Let’s hear it for Mesdames! Two (of the many) Carnival balls that honor married ladies, the Mystic Club (founded in 1923) and Alexis (1973), held their respective celebrations at the Hilton Riverside Hotel and the New Orleans Country Club. Both enjoyed royalty and historical themes. In 2015, Courtney (Mrs. Louis McDaniel Jr.) Freeman reigned at Mystic, and Martha (Mrs. Mark Edward) Curtis, at Alexis.
A Thoroughbred To-Do
Guests at the Mystic Club Ball were transported to 1912 and to the Hippodrome de Longchamp in Paris for the highlight of the French racing year. Recalled were the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Aosta, the Italian Prince Emanuele Filiberto and his French wife, Princess Helene Louise Henriette.
Portraying them were the Mystic queen, Mrs. Michael Bright White, Virginia, and the Mystic king. Ladies in waiting to her majesty and their roles as historical princesses were Mmes. Christopher Conway Bellone, Henriette of Belgium; Scott Joseph Brown, Margaret of Connaught; Hyde Dunbar Healy, Alexandra of Hanover; Jeffrey Alan Meckstroth, Thyra of Denmark; Ralph Lewis Ropp, Clementine of Belgium; and Scott Tappan Slatten, Hilda of Nassau.
Their sartorial manifestations were all admired. Mystic monarch Mrs. White, as the 2nd Duchess of Aosta, wore a stunning black and white ensemble reflecting the height of fashion of 1912. It consisted of a white day gown, a white jacket, a waistcoat-like blouse and a waistcoat collar, with black accents. She carried a complementary parasol and a wrist muff, and, wore as the “crowning” adornment, a wide picture hat.
So, too, the ladies in waiting were all outfitted for a day at the races in elegant modes of the period, marked by slender skirts, layering of exquisite tailoring and picture hats.
Military garb was worn by the king of the Mystic Club with an array of military medals on his jacket. A blue-gray pinstripe cutaway suit with gray trousers and a sky-blue waistcoat was sported by the captain, whose gray top hat completed his outfit. His aides wore military-inspired coats of deep forest green, and black trousers and bowlers; the marching lieutenants appeared in morning coats and gray pinstripe trousers with black top hats; and the husbands of the ladies in waiting were similarly garbed with pocket squares to coordinate with their wives’ gowns.
The husband of the queen was in a clergyman’s vestment, consisting of a purple cassock with a black satin waist sash and a black biretta. His, and the costumes of the other men were by Royal Design House. Mary Williams designed those of the ladies. Presenting the scene at Longchamp was the program’s cover art by Patricia Hardin.
Gracing the court were “Young Ladies to be Presented to Their Majesties,” debutantes of the season (and six as queens of 2016 Carnival balls). They were Misses Grace Ann Bellone, Genevieve Marie Bienvenu, Elizabeth Brooks Ellinghausen, Sara Layne Gambel, Adelaide Dabezies Goodyear, Aby Dixon Hamrick, Isabella Slatten Healy, Shelby Heath Sharp Meckstroth, Ruth Lysbeth Ropp and Katherine Woodworth Slatten. Three of them, Misses Bellone, Healy, and Meckstroth were daughters of ladies in waiting, and a fourth, Miss Slatten, a stepdaughter. “It was so much fun doing this with my mother,” said Shelby Meckstroth.
The formalities commenced with music by the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra. The entrances of the captain, king and queen were accompanied, in turn, by “The Entertainer,” “Alexander’s Ragtime band” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” Further thematic tunes addressed the cast, the ladies in waiting and the debutantes. Most impressive was the Grand March to “Marche Noble.” General milling and dancing ensued before Mystic members and their guests sat for dinner.
However, there was a special moment of particular significance. The ball’s captain turned the whistle, the symbol of office, to a successor.
Hearty applause resulted (as did later thanks to the outgoing captain and congratulations to the new one).
White and red wines, followed by Charles Bove Champagne, accompanied the three-course meal that began with a mixed salad and concluded with a tart.
All the while, guests made tracks to their majesties, congratulating them on their honor. A radiant Virginia White beamed as the monarch of the Longchamp levity.
- Treaty Tribute
The “Signing of the Treaty of Unikar Skelessi: July 3, 1833,” which recalled a defensive alliance between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, marqueed the historical merriment at the 2016 Alexis Imperial Reception. It was preceded by a Court Reception.
Dianna McCurnin, wife of Leo Patrick McCurnin III, made her appearance as Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna in a ball gown of the era with a garnet velvet cape trimmed in gold and bearing the coat of arms of Tsar Nicholas I (Nikolaevich Pavolvich Romanov) and the Alexis organization. Fashioned of light damask, with pearl and crystal beaded lace trim, and over a silk satin underskirt, the gown was designed by Brett Ward. The ruby and diamond crown matched the seven-strand necklace, and additional bijoux, in keeping with the Tsarina’s recorded interest in jewelry.
After the captain entered to “The Russian March,” and the Alexis Tsar, and grand dukes and duchesses to appropriate musical pieces played by Deacon John and the Ivories, Mrs. McCurnin appeared in Russian radiance to the Tchaikovsky “Piano Concerto No. 1.”
The grand duchesses were costumed, as was the tsar, in ensembles by Southern Costume Company (with thanks to Wingate Jones). Mrs. John Randall Knott, Janis, portrayed Maria Nikolaevna wearing a sapphire blue satin gown finished with a full-length black velvet cape, gloves, and jewelry. Mrs. Guy Paul Brierre, Pamela, as Olga Nikolaevna, appeared in a sage-green taffeta mode with similar accessories. They were escorted by Grand Dukes Nicholas and Mikhail Nikolaevich.
In keeping with the Russian theme, the double eagle crest was placed above the dais, where arrangements of red roses were strategically situated. To entertain, The Komenka Ensemble danced in traditional costumes to the delight of the assembly.
After the playing of “The Radetsky March” for the tableau’s Imperial March, guests mingled. Breakfast, chaired by Dr. Alan Sheen (attending with spouse Joan), followed. Jennifer (Mrs. Leonard K.) Nicholson was the ball’s coordinator.
Noted, too, were many former tsarinas, as well as Mrs. Curtis of 2015 and Mrs. Arthur William Nead from that court. Also, retired Judges Charles Gaudin and Thomas Wicker Jr. with Myra and Jane, the Dieter Michael Hugels, the Michael T. Grays, William and Melissa Legier, Eric and Carrie Berger, Dr. Frederic C. Querens and Sarah Ann Lowman, and Drs. and Mmes. Robert L. Carter, Alfred A. Olinde, Charles R. Smith, Stephen Metzinger, and Richard Seba.
Homage and happiness blended as Mmes. McCurnin, Knott and Brierre enjoyed the “Treaty” theme and the treats of the Alexis court.