Fox Finesse, Peacock Prettiness
Two motifs underscored recent revelry during a posh debutante party given by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Joseph Patrick at the Patrick family home, Hurst Haven Plantation, in honor of their daughter Karoline Patrick. Throughout the gallivanting, symbolic images appeared of peacocks and foxes to suggest, in turn, splendiferous beauty and the latter’s contrastive cleverness and quick thinking. Sense of fun, too.
And that’s just what the hosting Patricks provided — via New Orleans event producer Thea Pagel — to create an “:event theatre experience” full of elegance, drama and intrigue. New Year’s Eve, with its Janus thrust, befit the planning that incorporated in its décor the Edwardian Era, a time of great optimism, as well as the Belle Epoque, the Gilded Age and the closer-to-home Storyville.
Kith and kin were intrigued by the invitation, A Wheel of Fate with 12 illustrated characters of Carl Jung’s archetypes: The Lover, Chameleon, Angel, Magician, Hero, Thespian, Monarch, Artist, Explorer, Trickster and Outlaw. A box sent along with the invitation contained props of the suggested character for the recipient to portray. Most followed suit, but some invitees expressed their own individuality, “rejecting their fate.”
En route to the Patrick home on Garden Lane, guests walked a 250-foot carpeted path that was bathed in projected lighting and flanked with patined and weathered “living” statues. A remix of 1900s music was layered with today’s more modern sounds to convey a moody atmosphere. Rings of flame arose at the entrance gate with some of the above archetypes nearby, peering from pedestals. Contact juggling, LED hooping, magic and poetry recitation were immediate attractions.
Within the raised-plantation-style home, costumed hosts Debbie and Bobby Patrick greeted their guests in a receiving line along with the radiant Karoline. From there, the “Masque” meandering allowed for sight after sight, thrill after thrill. Massive tenting increased the party parameters.
Among the other features were the Great Feast, which was inspired by the legendary chef Auguste Escoffier and rendered by the in-attendance chef/restaurateur John Folse; seafood stations around the pool; pop-up performances, such as juggling, magic and acts of extreme balance; and, as the evening progressed, and various “acts” unfolded, the music. The focus of the party then moved to the deep-red and draped entertainment tent and the excitement escalated. Lording over the stage was an image of a wily fox, while peacock renditions made subtle statements.
Charles Bradley, the Screaming Eagle of Soul, launched the sounds, which segued into those of British pop star Ellie Goulding, who rang in the New Year. Her high-energy, crossover appeal encompasses generations of fans, many of whom first learned about her when she performed for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge). As a sonorous nod to the honoree, Goulding sang “Sweet Caroline” before closing with her hit, “Burn.” The revelers then joined in singing with her. Stage flames, pyrotechnics and metallic gold confetti punctuated her performance. Producer, rapper and DJ Mannie Fresh had the final musical moments.
All the while, a personal panoply paraded about: the Patricks’ costumed friends and family. The party eye delighted in the sights of the invitation’s archetypes, as well as members of the French courts of yore, Phantoms of the Opera, Egyptians, Sonny and Cher, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, the Jersey Boys, and divas and divos. All the world was a stage in this fancy-dress whirl.
Mingling, too, within the comely crowd that included pals, neighbors, the debutante set, and others near and dear were deb grandfather Prentiss “P.C.” Havens and deb siblings Beau Patrick with date Morgan Bellows, Buddy Patrick with date Elizabeth McNulty, and Katherine and husband Read Coleman, who, shortly after the party, became parents to their first child, Clare Havens Coleman. Debbie and Bobby are now beaming as grandparents. Another guest was Karoline’s escort, Parker Derenbecker, who assumed the role of Prince Charming.
More activity zeroed in on the living statues, who took residence high up on the rows of elevated platforms; the high-spirited costume contest emceed by The Explorer, and, at midnight, the costume changes of the archetypes to “party catalyst” outfits.
Throughout the party, compliments never ceased as people cast awed glances around and about. Said Mary Beth Ellis, a former teacher of Karoline, “The party will be forever memorable, from the cuisine to the gorgeous roses. It was unique, dramatic and beautiful just like Karoline.” In turn, the honoree expressed her deep gratitude for the extraordinary event and the presence of her family and friends.
At one of the party’s myriad peaks, another one took the form of a tower. Literally. Situated in a room created for the evening that was lined in French toile and banked as a doorway frame by an abundance of rich-red roses was a champagne pyramid. (When champagne is overpoured into the top “coupe” and let flow below, it fills up the circles of support glasses.) Having changed from her French-court dress, Karoline appeared in a lipstick-red strapless dress and, along with chef Folse, initiated the pouring, smiling and laughing. The bubbly flowed downward as spirits continued to rise.
That moment epitomized the fabulous fete, the “Bal Masque,” that combined effervescence, glee, imagination and non-stop generosity.
Gracing the handsome invitation was a depiction of the Art Deco façade of the New Orleans Lakefront Airport, which served as both the venue and the inspiration for Opera Ball 2015 given by the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association. It was titled “Flights of Fancy” and harked back to the time of Howard Hughes and Amelia Earhart, who spent time there during layovers. Coincidentally, one of the ball’s benefactors was the Howard Hughes Corporation. First NBC and the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation were among the additional donors (appearing in the top, High Flyers, category).
Teamed to chair the ball were Ann Duffy and Carol Hall of the Women’s Guild and Annie Machado of the Opera Juniors. Others within the leadership committee were Women’s Guild President Betsy Dowling; Virginia Eckholdt and Melissa Gordon, vice presidents of fundraising; Junior Committee Chairwoman Autumn Snyder Harrell; NOOA President Dr. Ranney Mize; NOOA general and artistic director Robert Lyall; and auction Chairwoman Dr. Erin Fleming. Committee cohorts included Virginia Blanque, Eileen Capritto, Mary de La Barre, Joan Eckholdt, Val Killion, Carolyn Landwerlin, Dee Long, Shirley Moseley, Brenda Reilly and Jean Rice.
They, as did many, thanked Stunt Pilots donors Mr. and Mrs. Alvin A. Baumer, the Goldring Family Foundation, the Woldenberg Foundation, and author John E. Wade II.
In keeping with the theme, “Save the Date” cards were sent in the form of a flight boarding pass. Well before the event, the ball was sold out, already flying high!
Two patron parties also got spirits aloft early on. They were held on consecutive nights in the One River Place penthouse of James “Jim” and Betty Brooks Doss and included benefactors and “Flying Aces.” Yet another exclusive hobnobbing occurred right before the ball in the airport’s Walnut Room with specialty cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and music by The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra. A few toe-tapping guests hopped to the floor to dance the charleston.
The ball then followed in the Terminal with more libations, a silent auction (with, among top items, Mary de La Barre art and jewelry from Lee Michaels) and a Messina’s-catered seated dinner of steak and all the trimmings. The tables were centered with tall glass vases sparkling with blue lights and topped with small silver vintage airplanes.
The attire for the ball called for “black tie or 1930s period dress” and many guests obliged with a form of the latter, namely Bonnie Broel, Jean Rice (in a peau de soie gown and a star brooch) Sonda Stacey, Betsy Dowling, and Ranney Mize, who was “Great Gatsby” elegant in white tie and tails. Scores of ladies sported headbands.
Putting the mood to music was the Yat Pack, who regaled the revelers with a gamut of tunes. Almost everyone responded, cruising to the dance floor to trip the “Flights” fantastic.