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ORANGE COUNTY PEOPLE: ACHIEVEMENTS AND CELEBRATIONS
| ANN CONWAY

A Shadow Is Cast Over Gala

September 07, 2000|ANN CONWAY

Protected by bodyguards, Sherri Butterfield was among the thousands of people attending the "Gala of Dreams" sponsored by the Festival of the Arts/Pageant of the Masters on Friday in Laguna Beach.

The bodyguards were on hand to protect festival board members such as Butterfield because some had been harassed by detractors, she said.

"During a visit to the festival in July, eight artists in black shirts surrounded me and began cat-calling," Butterfield said. "When I tried to step away, they came closer and I felt threatened."

Butterfield is president of the festival board, the controversial group that plans to move the popular Laguna Beach pageant to San Clemente, as well as mayor of Mission Viejo.

Without incident, she wended her way through the stylish crowd, ogled the the works exhibited by Orange County artists and attended the California Dreamers-themed pageant in Irvine Bowl hosted by TV actress Marion Ross ("Happy Days," "The Drew Carey Show").

The gala included a cocktail reception, dinner, dancing and the final performance of this year's Pageant of the Masters.

The festival board plans to move the show from its 5.6-acre location in Laguna Beach to a 20-acre spot at the Talega development in San Clemente. Festival operators have clashed with the city of Laguna Beach over how much rent the festival must pay and who will control money set aside for improving the aging festival grounds. The festival's lease on its current site expires in September 2001.

"I hope we can persuade people that the move is a good idea," Butterfield said. "As the crow flies, the San Clemente site is only four or five miles away" from the festival's current location.

Art exhibitors such as photographer Diane Reardon--vice president of the Committee to Keep the Festival of Arts in Laguna Beach--used the gala as an opportunity to express opposition to the move.

Standing with fellow artists in front of the festival grounds, Reardon waved a yellow balloon at the commuters who streamed up and down Laguna Canyon Road.

"We're calling this a rally," Reardon said. "But really, we're protesting. We're recalling the festival board. We will not move to San Clemente."

Ross, who attended the gala with her husband, actor Paul Michael, admitted she'd never seen the 68-year-old pageant. "I've always heard about it," she said. "And what I think is so great about it is that people get to participate in it--portray wonderful works of art.

"The greatest thing in the world is to be onstage--wear makeup, be in the show."

*

Ann Conway can be reached at (714) 966-5952 or by e-mail at ann.conway@latimes.com.

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