Marie Antoinette wasn’t all that bad. If only she’d had advisers like the Crystal Charity Ball gals to whisper in her ear, “Think charity instead of vanity,” she might have kept her wits and wigged head.
Luckily the CCB ladies used all the beauty, glamour and “awe” factor to raise more than $4M for children’s charities Saturday night at the Hilton Anatole. In fact they even impressed some heady out-of-towners with Le Grand Bal Parisien. But more about those visitors later.
Let’s start at the beginning. It was indeed a grand event under the leadership of CCB Chair Aileen Pratt and her conseiller/event producer extraordinaire Tom Addis.
Before the first slippered toe entered beneath the Arc de Triomphe with French flags on either side and “I Love Paris” and “The Last Time I Saw Paris” playing in the background, the CCB gals had worked until the latest second to make sure even last-minute “oops” were dismissed. For
instance, those nearly 200 candelabra centerpieces with 10 electronic candles and crystals draped in the ballroom had proved to be as temperamental as a crazed prima donna. Earlier in the day they had started showing signs of being overwhelmed by the responsibility of lighting up the room, and required some shoring up. The towering centerpieces were reinforced to perfection like a Sam Hamra facelift. After all, one would never want a candelabra to be a party pooper during the legendary fundraiser.
Even the Anatole’s tried-and-true elephant statues in the lobby outside the Chantilly Ballroom were undercover for the night. Thanks to truckloads of shrubbery and other lively greenery, the Lamberts team concealed the mastodons in a lush garden of colorful flowers. Within this Versailles-like garden of roses and peonies, Emily Bernet in 18th century attire sat prettily in a swing with Eric Coudron giving a gentle push every now and then. Despite a blinding spotlight, the two from the Preston Center Dance studio created a perfect backdrop for guests to be photographed.
Just behind this quaint scene was a magnificent 40-foot tall, gleaming gold Eiffel Tower that seemed to reach to the ceiling of the hotel’s second floor. You were expecting an oil derrick? At the base of the tower were garden statues and, nearby, ice sculptures of the Eiffel Tower atop mountains of shrimp that were the size of lobsters. You were expecting crawfish? Just a few steps away were baskets and arrangements of fruits, cheeses and breads.
On the left of the lobby was the silent auction, with treasures that would have impressed Louis XIV’s court. This year the auction was beautifully divided into six categories (travel, sports, fashion, jewelry, dining and entertainment, and home and garden). And to designate each area, no tacky signs would be allowed. Instead magnificent framed tableaux by local creative royals (Paige Baten-Locke – travel, John Clutts – fashion, Brad Hatton – sports, Sherry Hayslip – jewelry, Tish Key – home and garden and Lynn Sears– dining and entertainment) presided over the biddables. Highlighting some of the scenes were live models (flight attendant, French damsel, equestrian).
On the other side of the lobby were the BBVA Compass casino and gifts and prize shop.
And everywhere were more than 1750 formally attired guests impressing the Anatole guests who wandered through the lobby with their luggage.
As marvelous as the decorations and food in the Anatole’s lobby were, it was still the guests, their fashions and their tidbits of news that complimented the gala.
Fashion-wise — Despite being under the weather and confined to her Anatole suite most of the day, Chair Aileen dazzled in her Oscar de la Renta gown and her own jewelry with husband Jack, children Caroline and Michael and her dad Teodosio Mejia. . . Jennifer Sampson wore her mom-in-law’s vintage Melinda Eng black gown. . . Clad in Vera Wang were Janie Cooke, Lynn
McBee with Loro Piana wrap and Kathleen Gibson . . . Despite the unusually warm first day of December, some gals (Jennifer Clark, in an Oscar cape that she bought at the CCB auction years ago, and Sarah Losinger) decided to play it safe and wore fur stoles and mini-capes. You just never know if the ballroom’s A/C is going to be blowing and going. . . Ah, but the most popular item of the night — Judith Leiber purses. They were being clutched and hung from wrists everywhere (Diane Brierley in Carolina Herrera, Barbara Stuart, Lynn McBee, Jennifer Clark, Katy Bock, to name a few). . . But not all were in brand spanking new gowns. Faye Briggs was in a tomato red Galanos that the late designer fitted on her himself about 30 years ago . . . Barbara
Stuart wore a turquoise gown with wrap from Patti Flowers that she’s had for a couple or so years. . . .Alas, one poor gal had hit the Champagne with such zest that she couldn’t for the life of her remember who designed her ivory gown.
