Debutantes Ball - A Lasting Tradition

By: Diane Dunne
Published: 12/3/2002Source: The New York Sun
Debutantes Ball - A Lasting Tradition

At 5'6", she gives the appearance of being long and lean; perhaps her blonde hair hanging down to her waist creates that illusion. A New Yorker by birth who attended Trinity, Dalton and Hunter Day School, she is a freshman at Princeton University, an award-winning poet, soloist with the University Jazz Ensemble, chess enthusiast and possible economics major. Alidia Clagett was one of 60 young women making debuts on Saturday at the 48th International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria. The Ball benefits the Soldiers', Sailors', Marines' and Airmen's Club and other International Debutante Ball Foundation charities. Swirling about in a huge-skirted, off-the-shoulder organza Vera Wang gown, Ms. Clagett chose to come out because "This is one of the best balls in which to have a good time . and it benefits charities." Years ago, girls came out so their families could introduce their daughters to other families of similar social standing. Nowadays, the emphasis has changed: "I don't expect any social changes because of this. I'm certainly not seeking a husband," Ms. Clagett said. "I want a career before I ever think of marriage."

A similar sentiment was issued from across the globe. H.R.H. Elmerice Countess de Habsburg - who traces her heritage to 11th century Switzerland and 13th century Austria - came for fun. "When I was invited, I thought it would be exciting to come to New York and meet a few new people," she said. Ms. Habsburg, who is 18 and never uses her title, is looking forward to entering college in Australia next year, where she hopes to major in marketing. Her gown, made by a local seamstress in her town of Klagenfurt, was a brilliant silk adroitly trimmed with pearls and beads. Was she hoping to meet a prospective husband at the ball? "Oh no!" she exclaimed. "I won't consider marriage until I'm at least 28 or, even better, in my 30s." Princess Charlotte de Broglie is the quintessential quiet, dark beauty. A Parisian, educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland, she is studying fashion design in Paris. Discreetly elegant, she is worldly, mature, and distinguished. Her long, straight, brown hair frames deep-set brown eyes that keep all secrets to themselves. Her smile is languid but modish, she moves with an air of controlled assurance, and she never raises her voice above a gentle whisper. Ms. De Broglie said, "I chose to come out at this ball because it is more interesting than European ones. I also wish to meet more Americans." She wore a two-piece gown made for her by Chanel Couture with a luxuriously full silk organza skirt and pearl-encrusted bustier. These 21st century women were looking for a memorable, fun evening in which to dress up, dance and be in the spotlight for one evening. Even their attitudes toward escorts are easy-going. Two gentlemen escort the women - a friend in white tie and tails holds her right arm, and a designated military escort carries the flag of her country or city. Ms. Clagett invited John Oliphant, a friend of her girlfriend, Francesca Forrestal, debutante from Rhode Island and granddaughter of the secretary of the Navy, James V. Forrestal. Bryan Dougherty, Sergeant First Class at West Point, was her military escort. Countess de Habsburg said friends had made arrangements for her escort. Princess de Broglie had an assigned escort, Charleston Tompson, who met her the evening before the ball.

