For 2018 Crystal Charity Ball Chair Claire Emanuelson, the mega-fundraiser for Dallas County children, was a love letter to her hometown, 300-year-old New Orleans, as well as a loving tribute to her late mother. Working with Event Producer Tom Addis and her CCB posse of 99 women plus some sidekicks like Niven Morgan and Shelby Wagner, the Hilton Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom and reception area was “A Celebration in Nouvelle-Orleans” on Saturday, December 1.
Before the ballroom doors even opened at 9 p.m., the roughly 1,500 black-tie guests wandered from the silent auction on the left side of the upper-level lobby against a Commander’s Palace backdrop to the gaming area on the right side. Across the way, where a Lexus up for raffle was parked, it was like the French Quarter’s antique row with chairs hung on the wall. In the center of the lower level was a marvelous replica of the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar surrounded by The French Market’s tables and chairs and mammoth buffet tables offering mountains of ginormous shrimps and crab claws, mini-muffaletta lollipops and servers with trays of Hurricanes.
One eager twosome, knowing about the lavish cocktail menu, not only showed up half an hour before the official start, but peeled back the food’s protective covering and began digging in.
The usual photo centerpiece at the entrance, which traditionally has been the sweet spot for the fashionably attired guests, proved to be a bit of a challenge. Looking like a charming Jackson Square courtyard with a fountain and shrubbery, it had all the elements of perfection — except for the dark lighting and the mirror at the back of the Bar reflecting the photographers’ flashes. Another problem was the non-stop traffic of hotel guests with baby strollers trying to make their way through the formally attired throng. Luckily, there were other areas that were less jammed, including the entryway reminiscent of Oak Alley lined with trees draped with Spanish moss.
Dallas Morning News writer Robert Wilonsky, removing his glasses, admitted that “Tonight I’m arm candy” with wife Mary Wilonsky, whose Friends of the Dallas Public Library was one of the 2018 CCB beneficiaries.
And speaking of the faces and fashions in the crowd, this one was a feast for the eyes. Leading the herd of designers was Patti Flowers (worn by Ashley Allen, Marybeth Conlon, Lisa Cooley, Patti Flowers, Susan Palma, Beth Thoele and Emilynn Wilson) followed by Oscar de la Renta (Robyn Conlon, Jennifer Dix, Nancy Rogers, Mimi Sterling, Kristina Whitcomb and Piper Wyatt) and Hererra (Tucker Enthoven, Ashley Hunt, Angie Kadesky, Katy Bock, Cynthia Mitchell and Linda Secrest), Michael Faircloth (Tiffany Divis, Tracy Lange and Elsa Norwood) and Nardos (Garden Gate’s Maria Villanueva and Nardos Imam).
Also grabbing a second look or three were Janie Condon in Rachel Gilbert, Gail Fischer in Pamella Roland, Pam Perella in Galvan London, Pat McEvoy in Monique Lhuillier, Bela Cooley in Bladi Duran, Nikki Webb in Karl Lagerfeld, Muffin Lemak in Di Lorenzo Serafini, Peggy Meyer in Alberta Ferretti, Leslie Diers in Stuart Weitzman, Cheryl Joyner in Rene Ruiz and Ciara Cooley in Basix Black.
While CCB Chair Claire had threatened she was going to wear a straightjacket, she was actually in Zac Posen. … Toni Munoz Hunt showed off the hip-high slit in her Nha Khanh by doing an Angelina Jolie leg extension .… Cara French picked out a hot pink and red satin gown at Neiman’s that “brought back memories of my mom” (Prissy Gravely) and Prissy’s Crystal Charity Ball days. Cara had on a similar dress that was “red silk satin with pink lining that folded back” by Richard Brooks.
On the other hand, Cara’s husband, Jim French “had a dream that his tux was blue-and-white striped. I am so thankful this was just a dream.” Jim’s suit was traditional black, as was were the tuxes worn by Richard Dix in Baumann, Claude Wilson in Tom James, Clay Cooley in Chris Depos, Dan Meyer in Jhane Barnes, Vin Perella in Tom Ford, Bryan Diers and Charles McEvoy in Zenga and David Condon, John Corder, Tom Mitchell and Les Secrest in Armani. John Lemak decided to go with a “gorgeous navy” by Robert Talbott.
