When the 2020 Crystal Charity Ball’s “Majestic Britannia” had to be canceled due to COVID three months out, 2021 CCB Chair Leslie Diers did the pandemic pivot. With her love of music, and realizing that event producer Tom Addis had already started focusing on across the pond, she decided to keep the British feel but with a bit of Carnaby Street added in. The result was “Peace, Love, London.”
Even Leslie’s internal working theme — “Magical Mystery Tour” — hinted that the night would be a salute to the days of Swinging London, when Twiggy, The Shrimp, Mary Quant, Vidal Sassoon and Biba were part of the cultural revolution of mod mayhem and the “Youthquake.”
Together with Tom, Decorations Chair Ola Fojtasek evidently had a grand time putting the whimsy and dazzle into the look of the night at the Hilton Anatole’s Chantilly Ballroom and lobby on Saturday, December 4. At the front door was the Dallas version of the Queen’s Guard to welcome guests, who discovered a St. George flag displayed in a garden of flowers at the base of Big Ben and the music of “Rule, Britannia” piped through a sound system. On the wall to the immediate left was an English double-decker bus display — a big hit for photo opps.
And speaking of photo opps, the back of Ola Mae’s gown proved to be the showstopper of the night. The literal “backstory” of the flowing gown was that she took her “old dress” to designer Patti Flowers to paint the words “All you need is love love” on the back.
Ola’s creativity extended to the silent auction area. A mini-version of the upscale store Harrods, it featured four “boutiques” boasting luxury merchandise. Instead of neon signs identifying each salon, murals of Queen Elizabeth II for fine jewelry, oodles of posters for travel, a collage of magazine covers for fashion, and shelves of plates for dining were displayed grandly overhead.
But before the guests arrived, Leslie and her family had taken some time for photos. Instead of using the usual entrance to the reception area for the backdrop, they opted to pose in front of one of the gargantuan pieces of wall art — this one showing Beatles John, Paul, George and Ringo — at the back of the lobby. As a number of photos were being taken, photographer James French came wandering onto the scene, his arms raised high and singing, “All you need is love!”
And, of course, the 1,500+ guests royally rose to the fashionable occasion with many clad in designs from local designers Michael Faircloth (Leslie Diers, Diane Byrd, Anne McPherson and Tiffany Divis) and Patti Flowers (Lisa Cooley, Linda Evans, Marena Gault, Margaret Lewis and Ruthie Lightbourn).
Some of the ladies literally donned their finest feathers and glitter (Bela Cooley in a one-shoulder black and pink Marchesa with plumage galore; Amanda Dillard Shufeldt shimmering in Antonio Melani; Toni Hunt in Nha Khanh gold netting and feathers with a deep diving décolleté; and Charmaine Tang in Marchessa with a high-low skirt).
The bare-shoulder look was divided in two camps:
- the trend-of-the-night one-shoulder variety (Laura Downing, Luanne McWhorter, Julie Bagley, Kim Quinn in Patti Flowers, Marybeth Conlon in Roland Mouret, Nancy Scripps, Gail Fischer, Michelle Wong, Monica Egert, Alicia Wood and Jennifer Chandler in Terry Costa) and
- both shoulders bare (Wendy Messmann, Melinda Knowles, Lisa Shirley, Claudia Lode, Brooke Shelby, Christina Goodman, Cheryl Joyner in Catherine Regehr, Tracy Davy, Natalie John, Susan Glassmoyer, Elizabeth Gambrell in Oscar, Natalie John, Keana Meyer, Marjon Henderson in Ralph Lauren, 2012 CCB Chair Aileen Pratt, Caren Kline in Armani, Kristina Whitcomb and Linda Paulk).
In addition to Ola’s previously mentioned “backstory,” backs were at the evening’s forefront, too. Leave it to Shelle Sills to turn heads with her Lela Rose spider web lacing, while Gracie Hunt showed perfect form in her dazzling sequin gown and its halter top showcasing a flawless back. Alas, pity the poor ladies with trains who found themselves stopped dead in their tracks by other guests’ missteps.
White dresses flourished, thanks to Kathy Crow, Patti Flowers, Johannah Kersey in Teri Jon, Diana Hamilton, Gay Donnell Willis and Pat McEvoy, who finally debuted the Louis Vuitton gown that she had planned to wear the year she chaired the 2019 CCB. Due to circumstances beyond even Pat’s control, the gown had to be closeted until 2021. And while the ladies in white were knockouts, some admitted that their fear was an “oops” by another guest bearing a glass of red wine. Luckily, no such spill occurred.
Another color that made the scene was green, in all varieties: 2018 CCB Chair Claire Emanuelson in Monique Lhuillier, Tracy Davy in, Beth Thoele, Holly Huffines, Wanda Gierhart Fearing and Libby Allred, who had Patti Flowers update a favorite of hers to go with her gorgeous emerald and diamond necklace.
Some of the looks of the night had interesting leading-up-to-the-night stories. For instance, it was hard to guess that Ciara Cooley had spent the previous 48 hours tending to her horse Dakota after the gelding suffered a nasty colic episode. While it had been touch-and-go for a while, just that morning Dakota had begun showing definite signs of emerging. When he wouldn’t eat his grain, Ciara simply added carrots to his feed. As for her gown, she’d found it online the week before.
Jennifer Dix’s Patti Flowers one shoulder aqua-blue gown with floral embroidery to match her earrings from “sweet Richard” (aka husband Richard Dix) was bought at the CCB Silent Auction in 2019 and 2020, so “it’s twice as special,” she said.
