The billowy white dresses, the long gloves, the nosegays, the curtsies, the father-daughter waltzes and the proud glances of mothers and friends are part of the protocol.
The 58th Las Madrinas Debutante Ball took place Monday evening, by tradition in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.
And 800 white-tie gents and ladies in the most couture of gowns had a wonderful time.
What makes it more wonderful is that debutante families and friends--another ball tradition--will give a Santa's bounty to the Las Madrinas program of Molecular Pathology at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles.
Five years ago Las Madrinas pledged to raise $3 million to endow the program, and last year it contributed $550,000 of its pledge.
This year, hit by the recession and a smaller group of debutantes--24 as opposed to an average of 28--it's conceivable the group will not quite reach its goal of $3 million on time, but the fiscal year doesn't end until Jan. 31.
Never underestimate the power of women like president Ann Barrett, who has written hundreds of letters this year encouraging support of the hospital.
Monday evening, ball chairwoman Susan Armistead transformed the ballroom into a scene "somewhere in Southern France" with the aid of florist Walter Hubert of Silver Birches in Pasadena.
The Bob Hardwick Sound from New York put a jazzy tone on a dancing crowd. Debutante Sarah Jakle, Yale freshman, seemed to never miss a dance with her Yalie escort, a flamboyant waltzer, Adam Stein of San Diego.
Debutante Ashley Young, with bows at her shoulder, had a special escort: her father, James Robert Young, who escorted his wife, Brook, to Las Madrinas when she was presented 28 years ago.
The orchestra played "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" when father Peter Mullin paraded his daughter, Darcy, around the dance floor to the applause of guests. And Danford Baker was escorting his third Las Madrinas debutante daughter, Melinda.
Jane and Bill Petersen of Chicago flew in to see her niece, Elizabeth Bullis Browne, presented by her father, Dr. Lawrence Browne. Debutante Elizabeth Ann Cheney came from the East to be presented by her brother, Rob.
No father had a bigger smile than theater owner Roger Corman, presenting Catherine. And no debutante had a bigger smile than Jennifer Popovich, on the arm of her father, Kris Popovich.
Also gracefully curtsying: Beaven Griff, presented by father Gary Griff; Brenda Terry, presented by father Norman Terry II; Sarah Hudnut, presented by father Thomas Hudnut, and Jenifer Rogers, presented by father Stephen Rogers.
Even though Henry and Nancy DeNero recently moved to Minneapolis, they returned to present daughter Karen.
More debutantes in the spotlight--introduced by Richard Francis Mogan III--were Monica Partridge, Cynthia Luppen, Erin McGaughey, Alexa Hayes, Tori Scott, Lora Thomas, Julie Saliba, Anita McLane, Leigh Marston, Sara Gallagher and Alison Dalley.
With his wife was Olin Barrett. Their daughter, Carolyn, presented last Christmas, came from Trinity College to join the festivities.
At the pre-ball cocktail party, Nancy and James Birdwell greeted 375 guests.
In the crowd were Bob and Janice Carpenter, Clay and Nancy Jo Lindus (here from London), Bill and Nancy Burrows, Bill and Susan Keck (she's new on the hospital board), and debutante chairwoman Joselyn Ames McAdam.
Tom Techentin ran the Men's Floor Committee. George Gibbs, Jane and Craig Gosden, Penne and Bill Durst, Bill Mingst and Carlotta Keely, Paul Grossman and Peter McCoy smoothed out details.
Walt Rose, a member of the Men's Floor Committee, had the attention of a group of escorts and stags, including Steve Keck, Don Liebig, Gregory McAdam, and James and William Armistead, telling them: "Your job is to make sure these girls have a good time."