Night at the N.O.P.S.I.
Such was the lettering on the round, thematic invitation that beckoned family and friends to a debutante party hosted by Andree and Jay Batt, Colleen and Marty McLeod, Jill and Morgan Nalty, and Amy and John White in honor of their daughters, Bailey, Elle, Layne and Summers. It unfolded in the new, luxury NOPSI Hotel on Baronne Street, the former New Orleans Public Service Inc. building. Tweaking those initials, this was a Night Of Partying, Socializing, Imagination.
Black tie was the suggested attire, but dark suits were “optional.” As for the distaff eight, the moms and their deb daughters, various designers were used for their lovely looks. Three of them — debs Elle, Bailey, Summers — wore creations by KVH Designs (Kathleen Van Horn), while Layne’s was by Yvonne Counce. Mothers Andree Batt and Jill Nalty both turned out in Sachin and Babi. For Colleen McLeod and Amy White, the designing names to know were Halston and Shoshanna.
As guests arrived, they were greeted by stilt walkers, as well as a trio of “lit-up-ladies,” bewigged performers with lights in their outfits. Specialty ice sculptures were part of the eye-catching decorations. One had the debs’ names on it and another was placed in front of a rendering of the “Night at the N.O.P.S.I.” invitation. Gobo — an acronym for “goes before (or between) optics” — usage was also prevalent. The decorative lighting devices illuminated the hotel’s façade, while more Gobo effects appeared on the walls down the hallway leading to the ballroom. On those walls illuminated portraits of Bailey, Elle, Layne and Summers were placed and early in the evening, the receiving line was under the pictures. Leslie McMichael with LESCO Productions was the event planner.
Among those especially welcomed by the Batts were deb sister Kelly Manning Batt, grandfather Harry Eldon Wood, Bryan Batt and Tom Cianfichi, Dr. and Mrs. Carroll Lee Wood, the Ernest Lynwood O’Bannons, Barbara and Marty Claiborne, Gayle Dyhrkopp, Karyn and Bill Kearney, Ann and Bill Schramm, Mittie and Bill LeCorgne, and Beth and Eddie Dienes and his mom, Carol.
Mingling with the McLeods were deb sisters Gigi and Coco McLeod, grandparents Dee and Ernie Eustis and Maretta and Buddy Walley, great-grandmother Mrs. Edwin T. Colton Jr. (Edna), Celeste and Curtis Eustis, Bren and Britton McLeod, Ellen and Danny Phelan, Michael and Nancy Walshe, William Emerson Rollins, Holly and Rene Dupaquier, Gary and Betsy Laborde, Julie and Patrick Calhoun, Wendy deBen and Missy Mantilla.
Throughout the bash, the party pack admired flowers by Anne Guillot, as they made beelines to the various food areas. There were three types of handmade ravioli, braised short ribs, different gumbos, lobster rolls, boiled shrimp and a slider station. Late at night, burgers and fries were among the taste treats. Lighted ice cubes filled the drinks.
Reveling, too, were hundreds of hobnobbers, quite a few from the Naltys’ kin and kith, such as Layne’s sister, Morgan Elizabeth Nalty, and grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lawrence Simmons. That’s deb grandmother Betsy Nalty and step-granddad Dick Simmons. Also, Helen and Kim Butcher, Donald James Nalty Jr., Mrs. Pablo Mejia (Stacey), Jodi Layne Knight, Elly and Merritt Lane, Dana and Steve Hansel, Marjorie McKeithen Schlesinger and Scott, and Beth Trotter.
John Legier “Jack” White partied with sister Summers, as did grandparents Jack and Anne White and Woody and Joy Baldwin. Others were Mrs. Wilson S. Hoyle III (Kate), Allison and Patrick Zuber, Jim and Stephanie Huger, Trey and Elizabeth Macdiarmid, Whit and Susu Kellam, Lee and Andrea Finkelstein, Lynne and Hunter White, and Kathleen “Frog” and Terry White’s children Hunter, Forrest, Bere and Jane. (Kathleen was present but Terry was “under the weather.”) And Kim and Paxton White, Win and Evans White, and Virginia and Michael White with children Michael, Shelby and Ellie.
As with the Batt, McLeod and Nalty families, the Whites had lots of overlapping of friends (and family) on the invitation lists.
In the ballroom, “Boogie Wonder Band” was emblazoned above the stage, where lighting flashed in colors of pink, ice blue and yellow. The music makers came from Quebec, Canada, to work their musical heat. On the floor were beach-type balls with LED colors that the younger set had fun kicking around on the ground-level. Above were three crystal chandeliers. To get the crowd boogieing, the acclaimed disco band, replete with sequined-clad female singers, started with the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing.” One of the next numbers had the names of the four honorees inserted in the lyrics. “Ladies Night” (and line, “This is your night tonight”) followed. As the floor filled, hits such as “Let’s Groove Tonight” and “Dancing Queen” set a tone for a slew of night moves. One of the final moves was on to the stage for Bailey, Elle, Layne and Summers, who danced, pranced and sang to “We Are Family.” And that night, they were.
Elizabeth “Ellie” Atherton, a fourth-generation debutante in New Orleans, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Curwen Atherton III of Charlottesville, Virginia. Her parents, Eugenie and Rob and grandparents Betsy and Hap (also Happy) Crusel honored Ellie at a Jazz Brunch at Arnaud’s, where fun was the main menu item. Others were shrimp Arnaud, crab meat ravigote, turtle soup, filet or fish, and, for restaurant refulgence, flaming strawberries Arnaud.
Pierrot, the beloved commedia dell’arte character, greeted guests at the top of the stairs. He was dressed in pink to match the theme colors. On the tables, the centerpieces were made of a wrought-iron balcony design with the initials “EA” intertwined with ferns and bright pink and silver balloon bouquets. Those motifs were announced in the Scriptura invitation that had the honoree’s name in pink and the wording and balcony fragment in silver.
Breaking bread with Ellie and her parents and grandparent were deb brother Luke Atherton, grandfather Robert Atherton, Carolyn and John Wogan, Carolyn and Keao Caindec, Katie Laudun, Miriam and Ned Henry, Lizzie and Brent Peus, Margaret Charbonnet, Virginia and John Rowan, Gwathmey and Fritz Gomila, Sarah Jane Freeman, Harry Gould, and others, who swapped news of their Christmas-time comings and goings.
To set the musical tone — and tunes — band members of Joe Simon Jazz made the midday even merrier.