For every Crystal Charity Ball, there is a Cattle Barons’ Ball. Meaning? For every very formal event, there is a very informal one. In a big old area like North Texas, there is a need for both.
All of this is to explain that the Dallas Symphony Orchestra League‘s 25th Annual Deb Ball Saturday night at the Meyerson was the new-kids-on-the-block, you-go-girl counterpart to the venerable Idlewild. Perhaps that’s why 41 young ladies donned white gowns and “bowed to society,” as opposed to the four debs who did their thang for the 127th Idlewild ball back in November.
One could tell from the pre-bow reception in the Meyerson’s lower level that this debut was not going to be a proper, stuffy affair. With hundreds of all types of guests in black- and white-tie attire jamming together in the Black Hole of Formality, there was a sense of mayhem in the room. The poor woman “manning” the will-call desk had a glass of red wine by her box of cards. The glass was hardly ever touched because of the lineup of people trying to call. Pity the poor ladies who opted for billowing gowns. Trying to make it through this crowd was like trying to park a full-blown SUV in a compact parking space.
Early arrivals staked out chairs and benches. They weren’t budging. Nope, squatters’ rights were in full bloom.
One bar was five deep with the formally-attired trying to get a refreshment, while across the way was a bar waiting for anyone to ask for a drink.
“I’ve never seen it so unorganized,” said one veteran. Another guest laughed, “This is typical of the DSO balls.” They knew the debs would survive the bow; the guests would watch and eat; and money would be raised for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Since its inception, the DSOL deb ball has provided $8.5 million to the DSO.
7:40 p.m. — The first peal of the Meyerson bells rang through the building. No one except the staff made any motion to move to the upper levels. Slowly the “vintage members” of the guests started the climb up the marble stairs. They knew that they’d need a head start to get to their seats in the hall.
7:45 p.m. — A second round of bells sounded through the building. Or, perhaps it was the bells from the Cathedral across the street? A voice from on high was saying something. Maybe it was the Almighty. It was hard to understand over the noise arising from the lower level. One male guest trekking up the stairs told a passerby, “I’m ready to go home, watch basketball, eat pizza and drink a better bottle of wine.”
In the crowd now filling the staircase were Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, Terri Brittingham, Yvonne and Mayo Crum, Dee and Charles Wyly, Nancy Dedman, Honor Franklin and Carolyn Lupton. Howard was still raving about the Super Bowl. “We were a little overwhelmed by the whole celebrity thing,” said Howard, extolling how nice Hugh Jackman had been during the Audi Forum at the Rachofsky House.
7:52 p.m. — It was last call with bells pealing and lights flashing off and on. Sorta reminded you of your folks signaling that it was time to come in from an extended stay in the car out front. This time it worked. The herd of swells carefully made the final march up the stairway. Probable future deb Lili Kelly (7 years) with her folks Elizabeth and Seth Kelly was having a lot better luck with her outfit than some of the older gals, who had to hike up their low-cut gowns or watch their skirts being stepped on.
Two older-type ladies, who really should have known better, decided to stop at the top of the stairs for a chat causing a traffic jam with no spare lane for guests to use.
Down in the lower level, the overworked bartender was happily shooting the breeze with the officers on duty.
8:20 p.m. — Inside the main concert hall, the presentation was starting to take life. The announcer suggested that the guests show their approval of each of the debs in a proper fashion. That was the first warning that this wasn’t going to be a stuffy presentation of 41 individuals.
First the committee, honor guard and other guards were presented. With perfect posture and serious facial expressions, the young gents took their places perfectly on the stage. It was just too bad that most of them were wearing their fathers’ trousers, or opted not to have them hemmed at the rental store. Too-long, baggy trousers just take away from the look on the stage.
Then it was time for the presentation of the long-haired debs themselves. Twas not a split end among them. In white gowns that probably cost as much as small cars and required more talent in creation, the girls were individually introduced, escorted by their fathers downstairs to the stage, and kissed on the cheek by their fathers. Then the debs made the infamous all-the-way-down bows with arms fully extended to the sides of the stage. It was at this moment in history that one learned whether the deb’s escort had a sadistic streak. If he was at her side instantly to help her rise from this deep bow, he was regarded as a kind soul. However, a couple of the young gents took their time and the young women struggled to maintain a power yoga posture.
(Editor’s note: Before you start raising your eyes thinking, “What’s the big deal about this deep bow?”, think again. Better yet — when nobody’s looking just try to bow with your forehead nearly touching the ground. Now, consider doing that same bow in high heels, with flowers in one hand and about a thousand people staring at you. Go ahead, just try. We won’t look.)
In the meantime, the crowds were divided into two camps. Older types, who were largely lodged near the stage and in the orchestra level, applauded very properly and smiled their approval. Their grannies would have been proud of them.
The other group was seated toward the back of the floor and along orchestra terrace. They treated each presentation like a pep rally on steroids. Standing and waving their arms, they didn’t hold back. Smartphones were in overdrive capturing their buddies’ debut. Think Grace Kelly goes Mesquite Rodeo. You sorta expected a wave to break out at any moment.
Despite all the shouting, hooting and hollering, there was one sound that reverberated throughout the hall. What was that? It sounded much like a beer bottle toppling over on the marble floor. No sooner had the all-too-familiar clunk hit ears than Meyerson staff honed in on a group of young men at the back of the orchestra seating.
After the full presentation was completed, the guests moseyed out to the lobby for the first dance of the debs with their parents.
One dad was asked who had wanted this night to happen more — his wife or his daughter? He responded, “My wife. . . and my daughter.”
But this was a Cattle Barons version of deb life and everyone — mother, daughter, father and over-the-top friends — had a heck of a good time.