There was a magic to Midnight in Paris. It took today’s ultra-cool back to 1920’s Paris when F. Scott Fitzgerald, Alice B. Toklas, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein schmoozed with Josephine Baker, Cole Porter, Picasso and Jean Cocteau.
With that in mind, Dallas Museum of Art’s 2014 Art Ball Chair Gina Betts had ventured to Paris last year to scope out the extreme locales of those golden days. Her journey was a result of a lunch date with DMA Board Chair John Eagle. The ultimate salesman, Eagle took her to lunch at Charlie Palmer, and it wasn’t to sell her a Honda. Cornering Gina in a booth, he notified the attorney that he wasn’t going to let her leave until she agreed to chair the 2014 DMA fundraiser. Eagle knew that Gina was a powerhouse fundraiser. Why, she had set a record when she chaired the 2007 Cattle Baron’s Ball. Since then she had had the Midas Touch for every fundraiser that she had chaired. Gina finally relented, but with one caveat: It had to be her way or the highway. Eagle agreed.
Part of her way included event producer Tom Addis and putting out bids for new vendors. Instead of a tent brought in from another state, she located a North Texas provider, saving bucks. Gina, who was juggling the transition of changing law firms, arranged to have Honorary Co-Chairs Nancy C. and Richard Rogers underwrite the entertainment — Grammy Award winning John Legend and Parisian DJ Stephane Pompougnac.
Another change was the auction house running the silent and live auctions. Again, she went with a hometown team: Heritage Auctions.
Instead of the red carpet entry of the past that slowed arrivals down, it would be a simple check-in after handing the car to valets at the Ross Avenue curb.
Suffering a bit from the $5,000-a-seat sticker shock herself, Gina managed to talk John into loosening up some cheap seats at $2,500.
As the big day approached, however, questions about the silent and live auction started popping up. Why weren’t catalogues being distributed to guests in advance, so they could plan bidding budgets? Yes, the auction was now online during the weeks prior to the gala, but the information was scant.
The night of the gala, there were even guests who had no idea of the offerings. HA auctioneer Mike Sadler advised guests at one point in the live auction that if they didn’t know about Meadowood, they could check the website on their smartphones.
But back to the evening’s developments.
As guests arrived to music a la Edith Piaf and a welcome from a Moulin Rouge Harold Zidler look-alike ringmaster on a pedestal and doormen in top hat and tails, it was obvious that the fashion was a step beyond perfection. Unlike years of yore when the Art Ball’s predecessor, the Beaux Arts Ball, was renowned for lavish costumes, the 2014 version was purely couture on parade including Gina Ginsburg in Herve Leger Runway, Ellen Winspear in Escada, Kris Johnson in Jenny Packham, Terra Perez and Jennifer Eagle in Ralph Lauren, Jacqueline Anderson in Zac Posen, Katy Bock in Herve Leger, Katherine Coker in Marchesa, Debbie Oates in Escada, Deedie Rose in Lela Rose (of course!), Terri Provencal in Binzario, Sunie Solomon in Luca Luca, Shelle Sills in Ann Demeulemeester, Amanda Johnson in Badgley Mischka, Nancy Carlson in Valentino, Holly Davis in Armani and Erin Mathews in Tom Ford.
Holly Deason found a fabulous golden Kaufman Franco. Problem was that due to her recent workouts and resulting weight loss, the Dallas gown was too big. No problem. Her Neiman’s advisor, Angela Malone, found a smaller size in Las Vegas and had it flown in.
One sweet young thing whispered that her budget had resulted in her being a modern-day version of Cinderella. That’s because her gown that retailed for more than $600 was only good for a one-night stand at $150. It had to be shipped back to RentTheRunway.com the next day.
A couple of the ladies managed to adapt 21st century versions for the 1920’s Paris posh theme. Gina wore a limited edition midnight blue beaded Roberto Cavalli gown with a “borrowed” diamond and sapphire necklace. She’s put that on her wish list for the holidays or any other gift-giving occasion.
Nancy Rogers needed no spotlight, thanks to a collection of diamonds and emeralds (barrette in her upswept blonde hair, drop earrings, broach attached to a necklace, mammoth ring and bracelet) and all-diamond choker bracelet and a simple strand of diamonds that extended just perfectly down the back of her dazzling Roberto Cavalli Runway gown.
But the beautiful peeps weren’t girls only. The gents did their best to match the elegance of the occasion and to accommodate their ladies. Following the traditional guaranteed winning tuxedo route were Stubbs Davis in a Kiton and Michael Sills in Brooks Brothers. Michael Domke just blew off the whole dress-up issue by describing his tuxedo as “Mine’s by Legos.”
