SAN DIEGO — In 1981, News 8 reporter Gene Cubbison hit the town with San Diego Union-Tribune social reporter Burl Stiff to get a glimpse of high society in San Diego. The three-part series featured a fundraising ball by a local hospital, a pre-Halloween costume party hosted by a Balboa Park museum, and an extravagant La Jolla wedding reception.
Enjoy this look back at how the other half lived in San Diego in the early '80s. You can watch all three parts in the video player above or explore each part below. And we have an update with the bride featured in part 3 of the series!
In part one, we are welcomed into “one of the biggest society events of the year” - the Mercy Hospital Ball at the Hilton Hotel. It is one of several dozen events Burl will cover in a month for the newspaper, according to the clip. The hostess of the fundraising party – Carol Alessio – spoke with News 8 about how she wrangled busy San Diego socialites for her event. The ball cost attendees $125 a plate but the real money maker was an art auction. The future first female mayor of San Diego, and then commissioner of the Port of San Diego, Maureen O’Connor - and her twin sister who was married to a doctor – were among those on the newsworthy guest list for that year’s Mercy Ball. Maureen commented that “it’s a big coup if Burl covers your event.” Then San Diego Police Chief and longtime lawman Bill Kolender also spoke with News 8 about the event and supporting the hospital.
The next social event in the series was also a fundraiser, but with a much different look. For part two, News 8 followed Burl Stiff to the “Haunted Museum of Man” preview. Event planners were hoping to get their preview written up by Burl ahead of the main Halloween-time event. The costume party featured a $25 per couple buffet and live entertainment including a dance number complete with a live band. Burl also gave News 8 a look at how he directed his photographer and then chose photos to go along with his column.
In part three of the high society series, Burl took us to a different type of event – a wedding reception for Keith and Anseth Richards. The swanky party at the La Jolla Country Club sprawled across two levels with inside and outside festivities and 500 guests. Anseth credited her mother Betty Page Alexander – a former Texas socialite – with organizing the posh wedding. Betty Page and Burl both spoke about the differences in Texas vs. San Diego high society.
The Richards are still happily married nearly 40 years later and have four children. It turns out Anseth Richards is now an event planner who organizes fundraisers and, of course, weddings. She spoke with News 8 in January 2020. Hear her thoughts on this look back at her wedding and her work on charitable events today.