Parties, Friendships Bloom for Debutantes

It’s spring, and many a merchant’s fancy turns to thoughts of selling white gowns and opera-length gloves to the dozens of young women who soon will be making their debuts.

The debutantes themselves, meanwhile, are far too busy having fun to think of much of anything except the nearly endless string of parties that stretches clear ahead to the day when they will make their bows. This is especially true for the 38 young women who will be presented at the La Jolla Debutante Ball, the most traditional of the several such events given annually in San Diego. This year is the silver anniversary of this frothy spring ritual, which, despite its name, will be held, as always, at the Hotel del Coronado.

Twenty-nine of the debutantes gathered Saturday in the Riviera Room of the Westgate Hotel for a luncheon given in their honor by five debutantes and their mothers. The meal preceded a theater party in which the debs, moms and various ball committee members traipsed over to the Civic Theatre to enjoy a matinee performance of the American Ballet Theatre dancing “Don Quixote.”

The series of events that leads up to the ball and the opportunity it gives the young women to form lasting friendships always has ranked as one of the major enticements to accepting debutante status. In earlier days, each girl’s parents hosted at least one reception or gala, but the sheer number of debutantes recruited in recent years has prompted parents to club together to present a smaller--but quite varied--number of entertainments. Even though the debutante season actually runs almost six months, from the early December announcement tea to the May 31 ball, it seems that no one these days has room on the schedule for 38 parties.


Thus, five mothers--Andie Bowers, Joan Evons, Allison Ramey, Jeannie Smith and Phemie Warren--banded together Saturday to treat the debs to the luncheon and ballet party. The women stayed in the background, however, while the girls honed their already admirable social skills by serving as the day’s hostesses.

Given the fact that five mothers gave the party, there should have been five daughters acting as hostesses. But such was not the case, thanks to a happy circumstance for one of the girls that skewed the day’s arithmetic but added considerably to its pleasure. Mia Warren was to have assisted fellow debs Nicole Bowers, Ann Evons, Charlene Ramey and Erika Soares in receiving their guests, but was called away by a last-minute invitation to “take class” (go through a warm-up and practice session) with the American Ballet Theatre troupe. Thus Mia missed her own party, although she was able to rejoin the group at the theater, where she and her friends could watch the dancers with whom she had been practicing just a few moments earlier.

The hostesses offered various opinions on what they find most attractive about their debutante status. Ann Evons remarked that the best thing about the round of social events is simply the opportunity to meet girls from schools around the county, with whom she might otherwise never become acquainted (seven schools are represented by this year’s corps de debut). “You need dates for most of the parties,” added Nicole Bowers, a fact that several of the girls agreed was benefit enough.

Several members of the ball committee joined the girls for the lunch of Jockey Club salad, breast of capon, and berries in curacao, including ball chairman Susie Bruun, and debutante chairmen Elspeth Myer and Ilene Swartz. San Diego Arts Foundation director Suzanne Townsend, who helped bring the ballet to the Civic Theatre and whose daughter, Julie, is a deb, stopped by just long enough to make sure that the young women were excited about the upcoming performance. They were.


Among the members of the La Jolla Debutante Ball class of 1986 are Shandon Eales, Jodi Hinchy, sisters Jennifer and Tracy Melchior, Christine Roberts, Damian Tuggey, Heather Bowden, Tabitha Fletcher, Britton Johnson, Wendy Palmer, Hillary Sammis, Julie Townsend and Ceri Slacum.

Others who will be strolling around the Hotel del Coronado’s Grande Ballroom on their fathers’ arms are Shannon Stewart, Anna Carlson, Katy Dick, Kerry Haidinger, Carey Lessard, Rachel Rifat, Charlotte Palmer, Kimberly Rible, Susan Hansen and Cathy Creamer.

Others are Laura Chapman, Julie Gildred, Ashley Kirn, Carrie Rentto, Kara Lynch, Jody Rens, Michelle Jacobson, Alice Detwiler, Laura Goodwin and Jennifer Hahn.

A funny thing happened to Kay Black on the way to the Old Globe Theatre’s production of “Romance Language": Just eight days before the play was to open, the theater dropped this play from the schedule and replaced it with the light-hearted musical, “Pump Boys and Dinettes.”

This last-minute substitution posed something of a problem for Kay, since she had been designated chairman of the Globe Guilder’s opening night dinner at the U.S. Grant. Chairmen often try to plan a menu that relates to the theme or the setting of the play; just as Escoffier wrote that soup should foretell the rest of the meal, the dinner chairmen frequently allow the meal to foretell the play.

“We couldn’t use the theme we had in mind for ‘Romance Language,’ so we just opted for something light and elegant,” said Kay, and her guests may have been just as glad to be spared the cheese grits and biscuits with gravy that would have been natural if she had had time to design a new menu around the “Pump Boys” setting in rural South Carolina. Instead, the group of about 150 sat down to a “mini-symphony of seafood” salad, chicken in lemon sauce, and cheesecake topped with crushed raspberries.

Sharing in this pre-theater feast were such Globe Guilder stalwarts as Jim and Dolly Poet, Mitchell and Ann Kay, Ken and Dixie Unruh, Evelyn Truitt, Bob and Jackie West, Don and Lois Dechant, Marilyn Johns, Mike and Jill Holmes, Dick and Fran Viertel, Joe and Linda Basquez, John and Janie Pendleton, Mac and Billie McKnight, George and Natalie Rodes and Connie Hedges.

Laurie and Dick Blackington showed up somewhat late; one of their horses had foaled that day, and they brought with them photos of the new addition to the family. Their friends crowded around to look, and since the foal is a filly, most suggested that it should be named “Dinette” in honor of the Old Globe’s newest presentation.