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Hard at Work Debunking Myths About a League of Their Own

March 14, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Junior Leaguer . . . Race? Blue-blood Anglo. Age? Post-debutante. Education? The right schools. Speech? Self-inflicted lockjaw. Dress code? Real pearls, white gloves.

Right? Wrong.

That stereotype is history. But it's a tough cliche to shake.

"Too often, we're thought of as women who never roll up our sleeves to do hard work," sighed former L.A. League President P.J. Clarke, as she surveyed the black-tie crowd of more than 750 who packed the Century Plaza Ballroom on Friday night for the league's spring gala.

"It's a different league now," said President Linda Small. "Eighty percent of our members work. They're from diverse backgrounds ranging in age from 21 to 101!"

Dodie Haight, who received the league's 2000 Spirit of Volunteerism Award, recalled that in 1951, when she was interviewed as a prospective member, "I was told that if I continued my job as a teacher, I couldn't fulfill my obligations [working three days a week for three months on the group's charitable pursuits]. . . . So I took a leave of absence from teaching. How times have changed."

It took a lot of rolled-up sleeves and muscle to produce this event, which also paid tribute to award-winning songsmiths Linda Thompson and David Foster for their community service. The choir slated to perform was canceled that morning. However, unflappable gala Chairwoman Cynthia Pazuk and her committee hastily mustered their children and friends to sing "Power of the Dream," Thompson's composition for the 1996 Olympics.

Tony Danza, who said his mother-in-law is a leaguer, emceed the show with help from Carol Bayer Sager, Richard Marx, and awesome young talents Denisse Lara, Kamille Rudisill, Josh Groban and Nita Whitaker.

Outside, the foyer was swarming with paparazzi hoping to shoot Van Cliburn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robyn and Mel Gibson, Kevin Pollak, Lucy Webb, Natasha Henstridge, Catherine Bach, Barbara and Marvin Davis, Stacey and Henry Winkler, Joanna and Sidney Poitier, and Pam and Ed McMahon. Proceeds should exceed $450,000. "That breaks all records," said league spokeswoman Emily Hsu. "Linda and David made it happen."

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"It's Zubin's passion that gets you, it's contagious, just like baseball," said Peter O'Malley, who was one of the co-chairs of a posh black-tie gala marking Zubin Mehta's 30th year as music director of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Revelers ignored the threatened showers for the Thursday-night bash, which followed the concert in Royce Hall featuring soloist Isaac Stern. "I'm here for Zubin," Stern said, "because 30 years with an orchestra is a long time. It's not a love affair; it's a kind of bemused mutual tolerance."

Among the attendees--at $1,000 and $2,500 each--were Denise Hale of San Francisco, who wore a plaid bouffant taffeta skirt and shawl in Burberry's signature plaid (waterproof, I assume); Marvin and Barbara Davis--she in gobs of jawbreaker pearls; Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, John Gavin, Tony Martin and spouses; Mehta's parents and wife, Nancy; concertmaster Ilia Konovalov, at 22 now in his third year with the orchestra; and of course, the maestro himself, who took it all in stride. "There's so much more to do," he said.

*

Revelers bared it all in New Orleans, but the party crowd here was more sedate. At least that was true for the more than 100, including Robert and Rosemarie Stack, who attended the Mardi Gras 2000 Bal Masque staged by Les Dames de Champagne International Hostesses on March 7. It's a group of social charitarians who have supported worthy causes in Southern California for 36 years, including the Skid Row social services agency Para los Nin~os this year.

Patt Diroll's column is published Tuesdays. She can be reached at pattdiroll@earthlink.net.

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