Budapest and Boots

Key Connections

Once upon a time, as the movie’s plot goes, the Grand Budapest Hotel was the epicenter of glamorous ski-resort travel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowa. Using the hotel’s name as the film’s title, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” relates activity in the 1930s concerning the concierge Gustave, as played by Ralph Fiennes, and protégé Zero, a junior lobby boy. They team up to prove the innocence of Gustave, who has been framed for murder. Wes Anderson directed the movie, which was made in 2014 and garnered Academy Awards and a heap of laudable reviews.

What fun it was for a brace of debutantes to visit the celebrated hotel: The invitation read “Lunch at the Grand Budapest honoring Alyce Iglesias and Madison Tufts.” Their respective mothers, Diane McConnell and Houstonian Claudia Tufts, were the hosts. The debs’ late fathers are Messrs. Charles John Iglesias and James David Tufts III.

Arnaud’s was the site — and the source of sights. Beautifully decorated for Christmas with large wreaths, garlands and festive red bows as a backdrop, the 100-year-old restaurant evoked the film’s sense of place. Each table was florally decorated with pink Gerber daisies, Chinese lilies and pink tulips. Further accents were silver beaded lamps and calligraphed place cards — with such names as Elizabeth Reed, Amelie Lagarde, Lindsey Durant, Shea Duckworth and Laine Kehoe — adorned with antique room keys and pink or purple tassels.

The movie mood was immediately set when the three generations of guests arrived. With Champagne ready to serve, the waiters led them upstairs for cocktails on the balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. Additional notable libations were “The Mendl’s Drink,” “The Lobby Boy Cocktail,” “The Boy with Apple” (red wine) and “The Wes Anderson” (the house white wine).

To the universal delight, the waiters wore purple bow ties and matching “Lobby Boy” hats. “That really made it fun,” said one debutante about the choice accessories. Moments later, she and several pals asked a few waiters to lend them their hats for photos.

Concerning the debs and their moms, glamour also was at the get-go. Picking up the colors of the invitation, Alyce Iglesias wore a pink BCBG dress, while mom Diane McConnell (also McConnell-Iglesias) opted for a look from Saks. Maddie’s dress was by Lovers + Friends and Claudia’s came from Tootsie’s in Houston.

Reveling in the thematic fun were Alyce’s grandmother, Eola “GiGi” McConnell, and Maddie’s siblings Ashley and Jay Tufts. Also, Rhonda and Logan Loomis, Penn Pirri, Adele Petagna, and, in from Texas, Peyton Schlachter, of Dallas, and Mia Bonner and Paige Avery, both from Houston. Mom-deb daughter duos included Susan Cimini and Juliet, Shannon Holtzman and Larkin, Boo Kallenborn and Ann, Reecee Lanier and Lucie, Lise Kuhn and Lillie, Lisa Frischhertz and Payton, and Becky McGoey and Megan.

The seated lunch produced a menu of gustatory treats, starting with shrimp Arnaud, Arnaud salad, a main course choice (grillades and grits or chicken Pontalba) and chocolate toffee torte. Needless to say (but not stay), there was a lot of table-hopping as the deb set delighted in lively camaraderie.

In the movie, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” time plays a significant element, coursing decades. In years to come, Alyce and Maddie will recall the fun they had on a chilly afternoon when they lunched at Arnaud’s and made a movie their merriment.

Having a Boot!

Wearing them, too, was directed by the spectacular cowboy-themed invitation that stated as attire “Suits and Boots.” This was for debutante Corinne Renée Moffett and given by her parents, James R. and Laurée Zachariah Moffett. Dad Jim Bob had just experienced oral surgery but showed festive fortitude as he participated in the party, which beckoned “For Boots, Beads and Outrageous Beats” at the Sugar Mill on Convention Center Boulevard. During a well-known musical number, Jim Bob and Laurée took to the dance floor.

The decorations wowed everyone and served as a tribute to Corinne’s birthplace of Louisiana and her current home in Texas. Z Event (that’s Susan Zackin) recreated the façade of Pat O’Brien’s and the patio courtyard, replete with greenery, strings of lights and a fountain with actual flames, for the impressive entrance. A large bar with smokestacks was a nod to river boats, while New Orleans-themed toile served as linen on some of the tables. Specialty drinks in monogrammed “hurricane” glasses had Corinne’s name on them. Further liquid attractions were margaritas. Mimes, jugglers and musicians acted as street performers.

Inside the warehouse a “perfect mix” of New Orleans and Texas was created by the use of balloons, at least 30,000 of them, by Badass Balloon Company, to make the largest “strings” of Mardi Gras beads ever seen in this city. (Several party guests talked about this amazing buoyancy, and the collection of balloons, as setting a Guinness World Record.) Kim Starr Wise’s enormous florals were hung over the food stations in various major focal points. One caught every eye with oranges roses, hydrangeas, lavender tulips, green pampas grass and blood-red anthuriums. The decor at each food station echoed what was served, such as the eight-foot long ice carving for the seafood. Behind it was an “ice curtain” containing frozen balls of ice on strings. Backing the main stage, a 60-foot video display wall projected changing content.

To keep it all a little “Austin Weird” for Corinne’s home city, two silver Airstream Travel Trailers were set up as bars (offering “The Corinne” as a drink), while a third was a photo lounge. A highlight was the Hat Bar in the lounge area, where guests could get a custom-fitted cowboy hat.

The food was extensive with offerings for a range of palates. Passed hors d’oeuvres starting the nibbling that came on full force with a grits bar, Texas barbecue, a ribeye carving station, Cajun slaw, praline bacon, a pork taco bar, pecan-encrusted redfish, grilled and half-shell oysters, a macaroni and cheese bar, and a sweets station, including a king cake tower and Mardi Gras macaroons. John Folse got lots of food credit. Late night chomps were beef sliders, truffle parmesan fries, weenies from a Lucky Dog cart and beignets from a Café du Monde truck.

The sartorial kick came from Corinne’s Retrofete crystal-beaded dress and Lucchese boots; Laurée’s Jovani mode and Stetson hat; and Jim Bob’s Ralph Lauren suit and Stetson El Presidente hat.

Son Jordan Moffett was among the family members kicking up their heels, as were Zachariah Barnes, Frank Zachariah, Tommy Zachariah, Johnny Zachariah, Renee and Henri Boudreaux, and Andree Barnes. Friends included Dr. Mo and Brenda Bethea, Bill and Lily Hines, John and Virginia Amato, Bill Goldring, Gracie Rigell, Dr. Jan Petit, Carole Neuner, Sally Roussel, Donna Toadvin, Jinous Rouhani and escort Philip Annis, and Caren and Ed Burbach with children CeCe and Beau.

Five sets of entertainers gave the boots a workout on the dance floor. The James Williams Band and Irma Thomas were applauded as local entertainers, especially the latter with “Hey, Pocky Way.” At 8:50 p.m., a second-line formed and the party pack twirled their “Corinne – New Orleans” handkerchiefs. From away came Parker McCollum, The Turnpike Troubadours and The Social. Revelry never stopped.

For a party that embraced thematic miles and miles, it was smiles and smiles that directed every compass point as “Boots, Beads and Outrageous Beats” were roped in for Corinne.

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