I couldn't decide what I liked more inside the house: The art collection (Dr. Seuss paintings, a Peter Max, and a Jackson Pollock), the aquarium, or the guitar in the kitchen signed by the Rolling Stones.
This event was to raise money for the Point Loma High School Band. In 2003, the band director quit without notice. The students kept things going with a substitute. Music teacher Larry Zeiger told me about budget cuts and other things that had affected the music program. I said, "It sounds like Mr. Holland's Opus," and he said, "It was like that. Arts programs are the first that get eliminated."
When I first pulled up to this place, I was met by Diana Antonini. I asked, "Are you the valet?" She laughed and said she was just greeting the guests and helping them find parking. I felt bad at the party when we kept talking, because I was keeping her from mingling with the guests. She is the president of the band boosters. She told so many great stories, my favorite being how she met former San Diegan Dennis Hopper when she was a flight attendant. She was afraid to talk to him, and her fellow employees kept coming up to her and bugging her about it. She felt a tap on her shoulder and turned around yelling. It was Hopper, saying hello. All she could think to say was, "I loved you in Easy Rider." Her daughter Lena Anjo was there in her band uniform. She plays clarinet.
I met a few other students in the band. Evan was a drum major and was in uniform. When I asked him why he took it off later on, he said, "I'm going to In-N-Out and didn't want to wear it there." Why anyone would go out for a burger when there were all kinds of appetizers here is beyond me. Although I was stuffed from my previous party, I had to grab a few -- my excuse was that I'd be writing about the food. There was some sort of chicken on a stick, and I said to the guy passing it out, "I would take one of those, but don't want to have to hold that stick when I'm done." He said, "You can throw the stick away." I asked him where and he said, "In a trash can." I looked around and didn't see a trash can, so I decided to pass on that.
Larry Zeiger sat down at the piano and played. After a few songs, he was joined by Sarah Suhonen, who is the choir director. She sang jazz standards. She looked like a combination of Keri Russell and Natalie Portman. The principal of the school and I were sitting there listening. I didn't know if it was rude that others were talking nearby. I didn't want to look directly at her. I felt that would be awkward, so I glanced around the room and tried to keep my eyes on Larry. I asked Sarah about that later and she said, "It is weird when you are looking directly at someone as you sing. But I don't mind when people are talking. It's a party and we are just supposed to create a mood. It's not like people are coming to a concert hall to hear me sing. It would be rude then for them to talk."
I was talking a lot to Leslie, a 1968 graduate of Point Loma High. Her son Eric Pratt plays drums for the school now. She had made a drum out of glass that was being auctioned off. I asked how she did it and she explained, "I drew it up and made a mold. I filled the mold with crushed glass. It's called frit. Then I put it in the fire for three days at about 1,500 degrees." She also decorated it with school symbols.
Dan Nelson, a professor of music at Point Loma Nazarene University, was here. He does a lot for the music department at PLHS. I talked to one of his former students, John Dally, who is the Point Loma High band director. I asked him if it was tough for the kids, wearing uniforms and tuxedoes on a sunny afternoon, playing their instruments on the front lawn. He said, "They're tough. They can handle it."
I asked him what exactly the job of the conductor is. I remember seeing a story about actor Dudley Moore being allowed to conduct an orchestra. I said, "Aren't the kids really just reading the sheet music? Are they really paying attention to all the hand gestures of the conductor?"
He explained a lot about tempo and if he has worked with them on one specific thing, how a certain hand gesture will remind them of that. He said they do look at both the conductor and the music in front of them and that the conductor is like a coach in sports.
Out by the pool, the Point Loma Nazarene University Jazz Ensemble performed. The pool was huge, and with the lavish gardens all around, one person at the party said to me, "What do you think Scott does for a living that he can own a house like this?" I said, "I don't know, but at least he's cool enough to let charities throw parties here." Former Point Loma High student Glen Fisher finished off the entertainment, playing jazzy tunes on bass with Tom Gates on a steel drum.
Since I had spent a lot of time talking with the people about the high school, I thought I would mingle with others to talk about other topics. I went up to two guys, and they were in the middle of a conversation about how much they loved fencing. I quickly moved on.
I saw one guy who had a beard, but no sideburns. There were two inches of space between his hair and his beard, and it was shaved down in a weird direction. I said something to Leslie about it and she said, "You can't make fun of anyone in this story. It's a fundraiser." Hopefully that guy doesn't read this column. And if he does, maybe he'll think about growing some sideburns. He doesn't have to go Elvis Presley, but there should be something there.