On a lawn bordered in cypress trees, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard relaxed beside the silent auction tables with his son, talent manager Ray Leonard Jr., and singer/songwriter Dallas Diamond.
Donald Trump dropped by between visiting his Palos Verdes golf course and flying back to New York. He mingled poolside, stopping often to pose for photos with guests at the July 24 event, many of whom packed pocket-size cameras for just such occasions.
In preparation for the fashion show by designer Naeem Khan, celebrity hair stylist Chaz Dean worked backstage to give models what he called "polished, but disheveled, French-twist-pompadours." The creator of WEN hair and beauty products, Dean numbered among the night's honorees for his 10 years of working with the charity. "Holly has a big heart, and I believe in her mission," he said.
Guests adjourned to the tennis court for the show, awards ceremony and performance by Robin Thicke, and included Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Nicole Pantenburg, Soleil Moon Frye, Cedric the Entertainer, Alan Thicke, Abraham McDonald and Dannon Green. In addition to Trump and Dean, the honorees included Elaine Hall, Diane Isaacs, Carly Fleischmann, Winfred Cooper, Emily Gerson Saines, Tom Murray, Dr. Mark Lew and Wanda Milton. The event netted $500,000.
By way of introducing "Songwriters: The Next Generation," Andrea Marcovicci reminded the audience at the Gardenia in Hollywood of a previous generation by singing the old standard "As Time Goes By." She then said she would be presenting composers of the "new standards" in an ASCAP-produced program for the Festival of New American Musicals (www.lafestival.org).
The festival, which began in May and continues through Aug. 22, has been offering readings, workshops, concerts, cabaret events and complete musical productions in venues throughout Southern California. Now in its third year, California's program operates in conjunction with the New York Musical Theatre Festival and has big names such as Stephen Schwartz of " Wicked," Jerry Herman of "Hello Dolly," Angela Lansbury, Jason Alexander and the legendary Stephen Sondheim as honorary co-chairs.
At the Gardenia show on July 23, the lineup consisted of Jordan Beck and Jonathan May, the team behind a new musical version of "Peter Pan"; Ryan Scott Oliver, composer of "Mrs. Sharp"; and Adam Gwon, writer/composer of "Ordinary Days." Joining them were singers Megan Hilty, David Burnham, Steve Kazee, Laura Griffith, Lisa Livesay and Dan Domenech.
As performers chatted with festival organizers following the show, Marcovicci said, "I am staggered by the wit, the perfect rhyming, the rhythm, harmony and structure in the songs we have heard tonight."
She seemed equally staggered to learn that Beck and May's play had been discovered on MySpace. According to the duo, an Australian producer found their music page by searching the Internet for "Peter Pan."
"The musical theater has never been in better shape," said Michael Kerker of ASCAP, who produced the evening. "There are incredibly talented songwriters out there who want to write these kinds of songs, which have heartfelt lyrics and melody." He added, "And there's an audience. 'Glee' proves that."
Bob Klein said festivals generate new musicals, citing the Tony award-winning "Next to Normal," as originating at N.Y.'s festival. Klein is the California festival's co-executive producer, along with Marcia Seligson and Linda Shusett.