Fiction and Festive Fact
In the Carnival tradition, the Original Illinois Club presented “Ignatius Reilly Goes to the Mardi Gras” at its 118th annual ball and debutante cotillion, which also celebrated the club’s 124th anniversary. Two of the women joining Ignatius in fictive lore were his mother, Irene, and his girlfriend, Myra Minkoff of the Bronx. The latter’s visit to the Crescent City and our renowned Carnival began the ball’s narrative. Myra wanted Ignatius to take her to see Mardi Gras parades downtown.
Downtown it was — the Jung Hotel and its stunning renovation — for the beautiful OIC ball, which celebrated its own special young lady: queen Carrington Calvary Williams, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Christopher Williams. She received the scepter passed from the 2018 monarch, Miss Anya Isabella Rose Knudson Washington. (The late William J. Washington bore the title, King Illinois 2018.) Sharing the throne with her majesty Carrington was King Illinois 2019 Gregory Perrault Jr.
Their royal court included Misses Fallon Christina Benoit, Jhai Monique Britton, Hannah Laura Jacquet, Melanie Anissa Ladmirault and Aalysia Darrin Ursin, all court maids and debutantes to the queen. Masters Sean Kawan Johnson Jr. and Cannon Grant Davis figured in the pageantry as pages, along with Misses Srh Jisela Johnson and Teresita Raleigh Carter. Miss Laila Washington was the herald.
Club President Tracey L. Thibodaux was the master of ceremonies. Additional club members with significant roles were Mr. H. Kenneth Johnston “for 45 years of unwavering service and leadership,” ball captain Mark V. Joseph Sr. and debutante Chairman Andrew P. Harris. Officers and members who figured in the printed program were Messrs. Walter L. Dixon, Christopher L. Hammond, Harris, Mack P. Harris, Johnston, Joseph, Huiet Joseph III, Anthony F. Maheia (a former King Illinois), Robert R. Newsome Sr. (Dr.), Darrin Patin, Perrault, Reginald D. Rigsby (Dr.), E.J. Roberts, Thibodaux, Charles F. Webb Sr. and Melvin Wilson. Three Kings Illinois J. Harold Boucree, Richard A. Theodore and Ulric Y. Pryce are honorary members. Special guests were Young Men Illinois Club President Clinton Smith and director of social affairs Lawrence Robinson.
Further acknowledgments for making the gallivanting a success were to Marion Maheia, Bettye Johnston, Tracy Dedeaux, Rogerwene Washington, Jackie Forest, Assunta Jackson, John Washington, Aaron Cormier, Chome McGinnis and Pershanon Dixon. Each year, the club recognizes widows of their members.
All eyes were riveted on the lovely Carrington, who wore an A-line custom gown of light gold taffeta and tulle with embellishments. The collar was of light gold satin with an overlay of gold net that was covered in embroidered and beaded lace. Ivory pearl beading added trimming. Her mantle was also of light gold satin with gold-netting overlay and trimmed in faux Arctic fur. In keeping with the Crescent City-related theme, there were sequin details symbolic of New Orleans.
Mrs. Williams chose an Onyx Nite design with long sleeves and rhinestones at the keyhole neckline.
In the joyous spirit of the evening, and again, true to the theme, the ball concluded with a mini-parade, followed by second line dancing with music by John Washington. True, Reilly and his cohorts were the stuff of fabulous fiction, but for factual scripting, queen Carrington assessed the thrills of the ball over which she reigned, saying it was a “great honor to be crowned queen.” She continued with, “It was a momentous occasion” that was ever so “rewarding and fun.”
To honor their debutante daughter, Carrington Calvary Williams, prior to her queenship with the Original Illinois Club, her parents, Dr. and Mrs. Christopher A. Williams, gave a party in her honor. Mrs. Williams also answers to Gracie Guston-Williams. It unfolded at Celebrations on General De Gaulle Drive and embraced “Roaring Twenties” as the theme. Misses Nicole Payne, Kaylin May, Jada Payne and Jade Payne were the party hostesses and Bettye Johnston and Marion Maheia (with husbands Kenneth and Anthony) were the debutante coordinators. King Illinois Gregory Perrault Jr. and debutantes Jhai Monique Britton, Hannah Laura Jacquet, Fallon Christina Benoit, Melanie Anissa Ladmirault and Aalysia Darrin Ursin, along with club members were hailed.
Program notables included Dr. and Mrs. Williams, master of ceremonies H. Kenneth Johnston (with the above Bettye), Lester Ezidore (with Nezrene), OIC President Tracey L. Thibodaux (with Ellen), debutante Chairman Andrew P. Harris, Chinita Lewis (with Bryan), Steve George Sons, John Payne (Carrington’s grandfather) and, of course, the honoree, who was toasted and enjoyed ceremonial waltzes with her father, her grandfather and sponsor and king Gregory Perrault Jr. Dr. Williams closed the program.
To receive her guests, Carrington wore a Blu Sage creation in Mardi Gras purple with gold glitter, Then for the presentation, she changed to a Morgan and Co. mermaid-style gown in beige and taupe with a tonal contrast of floral lace. Blu Sage was also the choice for her mother, Gracie, whose sleek long gown had retro designs and shapes indicative of the 1920s.
The party’s time period was rendered decoratively with vintage glitz and glamour. Further features were the taste treats (such as finger sandwiches, party meatballs and jambalaya), and music by George Wells, DJ Productions.
Among those making rounds were Grace Howard, Todd and Gina Jacquet, Anthony and Rachell Richard, Neary Williams, Trinell Ellis, Pearley and Charles Webb, Mark and Tamere Joseph, Chloe Sanders, EJ and Barbara Roberts, Shalanda Allen and countless others, who flocked to the dance floor for rhythm and blues, waltzes and the ever-popular Chicago slide.
“We had a great time at the tea on Saturday,” was a refrain concerning the gathering at the Windsor Court Hotel for the OIC Debutante Tea. It was a prelude to Carrington’s debutante party and the ball itself. Carrington Williams and her co-debs, Fallon Benoit, Jhai Britton, Hannah Jacquet, Melanie Ladmirault and Aalysia Ursin, under the debutante tutelage of Marion Maheia and Tracy Dedeaux, assembled. Getting to know you better was an important aspect and chatter was delightful and animated.
Afternoon tea fare beckoned. They enjoyed four different types of sandwiches, black currant and walnut scones, raspberry preserves, Devonshire cream, lemon curd and vanilla bean whipped cream. Peach mango and strawberry champagne-flavored tea ("nonalcoholic, of course!"), as well as lemonade, were duly sipped and enjoyed. And in the background of the salon with its tapestry chairs, sumptuous décor and floral china plates, piano music was the perfect touch.
Weeks later, the revelry of the debutante party and the ball took place. But for that moment at tea, the gentle pleasures of friendship and bonding were to the fore.