The New York Social Register of the 1930s had four hundred members. Maury Paul, aka Cholly Knickerbocker, was the social gossip columnist for the New York Journal-American, published 1937–1966. Knickerbocker’s syndicated daily gossip column consisted of the “Four Hundred,” members of the New York social elite. By no means am I a gossip columnist (well, almost never) but a social editor that brings you the party life of the Nashville Socials. In today’s time here in Nashville most of the social gatherings are charitable events, all for most-worthy causes. An event held last month at the Belle Meade Country Club benefiting Belmont Mansion was held to honor Nashville’s social press, the “Real” Social Press! I, along with my fellow honorees Brenda Batey, Rusty Terry, Sinclair Kelly, and Brian Barry, had the most wonderful evening being the guests. In other words, we were in the spotlight, on the other side of the camera.
On entering the club the familiar sounds of the Pat Patrick Trio welcomed guests to the media celebration. So fitting to have the Pat Patrick Trio, as Pat is the social sound in Nashville! “This is just such a special, fun evening,” exclaimed Clare Armistead, one of about 300 social guests present. The atmosphere was as Clare said, a fun night at the club with one’s favorite friends. Many of the patrons expressed how they enjoyed seeing friends they had not seen in a decade (in social terms that means in about the last fifteen minutes, LOL). Every charity organization in Nashville was represented that evening congratulating us on the coverage we have given them over the years. Chairs Mary Morgan Ketchel, Jay Joyner, and Julie Stadler did an outstanding, over-the-top job! Honorary Chairs Barbara and Jack Bovender, two of the social press favorite people, were seen greeting Margaret Ann Robinson, John Bridges, Patsy and Bob Weigel, Joyce and David Hitt, Lisa Campbell, Theresa Godchaux, Brenda and Joe Steakley, Deby and Keith Pitts, Linda and Jere Ervin—you know, the Nashville Social Register. Some things just never change, and social press is a must read just as it was back in the Cholly Knickerbocker days. My social reading goes back to the Betty Banner days when Betty Caldwell covered the socials as did Kay West and Catherine Darnell, and everyone’s favorite, Herbert Fox.
This was an evening of glamour, sophistication, and, of course, sociable socials. Without the socials I would have nothing to write about, and I do so thank my readers. I also want to thank Nashville Arts Magazine for believing in me and giving me a dream of a job. Yes, I am living the dream!
As we are in the midst of the spring social season, the press works day and night, 24/7. Only in our great city would one find so many events in one month as I am about to share with you. Believe me when I say I could write a page on each individual event, for each one is for an important cause and each a unique experience. (That was not always the case—remember, back in the Betty Banner days there were only two pay parties, the Swan Ball and the Hunt Ball.)
We, the social press, cover food, fashion, and all charitable events, such as Tennessee Flavors, an event benefiting the Randy Rayburn Culinary School at Nashville State Community College. My dear friend Alberta Doochin invited me to cover this event for her son; Jason Ritchason is the current president of the Nashville State Community College Foundation. All I can say is that there was no excuse to go home hungry after attending this third annual
eat-a-thon chaired by Randy Rayburn and Bill Freeman.
A few nights later I found myself at the new Omni Hotel celebrating the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Special guest speaker at this event was the one and only Rob Lowe, great guy and, needless to say, my new best friend! Later in the same week on the same social register of events was the first Art on the West Side chaired by Ron York and Rhonda Polen Wernick. As spring approaches so do the art shows, and this was one outstanding show exhibiting great art by Nashville artists. Yes, I went home with an amazing piece by J.J. Sneed.
Of course the socials love to dress to be seen, as they did for the Red Haute society evening. Victoria Hallman Traver chaired this lovely fashion show at the Parthenon where designer Jeff Garner presented his spring collection “Dreamer’s Cure.” The Parthenon was a great venue for this fashion show. As I walked in, my first thought was, look at all the beautiful ladies; this has to be the best dressed hen house in town! This oh-so-special fashion show was a benefit for the American Heart Association, and indeed Jeff showed his heart in his collection!
Coverage of our own Frist Gala was another highlight of the month. Betsy Wills and Cathy Brown chaired this event, and they turned the museum into an evening of the beauty, the mystery, of Japan. Guests were greeted at the entrance of the Center for the Visual Arts by music of the Japanese koto. Cocktails were served in the main hall, which was transformed into a garden of cherry blossoms and bonsai. Entering the dinner tent patrons were overwhelmed by the decor created by the team of Sherbe Green, Tal Howell, Roger Higgins, and Mark O’Bryan featuring multicolored paper parasols hung along the length of the dinner tent. Tables were covered in soft turquoise silk fabric embroidered in a floral pattern, with centerpieces of Japanese-inspired containers filled with peonies in all shades of pink. The Gala was inspired by the extraordinary exhibition Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan. This breathtaking exhibit makes it easy to understand why so many Western artists came under the spell of Japonisme. My lovely photographer, Sophia, and I were seated at the table of Trish and Tommy Frist along with Jean and Denny Bottorff, Joanne and Tom Cato, Betty and Marty Dickens, Carlana and Aubrey Harwell, Noel Williams and Richard Geer, Anne and Joe Russell, the lovely Carol Rose . . . yes, the Nashville Social Register members. A few weeks prior to the Gala an Oriental-themed Patrons Dinner was given by Mr. and Mrs. J. Barry Banker, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Jay Dennis, and Mr. and Mrs. A. Bruce Moore, Jr.
Following the splendid Frist Gala I take you to a night of dance, Dancing for Safe Haven. Once again, for the fifth year, I was honored to serve as dancing judge with starlit Heather Byrd and former Titans Cheerleading Director Stacie Kinder. Celebrity dancers included Jerry Bostelman, Brenna Mader, Deborah Story, Francis Guess, Lari White, and Rhori Johnston. I was tapping my feet and wanting to be strutting myself across the dance floor. The Judges’ Choice went to Lari White with Michael Hosale; People’s Choice went to Deborah Story with Christopher Wayne. Of course it would not be a successful night without the evening’s hosts, Kelly Sutton, Woody Wood, and Jim Chandler. Woody and Jim made quite the couple on the dance floor, LOL.
It was a somewhat bittersweet evening for Trey Lipman, Special Projects Director for Safe Haven, as this was her last dance; Trey will be retiring. As Vicki Yates along with Rhori Johnston of Channel 5 News would say, “Breaking News—Trey Lipman has agreed to be a Celebrity Dancer for next year’s Dancing for Safe Haven!” Vicki and Darrell Freeman chaired what Ted says was the Best Party of the Year. Seen performing a bit of rumba, tango, and cha-cha were Amy and Owen Joyner, Nashville’s newest addition to our Southern Society Lisa and Bob Westergan, Joni Werthan and Larry Jessen, Heloise Kuhn, Annette Eskind, Brenda and Joe Steakley (boy, what a dancer that Joe is!). A bit of social gossip, as Cholly Knickerbocker would have said: “Whitney Daane was overheard stating the following, “Last week I was in Vegas dancing for chips; tonight I am here dancing for Safe Haven!”