When Crystal Charity Ball guests pulled up to the driveway of the Hilton Anatole Hotel on Saturday evening, December 3, they were greeted by smoke billowing up from a fire along the walkway leading to the 2022 Ball’s “Splendido Italiano” wonderland. But the hint of fiery Italiano turned out to be just a Texas-sized pizza converted into a pastry oven, warming up in order to later provide the departing guests with some calzones to go.
As Event Producer Tom Addis and floral designer Junior Villaneuva were busily finishing up a ballroom that would have made the House of Medici envious, Anatole Chef Arnaud Masset was in the adjacent Wedgwood Room, which was filled to the max with rows and rows of dinner desserts that had been in the making since 1 p.m.
Out in the Chantilly’s reception terrace, CCB committee members like Ball Arrangements Co-Chairs Susan McSherry and Angela Seaman and Entertainment Chair Paige Slates were making one last sweep of the reception lobby and ballroom. In a conference room, Contribution Tickets Co-Chairs Laura Downing and Amy Hegi, Post-Ball Arrangements Chair Kristi Francis along with Patti Flowers, Jennifer Chandler and Lisa Shirley were going over the duties for the CCB’s newest members (Bonner Allen, Shannon Graham, Diana Hamilton, Sheilon King, Lisa Loy Laughlin and Victoria Snee). In addition to selling raffle tickets, the newbies would be part of the post-ball tear down.
Where the silent auction would take place, the walls had been festooned with wall coverings by the Italian designer Versace. It seems that Decorations Chair Paige Locke had painstakingly assembled, measured and cut sheets of the designer’s wallpaper on her kitchen floor, the better to arrange the individual backdrops reflecting the various areas of specialty shopping.
Just before the first guests arrived, the official photo was taken of 2022 CCB Chair Susan Farris with her “kitchen cabinet” (Children’s Book Chair Lindsay Ballotta, Foundations Chair Elizabeth Gambrell, Silent Auction Chair Mary Martha Pickens, Special Gifts Chair Wendy Messmann and and Underwriting Chair Kristina Whitcomb) and her family.
Soon enough everything was in place, with hanging wisteria overhead and violinists on pedestals in the entryway leading to CCB Chair Susan, who warmly greeted the guests while “gondoliers” handed out pouches containing coins to be tossed into one of the settings’ “wishing” fountains. One couple who did some tossing, Sunie and Steve Solomon, were asked later what they’d wished for. Replied Sunie, “If I tell you, it might not come true.”
Fashionistas agree that the Italians have staked a claim on the world of couture fashion, and that was further proven by the looks of the night, thanks to the event’s 1,550+ guests — and especially the ladies in their amazing gowns. But unlike Balls past, when the evening’s favorite togs were made by the year’s CCB Fashion Show designer, that wasn’t the case this year. Instead, this year’s gowns were a nod to the entire “Italian feel,” including Susan’s Capri porcelain print by Naeem Khan, Marena Gault‘s Italian fuchsia by Monica Byrne, Claudia Lode in white Fendi, Shannon Graham‘s Giambattista Valli gown, Diana Hamilton in Chiara Boni, and 2019 CCB Chair Pat McEvoy in Valentino from neckline to heels.
And speaking of Italian footwear, Marybeth Conlon and Kim Hext were in Dolce and Rene Caovillia, respectively.
But that’s not to say the gents weren’t aligned with the feel of the night, too, with Roger Gault in Dolce and Gabbana, Reed Gibbins and Ray Ballotta in Canali, Greg Hext in Bruno Cucinelli, Charles McEvoy in Stefano Ricci, David Condon in an Armani tuxedo and Ken Christensen in a Zegna, with Bruno Magli boots.
Lindsay Ballotta had a double whammy, scoring with a tribute to both the Italian theme and CCB’s 70th anniversary, by wearing Gianvito Rossi stilettos to go with her Jenny Packham platinum dress (“I chose the gown as a nod to Crystal Charity’s Platinum Jubilee,” she said).
Another shimmering delight was Robyn Chauvin in silvery Badgley Mischka, her bare shoulders covered when needed with a custom-made emerald opera coat by Dallas’ own Braylee Flaska. Her clutch was a Cult Gaia.
But, as usual, it was a horse race for most popular designer among the CCB stalwarts of Herrera (Angie Kadesky, Vicki Chapman, Tanya Foster, Susan Glassmoyer and Louise Griffeth) and Dallas designers Michael Faircloth (Stephanie Scala-Casey, Carrie Levering, Sue Ann Scala, Diane Byrd, Mary Martha Pickens, Paula Marie Jones and Tiffany Divis) and Patti Flowers (Lisa Cooley, Ola Fojtasek, Suzy Gekiere, Robin Carreker, Venise Stuart and Libby Allred, who explained, “I can brag on it since the beauty is because of her talent.”)
As for the accessories of the night, Judith Lieber was the clutch favorite, with Chanel running a close second. Susan Farris stayed loyal to her Italian ancestry toting a Rosantica Milan bag.
To add some real bling to the night, throats, ear lobes and wrists were covered by Diamonds Direct (Susan Farris, Kristina Whitcomb, Cheryl Joyner, Tanya Foster, Vicki Chapman and Susan Glassmoyer), Eiseman’s Jewels (Kristen Gibbins) and Carter Malouf (Shannon Graham).
