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OUT AND ABOUT : SCENE & HEARD : Guess who?

November 08, 2009|Ellen Olivier

Leonard Nimoy's latest photography project concerned people's secret selves, so it wasn't hard for officials at the Santa Monica Museum of Art to convince him to help with a fundraiser on that quintessential dress-your-fantasy occasion: Halloween. Besides that, Nimoy said, "I like the Santa Monica Museum."

At the Halla Gala, guests were invited to "come as your secret self." For those who bought a $5,000 gala package, the multitalented artist/actor best known as Mr. Spock of "Star Trek" would photograph them as their otherwise hidden identities. The portraits, proceeds from regular tickets priced at $350 and up and a matching gift from the Annenberg Foundation raised a total of more than $400,000 for the museum.

People dressed as Andy Warhol, Fidel Castro, Sarah Bernhardt, Billy Elliot and the Doge of Venice joined more than 200 other partygoers, dressed as forest nymphs, police officers, dancers and other alter egos. Artist Miriam Wosk and Olga Garay, L.A.'s director of cultural affairs, both came as the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

Dr. Kerry English, attending with Garay, chose to be Leon Trotsky, one of Kahlo's lovers, rather than her husband, Diego Rivera, because it better suited his objectives. As medical director of the forensic child abuse program at King Ambulatory Care Center, English said, "I want to change the world."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, November 10, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 66 words Type of Material: Correction
Scene & Heard: The Scene & Heard column in some editions of Sunday's Image section contained incorrect figures for the amount of money raised at the Santa Monica Museum of Art's Halla Gala and at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Bash. The Halla Gala raised more than $400,000 for the museum, not $300,000. The Big Bash raised more than $1 million, not nearly $1 million.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, November 15, 2009 Home Edition Image Part P Page 2 Features Desk 1 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
Scene & Heard: Some copies of the Scene & Heard column in the Nov. 8 Image section contained incorrect figures for the amount of money raised at the Santa Monica Museum of Art's Halla Gala and at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Bash. The Halla Gala raised more than $400,000 for the museum, not $300,000. The Big Bash raised more than $1 million, not nearly $1 million.

Harlan Steinberger, who owns a recording studio, said he wished to change the world too, but took a different approach. He came as his pet canine. "My dog Rufus is the most loyal, most sweet, loving thing I've ever met," he said. "If more people could be like my dog, the world would be a better place."

Between photography sessions, Nimoy explained that in ancient Greece, Aristophanes posited the theory that human beings may once have had four legs, four arms and two heads, making them so powerful and arrogant that Zeus split them in two. Perhaps a problem-solver for the gods, but the tactic left human beings forever seeking their other half.

"We have a missing piece," Nimoy said, "So we spend our lives searching for our secret selves -- in partners, in lovers."

For the one night, event organizers installed nine photos from Nimoy's "Secret Selves" exhibition, which will premiere in July at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass., revealing the fantasies of some of the participants in the project. Photos from the Santa Monica fundraiser, however, will remain private. "It will be their secret," Nimoy said.

DJ Eddie Ruscha, the artist's son, provided the music for attendees, including board chairman Peter Gelles and wife Eve Steele, Laura Donnelley, Price Latimer Agah, Daphna Ziman, Philip Yenawine, Andrew Neave, designer Derrick Cruz, museum director Elsa Longhauser and curator Lisa Melandri.

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Big Bash a big success

Considering that Angus Jones plays a rude, lazy, wisecracking teenager on "Two and a Half Men," his TV dad Jon Cryer said he wondered if organizers of the recent Big Bash at the Beverly Hilton had ever watched the show. The benefit, which raised more than $1 million forBig Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, honors inspiring and positive models.

This year, Rick Caruso received the Walt Disney Man of the Year Award; Sue Kroll, the Sherry Lansing Award; and Jones, the Rising Star Award. Caruso is a philanthropist, entrepreneur and developer of retail and entertainment complexes. Kroll is president of worldwide marketing at Warner Bros. Pictures.

As for Jones, Cryer said, "The truth is, he could not be further from the character he plays. He's courteous, he's kind, he writes thank-you notes and he helps others, even the elderly -- like me."

More than 800 guests attended the gala Oct. 30, among them Sherry Lansing, who said that while she was president of 20th Century Fox, she had been invited to one of the charity's Christmas parties. "I was so moved that I've been involved ever since," she said.

She and Sarah Purcell, the gala's chair, founded the Future Fund, which awards college scholarships to graduates of the Little Sisters Program. To this day, Lansing also hosts an annual get-together for Big and Little Sisters at her home.

Leonardo DiCaprio presented the awards. Others attending included show chairwoman Mary Willard, emcee Fred Willard, guild President Sandy Bilson and decor chairwomen actress Pam Dawber and Kim Vamos.

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ellen.olivier@society-news.com

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latimes.com/society

More from the Scene

Go online for more photos from this week's Scene & Heard events, plus coverage of previous parties.

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