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Two Tributes to Mancini

Musical benefits raise funds for cancer research and college performing arts center. Social Circuits

November 28, 2000|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's been six years since pancreatic cancer cut short the life of legendary composer Henry Mancini. His life and his music were celebrated with his family at two major Southland events this month.

More than 700 guests gathered Nov. 18 for "An Evening With the Stars," the third annual benefit sponsored by PanCAN, the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. The black-tie evening at the Hilton Universal City & Towers, starring singer Monica Mancini, the composer's daughter, and the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra, netted $160,000 to be used to promote national awareness and education on the disease.

The grief and anger over the loss of a parent was the catalyst that inspired Pam Acosta, Paula Kim Simper and Terry Lierman to establish PanCAN in 1999. Their mission is a grass-roots advocacy movement to find a method for early detection of pancreatic cancer.

Randy Stein and Melissa Yazman, survivors of pancreatic cancer and devoted supporters of PanCAN, received the Judi Maiman Spirit of Hope Award for inspiration to others. "It's not the disease, and it's not the challenge. It's the lack of hope that is dangerous," said Stein. "We look forward to seeing you all here next year." The Carol Mackin Shining Star Award went to Marsha Garil as the volunteer who best characterizes the spirit and spunk of Mackin, a PanCAN activist, who died last March.

Stephanie Davis chaired this year's event, which Norm Crosby emceed with help from Shirley Jones, Marty Ingels and Miss World USA, Natasha Allas.

Davis said her dedication is personal. "I lost both my mother and my aunt to pancreatic cancer last year. Like the Mancinis, [we view] this disease is an unwelcome member of our family. Finding an answer has been ignored for too long, but together we're going to make a difference."

At an earlier event, the Friends of the Shannon Center marked the 10th anniversary of Whittier College's Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts with "Welcome to the Jewel Box," a gala dinner and concert Nov. 11 featuring Mancini's classics sung by Monica and accompanied by the Mancini Orchestra.

For Monica's mother, Ginny Mancini, the evening was a sentimental journey. A Whittier College alumna, she had served as chair of the opening gala, Nov. 7, 1990, starring her husband.

Shannon, for whom the center is named and who headed the center's $9.9-million capital campaign, recalled opening night: "When Henry walked out on the stage that night, he looked at the house and said, 'It's a jewel box.' The name has stuck. Henry named this place."

For the anniversary bash, the seats on the floor of the center's Robinson Theater were removed and the space reconfigured into a glamorous supper-club setting with miniature jewel boxes at each guest's place. Katherine Haley Will, the college's recently installed 13th president, surprised Shannon and Monica with Italian jewel boxes that played Mancini's classic "Moon River." "This is the college's link to the community," said Will. "The center is indeed our crown jewel."

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Diane Nelson, a Laguna Beach gallery owner, launched her new venture, the DNFA Gallery in Old Town Pasadena on Nov. 17 with a gala preview reception in honor of her longtime friend, artist Richard Bunkall. A Pasadena native, Bunkall was known for his paintings of locomotives, steamships and grand architectural elements. He was 44 and the father of three young sons when he died in May 1999, after a five-year struggle with ALS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

The gallery was packed with local art buffs for the inaugural show, which features the works of R. Kenton Nelson, Ray Turner, Steve Huston, Margaret Caldwell, Glenn Ness and Bunkall's widow, Sally Storch, all of whom are Pasadena residents and recognized artists in American Realism.

In addition, the exhibition showcases new artists to the L.A. market: Jerry Wayne Downs, Francis Livingston and Rick Monzon.

A percentage of all sales during the six-week exhibition will be donated to Project ALS in memory of Richard Bunkall, said Nelson, "because his work represents man's desire to construct monuments to the human spirit."

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

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All for a Cause

* Autumn has been marked by a full slate of fund-raisers benefiting groups from the Alzheimer's Assn. of L.A. to Pasadena's Zonta Club. E3

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