Of course, some of the evening’s fashion touches had backstories just made to be shared, such as:
- Jennifer Dix — “My gown is by Nardos and it’s super special to me because I bought it after she very generously donated it to the Salvation Army Fashion Show and Luncheon this year!”
- Monica Christoper, who married Brent Christopher this past February — “I found this Brittingham gown at Stanley Korshak when I was shopping for my wedding gown.”
- Kim Hext — She had decided that her Balmain gown, which she bought in Paris in May, needed a slight slit, which her tailor initially hesitated to do, but finally agreed that it would be wise. Upon checking the gown the day of the ball, however, Kim discovered that the zipper was missing. Immediately the gown was whisked off to the tailor again, thanks to husband Greg, and the zipper found its place.
- Leslie Diers — “I am wearing a blue dress in honor of Susan Farris’s year as chair, where most everything has featured all shades of the color. A Judith Leiber handbag I bought to carry last year.”
- Marena Gault — “My dress was designed by Monica Byrne of Monica Byrne Maison New York especially for this year’s Crystal Charity Ball. The color is Italian fuchsia. I purchased the designing opportunity and dress as an auction item at the past CCB! My jewelry is a Lyles-Degrazier white gold and diamond mesh necklace which we purchased at the 201 Crystal Charity Ball auction. I am really looking forward to this year’s auction, too!”
- Sunie Solomon — “Dennis Basso – I found it in Aspen and knew it would be perfect for CCB.”
- Steve Stodghill, according to his wife Anne Stodghill — “Steve is wearing a custom tuxedo from Huntsman on Saville Row that was based on a tuxedo they had designed for Dean Martin back in the day, so to speak.”
- Janie Condon — “I’m wearing some opal and diamond earrings that Lawrence Bock designed for me and a pearl choker necklace given to me by my late grandmother Juanita (Miller).”
- Diana Hamilton — “My jewelry is sentimental tonight because it was from my Mom, who passed away this past year.”
- Kristina Whitcomb — “I just got off my brace from my knee fracture back in August but heels are still a no-no according to my doctor.”
- Suzy Gekiere — “I am wearing a red Patti Flowers dress. It is a departure for me as I rarely wear red and never for a ball gown. My handbag is a Judith Lieber that Larry [her husband] bought for me years ago at a Dallas Museum of Art silent auction. Neiman’s had donated it.”
Other notable sights and quotes of the evening included Stacey Walker, who’d stashed her heels under her table and was wearing sneakers at the reception because she was still recovering from foot surgery. … Tim Adair, general manager of the Neiman Marcus Downtown, who said the downtown store was doing “the best business in the entire company,” with furs, jewelry and expensive bridal gowns moving especially well. … Susan McSherry, who said that since she’s living in Austin now, this would be her last CCB. … It also would be the last for Pam McCallum, who said she intends now to “sleep, read, watch TV” and spend time with her 7-year-old black Lab, Belle.
Just past 8 p.m. a gathering of “ma’ms” took place at the stairs between La Piazza Italiano of merchandise and the Casino. It was for the annual group photo of the past CCB Chairs Louise Griffeth (2003), Margo Goodwin (2004), Jill Smith (2005), Debbie Snell (2006), Vicki Chapman (2007), Debbie Oates (2009), Cynthia Mitchell (2010), Connie O’Neill (2011), Aileen Pratt (2012), Caren Kline (2013), Christie Carter (2016), Pat McEvoy (2019), Tucker Enthoven (2020) and Leslie Diers (2021).
As the clock ticked toward nine, veterans of past balls started gathering at the main doors of the ballroom to get a first look at the year’s staging. Inside the Chantilly, Anatole Catering Sales Director Roberta Robinson and Banquet Captain Francisco Herrera were waiting for the cue from Tom Addis. Right on time the doors opened to a fabulous array of fuchsia-draped walls and opera singers performing on a stage at the west side of the ballroom that was fronted by blue and white hydrangea, roses and delphenium.
Throughout the room, tables were highlighted by centerpieces that were beautiful to the eye, but not blocking the view of guests around the table. The upper-level seating around the ballroom was like a villa garden terrace with balustrade but, instead of a view of the Mediterranean, guests could drink in the entire scene. That included the dance floor, which filled quickly as Atlanta’s Simply Irresistible followed the opera singers with lively renditions of classic tunes like “Billie Jean” and “Jump (For My Love).”
The evening’s menu of Burrata Insalata (season tomato, balsamic pearls with pistachio), Filleto Con Aragosta (Faro risotto, grape tomato, maitake mushroom in a kalamata caper demi-glace) and a Dolce Trio dessert (Golden gondola, limoncello marscapone and hazelnut cremosa chocolate layered cake) went swimmingly for most. Alas, the 2022 CCB jinx of meals fell upon some, with guests at a few of the high-roller tables feeling abandoned as they watched nearby tables feasting a course ahead. To add to the pain, their beverage glasses appeared to just be conversation pieces until the situation was called to the attention of executive staffers. With that, glasses were filled and plates delivered.
And, unlike at other fundraising events, where speakers wax on, the only official activity took place at 11:15 p.m., when the drawing for the Sewell luxury car raffle took place and Susan officially handed over the CCB reins to 2023 Chair Angie Kadesky.
For more images of the night that benefits (Agape Clinic, Baylor Oral Health Foundation, Behind Every Door, Educational First Steps, Family Compass, Hope Supply Co., Southwestern Medical Foundation, United to Learn and the Crystal Charity Ball 70th Anniversary Project Action Before Crisis), check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.