"Somehow there's an incongruity here. There are these inner-city kids in the program, and then to come here and see all this dazzle and pizazz! Well, at least these people have their priorities in the right order."
With these words, psychologist Rick Simon assessed Sunday night's benefit for Sasha Bruce Youthwork Inc., a program for troubled teen-agers founded five years ago by Evangeline Bruce in memory of her daughter. Simon was among a handful of guests familiar with the cause. Many of the 300 benefactors at Sunday night's Washington premiere of "Bolero," and who came because they knew the Bruces, admittedly knew little about Sasha Bruce Youthwork Inc.
But no one seemed to mind, least of all "Bolero's" creator, Claude Lelouch. The movie is based on charity, he said through an interpreter, and so he considered its viewers' generosity "wonderful."
And how did he feel about a Washington audience whose guests included the secretary of defense, among other politicians? It's a film against war, he said, "so maybe it will be a good example."
"I'm sure we'll enjoy it," Caspar Weinberger said later, "since we're against war, too."
The evening, which Youthwork director Deborah Shore hoped would raise $40,000, began with champagne outside the Eisenhower Theater and continued with the nearly three-hour film, which traces the lives of several families of different nationalities from World War II to the present, and is scheduled to open to the public this summer. Following "Bolero," guests congregated at the French Embassy for a buffet supper and discussed what they had just seen.
The American Film Institute's George Stevens called it "a masterpiece" but said, "It will do worse than 'Porky's.' "
Many thought it was too long. Journalist Elizabeth Drew said the ending was improbable and her husband, David Webster, said America was inaccurately portrayed.
Attorney Frank Ikard said, "It conjured up some unpleasant memories" because he was a World War II prisoner of war, but once he "reflected on it, thought it was great."
And so on. Among those who attended the screening but not the embassy dinner were Paula Griggs, 12, and Winfred Hallbeck, 17, who currently live in Sasha Bruce House, one of five projects within the program. "I'd rather be home," said Griggs, "but it's helped me with my problems." Added Hallbeck, "It's a very nice place to be, better than other shelter houses."