There wasn’t much time to recover from the Saturday, October 18 Cattle Baron’s Ball. But no excuses would do Sunday or Monday, since the annual Kappa Kappa Gamma Tablescapes two-day fundraiser was underway at the Dallas Country Club. Showcasing the extremely talented professionals and should-bes, the event takes place just before the holidays really go into overdrive. The settings inspired hosts and hostesses for
Sunday, October 19 — Candlelight
The evening was the stuff that mega-advertising firms hope for when trying to promote a new convertible. The humidity was low. The breeze was just enough to make long hair flow perfectly. The temperature was ideal for bare shouldering it.
Within the Dallas Country Club, there was not a pore or line in sight thanks to the hundreds of glowing candles. And these candles were perfectly poised on dozens and dozens of beautifully decorated and dolled up tables. The King’s Winter Feast boasted shields, swords and antiquities in north grill. Holt Haynsworth’s table was a scene from Colorado with Aspens, a glass top covering decorative moss and photos from past shoots in the main grill. (Holt told his mom Lyn Barlow that he was unleashing his inner feminine self to create the table.) Junior Villanueva’s table in the gallery had stumped some, but clever guests like Jill Rowlett immediately figured it out. It was an upside down tree with roots reaching to the ceiling and tulips and tree limbs pointing downward with the leafy branches covering the table.
And while guests queued up for the buffet and silent auction in the main northern side of the ballroom, the vast majority checked out the tables throughout the clubhouse. For within 24 hours, they would be a Kappa Kappa Gamma Tablescape memory and its proceeds would be going to Catch UP and Read, Child Care Group, Contact, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Dwell With Dignity, Mosaic Dallas, New Friends New Life, Promise House, VNA/Meals on Wheels and the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation.
No sooner had the last guests driven away from Candlelight, then the tables were redressed in preparation for the sold-out Monday luncheon in which guests attended a lecture by bon vivant Alex Hitz and then dined at the tables. And, yes, a lot of candles had to be snuffed out.
Monday, October 20 – Luncheon
Tablescapes Co-Chairs/Sisters Christine Ward Flanagan and Caroline Ward Williams had everything in perfect order. For the pair it was a three-generation occasion with mother Charlya Ward and grandmother Martha Ward on hand.
Monday morning guests returned to the club that is usually closed this one day of the week. They started arriving at 10 a.m. to view the tables with their finery and meet some of the designers.
At 11:30, they gathered in the ballroom to recognize Debbie Oates as the Platinum Key Honoree and Charlotte Anderson for being the recipient of the Fraternity Alumnae Achievement Award. However, Tablescapes Co-Founder Louise Griffeth had something up the sleeve of her brand new very Kappa Kappa Gamma dress (It was covered in key prints). She had managed to get floral genius Junior Villanueva to sit in the audience. The man who along with his Garden Gate crew create magnificent masterpieces in vases or ballrooms shies away from the applause and limelight. Instead, he prefers to let his handiwork be out front.
As Louise addressed the filled-to-capacity ballroom, she nervously admitted that she was treading on thin ice in calling attention to Junior. But once she did it, one and all rose to their feet to show their appreciation for his talent and his being a part of Tablescapes for 20 years.
Then it was time for natty Alex to regale the crowd with stories of being raised by jet setting parents in the south and France. Like a Page Six column, his talk was peppered with anecdotes and names like
Eating baked potatoes with so much caviar that “this half Presbyterian damn near blushed” in a duplex built for a silent movie star with a fountain for champagne in the bathtub (“Now, look at you. I say that in Dallas and nobody bats an eye.”);
- “Lobster Mimi at Carolina and Reinaldo Herrera’s lush 91st Street house. The recipe she got from Mimi, her formidable mother-in-law. Here’s a pieces of news, ladies, even Carolina has a formidable mother-in-law.
- “A surreal sour cream soufflé at Bill Blass’ country house in Connecticut on the bleakest, ugliest of February afternoons;
- “A summer blackberry tart in “gorgeous Carolyne Roehm’s not to-be-believed, be believed garden in Connecticut full of super ripe, not to believed blackberries straight from that garden.
- A coconut pudding with caramel sauce “one Christmas Eve at Susan Godwin’s palatial Fifth Avenue spread… If the coconut pudding didn’t get you, the apartment would.”
- “Hands down, the very, very best chicken pot pie ever, which had sultanas in it. You and I might call them raisins at Louisiana belle Marguerite Littman’s house in Chester Square in London. She told stories about her very best friend Tennessee Williams. It seems they were sitting at the pool one day when a very, very, very skinny girl walked by. Marjorie looked at her and said “Anorexia nervosa.” To which, Tennessee responded, “Why, Marguerite, you just know everybody!”
- Short ribs with Betsy Bloomingdale.
- For the last seven or eight years of her life, Elizabeth Taylor had Alex spend Thanksgiving with her and “her family.” He told his audience that after being part of the holiday feast with Taylor, he advised that “I do hate myself for what I’m about to say…please, always remember if you hire a caterer to do a Thanksgiving dinner, please make sure that they do not specialize in tahini, couscous and lamb kebobs.”
With strict orders to respect the schedule, he concluded the talk telling them “to give people what they really want” and five tips to a perfect party — Five Ways To Entertain Well (as if any of these gals needed advice):
- “Never skimp on anything. “Don’t you go skimping. If you serve a frozen pizza, fried chicken or caviar, make sure it’s the best of what it is and there’s plenty of it.
- “When entertaining, make a schedule and stick to it. Serve dinner on time. And don’t wait on anybody. If people are late, it’s their problem not yours. Do not punish the people who come on time and reward the people who come late. (Applause)
- “Make an effort to get every detail right, but do it before the guests arrive. Do not be fussing around the kitchen making everybody nervous. Parties are first and foremost about people and then food and then everything else. And never stop smiling. Trust me, trust me. Nobody wants to see your freaking out in a cold sweat and popping Xanax.
- “The higher the monkey climbs the pole, the more he shows his _____. In other words, don’t be pretentious. Keep it simple. We know you’re rich and of excellent quality. Simpler is always better.
- “If all else fails, and make sure you don’t miss this one, just call up the Dallas Country Club.”
Then the crowd en masse left the ballroom for their tables for a luncheon of red pepper soup, chicken chasseur served with broccoli polonaise and fall rise blend and a chocolate mousse with whipped cream and pecan shortbread cookies.
All 54 tables were filled to the hilt except one. It was the Jean Liu Designs and Pomp Party in the main foyer. There was good reason for its being guest-less. It was made for guests, whose birthdays were still in the one-digit range.