Other fashion highlights included shoes (Vince Camuto, St. Laurent, Weitzman, Manolo Blahnik, Casadei, Louboutin, Jessica Simpson, Miu Miu, Alexandre Birman and lots of Jimmy Choo), purses (Jimmy Choo, Bottega, Susan Saffron, Pelligrenio, McMalletier, Charlotte Max and loads of Judith Leiber) and jewelry from Eiseman, deBoulle, Sue Gragg, Diamonds Direct and family collections.
Just before 9 p.m., the sound of music was heard from the second floor. Like Quarterites, everyone from the formally attired to the casual passersby directed their eyes and ears to the staircase leading from the upper level. There, they saw New Orleans’ Kinsfolk Brass Band parading jauntily around the perimeter of the lobby leading to the center doors of the ballroom. Right on cue, the doors opened and the Band led the guests into the ballroom that had been turned into a reproduction of the Garden District, complete with a faux cobblestone dance floor, balustrades and a towering “mansion at sunset” covering three of the walls.
While the Kinsfolk performers were joined on the dance floor by the like of Gloria Eulich, 2018 CCB beneficiary Booker T. Washington’s singers performed on stage to the delight of Annette Simmons and Jerry Fronterhouse, Kelli and Jerry Ford, Anita and Truman Arnold, Amy Simmons and Joe Crafton, Neiman’s President/CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck and Alvise Orsini, United Air’s Scott Kirby with wife Kathleen Kirby, Moody Foundation’s Francie Moody Dahlberg with husband Kevin Dahlberg, health care types (Chris Durovich with wife Christina Durovich and Jim Hinton with wife Kristen Hinton), legal types (Eric Gambrell with wife Elizabeth Gambrell, Carol and Don Glendenning, Regina Montoya Coggins with husband Paul Coggins, Ladd Sanger with wife KJ Sanger, financial types (Phil White with wife Danice Couch, Rob Bowlby with wife Sarah Bowlby, Martha Martha Pickens with husband John Pickens), jewelers (Lawrence Bock with wife Katy Bock, Richard Eiseman with wife Betsy Eiseman and Yosi Mayer, former CCB Chairs (Tincy Miller, Louise Griffeth, Margo Goodwin, Jill Smith, Gloria Eulich, Debbie Oates, Cynthia Mitchell, Connie O’Neill, Aileen Pratt, Caren Kline, Robyn Conlon, Michal Powell, Christie Carter and Pam Perella) and Claire’s family (papa Dick Stephens, husband Dwight Emanuelson, sons James Emanuelson and Hillis Emanuelson and daughter-in-law Lindsey Emanuelson) and extended family Piper and Mike Wyatt (Claire and Dwight introduced Piper to Mike and, in turn, the Wyatts are the godparents of both Emanuelson sons).
As guests enjoyed the New Orleans-influenced dinner —Crab Louie, Pan-seared Filet of Beef with Parsnip and Potato Puree and Bacon and Balsamic Crispy Brussels Sprouts, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Profiterole — the chit-chat was fast and furious.
Don Huffines was philosophical about losing his state senate seat in the recent election: “It’s unbelievable how much less stress there is.” … Tiffany Divis’ hubby Paul Divis had been stuck in Connecticut on business for a week, so she had not one but two escorts: John Clutts and Sami Arslanlar … On the other hand, Dee Simmons, Lee Bailey and Doris Jacobs decided to have a girls’ night out… Bob Schlegel was breathing a big sigh of relief after a recent lung-cancer scare (no cancer, a second opinion had ruled)… Kim Hext was effusive about the season: “This is my favorite time of the year,” she said. “We see our friends, get dressed up, and celebrate the holidays.”
While there may seem to be loads of photos here, check out the 140+ over at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.