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Social Circuits

You Call That a Hot Dog?

July 28, 2002|ANN CONWAY

The fare was so tempting, even Wolfgang Puck got in line.

"I'll have a hot dog," the famous chef said, approaching the Belvedere restaurant's booth at the American Cancer Society's 18th annual Gourmet Gala.

But this was no weenie-slapped-in-a-bun. This was chicken and foie gras sausage topped with morel mushroom relish and oven-dried tomato ketchup tucked into a roll. "Ummmmmm," Puck said, savoring a bite.

Along with his wife, Barbara Lazaroff , and Paramount Chairwoman Sherry Lansing, Puck was a host of the July 21 fund-raiser that raked in $650,000 for the society's research, education, advocacy and patient-service programs. Held at the tree-studded Brentwood estate of radio mogul Ken Roberts, the afternoon affair attracted more than 800 foodies and honored Jerry Katell, president of Katell Properties LLC.

Wending their way through booths set up on the 112-acre estate's tennis court and rolling lawns, guests--who'd paid $300 a ticket--sampled corn tamales with Oaxacan chicken mole from Granita; suckling pig on cornbread from Lucques; mini Gorgonzola burgers from Vert; tandoori lamb with mint-cilantro chutney from Spago Beverly Hills and more.

"Where else can you get this amount of quality food at this price?" asked Lazaroff, who dressed for the sun-dappled garden party in a green print Galliano, multitone necklace she'd bought in Capri, Italy, and a hat festooned with feathers. Speaking of hats, there were very few at the party.

"I don't know how anybody can show up today without a hat," Lazaroff said with a sniff.

A founder of the 18-year-old gala, Puck said he was gratified to watch it grow from a small event to the significant fund-raiser it is today. "When you're a kid, you don't think so much about cancer," he said. "But when you grow up, it becomes almost an everyday thing to hear of a friend or family member who has the disease. I have been grateful for this chance to give back to the community."

Katell, who lost his wife, Sharon, three years ago to colon cancer, attended the gala with 20 family members, including his four children. "It's a great honor to be recognized, particularly because of the way cancer has impacted my life," he said. "I lost my wife at 56 to colon cancer and my mother to Hodgkin's disease when she was 32. This honor is really for them."

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Just Desserts

They discoed to Boogey Knights. Rocked to Smittin. Reggaed to Elan. And for those who paid twice the $75 admission price, there was a VIP lounge where SmackDaddy serenaded them with rockin' blues until the wee hours. If it all became too much, they repaired to a "chill room" for a cool one and a breather.

So it went for the 2,500 young professionals who showed up at the palatial Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the annual Justice Ball benefiting Bet Tzedek Legal Services. When the clock struck 1 a.m., $300,000 had been raised to provide free legal assistance to low-income residents of Los Angeles County.

"I've always been impressed by Bet Tzedek's mission statement--unless everyone has access to the law, there is no justice," said actor Greg Germann (Fox's "Ally McBeal"), a co-chairman of the July 20 event. "I'm happy to be able to lend my name to something that does so much good in the world." Camryn Manheim of ABC's "The Practice," also a co-chair, echoed Germann's comments: "All people are entitled to their basic human rights--not just some--all."

Bet Tzedek is a nonprofit public-interest law firm that assists the "elderly, indigent and disabled," said executive director David Lash. "We open up 4,000 to 5,000 cases every year and represent about 10,000 people annually. Our sole purpose is to provide equal access to justice for people who would not otherwise be able to afford a lawyer or get into court."

The firm's House of Justice handles civil cases, such as home equity fraud--"where scam artists try to entice seniors into loans they don't need," Lash said--eviction defense and Holocaust survivors seeking reparations denied for 50 to 60 years.

The ball has raised $1.5 million since it was founded five years ago by Los Angeles businessman Randall Kaplan. "Randy said he could expose a whole new demographic to our work," Lash said. "He got this event off the ground by the sheer force of his will."

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Party Portrait

Never mind the steel band and the swaying palms. At "Paint the Party," all eyes were on a huge canvas and an artist named Sandra Jones Campbell.

Known for her boldly colored portraits of people in social situations, Campbell was commissioned by Gran Centenario Tequila to immortalize the event, a recognition party for donors of $1,000 or more during the last year to AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.

Packing a Polaroid, Campbell snapped photographs of guests as they sipped margaritas and peach "tequinis"--tequila mixed with fresh OJ and a splash of peach schnapps--and dug into a gourmet repast at Mark's restaurant in Laguna Beach.

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