Stefanie Powers Empties the Polo Lounge to Try the Polo Lunge

updated 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/07/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Some of them rode polo ponies. Some stayed at the bar. But dozens of celebrities turned out for a good cause—Hart to Hart (as in the TV show) plays polo for the William Holden Wildlife Foundation. The fund raiser was for the late actor's pet project, a wildlife education center at the foot of Africa's Mount Kenya.

The Sunday afternoon event was not without traumas—danger, mystery, cheap thrills and, of course, cowardice. Robert Wagner, who co-stars in Hart to Hart with Stefanie Powers, 41, Holden's longtime companion, said he'd hurt his back taping a Hart segment two days earlier. So R.J., 53, begged off when Powers, the organizer, began to choose up sides for the polo game. Instead, Wagner threw out the first ball and presented the winners' trophy.

The volatile but always interesting Middle East provided the mystery as a Saudi prince, known to the Beverly Hills set only as Omar, slipped Stefanie Powers a check for $5,000 (boxholders paid a nominal $100 admission which included a Ma Maison lunch and mingling rights). After handing over his contribution, Omar declined to saddle up with the cryptic remark, "I'm one Arab who doesn't."

Larry Hagman of Dallas provided the cheap thrills, wowing the crowd of 2,500 at the Griffith Park Equestrian Center, a few blocks from the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., by riding around the ring throwing dollar bills to spectators. And the cowardice was cheerfully provided by Real People producer George Schlatter, who recalled the last time he was on a horse, and politely refused to repeat the error. "I wound up under the beast, clinging to its belly," he explained. "I'm not supposed to be on a bar stool without a net."

According to Powers, who led her team of three onto the field for the match (they lost, 3-2), the event raised $130,000. Plans for the center, which is designed to help Kenyans conserve their wildlife heritage, had already been drawn up when Holden died suddenly in 1981. "We were just waiting for him to get around to it," the actress said wistfully. He never did, but now Stefanie has broken ground.

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