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The California Science Center's big annual fund-raiser, the Discovery Ball, doubles as the kickoff for the museum's blockbuster show du jour. Exhibitions in past years have centered on the science behind superheroes and Star Wars, themes that inspired vice president of food and event services Chris Sion to populate her parties with men in capes and stormtrooper costumes. But those assignments seem like a walk in the proverbial park in the face of this year's challenge: designing an event around the opening of “Body Worlds 3 & the Story of the Heart: the Original Exhibition of Real Human Bodies”—in other words, blood and guts, or rather, plastinated guts.
Fortunately for the 850 guests at the 10th annual ball on Saturday evening, Sion didn't take her inspiration too literally—although she couldn't resist sprinkling the cocktail area with skeletons, big and small. The first portion of the evening had the theme “blueprints to bones,” and as guests arrived in black tie, they herded toward a side entrance opening onto the construction area for the “World of Ecology” exhibition site, phase two of the science center's master plan. Male and female models in yellow hard hats and tool belts pointed guests toward the second-floor Walt Disney Foundation Science Court, where the skeletons held sway.
Servers poured Mumm Napa champagne in plastic glasses gripped by skeletal hands, which also clutched glass holders for votives. One bar stood in front of a wall lined with mirrors framed by golden bones. Cirque-style acrobats performed in nude-colored costumes embellished with red and blue arteries and veins, while some guests toured the latest incarnation of the popular traveling exhibit of skinned bodies frozen in athletic poses.
For dinner in the J. Howard Edgerton Court in the first-floor lobby, Sion took a more impressionistic approach, borrowing from the body's palette for the party's blood-red decor. Red was the color of the tablecloths, giant lamp shades, tall rose centerpieces, velvet draping, and the frame of a large scrim—behind it, acrobats made shadow pictures during dinner. Ergo, the dinner's theme: “The heart of the matter.” Guests arrived at their tables to find their napkins draped over the back of their seats, held in place by a silver-colored clip in the shape of an ear. They dined on an artichoke, eggplant, and leek tower with feta cheese; California sea bass bourride of fennel, leeks, and roasted tomatoes; and white chocolate and pistachio ice cream in Florentine tuile.
After dinner, nearly half the crowd streamed over to the IMAX Theater for an hourlong screening of Mummies 3D: Secrets of the Pharaohs, while others cruised the Body Worlds exhibit. The more intrepid guests closed down the party at Sion's signature after-dinner nightclub, dubbed the Body Electric. She created a discofied lounge area, with pink, green, and yellow gobos and pink neon tubing in the shape of mudflap girls. Models handed out mini disco balls like the dozens over the dance floor, while revelers relaxed amid parsons tables topped with brain-shaped lights and other electric delights. Guests left with pens in the shape of finger bones and supplements from event and exhibition presenting sponsor Herbalife.