The event: The Discovery Ball, benefiting the California Science Center Foundation, celebrated the West Coast premiere of “Pompeii: The Exhibition.” It was one of L.A.’s most elaborate black-tie bashes, raising nearly $1.2 million for the California Science Center’s educational exhibits and programs.
The scene: Torch-toting, bare-chested centurions, a mime made up as a fountain and toga-clad women nibbling on clusters of grapes evoked the ambiance of ancient Pompeii at the California Science Center in Exposition Park. After soaking in the spectacle over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, guests previewed the impressive exhibition of sculptures, frescoes and artifacts, before viewing a heart-stopping video of the city’s destruction by an erupting Mt. Vesuvius.
“Your chariot awaits,” proclaimed the signs leading guests to dinner. The “chariots” -- a.k.a. golf carts -- whisked them off to the adjacent Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, bathed for the night in pink light and topped by an Olympic-style flame.
“We tried to keep the location of tonight’s dinner a surprise and we’re delighted the warm weather cooperated,” said Al Fohrer, chair of the foundation’s board of trustees. “What better backdrop could there be for a Roman-themed gala than our own Coliseum?”
Following three courses and a live auction, conducted by NBC weatherman Fritz Coleman, the Friday gala moved to the Samuel Oschin Pavilion housing the Space Shuttle Endeavour for dancing and a dessert buffet. Still, there was more to come: a screening of “Forces of Nature” in yet another venue in the nearby complex, the IMAX Theater.
The crowd: Guests included Debbie Allen of “Fame” fame and her husband, former NBA star Norm Nixon, who played for both the Lakers and the Clippers; NBC’s Conan Nolan; astronaut Daniel Olivas; SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell; Dassault Systemes chief executive Bernard Charles; philanthropists Lynda Oschin, Karla and Bill Ahmanson, and Margo and Michael O’Connell; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters; state Sen. Holly Mitchell; Italian Consul General Giuseppe Perrone; and California Science Center chief executive Jeffrey Rudolph. Anne Shen Smith, former chief executive officer of Southern California Gas Co., and Bob Carter, a senior vice president at Toyota Motor Sales, co-chaired the gala.
Quotes of note: Allen said she regularly takes her dance academy students to the science center “to expand their life experience.”
Said Coleman of his consistent support for the cause, “It’s a no-brainer.”
Numbers: Tickets were priced from $2,500 for two; tables for 10 ranged from $10,000 to $50,000; and 700 guests turned up to enjoy the Roman ambiance.
“Pompeii: The Exhibition” opens Tuesday and continues through Jan. 4. For tickets, click here or call (213) 744-2019.
Ellen Olivier is founder of Society News LA