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Celebrating America's Indigenous Art With the Southwest Museum

May 09, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I still remember the first time I walked through the entrance tunnel into the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington with my Brownie troop. That's one fragment of a childhood memory that in reality remains unchanged. I guess that's why I'm so fond of the old place. Unlike many L.A. landmarks, the tunnel and the Native American scenes in the niches there look just as they did when I was 7.

Last week, the institution celebrated its 93rd anniversary with a black-tie fund-raiser staged in the museum's newer annex at LACMA West in the old May Co. building on Wilshire Boulevard. The party marked the opening of a retrospective of the work of Navajo artist Tony Abeyta.

Canadian Consul General Kim Campbell, the former Canadian prime minister, accepted an award for her country's efforts to bring Canadian aboriginal arts and culture to the American public.

"The culture of the First Nations people is very much a part of my heritage; they've shared their aesthetic vision of the world and it's important to return that generosity, an obligation we haven't always observed," said Campbell, a native of British Columbia.

Abeyta was honored for his works depicting the evolution of the Southwest. A large Abeyta painting--barely dry--was the hot item in a live auction. Linda Holliday chaired the event and hubby Tom (a trial lawyer), who ran the auction for the third year in a row, declared, "This is absolutely my final farewell appearance." (We'll see).

The party was also Jeannette O'Malley's last official duty. The 20-year veteran Southwest staffer has just become executive director of the Pasadena Historical Museum.

Spotted at the bidding tables were last year's honoree Camilla Chandler Frost, Kwakwaka'wakw Chief Robert Joseph and museum stalwarts Will Hughes, Lee and Duane King, Mark Acuna, Michael Heumann, Anna and Buzz Price, Carole and Ed Stepp, Richard C. Gilman and Lonette and Stan Rappaport, who toted home an iron garden sculpture from the auction. The event raised $105,000.

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"I brought my clients to help them part with some of that annoying disposable income," mused designer Matthew White as he surveyed the pricey inventory at the fifth annual Los Angeles Antiques Show. Opening night Thursday, benefiting the Women's Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center at Santa Monica's Barker Hangar, was packed with well-heeled looky-loos.

This was no place for tyros or tight budgets. A charming little Chippendale pie-crust table carried a mere $1.2-million tag. For those who prefer to wear it, there was a sapphire necklace for $350,000. For some, like White, the opener was a dry run. "I'll be back tomorrow," he sighed. "My clients spent a total of $50,000 last year. I intend to break that record."

Co-chairwomen Joyce Brandman and Caryl Golden reported the evening netted over $500,000 for women's health issues.

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"He's Jeff Chandler. . . ." "Nah, more like Liberace. . . ." "He reminds me of Robin Williams."

Those were some of the spins on Douglas Sills' swashbuckling portrayal of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" at the Ahmanson Theatre. No one savored the raves more than Sills' parents and sisters, who came from Michigan for the opening last Wednesday. His mom Rhoda took some of the credit: "I called him downstairs one day to watch Leslie Howard in an old film on television. I said, 'You want to be an actor? Now there's an actor!' " She was referring to Howard's role as the foppish Pimpernel in the 1935 film. Sills and the cast gathered with longtime Center Theatre Group supporters atop the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion for the after party.

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