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Congressional Award Foundation Just Says Yes to Nancy Reagan

March 21, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

That famous lady in red was back in the spotlight last week when Prince Philip, the duke of Edinburgh, came to town to present her with the Leadership Award from the Congressional Award Foundation. Former First Lady Nancy Reagan wore her signature color to accept the honor for her role in the "Just Say No" campaign against youth drug abuse during her White House years.

In fact, the posh black-tie dinner at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Wednesday was a dose of deja vu. "It's like being in another time--another world," whispered Melinda Winston of Pasadena about the receiving line, which included the remains of the distaff side of Reagan's "kitchen cabinet"--Betsy Bloomingdale, Miriam Jorgensen, Mary Jane Wick and Erlenne Sprague.

At the pre-dinner press conference, reporters ignored the "no questions" edict imposed by the British Consulate. Nancy Reagan's response to an inquiry about the president was curt: "He's as well as can be expected," she said. And to a question about how the war on drug abuse is progressing, she replied, "You'll have to ask the people in Washington."

(The Congressional Award Foundation, based on a program launched by Prince Philip in the United Kingdom, recognizes individuals between 14 and 23 who demonstrate commitment to public service, physical fitness, Outward Bound-style exploration and personal development. Leadership awards are given to prominent adults, such as Reagan, who support the foundation's goals.)

Also on the scene were Gayle and Pete Wilson; British Consul Paul Dimond and his wife, Carolyn; former Reagan-era ambassadors John Gavin and William Wilson; former Arco chief Lod Cook; Tom Selleck; Armand Deutsch; Eldon Griffiths (who, as a British government official in the 1980s, helped clean up London's pollution).

Prince Philip's visit to L.A. initiated a partnership between the Congressional Award Foundation and the Los Angeles Unified School District. "When I joined the program, the American program, there were many challenges," said Tom Campbell, chairman of the Congressional Award Foundation. "No one provided more help than Prince Philip. It reminds me of Winston Churchill's statement just before World War II: 'In the end Americans will get it right . . . after they've tried everything else.' "

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Heroes, both on- and off-screen, were the honorees at the sixth annual American Red Cross Spirit Awards Dinner on March 11. Ten Southern California chapters joined to recognize 16 behind-the-scenes hospital heroes along with the cast and crew of the CBS television series "JAG" for its positive portrayal of members of the U.S. armed forces.

As he accepted the award, "JAG" producer Don Bellisario noted, "Every year we get e-mail and phone calls from frustrated viewers who have driven to Falls Church, Va., to find JAG headquarters and we have to tell them that it's the Red Cross building in Pasadena. I guess this is the first time a landlord has honored a tenant."

The real-life heroes awards went to a variety of medical professionals--doctors and nurses--who have volunteered with the Red Cross during all kinds of disasters, such as the recent crash of Alaska Airlines Flight 261.

TV health reporter Dr. Bruce Hensel emceed the evening.

The Red Cross also gave a special humanitarian award to 15-year-old Hydeia L. Broadbent of Las Vegas, who contracted HIV from her birth mother and volunteers many hours educating young people about HIV and AIDS.

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