Prince Frederic de Broglie chose the International Debutante Ball for his daughter's coming out because "I want Charlotte to acquire the American spirit. When Americans want something, they continue until they get it," he said. "I want her to learn this trait." Her relative, Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie, won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1929 for his discovery of the wave nature of electrons. Ms. Clagett's father, Tjarda van Starkenborgh Clagett, said, "Alidia's father, grandfather, and great-grandfather attended Princeton. In fact, the first Clagett to attend Princeton can be traced back to 1757. I'd like to see her follow up on a major in economics, possibly because I am retired from Merrill Lynch." The Grand Ballroom held bouquets of pink roses and white flowers, swags of silver and sparkling white trees. The master of ceremonies, Ivan Obolensky, thanked Count and Countess Nicholas Bobrinskoy for decorating the ballroom for the 30th year. Dancing to music by the Lester Lanin Orchestra were Comte Gonzague de Montrichard of the House of Savoie, who escorted debutante Elizabeth Peter Lynch, daughter of mutual fund guru Peter Lynch; and Prince Henri de Merode, escort of debutante Sophie de Laboulaye of France. The receiving line, led by Mrs. Gregory Scott Hedberg, director and general chairman, was a sweeping semi-circle of 60 overflowing white gowns, many designed by Vera Wang. Traditionally debutantes wear single-strand 8-1/2mm pearl necklaces. Some of today's modern women followed this practice, while a few wore diamond necklaces in contrast to those who wore only pearl stud earrings. Two women topped their coiffures with tiaras. Seated at the international table were Ms. Hedberg; R. Quincy Adams, who traces his genealogy to John Quincy Adams; Gina De Franco; Prince de Broglie; Mr. Obolensky; Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bentley, scion of the motoring company whose daughter Alaina represented England; financier Peter J. Le Beau; Sharlene Hartmen; Maximilan Baldwin Gourley; Mrs. Mary Clow; Susan Frederick; Dr. and Mrs. Robert Wickham; the Hon. Livia Sylva, former commissioner of the United Nations and Consular Corps; and the Earl of Glasgow, whose daughter, Lady Alice Boyle, represented Scotland replete with bagpiper. The Earl of Glasgow epitomized the ball, "It's truly a lovely, grand evening."
- with Diane Dunne


Opening night of The New York City Ballet last week featured a centennial celebration of Richard Rodgers. The audience packed the New York State Theater to watch the premiere of three ballets set to Rodgers' music. Bernadette Peters - a surprise guest - sang in Peter Martins' ballet, "Thou Swell," as did Tony Award-winning recording artist Debbie Gravitte and Jonathan Dokuchitz. After greeting the audience and praising the New York City Ballet, Mayor Bloomberg paid tribute to artistic director Mr. Martins on his 35th anniversary with the troupe. In attendance were Linda Rodgers Emory and Mary Rodgers Guettel, the honorary chairmen, as well as Elaine Sargent, escorted by William Tapert, and Abby Hamlin, who performed modern dance for 15 years with the Viola Farger Dance Company until becoming a real estate developer after suffering an injury.

Co-chair Louise Blouin MacBain entertained Audrey Gruss, as well as former governor of Ontario, Galen Weston; Alexandra MacBain, and Mr. and Mrs. Ezra Zilkha. Mr. and Mrs. David Dangoor hosted Peter Georgescu, the Swedish consul general, and his wife, and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marston. Daniel Shapiro escorted Agnes Gund, while event co-chair Charlotte Moss came with Barry Friedberg. Peggy Tishman proudly introduced her granddaughter, Alexandra, a sophomore at Harvard majoring in economics. Julius Lumsden, who designed spectacular costumes for Mr. Martins' ballet, was seated with Muffy and Xavier Flouret and Georgette Farkas. Mrs. Gerald Schoenfeld wore a black combination of Issey Makaye and Oscar de la Renta. Also attending were Anne Bass, Arie and Coco Kopelman, Jamee and Peter Gregory, Catherine Cahill and William Bernard, Jonathan and Somers Farkas, Nina Griscom, Diane Dunne Raul Suarez, Mikhail Baryshnikov with Lisa Rinehart, and Ambassador Sergio Vento, Italy's permanent representative to the United Nations, and his wife. Over dessert, Ms. Peters revealed that her next musical, scheduled to open next spring on Broadway, will be a revival of "Gypsy," directed by Sam Mendes. Toward the event's close, Mayor Bloomberg was asked by The New York Sun how he would wish to be remembered on his 100th year. He considered for a moment and then replied, "I'd like to be remembered as a good father."


"New York Salutes the United Nations" was the theme of The Hospitality Committee for United Nations Delegations Inc.'s "Ambassadors' Ball" honoring Roy Goodman and Marjorie Bloomberg Tiven at The Pierre. The evening opened with opera star Elaine Malbin singing "God Bless America." The event's co-chairs, Mrs. George Ames and Mrs. Peter Epstein, staged a family party. Mrs. Epstein was dressed in a white pleated chiffon gown, and Mr. Epstein roamed the room with his home-video camera. Heading the junior committee were their three daughters, the youngest of whom, Wendy, looked stunning in a white chiffon gown that her mother wore 25 years ago. Marcy contrasted in black lace. Vicki Epstein Miller, also in black, told The New York Sun, "We've been working for a few years to increase the membership of young people. Our committee is a vital help to families who move here from other countries. We, in turn, get to know so many fascinating, international people!"

