LOS ANGELES The California Science Center is a museum for children, and when its annual gala comes around, the benefit draws on its expertise in creating interactive environments that are fun for kids. After all, gala guests are just bigger kids with bigger wallets. The benefit always celebrates a new exhibit, but Science Center folk know better than to peg their fund-raiser to a show about something dry and useful like, say, physics. For the past several years, the museum has ridden the coattails of science-fiction crowd-pleasers that explore the joys of superheroes and robots, and this year was no different. The ninth annual black-tie gala hailed the opening of the traveling exhibit “Star Wars: Where Science Meets the Imagination.”
Christina Sion, vice president of food and event services, began toying with her 840 guests as soon as they stepped out of their cars. Revelers walked down a red carpet lined with 501st Legion members—Star Wars fans so intense they own their own Rebel Trooper costumes—who volunteered to help animate the event. Fortunately for the Science Center, the George Lucas saga has zillions of fans, and more than 70 Star Wars characters from the 501st Legion turned out to transform the mezzanine overlooking the main lobby into the cantina from the film. There, Chewbacca and Luke Skywalker posed for pictures with guests, contortionists from Karla Ross Productions contorted in Twilex costumes with elaborate headdresses borrowed from Lucasfilm, and bartenders served drinks in glowing plastic glasses at bars decorated with boulders lit from inside.
For dinner, the lobby was recast as an Imperial Star Destroyer, with illuminated planetlike spheres looming over tables covered in silver satin cloths, sparkly chargers, and clusters of white orchids and roses in glass vases filled with pebbles and mirror shards. As Rebel Troopers guarded the room from a raised platform against a wall, guests feasted on wild-mushroom tarts, Kobe-beef tenderloin with parsnip and spinach cakes, and dark Belgian-chocolate pyramids. Then it was on to a showing of the IMAX film Destiny in Space and dancing until 1 AM in the red-and-black Vader Room on the first floor of the Science Center. Green lasers and large boxes containing humanoids pushing against the stretchy fabric fronts to form moving sculptures gave the temporary nightclub plenty of space-age atmosphere. Grown-ups wielding lightsabers danced to covers performed by a band from Ace of Hearts and indulged in all kinds of interactive play, including a high-tech video roller coaster from Party Pals and an oxygen bar provided by Airheads Oxygen Bars. Guests left with gift bags of Neutrogena products and a DVD of the original Star Wars film.
Photos: Nadine Froger Photography