“Send in the Clowns!!!! Supper Club at the Caplans,” read the invitation.
And no one could say the post office hadn't delivered it or that they'd missed the email. Two weeks before the event, hostess Lee Caplan hand carried invitations to each member of the club, which has been gathering for 33 years.
Hand delivering invitations is one of the club’s traditions. Another is that the dinners have a theme, and members are expected to dress accordingly.
And the clowns really turned out on this late-October night at Lee and Ralph Caplan's home. Each arrival was greeted with lots of laughter and shouts of “Look at you!” Each of the four couples joining the hosts also carried in another dish of goodness.
“We have so much fun because each dinner has a theme,” said Lee Caplan. “Everybody here is very clever.
“For the biker-themed dinner we had cocktails at the Harley-Davidson dealership, and bikers rode us back to our house for dinner,” she continued. “For an earlier circus-themed dinner, I walked a tightrope.”
When the theme was "VooDoo Dinner," a bowl of dry ice provided the perfect spookiness, and the women channeled New Orleans Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau. The “Out of Africa” night had members acting like Meryl Streep and Robert Redford and featured dishes from Tunisia.
One dinner challenged the diners to eat without any silverware. Another had them driving to Orange Beach dressed as witches for a Halloween-themed get-together.
“We just hope we don’t get stopped by the police on the way to these dinners,” said Wynona Martin, who joined the group with husband Bruce several years after it was formed.
A “Nerd Party” brought out lots of plaid skirts, half-tucked shirts and black glasses with the obligatory white adhesive tape holding them together in the middle. On the menu was vienna sausage, meatloaf and mashed potatoes “out of the box.”
“Food is not the real emphasis,” said Doug McPherson, laughing.
“We never test the recipes, and we’ve had some real bummers,” added his wife, JoAnna McPherson, who came up with the idea for the Supper Club. “We also never repeat a recipe. ... We‘re not a gourmet supper club, although sometimes I wish we were.”
The McPhersons were members of a couple of supper clubs before they moved to Baton Rouge from Texas.
“I called Nancy (Williams) and asked what she thought about starting a supper club,” continued JoAnna McPherson. “We decided we’d each invite two couples and see how the idea was received.”
The first group consisted of the McPhersons; the Caplans; Nancy and Wally Williams; and Cathie and John Ryan. Other couples came and went over the years, and eventually, the Martins and Eleanor and Ken Perrett joined.
“We keep the membership at 10 people, which most dining room tables can easily accommodate,” said Lee Caplan. “We’ve never had an argument. The rule is whatever the hostess wants to do, we do with no complaining. ... It’s all about the camaraderie.”
“We had to bribe our way in,” said Eleanor Perrett, who, like the other members, cherishes the friendships made over the simple act of dinner. “I like the food — it’s good and different. I also like decorating for the themes.
“It’s also an excuse to use the good china, which people don’t do enough anymore,” she added.
“It brings us together to do things we never thought we’d do,” said Lee Caplan. “It’s something to look forward to.”
For the "Send in the Clowns" menu, Lee Caplan prepared the well-known local favorite Spinach Madeleine and a “Happy Clown" fish main course. Also served were lemon Jell-O salad, tortilla shrimp bites, Parmesan potato sticks and graham cracker brownies.