PaperCity Magazine

September 2016 - Houston

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Page 65 of 197

62 N early 35 years ago, Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens — one America's most important troves of decorative arts from centuries past — opened its august doors for its inaugural fund-raising benefit. The grounds of the 1927 John Staub- designed home and its ravishing 14-acre gardens were illuminated to welcome a beautiful, moneyed crowd to "An Evening of Celebration" — the title, an understatement at odds with the scale and splendor of the endeavor. It was the first time the house museum had welcomed guests after dark since its owner, Miss Ima Hogg, bequeathed the property to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and moved out in 1965. Miss Ima was one of Houston's grandest dames, and this party marked what would have been her centennial year (she had passed away seven years earlier). She was the daughter of the first native-born governor of Texas, founder of both the Houston Symphony and Bayou Bend, champion of mental health and education for all races and genders, an elected member of the school board, and benefactor of Memorial Park — all of which made her a progressive power woman who even today might be considered left of center in some circles. The more-than-a-year-in-the-making fête was the most expensive ball ticket ever offered at the time in Houston, or Texas; it even drew gasps in Manhattan. Fund-raising records were shattered. The party was the talk of this town, covered by all the society reporters in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, and Fort Worth. Women's Wear Daily dispatched a correspondent, and Suzy (Aileen Mehle) wrote about it for W, as did the Los Angeles Times (in glowing paragraphs between Nancy Reagan and reports on the royal family of Monaco). Here are the dazzling details of the centennial bash, rescued from the sands of time thanks to chairman Linda McReynolds' rediscovery of a lovingly kept archive, plus image assistance from Houston Metropolitan Research Center at the Ideson Library. Who: Ball chairman Linda McReynolds combined grace, grit, and teamwork to mobilize old and new guard alike to honor Miss Ima with a once-in-a-lifetime evening that interwove the Houston Symphony and Bayou Bend, raising funds for both. The bar was set very high. More than three decades later, McReynolds remembers the party "as the most private public event ever in Houston." Lucius Broadnax, Miss Ima's devoted butler and chauffeur for 30-some years, was coaxed out of retirement to greet guests, in full livery — a living tie to the lady being honored. Among the notables were Houston kingmakers now long gone, and distinguished out-of-towners with local connections, as well as those who still appear on our social pages: Watergate prosecutor Leon Jaworski and wife Jeannette, she a past Symphony League president; Miss Ima's best friend Nettie Jones and husband Albert (she wore amethysts given to her by Miss Hogg and cut the evening's towering birthday cake); Linda Finger as decorations chair, with husband Ronny; Patty Hubbard, presiding over invitations, assisted by Pat Osborne; underwriting chairmen Elise and Russell Joseph, and her parents, Margaret Wiess Elkins and James A. Elkins Jr.; Lynn Wyatt; Diane and Bill Hobby; San Antonio grande doyenne Margaret Tobin and son Robert Tobin, heir to the map dynasty; Alice Simkins, a curator, collector and MFAH donor who is related to the Hogg family; global jet-setters Pierre Schlumberger and wife, socialite São; Carol and Les Ballard; publishing tycoon Joe Allbritton and wife Barby, who were off to the Preakness the next day; Cornelia and Meredith Long, he instrumental in powerfully advising the committee; Tony and Isaac Arnold, he then chairman of the MFAH board; Bayou Bend curator David Warren, narrator of the night's program; and, in from Kerrville, Miss Hogg's landscape architect, Pat Fleming. Kickoff style: In lieu of a kickoff cocktail, members of the host committee and benefactors attended an elegant afternoon high tea in Bayou Bend's historic Empire Room on Sunday, January 31, 1982, prepared by Miss Hogg's go-to caterer, David Moncrief. Days before the big night, neighbors Katsy and John Mecom hosted 50 patrons for an opulent dinner party with illuminated swan ice-sculpture desserts, in anticipation of the ball. Wardrobe cues: The invitation (engraved on pale pink paper with green tissue liner, in deference to Miss Ima's favorite colors and her celebrated azaleas) enjoined guests to wear "black tie or nostalgic dress from the period 1882-1982." McReynolds wore Zandra Rhodes which channeled the Victorian era, when Miss Ima was a child, via its cascades of flounces and lace. The picture that defines the evening is McReynolds standing at the door as Miss Hogg had always done, greeting guests, her family bedside her — including her pre-teen daughters, Merritt and Larkin, and twin sister Carolyn McMullen, flying in from a China trip — and, nearby, Caroline Wiess Law, grand benefactress to the MFAH. To this day, McReynolds remembers the magnificent gems BAYOU BEND A DATE WITH THE PAST A LOOK BACK AT A STORIED PARTY THAT MADE HISTORY FRIDAY, MAY 14, 1982 BY CATHERINE D. ANSPON. PHOTOS HOUSTON METROPOLITAN RESEARCH CENTER, HOUSTON PUBLIC LIBRARY, PHOTOGRAPHED FOR THE HOUSTON POST BY BETTY TICHICH. "THAT IS HOW THEY DO IT IN WITH THAT ELEGANCE AND ATTENTION TO EVERY DETAIL." HOUSTON — Blair Corning, San Antonio Express-News Nettie Jones, left, wears amethysts given to her by Miss Ima. Harris Masterson III & Carroll Masterson (Continued on page 156)

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