PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas March 2023

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In a guest bedroom, a costume sketch by Winn Morton. Opposite page: The parlor was furnished in family antiques and lighting original to the house and pieces that belonged to Morton and Lewis' house in Bucks County, PA. designed lavish, themed galas for The Crystal Charity Ball, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Dallas Opera. For Mayor Starke Taylor's birthday party, he designed an enormous showboat and floated it in the politician's backyard pool, and for the wedding of a daughter of a Dallas billionaire, he took over the entire Dallas Country Club with opulent sets and decorations. Morton was already on-board at the Texas Rose Festival when the circus finally came calling. After a nationwide search of top theatrical designers, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus tapped him to create 400 new costumes for the company's touring train that included superstar tiger trainer Gunther Gebel- Williams. The year was 1985, and with a $1.5 million budget, Morton sent feathers and headpieces to be hand-dyed in Paris, costumes to Haiti for embroidery, and sourced Vienna for the world's most luminous topaz rhinestones. Gebel-Williams' own costume was so ornate it took seamstresses 350 hours to complete. Longtime friend Myra Walker, former director of the Texas Fashion Collection at UNT, organized a 40-year retrospective of Morton's creations in 1989 at a pavilion in the Trammell Crow Center. In 2007, she enlisted him to design the acclaimed Balenciaga show at the Meadows Museum, which was so dazzling that it was held over by popular demand. She compares Morton to British society photographer, and stage and film designer Cecil Beaton. "Winn could do it all: costumes, sets, lighting … He had an expansive talent and social connections. There really aren't people like that anymore." Home is Where the Heart is One of the last bits of footage Ashley Bush filmed of Winn Morton was at the historic Winniford House in Lancaster, the 1913 Prairie-style house where he was born, set on a couple of hundred acres. Morton greets the camera on a broad wraparound porch and swings the screen door open. He and Harry Lewis restored the house together in the '80s; after 53 years together, Lewis died in 2006. "Winn wore his heart on his sleeve," Bush says. "He always talked about Harry; It was such an emotional thing for him. As a filmmaker, I knew I needed to put it in there." The couple's arrival in small-town Texas after being on the East Coast for 40 years was initially difficult. They had acquired Yankee accents, which people didn't like, and as progressive gay men in the conservative Bible Belt, they stuck out. Morton won them over with his small-town charm and Broadway charisma. "Tyler really embraced Winn," says Bob Cook, who grew up there. "When he was showing these fantasy sketches to the [Rose Festival] mothers, they laughed and clapped and had the best time. He just knew how to sell it." Morton's birthday was around Christmas, so he held a blow-out party each year at his home, attended by the same boldfaced names whose parties he designed. "He would get out all these incredible circus decorations and transform the house into this magical experience. He loved to give people escapism," Bush says. Designated a Texas Historical Landmark, Winniford House was 89

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