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A Real Rodeo Drive

Cattle Baron's League Rustles Up $630,000 for Cancer Society

October 26, 2000|ANN CONWAY

Never mind the gilded ballrooms that traditionally provide the backdrops for Orange County's charity blockbusters.

The Cattle Baron's League raked in $630,000 for the American Cancer Society with a benefit staged in a tent erected in a parking lot.

More than 1,000 guests attended the second annual Cattle Baron's Ball on Saturday at the Newport Dunes Resort in Newport Beach.

Produced by 30 committees and 200 volunteers, the high-energy event, dubbed "Cactus on the Coast," featured pig races, casino entertainment, shopping in a general store, midway games, live and silent auctions, a margarita cantina and enough Western fare to keep the cowpokes boot-scootin' into the wee hours.

"It's a big challenge to coordinate all of these events," said Sandi Jackson, gala co-chairwoman with Leslie Bowlus. "This isn't one of those benefits where you sit down, eat and watch a performance. This is a party that keeps you movin' all night long."

Helping to raise funds for research and patient services provided by the American Cancer Society is a cause "near and dear to my heart," said Jackson, a cancer survivor. "The disease can devastate a family that doesn't have adequate financial resources; the society really helps these families."

Patient services include a 24-hour hotline ([800] ACS-2345), transportation to and from medical treatment, and education programs that help families cope with the disease, noted Diane Dietsche, regional vice president of the society's Orange County region. The good news about cancer: "Since 1996, we have begun to see a decline in cancer mortality," Dietsche said. "We're attributing it to better treatment, early detection and a greater awareness of prevention because of organizations like the league."

Impromptu Performance

She wasn't expected to perform--but singer Toni Tennille surprised guests at the Laguna Playhouse's 80th anniversary gala Saturday with an a cappella rendition of "If They Could See Me Now" from the beloved musical "Sweet Charity."

The pop artist, honorary chairwoman of the black-tie party held at the Pelican Hill Pavilion in Newport Coast, appeared at the playhouse in "Sweet Charity" during the '60s.

"She just felt motivated," playhouse Executive Director Rick Stein said. "She didn't get to play the role of Charity when she appeared in our 1968 production, so for her, it was fun to be able to sing the show's signature song."

About 300 guests enjoyed a gourmet dinner under a white tent at the event that also had Cynthia Harriss--president of the Disneyland Resort--and longtime playhouse supporter Otis M. Healy as honorary chairpersons.

Suzanne Mellor and Gretchen Mulville headed up the gala, which raised about $50,000 for the theater's Annual Fund. "I love the intimacy and warmth of the Laguna Playhouse--it's like a London theater," Mellor said.

Raising funds for the playhouse has kept Mellor busy since she moved from Washington to Orange County two years ago. (Her husband, Jim, is the former chief executive of General Dynamics.) "I've even helped paint a little scenery," she said.

It was the Mellors who welcomed playhouse supporters into their Laguna Beach home last month for a private dinner honoring Tony Award-winning actress Julie Harris. Harris recently wrapped up her appearance in the playhouse's 25th anniversary production of the "Belle of Amherst."

Among the celebs who caught the production: Calista Flockhart, Red Buttons, Piper Laurie, Juliet Mills and Joan Van Ark.

The theater launches the West Coast premiere of "Enter the Guardsman" on Nov. 4. Playhouse artistic director Andrew Barnicle will star in the musical romance about a married couple who perform in the same show. For information on the play, which runs through Dec. 3: (949) 497-2787.

Art of Dining

Revered American artist Robert Rauschenberg, whose early works are considered an important bridge between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, will be honored at the Orange County Museum of Art's annual Art of Dining in Newport Beach on May 6. On Tuesday night, museum supporters gathered at the Newport Beach home of Tom and Elizabeth Tierney to attend a cocktail reception and hear details about the spring gala.

Tickets to the event--to be staged at the Four Seasons Hotel's new Palm Garden ballroom (formerly the Twin Palms restaurant)--will sell for $1,000 each.

World-class designers from Neiman Marcus at Fashion Island Newport Beach will provide the decor for the gala, which will be co-chaired by Marsha Anderson and Milly Muzzy. Information: (949) 759-1122.

Front and Center

Whoopi Goldberg will star on Feb. 3 at Cal State Fullerton's annual Front & Center benefit. Held at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, the popular fund-raiser for school scholarships has featured appearances by Tony Bennett, Colin Powell, Michael Eisner, Bill Cosby and Laura Schlessinger. After Goldberg performs, she will participate in a conversation with Walter Cronkite. Tickets ranging from $18 (for students) to $1,000 (for those wishing to attend a black-tie gala staged on the Pond floor), go on sale Nov. 27. Information: (714) 278-3480.


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

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