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Social Circuits

French Fair

September 22, 2002|ANN CONWAY

Forget Paris. It was the bubble-wrap incarnations of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI that had guest shouting "Ooh-la-la!" at the World's Fair benefit that raised $300,000 for AIDS Services Foundation Orange County.

With its salute to the City of Light, the celebration at the Orange County Fairgrounds was a Francophile's dream. On view: everything from tables topped with mini Eiffel Towers to a Cirque de Paris-themed parade on the "Champs Elysees." Not to mention a chic souvenir boutique. Or the Men Alive chorus singing "I Love Paris."

But it wasn't until Jim Nussbaum and Tim Dey swept into the gala as bubble-wrapped ghosts of Versailles that heads turned and eyeballs popped. "All the materials came out of a hardware store," said Dey, the Laguna Beach actor and designer who whipped up the costumes. Using gift wrap, staples, tape and hot glue, he fashioned the eerie-looking ensembles that were exquisitely detailed--from the crowns on their heads to the slippers on their feet. "We feel royal," they chimed.

Also on the party agenda: a French food court, where local vendors dished up gourmet fare that included profiteroles stuffed with salmon mousse and cheese fondue.

"Fondue is making a comeback," said Soiree Catering owner Tim Haskell as he set out trays of French bread cubes, sausage slices, button mushrooms, asparagus spears and quartered red potatoes. The piece de resistance: creamy milk-chocolate fondue served with marshmallows, strawberries, dried fruits and chunks of angel food cake and poundcake.

Decked out in a black beret with a fresh baguette under his arm, Jorge Rodriguez--co-chairperson of the Sept. 14 gala with Ken Jillson and Judy Fluor-Runels--said the organization assists more than 1,500 people in Orange County who are disabled by HIV/AIDS. Services include food, transportation, housing, emergency financial assistance, counseling and AIDS education and prevention programs.

"The great news is more clients are living longer," said Rodriguez, a physician who serves on the foundation board. "The bad news is that the overall rate of infection is increasing. People who never thought they were susceptible to the virus are becoming infected--heterosexual women, Hispanic women, men of color and youth under 20 are the populations that are skyrocketing."

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Marching On

If not for life-saving lung therapy, Miquitzli Calli Herrera, who was 15 weeks premature, might not have survived. But today, thanks in part to research sponsored by the March of Dimes, she is a vibrant 3-year-old preschooler.

"I want to convey to family and friends how important the March of Dimes' research is," her mother, Alma Vivian Marquez, told the 260 guests attending "A Salud De Los Ninos" benefit at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. "It made a difference to the health of my baby."

The Sept. 12 benefit for the March of Dimes raised $75,000 for its prenatal-care education programs serving Latinas and their families.

One program, Proyecto Salud Latina, "urges all Latinas in their childbearing years to take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily," Aliza Lifshitz, a physician and March of Dimes spokeswoman, told the crowd. "That's to decrease their risk of giving birth to an infant with serious neural tube defects like spina bifida, for which our community is at 40% to 50% higher risk than the general population."

Another program, Comenzando bien, teaches members of the Latino community about the importance of prenatal care, Lifshitz said. "The curriculum is now being used at 24 sites in greater Los Angeles, and at least 3,000 women have participated in the classes."

During the festivities, awards were handed out to community activists whose leadership has made a difference in the lives of families in the Los Angeles area.

Honored were members of the De Cardenas family (owners of Cacique Inc.), who received the business award; Fernando Guerra, director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, the education award; Renan Almendarez-Coello, a radio personality on KSCA (101.9), the entertainment award; and Kathleen A. Torres, founding director of the Los Angeles County Office of Women's Health, the health award.

"All of them have balanced their professional commitments with humanitarian efforts to ensure the well-being of our community," said Diane G. Medina, event co-chairperson with Gustavo Valdespino and Gisselle Acevedo-Franco. Attendees also included Ruth Livier, gala co-emcee with Maurico Mendoza.

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Anniversary Bash

When Jeff Brown, executive director of the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, asked Corky Hale of West Hollywood to perform at the venue, she responded, "Where's La Mirada?"

"But this theater is a gem. It's a pleasure to play here," Hale told the hundreds who gathered at the venue to watch its 25th anniversary show, "A Salute to Hollywood Songwriters," starring Melissa Manchester and Sally Kellerman.

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