Malibu Seen

SMILE ON THE NILE

It was an exotic cocktail bash that would have made Cleopatra feel right at home with a regal centerpiece King Tut might have taken to his tomb. The place was Lladro’s posh Bev Hills boutique. The cause was Operation Smile and the draw was “Queen of the Nile,” a dramatic 5-foot long porcelain statue specially created for the children’s charity.

Party planners had the place spruced up with pharaoh- worthy arrangements of colorful protea, towering palm fronds and elegant water reeds. A five piece Middle Eastern band got in a groove while servers made the rounds with savory koufta, spicy shrimp kababs, roasted duck with pomegranate molasses and mango cucumber cups.

The dessert bar was as artful as the porcelain creations that surrounded it. Amid a sea of wheat grass and white and blue agapanthus were carefully placed platters of perfumed orange salad, Egyptian pistachio nut chocolate cake and fresh berries in lemon curd cream. “They wanted a Middle Eastern theme,” caterer David Sutton said between servings. “It’s a little different, but I love a challenge.”

So does Operation Smile, which is determined to change the face of the earth one smile at a time. The children’s organization has treated more than 100,000 kids born with cleft lips, palates and severe facial deformities.

Co-founder Kathy Magee reflected on her first visit to a children’s hospital in the Phillipines. “It was a real eye-opening experience for us,” she said. “Here, you go to a clinic and you see a few kids, but we had 300 kids with facial deformities coming at us. We knew if we didn’t do something about it, nobody would.” Magee and her husband, Dr. Bill Magee, put together a top-notch band of volunteers that has trotted across the globe spreading great grins and good cheer. But McGuire wasn’t about to take all the credit. She says it’s a collective effort on the part of dedicated docs and loyal supporters like local Operation Smile spokeswoman Roma Downey. “They have so much talent and want to give back. It’s really everyone that makes this possible. We all feel like we touch everyone who gets involved.”

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As the zither kicked into high gear, the well-clad crowd checked out Lladro’s new “Pulse of Africa” collection, which will help fund future Operation Smile missions. Soon guests ascended the sweeping staircase to eye the jewel in crown. Queen of the Nile looks like something Napoleon might have fancied during his Egyptian days. The ornate showstopper depicts Nefertari and her royal entourage sailing down the Nile. With an estimated price of $135,000 the majestic piece required its own labor force to get off the ground. It took five years to develop, 400 hours to paint and 150 hours to assemble. Better yet, it will be auctioned off at Operation Smile’s 25th anniversary bash in October-a fundraiser that’s sure to make you smile!

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