhing: a violin made in 1693 by Antonio Stradivari. "Oh, just give me 30 seconds with it so I can play a few scales," rhapsodized violinist Robin Cecil, a freelance musician.

Among guests: Marjorie Rawlins of Newport Beach, exhibit sponsor with Fletcher Jones. "I know all of these instruments because I'm from South Dakota and I go to the museum every time I'm back there," Rawlins said. "It's the most fabulous exhibit of musical instruments that you can see in the United States--even better than collections in New York."

The exhibit, at the museum through March 21, gives people "a chance to see some major cultural history," said Dean Corey, executive director of the Philharmonic Society. "This is a singular event--nothing like this has ever happened in Orange County."

*

Ball sponsors: During a dinner party for patrons of the Pacific Symphony at the Center Club in Costa Mesa on Thursday, arts patron Jo Ellen Qualls--co-chairwoman with Sharon Lesk of the orchestra's 20th anniversary gala on May 15--announced that the Segerstrom Foundation and South Coast Plaza have committed to a joint donation of $125,000 to help underwrite the ball.

"This marks the first time the ball has had a major presenter," Qualls said. "We are so grateful."

So far, $500,000 has been pledged on behalf of the gala, which will be held on the acreage recently donated by the Segerstrom family to the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa. "We're stunned by the generous response of music lovers in Orange County," Qualls said.

Qualls and Lesk are aiming to net $1 million from the event.

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