The AIDS Services Foundation of Orange County, commemorating 25 years of fighting the insidious disease, recently held what organizers called "The Red Ball 1985" in Laguna Beach, which raised $300,000 for the foundation. More than 400 guests converged on the property known as The Festival of Arts for a sunset cocktail reception, auction and dinner catered by Mark's of Laguna Beach. Maria Marquez, president of the board of directors, welcomed the upbeat crowd. It included a host of celebrity guests, including Emmy Award-winning comedian Leslie Jordan, who had the crowd in hysterics with his standup routine.

While partygoers dined on a pear salad and an entrée of filet medallions, donors checked out the silent auction prior to an after dinner video that outlined the progress of the foundation since its founding in 1985 by a handful of volunteers in the community. Today the AIDS Services Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive nonprofit provider of services in Orange County for people affected by HIV/AIDS.

The Newport coastline came alive with the sounds of jazz emanating from the beach at Crystal Cove. It was the late summer "Rum Runners Party on the Sand" benefiting the Crystal Cove Alliance. Presented by platinum sponsor the Pelican Hill Resort, 400 guests dedicated to the preservation of the idyllic oceanfront cove came together for the eighth annual beach gala, ultimately raising $223,000 for preservation efforts. A remarkable success representing nearly a 30% increase in donations over last year's gala at a time when the economy is clearly not in overdrive.

Laura Davick, founder and director for the Alliance, was on hand to welcome generous supporters and distinguished guests including Newport Beach City Councilwoman Leslie Daigle, Rep. John Campbell, Director of California State Parks Ruth Coleman and Assemblyman Pedro Nava. The lively evening which took on a 1930s prohibition era theme was chaired by Teddie Ray and Linda Kennedy with support from local donors, including Kerry and Gavin Herbert Jr., Wendy and Rick Aversano, Louise and Dan Brigham, Carol and John Cummings, Lucy Bender, Tammy Wong, William Steele III and Jill Schrader Steele, and Wayne and Dona Leicht. Also spotted in the crowd were Tracey and Ron Cloud, Stephanie Beek, John Sandberg, and Julie and Jeff Hart.

Ruth Ko is unquestionably one of Orange County's most remarkable women. For more than two decades she ran Orange Coast Magazine, turning it into a major media outlet in the community, ultimately selling the publication to a national firm in a multimillion-dollar transaction. Following the sale of her business she decided to follow a dream and study the art of sculpture. Several years of study and studio work culminated Oct. 7 in Ko's premiere gallery opening at the prestigious William Merrill Art Gallery in Laguna Beach.

For those who admire sculpture, this is a must visit exhibition which continues through November in the South Coast Highway Merrill showroom. Working in the most difficult mediums of stone and metal, Ko has created a marvelous suite of work that is subtle, highly imaginative, serenely beautiful and even sensually provocative in subject matter.

Looking chic in a off the shoulder red jersey dress, Ko welcomed friends and well wishers, including Pelican Point's Sandy and Harriett Sandhu and Irv and Gloria Zigner of Harbor Ridge. For more information log onto http://www.williammerrillgallery.com.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.