Passage first class for Pepperdine arts

Dapperly dressed in nautical attire, 400 guests turned out at the palatial home of David and Linda Foster to help support Pepperdine’s Center for the Arts. It was billed as a “First Class Passage under the Stars,” and stars there were. One, in particular, generated a frenzy of excitement.

No, not Pat Boone, not David Foster, not even Paul Anka. The whispered name on every young person’s lips was Ben Stein.

The Pepperdine law professor, Visine spokesman and Comedy Central show host has become something of a cult sensation for generation Xers. “I don’t know who Paul Anka is,” said one Pepperdine shuttle-bus guide, “but I hear Ben Stein is going to be there.”

Adding a little zip to his trademark monotone delivery, Stein helped out with auction duties. To solicit higher bids for a one-time ride on the Goodyear blimp, he urged parents to consider the future — “Just think, one day when your kids are complaining about you saying, ‘I can’t believe what they did to me,’ they’ll say, ‘But then again, they took me on that blimp ride, so I guess I will visit them in the nursing home this week.'”

Stein also put an unlisted item up for grabs — “For an opening bid of $10,000, we will guaranty that Kenneth Starr will never investigate you.” Together with a trip to Australia and a VIP day at Dodger Stadium, the auction helped raise thousands of dollars for the Center for the Arts Guild, a tally that left organizers like Marnie Mitzie smiling. “It’s been such a joy,” she said of the event. “In 1992, we raised about $20,000. Today, we’re up to $96,000 on this event alone.”

The auction was followed by a musical performance by Foster. The host’s turn at the piano drew thunderous applause. “This is great,” Foster told his captive audience. “I have the gate clicker. You all took the bus, I could do three hours — all the songs that didn’t work.” He went on to thank all the guests who opened their hearts and their checkbooks to Pepperdine. “Linda and I are committed to Malibu and doing this for our city. We are proud to be a part of it.”

Before turning the microphone over to headliner Anka, he introduced a surprise guest. In a flower power blast from the past, legendary love child Donovan appeared on stage, bringing his “sunshine superman” with him. It wasn’t long before the guests were mellow yellow and singing along — at least to the lines they still remember. Yes, the spirit was there, even if they do wear easy-fit jeans. This all led up to a rousing performance by Anka, who delighted the crowd with standards “Diana” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” and moving tributes to the late Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

After a lovely evening of food and entertainment, the guests poured back into their buses for a ride back to campus. And the first question from a Pepperdine shuttle guide was — “Did you see Ben Stein?”

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