Tuesday, November 10, 2009

San Diego Social Diary

Flying into San Diego.
A Celebration with Space Legends
by Jeanne Lawrence

San Diego.
The USS Midway Museum partnered with the San Diego Air & Space Museum to hold a gala saluting the pioneering astronauts of NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, the Museum honored them collectively with its American Patriot Award, bestowed annually since 2007.

I flew in for the event, excited to go. The event brought back memories of the space program launched by President Kennedy and the thrill we felt on July 20, 1969, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.
Welcome aboard the USS Midway aircraft carrier, now a museum.
View of the USS Midway from my room at the Grand Hyatt.
Watching the ships sail out to sea.
Floating Maritime Museum of historical ships.
View of downtown San Diego.
San Diego offered its usual ideal weather (no mosquitoes, no humidity) for the celebration, held on the flight deck of the USS Midway. The huge carrier, America’s longest-serving aircraft, was in service for 47 years.

It has attracted 4 million visitors since it became a museum in 2004, thanks largely to the efforts of Virginia Napierskie and her late husband, Glenn. Their daughter, Connie Conard co-chaired the evening with Sally Thornton.

The astronauts made a majestic entrance, rising on an elevator platform to the flight deck level as fireworks exploded and the Third Marine Aircraft Wing Band played the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Greatest Generation Walk. Sailor and Nurse sculpture. National Salute to Bob Hope and the military in the park next to USS Midway.
40 Years - Race to the Moon event on the USS Midway.
USS Midway is now a naval aviation museum.
Historic planes on display in the aircraft hangar.
Sea King was Apollo 8 astronaut's recovery helicopter.
To exuberant applause, they paraded in formation, then led the way to dinner followed by the 600 other guests “I have goose bumps,” said one guest. He wasn’t the only one.

After the National Anthem, the USS Midway’s president, movie-star-handsome Retired Rear Admiral John “Mac” McLaughlin, joined San Diego Air and Space Museum President and CEO James Kidrick in welcoming the crowd.

The gala committee scored a coup in luring the recently appointed Administrator of NASA, Charles Frank "Charlie" Bolden, Jr. as the speaker. A retired United States Marine Corps major general and U.S. Naval Academy graduate, Bolden is in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. He traveled to the space shuttle four times and commanded two missions.
Guests gather on the aircraft carrier deck.
San Diego skyline.
Fireworks greet the astronauts.
The astronauts leading the crowd to dinner.
Dinner begins with the National Anthem.
Honoring the American Astronauts.
President Kennedy in the video presentation.
The Pioneers.
During his speech, the International Space Station shuttle flew above at 25,000 feet, stunning the crowd with the precision of its arrival. Some initially thought it was a plane, but a naval officer confirmed it was the shuttle. “Unbelievable timing,” he agreed

“The flyby was incredible,” said McLaughlin, “and now we would like to present you with the moon” — a full one, at that. Afterward came a video presentation chronicling the evolution of the U.S. space program.

The highlight, of course, was honoring the astronauts—three of whom, coincidentally, were local boys, graduates of Grossmont High. The group included William Anders, Alan Bean, Walter Cunningham, Charles Duke, Fred Haise, James McDivitt, Russel Schweickart, Alfred Worden, and NASA Fight Director Glynn Lunney.
NASA's Charles Bolden was keynote speaker. Chair Connie Conard.
Jeanne Jones, Mayor of San Diego Jerry Sanders, his wife Rana Sampson, and co-chair Sally Thorton.
Jackie and Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator. Jeanne Lawrence and Astronaut Jim McDivitt.
Norah and Mac McLaughlin CEO and President. Newscaster Carol LeBeau and husband Tom Hamilton.
Dan McKinnon, Chuck Nichols, Jim McDivitt, and Ari Petersen.
Norma Nicolls, Ari Peterson, and Bob Shumake. Malin and Roberta Burnham.
Eddie and Bob Shumake, chair of the Bob
Hope Theater Project.
Linden Blue and Ronne Forman USN (ret).
Though audiences are often rudely inattentive, on this occasion, you could have heard a pin drop. I attribute that to the military training of many of the participants and the audience’s respect for the honorees.

I had hoped to run into John Glenn, once my neighbor in the Washington suburbs. The first American to orbit the earth (on the Friendship 7), he was a senator representing Ohio for many years, and I recall how gracious and welcoming he was when young people rang his doorbell for an autograph.

In the crowd, I saw many San Diego acquaintances: Mayor Jerry Sanders and wife Rana Sampson; Jim and Joy Furby; Norah McLaughlin; John Thornton; Roberta and Malin Burnham; Director of Major Gifts Norma Nicolls, wife of a former Navy Commander; John and Phyllis Parrish; Linden Blue of General Atomic; RADM Ronne Froman. USN (Ret.); newscaster Carol LeBeau and husband Tom Hamilton; Melinda (Mrs. Bill) Gates’ parents, Ray and Elaine French; Noel and Ari Petersen; and VP of Development Vangie and Jim Regan.
Lineup of the most elite club of 20th century.
The end of a patriotic evening.
Dan McKinnon, founder of North American Airlines, deemed the evening “flawless.”
The sight of the astronauts, the fireworks, and the large American flag waving in the light breeze stirred everyone’s patriotic feelings and reminded us of how much this country has accomplished.

