Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball

Dinner Under the Wings of Endeavour at the California Science Center’s Amazing Discovery Ball


One of my favorite bits on the Jimmy Kimmel Show is his “amazing” meter, in which the talk show host measures the inordinate number of times the word is used on TV’s “The Bachelor.”  More recently, he set the meter running for the Academy Awards red carpet coverage with the resulting “amazing” tally climbing to 101.

So unless I’m quoting someone, I tend not to use this wildly overused word. That said, I can’t think of a better way than “amazing” to describe seeing the Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball, aka, the “Galactic Gala,” which raised $1.5 million for the museum’s science and educational programs.

After the cocktail reception Mar. 9, more than 800 guests had the good fortune to dine beneath the 1,700 pound shuttle. To enhance the effect, thanks to a video projection of the universe on the walls, the stars streamed past all through dinner and the program as though we were all speeding through space.

Seated across from the table from me, beside her husband former Los Angeles Laker Norm Nixon, Debbie Allen of “Fame” recalled choreographing the show for the Endeavour’s stop at Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Boulevard en route to the California Science Center in Exposition Park. Cirque du Soleil acrobats and 100 dancers dressed as “Men In Black” played a part.

Despite delays causing Endeavour to be hours behind schedule in its slow journey through Inglewood and Southern Los Angeles, Allen said the many thousands of onlookers remained vigilant, eagerly anticipating the sight of the spacecraft in their neighborhood. “They waited,” Allen said, repeating the words, “They waited.”

She spoke with enthusiasm of the wide eyes of the children who watched when Endeavor passed, how the spectacle gave them ownership of the shuttle and a sense of empowerment.

In speeches, California Science Center president Jeffrey Rudolph talked of the planned Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, projected to open in 2018, which will house Endeavour in its vertical launch position. Philanthropist Lynda Oschin then talked of her late husband’s enthusiasm for such projects, having traveled to the North Pole, the Amazon and the Alps, the latter trip done like Hannibal, by elephant.

Noting that he’s about to be “riding off into the sunset, but not quite yet,” Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa followed next. “We celebrate the dreams of children today,” he said, talking of the shuttle’s ability to inspire youngsters to become the astronauts, scientists and engineers of tomorrow. 

Dinner concluded with an auction, conducted by Chris Schauble, co-anchor of KTLA’s Morning News, a late night screening of the IMAX “Hubble 3D” film; and an after-hours night club, complete with masses of cupcakes in a “Cupcake Wars” display, an ice cream bar and live band to keep people dancing until midnight.

Event co-chairs Raul Anaya and Michelle Kerrick welcomed more than a few space VIPs, including astronauts Daniel Olivas and Garrett Reisman; actress June Lockhart of TV’s “Lost in Space,” JPL director Charles Elachi, Project Endeavour advisor Soboroff, former NASA administrator Dan Golden and NASA’s Center Director David McBride of the Dryden Flight Research Center on Edwards Air Force Base.

Also on hand were the California Science Center Foundation’s board chair Tom Soto, Jim Lentz of Toyoto, Ed Roski and Gail Garner Roski, the illustrator of Olivas’ forthcoming children’s book from East West Discovery Press.

The event committee also included vice-chairs Edna Anderson-Owens of the Berry Gordy Family Foundation, Kent Caldwell Meeks of Wells Fargo Wealth Management Group, Pierro Habis of Union Bank, Art Lofton of Northrop Grumman Corporation, Andrew Sale of Ernst & Young, Martha Saucedo of AEG and Christopher Warmuth of City National Bank.


Top photo: From left, former Los Angeles Laker Norm Nixon, Debbie Allen of “Fame” and William T. Harris: Senior VP Development and Marketing beside the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball (photo: Lee Salem, courtesy of the California Science Museum)

Second photo: The museum’s president Jeffrey Rudolph and Lynda Oschin at dinner with the Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball (photo: Lee Salem, courtesy of the California Science Museum)

Third photo: From left, Marie Olivas, astronaut Daniel Olivas and Gail Garner Roski during the cocktail reception celebrating the Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball (photo: SocietyNewsLA.com)

Fourth photo: Debbie Allen of “Fame” and NASA Center Director David McBride beneath the wing of the space shuttle Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball (photo: SocietyNewsLA.com)

Fifth photo: Internet dating expert Julie Spira, left, and the author, Ellen Olivier, with “astronaut” Omar Chavez during the cocktail reception at the Discovery Ball, celebrating the space shuttle Endeavour.



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Endeavour at the California Science Center Discovery Ball

Published Mar. 11, 2013, updated Mar. 19 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA