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SOCIAL CLIMES

Honoree is in a league of her own

March 21, 2004|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

It might have been a scene from one of Christopher Guest's wry mockumentaries: goofball emcees charity benefit honoring dignified Texas philanthropist.

And sure enough, Fred Willard -- costar of soon-to-be comedy classics such as "A Mighty Wind," "Best in Show" and "Waiting for Guffman" -- razzed members of the Junior League of Los Angeles and their honoree, Caroline Rose Hunt, from the stage at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. "Somebody asked if I was nervous about appearing before this classy crowd," Willard said at the March 12 event. "And then he offered me a tip: 'Just picture your audience sitting out there in their underwear.' And I told him, 'Frankly, I've seen the audience and I'd just as soon be nervous.' "

Earlier, during a private reception, Willard said he'd planned to joke with the crowd but that everything he did would be in "good taste." Well, almost. The 500 guests giggled politely when he spoke of his "uncle in Cleveland who was accused of having romantic sexual relations with his patients ... and it's a shame, because he's one of the finest veterinarians around." But they howled when he made a playful jab at Hunt's social playground, the Lone Star State: "One Texan I was talking to tonight told me that he gets up in the morning, hops in his car at 9 o'clock, and by 10:30 is still not off his property. I told him, 'I have an old clunker that acts like that too!' " Willard said he volunteered to headline the Carnivale-themed gala, which also recognized arts visionary Nancy Banning Call, because he admired the league's work on behalf of women and children at risk. "I have a soft place in my heart for children," he said.

Smothered by photographers during the reception, Hunt -- chairwoman of Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, former owner of Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles and founder of the Lady Primrose line of bath products -- said she knew she was in Hollywood. "There aren't this many cameras in all of Dallas, maybe all of Texas," she quipped.

Being presented with the Lifetime Community Achievement Award from the Junior League, a national honor, was a thrill, said Hunt, 81, who joined the league 50 years ago. Her Rosewood Foundation helps people in the areas of social and community services, culture and health, she said. And while her days of hands-on charitable work are behind her, Hunt, a founding member of the National Museum for Women in the Arts, still dedicates hours monthly to serving on national and local charitable boards.

"My goal, my desire in life is to be useful," she said. "I know that's what makes you happy."

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