Alas, one poor chap proved to be supportive but clueless about his wife’s gown. He insisted that she was wearing a Valentino. Wife registered a look of puzzlement but couldn’t recall who the designer was. The following week, he admitted that he had been off by a designer or two. The designer was actually Melinda Eng.
After checking in, the 700 guests strolled up the Concourse to the stairway leading down to the Sculpture Garden that was enclosed in a clear tent.
As another group of formally attired doormen opened the doors to the stairs to the steps, the boldface types ambled down the way lined with lounging models in hand-painted, Picasso-styled bodysuits and headdresses. They appeared so real that some art-loving guests didn’t guess they were actually living, breathing models.
The sea of elegant types filled the tent to the max. How filled was it? So filled that many claimed they didn’t know there was a silent auction in the place. But they had no trouble finding the Golden Girls, whose full metal skirts held rows of champagne filled flutes.
Then, without warning, a bevy of can-can dancers kicked the next part of the evening into place leading the guests up the stairs to a mirrored walkway to a mammoth tented ballroom that was encased in silvery blue pleated gauzy draping with two large flatscreens on the far sides of the area.
Some noted that the space was smaller than the 2013 arena. Correcto!
Unlike last year, when the tent extended to include the towering orange Mark di Suvero sculpture, the decision was made to not extend the ballroom tent to include the sculpture. Instead the huge orange metal artwork was hunkering down in an adjacent tent, where Cassandra’s catering army was prepping.
Gina attributed the look to Tom Addis, saying he “made all my visions come to life. I cried when I saw it. He is amazing.”
Unfortunately, getting the hundreds to settle down in their seats was challenging, so dinner was stalled. Finally, DMA’s Max Anderson took to the stage to welcome all and recognized chair Gina and mega donors. As he prepared to toast honorees John and Jennifer Eagle, the ever-smooth and elegant Max realized that he was without a toasting glass.
Luckily, Nancy Rogers was seated front row center and came to his rescue offering her glass to complete the tribute.
Before dinner got underway, Heritage Auctions’ Mike Sadler took his place on stage to auction off the eight remarkable items.
Once again the Rogers team came to the rescue, with Lady Nancy providing the top bids for the Sue Gragg rings and the Joule hotel weekend. The Rogers’ dinner companions Michael Flores won the shopping spree in NYC, and Doug Barnes bought a black Birkin purse, as wife Molly happily looked on.
For bargain hunters, it was a gold mine. . . if they were listening. A number of the table chatted throughout the auction, missing out on the treasures.
As the final paddle was raised, it was time for dinner and table-hopping. While visiting tables is a tried-and-true indoor sport, it can result in traffic jams for servers and the delaying of the rest of the program.
Finally, after the last table was served the entrée of tournedos of beef, foie gras and Roquefort pâté aux pomme de terre, fricassee of wild mushrooms, spring garlic, grand claret cotes de Bordeaux réduction, John Legend took his place at the baby grand on the stage surrounded by a guitarist and less than a handful of violinsts. Those in-the-know like Barbara Daseke were thrilled to have the world-famous musician on the premises playing. But a surprising number of guests were wondering, “Who’s the guy at the piano? He’s good. Is he local?”
Legend crooned his way into the hearts and ears of the vast majority. However, one local doyenne admitted later that she had fallen asleep somewhere between “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and “All of Me.”
But as Legend finished his final song with no encore, the clock was approaching midnight, the bewitching hour both for parents with waiting babysitters and older folks wanting to head for home. Like salmons heading upstream, guests made their way to the doors heading for the valet or the after-hours party in the Sculpture Garden. The “upstream” challenge resulted from the parade of servers with foamy chocolate mousse cake with caramel sabayon sauce desserts heading for the abandoned tables. As a result, over half of the yummy desserts ended up uneaten. Those who stayed to sample the chocolate goodie had no regrets as they gobbled up every bite. One socialite, upon seeing the untouched desserts, gathered some up to “take home for my kids.”
While in his Legend made time for photos with VIP’s including Entertainment Chair Tanya Foster in his tour bus and then headed to his suite at Fairmont to join his wife Chrissy Teigen, Art Ball guests who still wanted to party made a beeline to the Sculpture Garden. There the after-party chaired by Kameron and Court Westcott and Chart Westcott was underway with Parisian DJ Stephane Pompougnac looking right at home setting the pace for the festivities. In keeping with the evening’s theme, Anna-Sophia van Zweden appeared on the stairs wearing a delicious off-the-shoulder white Vionnet.
For those who had to bypass the after-party and head home, they found La Madeleine desserts and coffees set up along the museum’s circular driveway. As French music played, some of the ladies found their stiletto heels didn’t cotton to the cobblestone driveway. One observer noted that four of the ladies had already “gone down.”