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Showering Praise on an L.A. Artiste

April in Paris Ball rolls out French songs and the cancan to honor Robert W. Jensen, who started out in show business.

April 11, 2001|PATT DIROLL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Los Angeles painter-sculptor Robert W. Jensen, even as he was being honored by the National Arts Assn. for his achievements as an artist, revealed yet another side to his 40-year career: He started on stage--as the young lover Lun Tha in a national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical "The King and I."

"Show biz wasn't precisely my cup of tea," Jensen said as he was being honored by the arts association at its April in Paris Ball on Saturday at Bel-Air Country Club. "Entertaining has to be a passion. It just wasn't for me. Art was."

Jensen, who has painted his way from China's Great Wall to the Rose Bowl, grew up in Carmel, where he excelled at drawing and started selling his works while still in high school. Upon graduation he opted for a voice scholarship at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and a future that would include television stints with Dinah Shore and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

His artworks now keep company with the French Impressionists in Paris' Galerie Marumo and with Winslow Homer in the Butler Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. He's also chronicled the fortunes of USC in a book on the Trojan Marching Band, and created the model for a sculpture of the band's drum major on campus.

"Robert is being honored not only for his lifetime achievement, but for his support of the National Art Assn.'s scholarship programs. He has donated portraits of our past honorees for many years," said longtime friend Sherry Shelley in presenting the award, a tiny jeweled artist's palette for his lapel.

The April showers cleared just in time to afford a clear view of the city lights for the black-tie party. For the event, association president Donna Robinson and ball co-chairwomen Suzanne Dillard and Carol Towne took their theme from Jensen's paintings of Paris' Luxembourg Gardens, and put lavish bouquets of spring flowers on the tables, where guests dined on filet mignon and warm apple strudel.

Scott Graff sang French love songs and Madilyn Clark's dancers did the cancan. Bob Morris & the Leadmen played dance music. Past honoree John Raitt even burst into an impromptu "Love Is a Many Splendored Thing" before Arthur Bartner and his Trojan band marched in to serenade Jensen with "April in Paris."

Spotted in the crowd were Lois and Buzz Aldrin, Barbara Billingsley, Barbara Rush, Arthur Crowley, NAA co-founder Marilyn McDaniel and her husband, Glen, Marlene Hall and her brother Robert Malouf. Their mother, the late Marion Malouf, and their aunt, the late Florence Malouf, were co-founders of the association established 32 years ago.

*

Henry Cisneros, former U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and the late Congressman Julian Dixon were honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards for their commitment to the welfare of children at a fund-raiser for Para Los Ninos at Staples Center.

Accepting on behalf of Dixon was his widow, Bettye Dixon. "Julian knew he would be getting this award before he died in December. He was so low-key that I didn't know until I found it on his calendar in January," she said after the event. "He would have been elated."

More than 400 turned out for Friday's Hearts on Track for Kids, which opened with a cocktail buffet and auction and ended with basketball (the L.A. Clippers nosed out the Milwaukee Bucks). Presented with KTLA Charities, the event raised more than $300,000 to support Para Los Ninos programs for inner-city children and families living in poverty.

Coming Up

* Henrietta C. Lee and Dr. Melvin J. Silverstein will be honored at the Norman Topping Cancer Research Dinner to benefit USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center on Tuesday at the Universal Hilton Hotel. Tickets $500. Call (213) 740-6786.

* The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. will present "Catlett & Bearden: Art for Justice," a sale and auction of the works of Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden, on April 18 at Reign Restaurant, Beverly Hills. Tickets $50. Call (323) 731-3374.

* Diane Keaton will be honored April 18 at the third annual Tribute to the Human Spirit Awards luncheon sponsored by Wellness Community/West Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Tickets $125. Call (310) 553-9007.

* Members of Las Floristas will go global at their 63rd annual Floral Headdress Ball, "Passport Around the World," to be held April 20 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Proceeds support Las Floristas Children's Charities at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey. Tickets $200. Call (310) 607-8495.

* "Thanks for the Memories," a farewell concert and gala honoring Paul Salamunovich, retiring music director of Los Angeles Master Chorale, takes place April 20 at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Concert tickets, $10 to $52; gala dinner tickets, $150. Call (213) 972-7282.

* The Social Service Auxiliary will honor Josephine Wayne Nigg at the second annual Spiritus Award Ball on April 21 at the California Club. Tickets $200. Call (213) 746-2117.

* The Southern California Counseling Center's 35th anniversary gala will honor Linda and Richard Torre, Gabrielle and Moshe Tsabag and Bobbie Parks on April 21 at Casa Del Mar Hotel, Santa Monica. Tickets $275. Call (323) 937-1344.

* On April 21, Glendale Memorial Health Foundation presents "Casino Royale" at the Hilton Glendale to benefit the comprehensive cancer center at Glendale Memorial Hospital and Health Center. Tickets $200. Call (818) 507-4688.

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

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