Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
It couldn't have been much finer for the Wolf Trap Gala Benefit Wednesday night - a lovely last-of-May evening, Elizabeth Taylor Warners's smiles, Bob Hope's one-liners, a stage of star performers, 6,500 happy, spirited people filling seats and lawns, and the ferns that survived a month in Mrs. Jouett Shouse's swimming pool to decorate the stage.
"There is something that is so right . . . so right for families," said Warner, the gala chairman, as she looked from the stage over the Wolf Trap audience.
Warner was there with Michael Wilding Jr. and Lisa Todd, two of her children by earlier marriages. Her husband, John Warner, brought his daughter Mary. And for hundreds of others picnicking on the lawn or attending the black-tie supper and reception, it also was a family affair to start Wolf Trap's eighth season.
Those who ate off the "Halston Rose" tablecloths matching the canpoy tents paid $30 for the buffet after buying the $125 to $200 tickets for the gala performance. The picnickers on the lawn with their ice chests paid $6.
But all were aiding the private, non-profit Wolf Trap foundation with its summer programs of opera and classical and popular music at the park's Filene Center.
"She invited me for nothing, and I'm here," said Bob Hope, referring to Warner.
So were other performers like Telly Savalas, Paul Anka, Robert Merrill, Andy Williams, the Three Degrees and composer Marvin Hamlisch. With a little help from her friends, Warner can stage a gala that is a performance as well as an event.
Anka, an electrifying performer on the stage, had written some new words for his song "My Way" with a tribute to the house of Shouse, the dowager patron of Wolf Trap, who moved sprightly about with the aid of an elegant silver-headed cane.
Warner, who wore a shimmering gown of Persian gold brocade over peacock blue and green, greeted guests at the reception and picnic for more than 900 guests. Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi arrived late after a White House appointment and embraced Warner warmly. Interior Secretary Cecil B. Andrus also was in the receiving line with Shouse and Douglas R. Smith, chairman of the Wolf Trap Foundation board of directors.
The centerpieces flowers were red roses to match the Halston fabric design. David Ellsworth, a design consultant from southern California, had flown in to arrange the center pieces. He also brought the ferns for the stage.
"He doesn't ship them. He just carried them on the plane as excess baggage. The ferns have been sitting in Shouse's swimming pool for a month." Deo McKaig, a Wolf Trap staff member explained.
As the audience arrived for the gala, they were serenaded by the U.S. Marine Band. Picnickers in the meadow were entertained by a troupe of strolling musicians led by Hugo di Cenzo.
Savalas, without his Kojak lollipop, appeared as a singing performer rather than the trough-guy policeman. Hamlisch performed the American premieres of two of his own compositions, "Let's All Go to Jail," and the theme from "Ice Castles," a movie to be released this summer. His contribution als included the Academy Award winning "The Way We Were," and "What I Did For Love," from "Chorus Line."
Merrill, the Metropolitan Opera barione, was in fine voice for "I've Got Plenty of Nothin" from "Porgy and Bess." His repertoire also included "A Largo al Factotum" from the "The Barber of Seville." Then, to conclude the night, Andy Williams came on stage for a selection of romantic ballads.
For the audience Wednesday it was the opening of another summer season at Wolf Trap. The season will formally open on Monday when the Metropolitan Opera makes its annual visit with a performance on Verdi's "Rigoletto."