Also present were Mrs. and Mr. Richard Walter, who entertained the Italian ambassador and Mrs. Sergio Vento; Mrs. and Mr. Christopher Smithers (the latter's grandfather founded IBM); Mrs. and Mr. Thomas Croci, cousins of the Smithers; Gloria Kins; Lee Merinoff, wearing a third-generation bib of turquoises and diamonds originally owned by her husband's grandmother, Leona Kletz; Baroness von Langendroff, and the president of the board, Mrs. Walter Wilds, wearing a diamond butterfly brooch. The master of ceremonies was Joseph Verner Reed, ambassador of Morocco under President Reagan, chief of protocol under the first President Bush and current under-secretary general of the United Nations. Also attending were the British ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, and Lady Greenstock; Mrs. Roy Goodman; and Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Siff.


Gazing around a room of elaborate murals and huge crystal chandeliers, numerous elegantly attired ladies and gentlemen sat on gold-painted drawing room chairs awaiting the Venice Baroque Orchestra to begin. Lute, harpsichord, viola, cello and violins began tuning up as though in a 17th century private palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice. Then a voice announced, "Neither Vivaldi nor Handel wrote for the cell phone, since it is not a baroque instrument. Kindly turn them off." Monday was an evening of Old World charm at The Save Venice Inc. benefit. Held at a private club, it raised $250,000 for preservation and restoration work on art and architecture in Venice. Soprano Patrizia Ciofi, made her American debut, joined by an 11-piece orchestra, one of the world's leading period instrument ensembles. J. Winston Fowlkes III told Diane C. Dunne that he and many of his friends joined the organization through friendship with its chairman, Dr. Randolph ("Bob") H. Guthrie. "Every two years, Bob organizes a four-day gala treasure hunt in Venice that includes art, lectures, parties, good fun, and raises money for the organization's projects. About 300 people, mainly Americans, come for this special look at Venice. Bob spends months concocting a mind-boggling treasure hunt, complete with illustrated booklet, which takes us all over the city on foot. It forces us to see things we would probably miss as tourists. We had to find things on top of buildings as well as on cobblestones. We've had such fun that our children now come along to join us."

Artist Donna Punj, who serves on Save Venice's Los Angeles committee, told The New York Sun she visits Venice every year after carnival, and always wears the same straw hat. It has become the trademark by which Venetians recognize her. Ana Clemencia Fox proudly said, "I was born in Spain, married an American international lawyer, Donald, and ever since we met the Guthries, we have loved visiting Venice. Beatrice and Bob have made Venice into something special for us." Conversation in the reception room halted as Ivana Trump entered in a long-sleeved svelte black gown by Raffaella Curier, with Bulgari earrings and a Dennis Basso chinchilla wrap. Ms. Trump said her schedule was busy, with 30-40 speaking engagements on motivational and leadership topics such as "How to Survive in Business" and "Hospitality." When asked about her interest in Venice, Ms. Trump's eyes glistened, as she flashed her famous smile and looked at the crowd circling her. "Most of my husbands and boyfriends have been Italian," she said, at which her audience joined in with the laughter. Those attending included Dr. Guthrie, Ambassador and Mrs. Sergio Vento, Mrs. Winston Guest, Mr. and Mrs. Howard Phipps, Jr., The Hon. Giorgio Radicati, Paul Kellogg, Emily and Walter Mead, Mr. and Mrs. J. Robert Lovejoy, Mr. and Mrs. F. Malcolm Graff, Mr. and Mrs. Elihu Rose, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph R. Perella, Tia and Drew G.L. Chapman, Dayssi and Paul Kanavos, Eva and Lorenzo Lorenzotti, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Geist, and Beatrice Rossi-Landi. When the guests entered the concert room, George White said, "Let's pretend the ceiling murals are by Tintoretto." Everything else was very real.