The USS Midway Museum has become an icon in San Diego Bay and a symbol of strength, peace and freedom.
Incredible sunset.
The view as we walked off the ship.
San Diego’s Contemporary Art Museum Gala Rocks

The following weekend, I caught up with old friends at the 33rd annual Monte Carlo Gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), where I once served on the board.

The oceanfront Museum, located in the charming village of La Jolla, was once the home of Ellen Browning Scripps. Built in l913 by architect Irving Gil, it was turned into a museum in 1941 and expanded in 1996 by architect Robert Venturi. Today it also has a downtown branch.
Arriving for 'A Night in Monte Carlo.'
Museum of Contemporary Art -- view of the Pacific Ocean. Acrobalancers.
DJs in every corner of the museum.
The MCASD’s collection —more than 4,000 post-50s works—focuses on minimalist and Pop art; conceptual and installation art; and local, regional, and Latin America artists. Its international reputation attracts visiting speakers like New Yorker John Richardson, the Picasso biographer.

Hugh Davis, the MCASD director for 20 years, works with many of the original supporters —and now with some of their offspring— on the popular annual celebration, which took “Club Monte Carlo” as its theme this year.
Sipping cocktails in the foyer.
Jackets off by the end of the evening.
In black tie or “club chic,” guests passed through red velvet ropes overseen by dapper “bouncers” as the VIP reception began at 7 p.m. Remarkably, the Museum’s loyal supporters filled $25,000 tables even in these times.

For their generosity, they were treated to dinner under the stars with perfect temperature (no wraps needed) and were entertained by Aerial Revolution’s sensational dancers and acrobats in skintight bodysuits that wowed the crowd – especially the men.

After Co-Chair Nancy Browar addressed the audience—“It was a lot of work, but a pleasure and an honor,” she said—her husband and Co-Chair Matt Browar gave her all the credit. “I applaud Nancy.”
Paul Jacobs greets the VIP guests.
Aerial stage show during dinner.
Photographer Roy Porello enjoys the rose petals. Guests getting into the spirit.
Board member Dr. Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, the hugely successful wireless communication company—he’s the son of Joan and Irwin Jacobs, the founder —also welcomed the crowd.

At 9:30, Model bouncers opened the ropes to the $100 ticket holders, and everyone headed to The After Party to play at the “gaming” tables, succumb to the decadent dessert buffet, or enjoy drinks and dancing downstairs at the “Buddha Lounge” organized by Pacific Events.

Quite the hit, the lounge featured banks of sofas and a blonde in a swimsuit reclining in a bathtub filled with rose petals. “I’m ready to jump in,” one man murmured, as others snapped photos on their cell phones.
Playing for charity fills the game tables.
Charley and Monica Cochrane enjoying the after party.
Among those mingling: Barbara Bloom, Tanya and Charles Brandes, Karen and Don Cohn, David Copley, Board President Peter Farrow, Jake and Todd Figi, Carolyn Farris (a lead underwriter), Pauline Foster, Dr. Stacy Jacobs, Colette Carson Royston, Robin and Gerry Parsky, Iris and Matthew Strauss, and Sheryl and Harvey White.

“I’ve been going to the Monte Carlo event since ’72, and it keeps getting better and better,” said Harry Cooper, attending with his wife Valerie. (Cooper’s brother married Gloria Vanderbilt, and his nephew is newscaster Anderson Cooper.)

Others agreed: “More relaxed,” I heard. “Fresh.” “Trendy.” “Set a new standard.”

As I left, the crowd was dancing and singing along to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling [that tonight’s gonna be a good night.” And by any measure, it was!
Joan and Irwin Jacobs. Susanne Lodl, David Guss, and Sabine Lodl. Sheryl and Harvey White.
Chairs Matt and Nancy Browar with museum director Hugh Davies. Jack Solow with Valerie and Harry Cooper.
Valerie Cooper and David Copley. Todd and Jake Figi. Gerald and Robin Parsky.
Tanya and Charles Brandes. Miriam Smotrich, Paul Jacobs, Steve Strauss, and Stacy Jacobs.
Iris and Matthew Strauss with Pauline Foster. Linnea and Frank Arrington with Yuko Burkett, and Michael Templeton.
Margo Schwab and husband Scott Johnson. Casey Spang and Joshua, Nancy, and Matt and Lauren Browar.
Mr. and Mrs. Miles Kirby, Stephanie Schroder, and Keith Horne. Karen and Don Cohen.
Mason and Elizabeth Phelps. Tom Grunow and Mary Keough Lyman. Irwin and Maryanne Pfister.
Dr. Jerry Pikolysky, Lee Clark, and Jeanne Lawrence. Carolyn Farris.
Alexis, Arturo and Sofia Kassel. Trulette Clayes, Jeffrey Patrick, Sherilyn Clayes, and Tim Pruss.
Photographs by Margo Schwab and Jeanne Lawrence. . New York-based Jeanne Lawrence reports on lifestyle and travel from her homes in Shanghai and San Francisco, and wherever else she finds a good story.