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A Killer Party at the Scene of Bugsy's Famous Hollywood Haunt


The hot ticket on the Social Circuit last week clearly was the awesome concert and gala dinner at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion May 22 to honor L.A. Opera's major-domo, Peter Hemmings. More than 600 guests turned out for the black-tie evening to say hail and farewell to Hemmings and his wife, Jane, who will return to their native London when he retires in June.

But there were some other gigs around town worth checking out. Certainly not as tony but intriguing was the invitation to Bugsy's bash May 23, a prelude to the May 24 opening of the floor safe long stashed in the Formosa Cafe, where racketeers Ben "Bugsy" Siegel and Mickey Cohen ran their bookmaking and prostitution operation from a rear office in what's referred to as Hollywood's "good old days." (In Tinseltown, hindsight is never 20-20.)

Supposedly, the safe, discovered during recent remodeling of the venerable watering hole, hadn't been opened since Siegel was rubbed out by the mob in 1947. What was in the safe? The possibilities were a press agent's dream. The hype started in February, when the "cracking" was scheduled and then postponed after the IRS and some possible heirs got in on the act.

"Then the clairvoyants came out of the woodwork," said publicist Harlan Boll. Theresa Libra, an L.A. psychic, claimed she "telepathically entered" the safe and there was no money--just an envelope of names, a ruby ring and two deeds to Nevada properties. Geraldo Rivera was invited, of course, but didn't show. Milton Berle was expected too, but had to cancel. He said he remembered when he first met Siegel at the Formosa. "He told me, 'Call me Ben. I don't like Bugsy.' " Berle said he complied.

Boll advised us to be there by 7 p.m. for the first "murder"--oh, yeah, I forgot to mention it was one of those murder-mystery whodunit parties--complete with gunfire, spattered blood (looked more like raspberry coulis) and suspects galore, including Jo Anne Worley, Dick Van Patten, Johnny Crawford, Kate Linder, France Nuyen, Reecie "Pat" Edie (a waitress at the Formosa for 48 years), a very sinister Dwayne Hickman, who was done in later by lawyer Gloria Allred (she claimed he fell on the knife), and so on.

All this shtick served a worthy purpose: The event also was a kickoff for the seventh annual West Coast Tony Awards Party that will honor Tyne Daly Sunday at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Proceeds will benefit the Actors Fund of America and Aid for AIDS, said Dale Olson, a member of the Actors Fund board. Olson, a veteran Hollywood reporter and publicist, recalled a lunch with Marilyn Monroe at the Formosa. "Before she returned to the set of "Some Like It Hot," she ordered raw garlic to repel the amorous advances of one of her co-stars."

So what would be found in the safe when it was opened on Wednesday morning? Turns out, Libra was right on one count. No money. Just rust and dust. Not surprising for a conscientious pro like "Ben."


It reads like a chronicle of Los Angeles history, the roster of women (and men) who have been honored by the Mannequins Auxiliary of the Assistance League of Southern California since the establishment of its Eve Award in 1956. Names like Chandler, Doheny, Pauley, Salvatori, Seaver and Reagan.

There was a time when honorees were a "best-dressed list" of socialites, but the nature of the award has changed over the years, said league President Katie Osterloh. It takes more than designer duds to merit an Eve. In fact, in 1977 all the Eves were "Adams"; and some years the awards have been coed. Whatever the gender, the Mannequins' annual spring fund-raiser, Afternoon with Eve, has paid tribute to Southern Californians who have given generously of their time and treasure for community causes. This year's Eves were honored Thursday at a sold-out luncheon at the Bel-Air Country Club, chaired by Sharon Fadem, Trish Bowe Guarino and Miyuki Lappen. Rhonda Fleming Mann, a former Golden Eve recipient, acted as honorary chairwoman.

The honorees were health and fitness maven Sheila Cluff and Barbara Harris, who was named a Golden Eve. She is a past president of the Assistance League of Southern California, the L.A. chapter of ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists), L.A. Junior Philharmonic Committee, Irving Walker Auxiliary of Travelers' Aid Society, the Hollywood Bowl's Volunteers and Patronesses, and the L.A. County Freedoms Foundation. Barbara and her husband, Chandler Harris, UCLA's director emeritus of public information, were Adam & Eve awardees in 1980.

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