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The Crowd: Hoag holiday party a festive affair

It's Christmas Eve 2011 and the world is taking a collective moment to reflect.

Listen to the quiet. Cherish the peace.

Most everything and most everyone grinds down an octave or two as Christmas dawns.

So much to be grateful for. So much to aspire to.

The message, not only for people of the Christian faith, but for all humankind, is pax vobiscum — Latin for "peace be with you."

If only it could be so. Surely such a miracle would signal the dawn of the Messianic era.

We will simply have to wait. And hope. And practice simple acts of kindness.

On the Orange Coast, Hoag Hospital and the Hoag Foundation's 552 Club gathered in grand spirit to celebrate the 45th annual Christmas Carol Ball.

Nearly 500 guests in festive holiday glitter converged upon the St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel and Resort for the holiday party of the season. It was dedicated to the health of the community and was also in support of needy families assisted by Share Our Selves (SOS), Costa Mesa.

Definitely a legacy of kindness and hope.

The event was chaired with both passion and style by Vahé and Lisa Karamardian. Lisa is a respected physician within the Hoag family, serving the needs of women and children through her obstetric practice in the Hoag Women's Health Institute.

Joining the Karamardians were Newport philanthropists Sandi and Ron Simon, citizens of generous good will. Financial support also came from corporate donors including major sponsor Tiffany & Co., The Turnip Rose, Sterling BMW. The Wailea Beach Villas, Maui, and the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort.

Tiffany & Co.'s South Coast Plaza Store Director Michael Botsko joined fellow executive Chris Holt, welcoming guests and accepting accolades for the nearly 500 crystal plates delivered to partygoers in the classic blue box tied in white satin ribbon.

Wait staff distributed the holiday gifts on silver trays, presenting each guest with a package. Tiffany & Co. also provided the premiere live auction item, diamond and platinum earrings valued at $15,000.

Hoag supporters included Edward Fedishon, Richard and Judy Voltmer, Tom and Margaret Larkin, Dr. Alan Beyer, Dr. James Cailouette, Byron and Ronnie Alumbaugh, Larry and Deborah Bridges, and chairman of the Hoag Hospital Foundation Board Jim Coufos and his wife, Viki, of Pelican Point.

Also spotted in the society crowd were Valaree and Robert Wahler of Shorecliffs and Ron and Sandra Livingston with family members Lori and Joe McKay and Katie McKay. The chic Joan Riach Gaynor and handsome husband Walter Gaynor were in the crowd with generous donors Amanda and Bob Hogen of Sterling BMW. Tennis star Lindsay Davenport and Jon Leach visited with Hoag Chief Executive Dr. Richard Afable and Sally Nichols Afable.

Many of the guests in attendance reminisced about the early days of the holiday event back in the mid-1960s.

Nora Jorgenson Johnson, the Dover Shores blond bombshell with the sweet personality and voice of "Glenda the Good Witch of the North," was one such individual. Nora, resplendent in head-to-toe flowing white chiffon, diamonds galore and perfectly coiffed platinum blond hair, has been delivering the party benediction with passion for decades. It's a tradition cherished by the crowd as she asks for God's blessing over the "doctors, nurses, and staff of Hoag who are so important to this community."

Others in the crowd waxed nostalgic, comparing the 2011 black-tie society ball to the early gatherings that took place in people's homes on a "pot luck" basis. Times have changed.

Entertainment was provided by a lineup of talented performers, including operatic singer Karin Mushegain and ballerina Merrit Miller, among others. The Wayne Foster Orchestra took the party into high gear, led by Susan Foster. The dance floor was full from first note to final flourish.

St. Regis Chef Fréderic Castan prepared a dinner that began with honey roasted butternut squash soup, followed by a second course featuring prosciutto de parma and an entrée of beef filet and pan seared Australian Snapper.

This was a night of joy and celebration honoring the medical profession in Orange County. They all came to ensure a Merry Christmas 2011 and to put out the message of hope for a New Year of health, happiness and prosperity.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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