PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas March 2023

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She even had Toto in her basket. "It sounded absurd. I was confused and fascinated and intrigued all at the same time," Bush tells me by phone from Los Angeles, where she is a writer and producer. A former deb herself who came out in New York at the 52nd International Debutante Ball, she's the granddaughter of President George H.W. Bush. For her debut at the Waldorf Astoria hotel, she wore a classic strapless white gown with a demure bow at the bodice — a far cry from the Broadway-inspired ensembles emerging from east Texas. Kickstarted by initial funding from the New York production company, Bush set out to make a documentary on the Rose Festival and traveled to Tyler to shoot. "While I was there, I was like, 'Wow, the real queen of this pageant is Winn.' He's the Walt Disney of this small town — he brings the same glitter and fantasy." Her focus switched to Morton, and over the next five years, she filmed him at work in Tyler and at his ancestral home in Lancaster, near Dallas. "I was learning filmmaking, and he was so patient letting me come back again and again," she says. Meanwhile, Bush had enrolled in film school at USC, honing her skills and eventually editing a mountain of interviews and footage of Morton into a short documentary. The Queen's New Clothes premiered at Landmark's Magnolia Theater in Dallas two months after his retirement in 2019. The theater was packed, and Morton sobbed as the crowd cheered. The movie, now on Amazon Prime, is a bittersweet denouement to a remarkable career. Bush maintained a deep friendship with Morton until his death in 2022 at age 93. "Winn was warm and witty, always condor, and coral reef. They were often outrageous. A "Cirque de la Rose"-themed festival featured a costume with a headpiece that looked like a towering circus tent. Other costumes included a ferocious performing lion and a sideshow fire breather; one year, a debutante was dressed as a teapot — with handle and spout. Some were complex, such as one young woman's gown that was orbited by an elaborate three-dimensional constellation of planets, moons, and stars. It all glowed pink and green under a blacklight illuminating the stage. But nothing was as dramatic as the queen's train, which could be 20 feet long and feature 100 pounds of exquisite ornamentation. The scale and poundage of the train required her to practice weeks ahead of time with a makeshift cloth train dragging a piece of furniture that weighed almost as much as she did. Morton didn't stop at the costumes — he directed every aspect of the production, from how the debutantes moved in their costumes to the lighting, music, and special effects. Bush was a production coordinator at a New York production company in 2013 when a Texas friend casually mentioned she was making her debut at the Rose Festival as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. The landmarked Winniford House in Lancaster, Texas, was designed and built in 1913 by Morton's great uncle, Andrew David Winniford. Morton restored it in the 1980s. 85

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