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Symphony Benefit Is Reddy-Made

Australian-born singer mingles with audience before performing at a black-tie gala that raises $400,000 for Orange County orchestra.

May 25, 2000|ANN CONWAY

It's not the usual order of things--the star of the show mixing with fans before an onstage appearance.

But it happened Saturday at a black-tie gala sponsored by the Pacific Symphony at the Hyatt Regency Irvine.

Singer Helen Reddy schmoozed with party underwriters and committee members as they sipped bubbly at a VIP bash in the hotel's Ciao Mein restaurant. Later, she took the spotlight in the ballroom in front of 500 guests to perform her mega-hits, including "I Am Woman" and "You and Me Against the World."

The Australian-born singer said she was happy to make two appearances at the benefit that raised more than $400,000 for the orchestra. It was a way to demonstrate her respect for symphonic music. "Most of the orchestras around the country are hurting," she said. "I think it's vitally important to support symphonies wherever you are. If we lose them, we lose something precious."

Reddy's sophisticated cabaret show capped an evening that included a gourmet meal--served at tables draped in satin and crowned with orchids and panels of etched glass--and a tribute to symphony maestro Carl St.Clair. St.Clair is celebrating his 10th anniversary with the orchestra.

"Carl has elevated musical culture to a whole new level in Orange County," said Mark Johnson, who has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the orchestra. "He can make people understand what symphonic music and a good orchestra can bring to a community."

St.Clair, who attended the gala with his wife, Susan, said his dream to help create a mature Orange County orchestra were coming true. "The PSO is an orchestra that, in this country, is certainly drawing a lot of attention to itself by its recording projects and the energy it has in its programs," he said. "I really do believe that Orange County and the Pacific Symphony are growing at the same rate--walking hand in hand into adulthood."

Also in the crowd: gala co-chairwomen Jo Ellen Qualls, Sandy Segerstrom Daniels and Ellie Gordon; John Forsyte, symphony president; Doug Freeman, symphony chairman; Barbara Hiller Johnson; Marcy Mulville; Len and Madeline Zuckerman; Vesta Curry; Michael Gordon; John Daniels; Roger Johnson; Judith O'Dea Morr; and Arlene and George Cheng.

Getting Down

Forget bow ties, stretch limos and fancy fare. It was biker duds, Harleys and chips for the crowd that swept into the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana for the inaugural "West Coast Bikers Ball."

The ball Saturday, with music by the Rumble Kings, kicked off the third annual "Ride the Coast" fund-raiser for the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana. On Sunday, 1,000 motorcyclists joined in the Coast Highway cruise.

"We thought if we added a party and entertainment it would attract riders from beyond Orange County to participate in our Ride the Coast event," said Boys & Girls Club spokeswoman Cindy Gertz.

Proceeds of more than $60,000 from both events will go toward club programs, including gang and drug prevention; Power Hour, a homework assistance outreach; and Kids' Cafe, a free lunch program.

"There are 26,000 kids within one square mile of our club--the largest concentration of youth on the West Coast," Gertz said. "Most of them live at the poverty level, with a median family income of $12,000. So, our activities for kids ages 6 to 17 are invaluable."

Richard Porras, co-chairman of the two-day event with David Ream, recalled visiting the club when he was a boy. "I thought it was a good, safe place to go, and I had a lot of fun there," said Porras, vice president of external affairs for Pacific Bell. "Later, I had a paper route in the area. Now, as an adult, it's great to be able to go back and see these kids and be able to provide something for them."

Galaxy owner Gary Folgner, who also owns the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, opened his doors free of charge to the club. "Anything we do for kids is just great," he said.

Wilcox Receives Award

Maria Chavez Wilcox, president of Orange County's United Way, will be presented the Amelia Earhart Award today by the UC Irvine Women's Opportunities Center.

Each year, the center presents the award to an individual who exemplifies the leadership, service and commitment it takes to improve the lives of women in Orange County.

Six hundred people have bought tickets for the annual awards luncheon at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach.

"Maria is a role model for women leaders," said Victoria Curtin, center director. "At United Way, she is able to impact women--and men--through her management. In the past four years, she has increased United Way's fund-raising from $17 [million] to $23.8 million--a gain of 30%--and at the same time cut overhead in half--from 22% to 11%. She is amazing--a person who raises money to give people hope."

The 30-year-old opportunities center is a nonprofit organization that provides career development programs for women.

"The center is a place where individuals are helped with the changes in their lives, be they professional or personal," Curtin said. "Often, the two go hand in hand."

Information: (949)-824-7128.

Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at

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