And the men managed to look pretty darn stellar in their formal attire. Hal Brierley in Zegna, Bob Schlegel in Armani tux with black shirt from Brioni, Pete Kline fiddling with his new studs, Coley Clark in a Hadleigh suit and Philip Wier in Joseph Abboud.
Gems of the night— In keeping with the razzle-dazzle of the occasion, jewelry was out in full bloom. DeeDee Lee left her jingle-jangle charm bracelet at home and opted for a cuff, necklace and earrings from DeBoulle. . . CCB 2013 Chair Caren Kline‘s cuff and earrings were from Eiseman’s, as were Catherine Regeher‘s pearls and Faye Briggs’ diamond necklace
and cross . . .Kimberly Schlegel Whitman complemented her low-cut brown Zac Posen with Cindi Chao earrings and a Van Cleef cuff. . . . Roz Colombo‘s all-white diamonds from Graff looked like a universe of stars twinkling through her black hair and Nina Ricci black lace gown. . . And who says the theory about the cobbler’s child applies to the wives of local jewelers? Katy Bock in an oh-so-form-fitting Marchese gown sparkled in Bachendorf jewelry, while Stacy Blank in Diamond Doctor gems chatted with Dallas Deloitte’s First Lady Laura Downing in another low-cut midnight blue Jovani gown.
Some wore marvelous sentimental pieces like Janie Condon, who topped off her Notre Dame green Pamella Roland gown with a choker that belonged to her late grandmother, Juanita Miller. In addition to the necklace, Juanita provided the additional advice, “Hold your head up when you wear these.”. . Francie Moody-Dahlberg highlighted her Marchesa ballgown with Burmese ruby necklace and earrings from her father. . . Lynn McBee’s added
diamond earrings were from her mother. . . A fabulous Tiffany broach on Katherine Coker‘s Aidan Mattox gown was a gift from her father.
Talk About — Since this crowd tends to make headlines, conversations were rather newsy. Myrna in Vicky Teal and Bob Schlegel seemed to be wearing bigger-than-usual smiles, and with good reason. It seems daughters Kimberly Schlegel Whitman (and husband Justin) and Kari Kloewer (and husband Troy) just reported that they’re expecting babies in late spring. The elder Schlegels love nothing more than being grandparents to Kim’s and Justin’s J.R., and now they’ll have two more grand kiddos to adore. . . Faye Briggs was just back from her grandson’s wedding in Mexico. It was a Mayan theme on the beach. . . AT&T’s Holly Reed was talking about the newly announced golf course for South Dallas that AT&T is involved with. “There were so many moving parts,” she said. “And if we do it right, there will be so many more.” Plans call for the course to be able to host a major pro tournament plus the Ryder Cup, at least. . . Longtime Parkie Robbie Briggs recalled the early days of the Highland Park Village.
But even with all those 1700+ types cocktailing, there were some impressive names MIA. Lee Ann and Alan White, Betsy and Jim Sowell and Kelli and Gerald Ford couldn’t make it because they were partying in NYC. Perhaps it had to do with the finalization of Gerald’s Hilltop Holdings acquiring Alan’s PlainsCapital. . . The Deloitte crowd arrived late due to a private pre-gala cocktail party for Deloitte head Barry Salzburg and his wife Evelyn, who had flown in from New York to be at Laura and Jason Downing‘s table.
Another elegant entourage that arrived a bit late into the cocktail party belonged to Annette and Harold Simmons. They had been at Jimmy and Carl Westcotts‘ oh-so-French mansion for cocktails. The group was made up of former Dallasite Craig McCaw and his blonde beauty wife Susan, Robin Baker Fell and husband Bob Fell and Comcast Spectator Chair/Philadelphia Flyers’ owner Ed Snider and Lin Spivak. Ed had made news just days before, revealing that he had proposed to Lin in Santa Barbara last week.
But don’t worry. They were there when the doors opened to the ballroom at 9 and they took their places at the table placed strategically between Aileen’s head table (Su-Su and Jerry Meyer, Sharon and Terry Worrell, Jill and Bob Smith, Sue and Joe Justice, Lana and Barry Andrews and Gloria and Bruce Martindale) and the dance floor. The reason for such prestigious placement? Oh, silly ones. Didn’t you know that once again Annette and Harold presented the CCB with $1M? Within the CCB heavens, that made them the Angels of Grace.
