Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The combination was almost too good to be true. There was Kay Shouse, who started it all in the first place; Liz Taylor, who got everybody to come; Beverly Sills, who kep it all rolling; Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, henry Fonda, Andre Kostelanetz, Patricia McBride and Jean-Pierre Bonnefous, who kept everbody there.
Oh, yes, and Halston, the New York designer.
"Elizabeth," said Halston, splendid in his all-white evening suit, "is irresistible. Your can't say no to her."
And indeed, it seemed that no one could.
The result, happily for Wolf Trap farm for the Performing Arts, which opened its seventh season Thursday night, was a near-sellout crowd that sprawled on the lawn for $5 a ticket or sat in the amphitheater for from $12.50 to $150 in the boxes.
More than 800 attended the black-tie al-resco cocktail party and supper before the gala. It was there that Liz taylor, her husband John Warner, Wolf Trap donr Kay Shouse and opera star Beverly Sills received what appeared to be an unending line of Liz-lovers. It had been Taylor, chairman of the gala, who had pressed into service pals like Halston, Liza and Sammy.
The dinner, at $25 a ticket in addition to the $100 and $150 gala tickets, was a sell-out within a week after it was announced. Halston's job - his debut, as it were, in the decorative arts - had beem to design the decor for the 95 dinner tables set up on the lawn near the amphitheater.
Tables were covered with cloths decorated with bright-red roses that will go public this fall in the more intimate role of bedroom sheets. And lawn tents were fashioned from the same fabric.
Halston had even sent letters to Wolf Trap associates who would be serving as gala hostesses, asking them please to wear gowns that would not clash with his tablecloths. Most of them complied, though there had been reports earlier of rebellion in the ranks.
Everybody queued up to shake Taylor's bejeweled hand until finally the line just fell apart. The end came when Warner, a Republican campaigning for the U.S. Senate, fell into a conversation with a reporter. Warner agreed that this chic, high-priced benefit was a sort of Northern Virginia equivalent to a southside Virginia Brunswick stew picnic fund-raiser.
Taylor wore a flowing red gown designed for her by halston especially for the occasion (another Halston in blue awaited her backstage where she changed for her stage appearance at the end of the evening). She also wore some of those fabled multi-carat diamonds, some around her neck in a lavish display and others on her hand.
Her right hand, recovering from a broken blood vessel suffered from over-zealous handshakes in the political wars of Virginia, drew the attention of journalist Aaron latham who had been present in Hampton, Va., when the famous vessel burst.
When Latham inquired how the hand was doing, she looked up with her incredible violet eyes and dead-pan expression and replied: "I was barely able to force a diamond on it."
At most galas, the event often overwhelms the show itself, with performers arriving and going onstage often with no rehearsal at all. Sammy Davis Jr. noted this during a rigorous workout with the band while rehearsing both parts of a duet he was to sing with Minnelli. She didn't arrive until shartly before the performance.
Even so the duet was a triumph, as was Davis' evocative "Mr. Bojanglas," which drew a stnding ovation. Then Minnelli sand "I Have a Dream" that almost out-Mermaned.
Perhaps the most delightful performance of the evening was a non-singing Beverly Sills acting as mistress of ceremonies. "I'm not going to use my vocal chords this evening," she said, "I'm going to use my brain." She had the difficult task of keeping the audience amused during the extended scene changes. She succeeded so well that one could almost believe the quote she attributed to her husband. "Beverly, you can talk two hours about anything, but not five minutes about anything in particular."