2022 CCB Chair Susan Farris‘s jewelry was the result of husband “John Farris working out with his trainer a few years ago and he was approached by (jeweler) Charles Skibell who was about to work out. Charles asked John if he could borrow his athletic shoes. He had forgotten his own workout shoes and John’s feet looked to be about the same size. An unusual request, but John said ‘Yes’ and they became great friends after that as well as Charles gained a new customer! John and I both loved the estate jewelry in Charles’ inventory. Unfortunately, Charles passed away in 2019 after a battle with cancer, but he and John collaborated on my early Christmas gift that year before he passed. He wanted to make sure I had something special to wear to Crystal Charity Ball.”
Both 2020 CCB Chair Tucker Enthoven and her sister-in-law Ann Enthoven wore Oscar de la Renta, with an “it’s a small world” backstory. It seems that Ann grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, with Alex Bolen, the current Oscar CEO. His dad and her dad were law partners together. When Alex married Oscar’s stepdaughter, Eliza Reed, Ann’s parents attended the wedding. According to Tucker, “It was quite the red carpet affair!”
April Renberg recalled the family’s move to Dallas this past year when husband Ben Renberg became president of the Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation. While this wasn’t their first time living in Texas and they had managed to survive the cold weather of New York, just as they were moving into their 1960s ranch-style house in Dallas, the February ice storm hit. Thanks to their Subaru, they were able to drive to some stores to help out their neighbors.
When asked if Louise Griffeth‘s black gown highlighted with a vine of roses denoted the “English Rose,” she laughed and said no, it was her dress from the Tyler Rose Festival.
And, of course, accessories are what separate the ho-hum from the OMG! While Kim Noltemy’s knee stroller (she’d had foot surgery right before Thanksgiving) did provide a basket for her purse, it lacked a cupholder. … Ken George’s black bowtie was highlighted by the Lone Star pin that he wore during a long-ago Republican administration. … Dean Fearing added a British dash with his Burberry scarf. … Vinette “Vee” Montgomery was sporting a peach-colored ring that had belonged to her late mother-in-law Faye Briggs to go with Vee’s peach-colored gown.
As the crowd grew and everything was moving smoothly, Leslie smiled, saying that the Scotch Tasting pub was a big hit.
One of the topics making the rounds was, “Who had purchased The Point?” (aka the 2.341-acre property at the Armstrong/Lakeside/Preston/Oak Lawn intersection). Guesses ranged from billionaire Andy Beal, who had already bought a couple of estates along Preston Road (the late F. Trammell Crow estate that Andy had already sold and the late Ed Cox mansion and grounds), to a new transplant to the area from New York or California. Highland Park Mayor/2004 CCB Chair Margo Goodwin admitted that she hadn’t known the property had sold.
One insider winked and claimed that the new owners are “good sports” who already live in the Park Cities.
But back to the ball. When Big Ben sounded and the doors to the Chantilly Ballroom opened with the Mod era symbols of peace and love literally welcoming guests like Annette Simmons and Jerry Fronterhouse, Carolyn and David Miller, Meredith and Kyle Bebee, Julie Ford, Carol and Don Glendenning, Laura and Mark Toretella, Tiffany Hagge, Sandy Edwards, Norma Hunt, Heidi Soltis-Berner and Dan Berner and Mike and Lyndsie Jones, the Fab Four style Live and Let Die band fronted by Tony “Paul” Kishman played on stage. Just below the stage a troupe of adorable teenage girls in Union Jack mini-dresses and white go-go boots performed on the dance floor, receiving cellphone salutes from the guests. Serving as a backdrop for the stage were photos of the past era flashed across big screens.
No sooner had the girls left the stage than the guests headed into one of two directions —dinner table or dance floor, with “Hey Jude” and other memorable Beatle tunes playing. But after the faux Beatles finished up their set, Simply Irresistible turned up the tempo with ’70s disco tunes like “Night Fever” and “Dancing Queen.” The dance floor swelled to capacity with dancers like Kathryn and Craig Hall, Janie and David Condon, Marybeth and Kevin Conlon, Susan McSherry and fiancé Kirby Attwell, Suzy and Larry Gekiere, Kristi and Bill Francis intent on busting loose.
As for the supper, it was far from typical Brit-style pub fare of fish and chips, and yet still not quite stiff upper lip — mainly due to the lackluster staffing. Some salads that looked tasty on the plates were whisked away before more than a bite or two could be tried. Guests at some tables obeyed Emily Post’s rule until all had been served. They patiently waited and waited … and, cracking jokes about the situation, waited some more … for the last guest to be served. Still other guests at tables throughout the room looked a bit like Oliver Twist asking for wine service. One person got so frustrated from unanswered requests that s/he retrieved bottles of red and white wine from nearby stations and poured it themselves for their table-mates.
Luckily, the hiccups were quickly forgotten as guests danced the night away to raise $5,391,091 for the 2021 CCB beneficiaries (Baylor Scott And White Dallas Foundation’s Tiniest Texans, Café Momentum’s Internship Program in the COVID-19 Era, Dallas CASA’s Advocacy for Teens in Foster Care, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s DCAC Core Programs, Dallas Symphony Association Inc.’s Southern Dallas Residency Youth Education, Network of Community Ministries’ Mobile Pantry and Classroom Food Supply Program Expansion, Phoenix House Texas’ Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment Services and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children’s Boundless Centennial Campaign – Day Surgery Renovation).