Tall and statuesque in a ruby-red pleated gown, she stood in the hall searching through the crowd. Would the prince walk by? Michele Jimenez, a winner of the Dance Fellowship in Ballet and member of The Washington School of Ballet, wished to thank her benefactor at the Princess Grace Awards at the Waldorf-Astoria. Her mother, father and aunt, originally from the Dominican Republic, stood by protectively. When Prince Albert of Monaco arrived, she rushed over and spoke to him. He gave her a warm smile as his sister, Princess Caroline and her husband, Prince Ernst of Hanover stood watching nearby.

Since 1984, the Princess Grace Foundation-USA has awarded grants to more than 350 aspiring artists in theater, dance and film. "I enjoy fast, active sports such as bobsledding, tennis and skiing in my spare time," Prince Albert told Diane C. Dunne. "I've tried polo, but it's too active for me!" he sighed. Renee Fleming, fresh from her premiere the previous night of "Il Pirata" at the Metropolitan Opera, entertained the audience with two arias, and as an encore sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." Many gowns with trains were spotted in the glamorous crowd that included Kathy and Rick Hilton, Julia Koch, Barbara and John Lehman, Hillary and Robert Marx, Lynn Wyatt, Sonja and John Morgan, Corporate Chairs Charles-Henri Cousin, Daniel Crimmins, and Rose-Marie Fox Shanahan. Helene Alexopoulos, Jennifer Grant, and Rana and Homera Shani were Event Chairs. Ms. Jimenez wore a gown by Carmen Marc Valvo and Ms. Fleming looked outstanding a grey Gianfranco Ferre gown and stole, explaining, "I have to wear something dramatic, after all, I'm a diva."


Imagine walking through the doors of an elegant mansion, past rooms teeming with Corot, Gainsborough and Rembrandt paintings, into a salon Marie Antoinette would adore, sipping a glass of champagne around the pool at The Frick Collection Autumn Dinner. Helen Clay Chace, great-granddaughter of Henry Clay Frick, greeted approximately 250 guests in the grand entrance hall at The Frick Museum at its Autumn Dinner. "Visting here as a child, I loved running in circles around the pool, which my children do now," Ms. Chase told Diane C. Dunne. "One time, I sat on the organ bench and tried to play it, but fortunately, my feet didn't reach the pedals." Standing next to Ms. Chace in the receiving line were Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Sachs II. Mr. Sachs, the museum's director, recounted, "This is the fourth year of the Autumn Dinner, which was started the year following my arrival to The Frick. Tonight we raised $500,000 for the museum." Gala co-chairmen Mr. and Mrs. William Rayner and Nicholas H. J. Hall, chairman of the Museum Council, greeted Frick family members Martha Loring and Emily Frick, who raises orchids in her greenhouse and provides them to the museum.

The museum honored television host Charlie Rose for his promotion and love of the arts. Over cocktails, Mr. Rose told The New York Sun, "Art can change your life." After dinner he told the audience, "I grew up in a 100-person town in North Carolina, an only child. We never talked much about art at wasn't something I concentrated on." He added that he was later "stunned by all I saw in museums . Art has everything we believe in . It makes a difference in our lives." Art collector Steve Wynn and his wife Elaine, friends of Mr. Rose, flew in from Las Vegas for the evening. Dining over foie gras and pheasant in the garden court, Lawrence Huntington told benefit committee member Mrs. William Clark and her guest Leslie La Nieve how the grandson and namesake of Henry Clay Frick once sat on the board of his firm, Fiduciary Trust Co. Prior to Mr. Frick's retirement, Mr. Huntington reminded him for six months that he didn't know where to hold his retirement dinner. Finally, Mr. Frick smiled, broke down, and said, "'Well, I guess we could have it at the museum.' It was one of the greatest dinners and I'll never forget it," Mr. Huntington recalled. Other attendees at the Autumn Dinner included Paul Pennoyer, grandson of J.P. Morgan, Marianna and Juan Sabater who are members of the Young Fellows, Fred Hill of Berry-Hill Gallery, Mary Ellen Meehan, Marina Rust Connor, Sofia and Peter Blanchard, Jamie Niven, Julie and Lawrence Salander, Barrie and Wynant Vanderpoel, Irene Aitken, The Hon. Anne Cox Chambers and Frances Hayward