And just as the guests like Lisa and Kenny Troutt, Nancy Dedman sporting a cane after hip surgery, Lauryn Gayle White, Lee Bailey with son Mike Bailey, Rachael and Bob Dedman, Jacqueline Fojtasek, Lydia Novakov with Bishop Kevin Farrell, Gina and Ken Betts, U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Ruth and Ken Altshuler, Nancy and Jeremy Halbreich, Caren Prothro, Barb Reynolds, Amara Durham, Linda and Bill Custard, newlyweds Kristen Johnston and Ladd Sanger, oldie weds Skye and Bill Brewer, Rowland Robinson with daughter Kate Robinson Swail, Michal and Loyd Powell, Conlons (Robyn and Don and son Keith) and Perots (Margot and Ross Sr., and Sarah And Ross Jr.) entered the gloriously decorated ballroom, dancers from various French eras filled the dance floors. Wild can-can dancers kicked up their heels and did splits that boggled the mind. Beautifully elegant 18th century court dancers did the minuet, and pristine Harlequin ballerinas pirouetted and were lifted around the floor. No sooner had one group finished a routine than the next one was in place. It made “Dancing With the Stars” look like an elementary school dance recital. And to make sure that the Pratts’ and Simmons’ guests had a clear view of the proceedings, nicely attired security gents politely but firmly suggested that guests might want to observe the performances from other spots in the room.
In fact at one point in the dancing, a can-can dancer’s white spat went flying and fell on the edge of the dance floor. Somehow it ended up in the Westcotts’ hands. Instead of keeping it as an evening’s souvenir, they had it returned to the dancer.
It seemed that as soon as the professional dancers had scampered off the dance floor, guests including past CCB chairs (Connie O’Neill, Cynthia Mitchell, Debbie Oates, Gloria Martindale, Vicki Chapman, Debbie Snell, Jill Smith, Margo Goodwin, Louise Griffeth, Lydia Novakov, Nancy Chapman, Karen Shuford, Linda Beach, Tincy Miller, Randi Halsell, Barbara Stuart, Sara Martineau and Dee Hughes) realized they had truly entered a splendiferous French wonderland. The oh-so familiar Chantilly Ballroom was no more. Gargantuan murals with
elaborate scenes covered the walls. Gilded statues stood beside even more candelabras on pedestals positioned around the dance floor. What was that? Had one of the statues moved? Yes! The statues were gals a la Goldfinger gilding. They had a marvelous spot to observe the boldface dancers (Trisha Wilson with perfectly toned arms outstretched, Chris Heinbaugh dipping Gillian Breidenbach, Linda and Steve Ivy, Paul and Tiffany Divis, Paige Westhoff with Troy Schiermeyer) fill the dance floor.
But it wasn’t all OMG huge and awesome. The tricky chandeliers that had acted like spoiled debutantes earlier in the day were now behaving themselves. Perhaps it was being paired with breathtaking floral arrangements by Junior Villanueva. Together they created a shimmering glow that made everyone seem younger and more dazzling.
One guest asked her table companion, “Do you think the centerpieces are for sale?” To this question, the companion winked and said, “Honey, for the right price, anything is.”
Speaking of the tables, fortunate were those who had someone fluent in French at their opulent tables. While the French menu rolled off the tongue, the courses proved more interesting when served. The salad was a bit tricky for some. Seems that the exquisite candlelight resulted in some guests trying to pour the cup of supposed brown-looking thick dressing on their salade de homard. Oops; the cup contained foie gras. Unlike guests, the lobster salad did not require a fabulous dressing.
The surprise of the course was the tarte à l’oignon et gruyère. Again, the fabulous lighting of the evening made it a wee bit difficult to see exactly what lay flat on the plate. But after the first bite resulted in “Wow!”, the tiny pie was the first to vanish from the plate.
And then there was that tasty-looking napoleon de caviar. “I love caviar,” a matron said just before cutting into what she thought was a cake filled with the salty black roe. Alas, as she sliced into the little cake, the mini-tower toppled. She then realized that the caviar had only been the topping. Hey, this wasn’t a Russian ball! It was France at its finest to match the efforts of 100 women to raise $4,420,489 for such beneficiaries as Jubilee Park and Community Center, Letot Girls’ Residential Treatment Center, North Texas Public Broadcasting – KERA, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Retain Foundation of the Southwest, Voice of Hope Ministries, the Wilkinson Center and the Crystal Charity Ball Horizon Projects (The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society’s Rory Meyers Children’s Adventure Garden).