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ANN CONWAY

Some Positive Notes for Pacific's Future

May 18, 1999|ANN CONWAY

With the clink of crystal and the sound of music, the Pacific Symphony celebrated its 20th anniversary--and the social event of the year--with a black-tie benefit Saturday in Costa Mesa that grossed $1 million.

Partying under a tent on land that will one day be crowned with the Orange County Performing Arts Center's new concert hall, 650 orchestra supporters sipped martinis, sampled gourmet fare and heard musicians perform a classical tapestry.

At the nearby Plaza Tower, about 60 gala underwriters were feted at a pre-gala champagne-and-caviar reception hosted by U.S. Trust. There, on a steel-gray carpet, amid desks and computers, they mingled with performing arts visionaries Henry Segerstrom and Jeanette Segerstrom, the owners of South Coast Plaza who donated the concert hall land.

Trumpeters then heralded the underwriters' formal arrival at the gala, playing fanfare as they swept down a royal red carpet past boutique-like displays of glamour goods from South Coast Plaza retailers such as Ferragamo, Baccarat and Tiffany & Co.

Beholding the 27,000-square-foot white tent, center chairman Mark Johnson mused: "This is so artistic and beautifully done, I think we can use this and save the $99 million we need to build our concert hall."

Giddy at the prospect of a home for Pacific Symphony, music director Carl St.Clair dubbed the 20th anniversary celebration a "new beginning."

"We've been in an upward-bound spiral for quite some time," he said. "The quality of the orchestra is continuously better. Audiences remain loyal. But with a new hall, we have a whole new life ahead."

Ecstatic over gala proceeds, Tiffany vice president Jo Ellen Qualls--gala co-chairwoman with Sharon Lesk--said the event's success demonstrated Orange County's cultural coming of age.

"The support of this event speaks well for Orange County's economic health," she said. "But it speaks significantly to a desire for the orchestra's growth."

Seated for dinner, orchestra buff Janice Johnson--who attended the gala with her husband, Roger Johnson--marveled at the gala's futuristic ambience. "Can you believe this?" she asked, wide-eyed.

Tables were topped with neon-lit pedestals that held clear globes containing submerged roses and lilies. The ceiling, swagged in a zillion folds of rich black fabric, was hung with free-form white star sculptures that might have been part of a "Star Wars" set.

"We wanted the tent and the decor to be cutting-edge--like the architecture of the buildings in this area," Qualls explained.

Red-hot restaurateur Joaquim Splichal--owner of Pinot Provence at the Westin South Coast Plaza--oversaw the preparation of the dinner fare: spring onion and leek soup with cucumber and crab; rack of lamb; apples with caramel sauce.

"The committee selected the simple and elegant menu," said Splichal, who had just returned from Las Vegas where he'd opened a new bistro at the Venetian Hotel. "They know what they're doing."

Faces: Renee Segerstrom, wife of Henry Segerstrom; Sandy Daniels, daughter of Jeanette Segerstrom; Anton Segerstrom, son of Henry Segerstrom; orchestra board president Doug Freeman and his wife, Lynn; Barbara Johnson, wife of Mark Johnson; John Forsyte, executive director of the orchestra; Louis Spisto, former executive director of the orchestra; Pat and Marvin Weiss; Bob and Peggy Goldwater Clay; Paul Ecke; Orange County Performing Arts Center President Jerry Mandel and his wife, Whitney; Vesta Curry; Ron and Joyce Hanson; Gail and Richard Kaufman; and philanthropists Arlene and George Cheng.

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Saluting a new chancellor: On the eve of his inauguration Friday as the fourth chancellor of UC Irvine, geophysical scientist Ralph J. Cicerone was feted at a formal dinner attended by 350 members of Orange County's academic set.

Among those honoring Cicerone during the festivities at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach: Thomas Tierney, chairman of the UCI Foundation; Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren; Joan Irvine Smith; and former UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason.

Dennis Wint and Woodrow Leake, executives with the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, were also on hand to present Cicerone with the prestigious Bower Award for his achievements in science. (Cicerone actually was given the award April 29 during formal ceremonies in Philadelphia.)

The scientist was selected for the award for his contributions to the understanding of stratospheric ozone depletion and the advancement of public policy to protect the global environment.

In his remarks to the crowd, Bren looked back to the future: "Forty years ago, there was nothing exciting where we are dining tonight. Nothing except coastal sagebrush. No Newport Center. No Fashion Island. No city of Irvine. No UCI. Forty years ago, the city of Newport Beach made headlines by citing the Irvine Co. for allowing cattle to stray on the future site of Neiman Marcus."

Today, "Ralph Cicerone . . . has an awesome responsibility at a wonderful time of unprecedented scientific progress and achievement" at the university, Bren said. "A time of unbelievable economic strength . . . of optimism and hope. UCI is in extraordinarily capable hands."

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