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Gone are the days of the Junior Leaguers’ image of white-gloved ladies with perfect posture sitting properly in Roberts Rules of Order fashion. Last Saturday night (February 26) the 21st century Junior Leaguers of Dallas still had the perfect posture, but they were more in tribal motion in couture gowns for “Into Africa” at the Hilton Anatole.
Blame it all on Ball Chair D’Andra Simmons, who rallied the ladies, beaus, families, friends and underwriters to beat the drums in raising a whopping $1,192,203. Little did guests know that the final number will probably top $1.2 million, since D’Andra still had “$100,000 in asks” out there. Regardless, she topped the JLD record book for “the most ever raised pre-ball.”
To help the dark-haired beauty achieve her goal, she had two very important sidekicks — mom Dee Simmons and beau friend Colin Duchin.
Thanks to Colin, Duchin Dad/NYC society pianist/orchestra leader Peter Duchin was right at home with a Steinway at his fingertips and his 10-piece band posse. His reputation for “making” galas legendary was nicely in place Saturday. Throughout the safari-style ballroom, “A Tisket a Tasket,” “That’s Life,” “At Last” and “Route 66” kept the dance floor deliciously jammed among huge African masks, blankets, spears and sky-high palm trees. On both sides of the bandstand were mammoth video screens with continuous footage of African animals in hot pursuit of victims. Luckily, the videos didn’t reveal the end result of the high-energy chase.
Speaking of energy, there’s one thing you’ve got say about JLD-ers and their gal pals — in order to whoop it up, they don’t need a fella. The ladies with arms raised and big old smiles danced solo, with each other and in packs. Leading the dancing and partying was, of course, D’Andra plus Leigh Bailey, Katy Bock, Mary Gill and Elizabeth Tripplehorn. Their dates and husbands just sat back and enjoyed the dance floor action.
But that’s not to say that this was a Gen X-ers’ Only affair. Heck, no!
That’s where D’Andra’s other asset came through in spades. Mother Dee, who turned 70 on Tuesday, opted to postpone the birthday celebration until the evening. Thanks to this decision, many of her coterie of buds showed up to do more that politely sit tableside. These party veterans weren’t about to let the under-40-set commandeer the dance floor. Thanks to Faye Briggs with favorite BF Ralphie Gorman, Doris and Jack Jacobs, Carmaleta Whiteley and Weldon Ward, Dulany and Vicki Howland and Linda and Steve Ivy, they showed the younger set the other side of big-band dancing. You know. The kind where the dancers actually dance together.
Others in the vintage set were Sara and David Martineau, still receiving congrats for their Juanita and Henry S. Miller Founders Award for the opera on Tuesday; Peggy Sewell in a very bare shoulder, canary-yellow Carolina Herrera with husband Carl front row center; Linda and Bill Custard also on the congratulations tour for Linda’s receiving the “Hearts of Texas” award on Wednesday; and Ruth and Ken Altshuler ducking out early. After all those two are out every night, it seems.
But Dee wasn’t the only birthday gal in the room. Laura Leppert also had a busy birthday week. Having turned 58 on Friday, she also stood by recently ex-mayor/husband Tom Leppert as he announced his run for the U.S. Senate. Boy, talk about a birthday gift! But, alas, she was already suffering the fate of many political widows Saturday night, waiting alone for her guy to arrive. It seems the ex-mayor Tom had another stop before hitting the Anatole. But the moment he arrived, Tom was seen private-conferencing with Colin and Peter during a break. Hmm, maybe Tom is looking for a gig? If he had heard Peter’s talk with Booker T. Washington students Friday, he probably was. It seems that after “jamming” with the students, Peter was asked what a society band was. Peter told ’em it’s “Where they pay you to play a gig. Getting paid for a gig is good.”