There are public speakers with tightly prepared scripts and teleprompters. Then there people who chat and just make the audience feel like they’re catching up with an old friend. Carolyne Roehm is the latter and perhaps that is what endeared her to the 500+ ladies who lunched Tuesday at Brook Hollow. Benefiting The Salvation Army of Dallas, the event had been put together within three months. Even fundraising veteran Ruth Altshuler was amazed at this speed — “Something like this normally takes at least six months to organize.”
But back to Carolyne.
Even before heading to the dining room, Carolyne was nestled in the Grill with a line of fans holding her latest book, A Passion for Interiors, for an autograph by the lifestyle empress. But that line ended up being longer than the lines waiting for Santa. Two reasons for the long lines were
- Everyone wanted her to sign their copy of A Passion for Interiors.
- Carolyne (pictured right with guest) just didn’t sign and wave bye-bye. She had a one-on-one chat with each guest.
When it became apparent that it would take most of the day for Carolyne to autograph each book at that rate, it was decided that the show had to go on. Those in need of autographs were advised to head to Neiman’s Downtown Wednesday, when Carolyne would be making a PA.
But still things hit a hitch in the road. And that was the hitch. Luncheon Chair Heather Furniss (pictured right with daughter Ashley Furniss) was facing the age-old problem — stall the lunch for the late arrivals stuck on the traffic jam outside or proceed with the schedule. Proceed it was, with Distinguished Woman Jan Strimple calling the ladies to order and introducing Salvation Army Captain Michelle Matthews, who was subbing in for her husband for the invocation. It was the first time since the ladies started assembling that silence ruled the room, but it didn’t last. Once Michelle said, “Amen,” the gals started gabbing non-stop. Too bad, because they missed Jan’s telling them about the numerous accomplishments of The Salvation Army in Dallas. One woman, who obviously was not attending her “first rodeo,” not only chatted throughout Jan’s talk, she also distracted others from hearing. After the talkative guest had worn out the ears at the table, she start texting friends. Perhaps Carolyne’s next book should be “A Passion for Good Manners.”
Finally a few folks started shushing the others. They were just in time because it was announced that the beautiful white overflowing floral arrangements in blue and white (Carolyne’s fav colors) vases were going for practically nothing. Lucky were those who heard the announcement as evidenced by the parade of the centerpieces leaving after the luncheon.
Then lunch was served at 12:30 p.m. By 12:50 Jan was back at the podium introducing Carolyne.
As she tried to get up from her chair, Carolyne found that the tight seating was going to be a challenge. Making it up to the stage, she admitted that she was not graceful and that her life had not been as seamless as Jan had described in her intro.
Then she launched into a synopsis of her life —
- starting of as a designer of “Mrs. Polyester Stretch Pants” for Sears + Roebuck,
- being a protege of Oscar de la Renta,
- launching her own business,
- deciding to get out of NYC when her 1993 divorce from Henry Kravis made the New York Times,
- studying Shakespearean tragedy in England because her life was a tragedy at that point,
- working for free in a French floral shop,
- taking cooking lessons where her assignment was gutting fish,
- her beloved 1765 Weatherstone home burning down in 1999 and,
- her rebuilding Weatherstone with fewer but bigger rooms and 76 windows.
Taking a deep breath, she then admitted that in preparing for her trip to Texas, where all the woman are beautiful, she’d had some Botox injected. Unfortunately, it had backfired on her with the injections leaving bruising. That comment brought laughter and many nodding heads that appeared to commiserate with Carolyne’s efforts.
Then she launched into what the interior decorating types were longing to hear — her insights on home furnishings. Since not everyone could stay for her tips, here are a few:
- Harmony and comfort are essential.
- Always have a “wood room.” It provides a sense of warmth.
- The bedroom is the woman’s domain.
- Doesn’t have (or need) a dining room. “When you get a divorce, your social schedule drops.”
- Weatherstone’s 11 fireplaces are all wood burning. “I’ve schlepped more wood than all of you put together!”
- Nature is the big influence.
- Dark (wood) rooms are great for those days when you have a hangover.
As the last slide appeared saying “Thank you” 40 minutes later, Carolyne was finished with her program. But she continued adding to her collection of friends in Dallas.