by Ted Clayton
FYI, Nashville socials are not always decked out in black tie and lovely sequined gowns, for they are gardeners, and oh how they love their gardens—and a great plant auction to boot! This was the scenario at the Howe Wild Celebration held at Cheekwood’s Botanic Hall last month, sponsored by the Garden Club of Nashville. Chaired by Jennie McCabe and Julie Stadler, it was an A-Plus, green-thumb event. My cousin Matt Murphree said to me, “This is one of my favorite parties and auctions of the year, as I am an avid gardener!”
The impact of the tulips in full bloom, all 55 thousand of them, was most impressive and beautiful indeed! Joining Garden Club of Nashville President Lisa Campbell were Kate Grayken, Alice Mathews (Alice is a former Garden Club of America President) with Dr. George Holcomb, Laurel and Louie Buntin, Tooty Bradford (I think Tooty planted all the tulips) with John Eddie Cain, Kim and Eddie Demoss, Elizabeth Proctor (Mrs. Proctor was holding court as she always does, being loved by so many), Carol Nelson, Dudley White, and Anne Parsons, Clare Armistead, Paula Wilson, Dorothy Earthman, and Julia Jarman.
Red Japanese Maple, Lily of the Valley, Flowering Dogwood . . . oh my. This was a social plant connoisseur’s dream come true, and by the way, if you think these socials don’t get dirt under their nails, well, only their manicurists know!
Annette Eskind, Hunter Armistead, Selena Crowley, Donna and Jeff Eskind, Myles Maillie, Susan and Luke Simmons, Ron York, Jane McLeod, Heloise Kuhn, Party Chairs Barbara Davis and Leslie Freedman, Mona Lisa Warren and John Guider, and Honorary Chair Phyllis Alper were all in attendance at the Collector’s Cocktail/Patrons Party prior to the opening of the Temple Arts Festival. This juried art exhibition and sale is one of my favorites—such a great showing of photography, sculpture, jewelry, paintings, glass, and mixed media. First Place winner of show Carol Gentithes, from Seagrove, North Carolina, caught my eye from the get-go with her wonderful and joyful animals of clay fired to perfection, resulting in fine porcelain objects of art. This show has a notable following of collectors from all across the Southeast that collect and respect the works by acclaimed local and national artists.
Leaving the Temple Arts Festival on what I call a Triple Crown evening, I headed over to Belle Meade Country Club for the Hillsboro Hounds Hunt Ball. Arriving at half past six o’clock to the wonderful sound of bagpipes by Jay Dawson, I knew this was to be a most festive evening at “the Club.” Fiona King with hubby, Jim (Fiona told me that she and Jim had their first date nine years ago at this ball), were on hand welcoming men in red and ladies in spring gowns, including Lise and Lindsay Bohannon, Lee Ann and Orrin Ingram, Emily and Hill McAlister, Eleanor and Gary Parks, Kathy and Mark Wright, Shockey and Bruce P’Pool.
Dana Burke, being the creative horsewoman she is, designed the table décor, which consisted of wooden hounds and foxes cutouts hand painted by her gifted committee, Bernadette Bowers, Anne Doolittle, Lee Ann Ingram, Natalie Little, and Lynn Thompson. On the back page of the table program was a great summary by Henry Hooker, reflecting his first hunt: “Whilst I was courting her in 1955, Alice took me hunting for the first time. Mason Hougland and John Sloan, Sr. made me very welcome. Vernon Sharp lent me a horse. The sky was a luminous blue, the grass was emerald green, the horses full of run, hounds gaily and keen. I viewed a fox which I still see in my fancy. That romance endures. Good hunting and keep a tight seat.”
A tight seat indeed in my saddle heading to my next event of the evening, the magnificent Tennessee Waltz held at our State Capitol. Governor and Mrs. Bill Haslam hosted the affair chaired by Milah and Steve Lynn. Tennessee native and renowned artist Red Grooms and his lovely wife, Lysiane Luong, were the honored guests of the evening. This is an evening full of such grandeur, from the moment one approaches the steps to the Capitol to the tunes of “The Tennessee Waltz” performed by the Tennessee Army National Guard, to the candlelit seated dinner, to the evening finale, dancing in the grand hall between the House and Senate Chambers.
Former governor Winfield Dunn with his lovely first lady, Betty, and Senator and Mrs. Douglas Henry welcomed proud Tennesseans from across the state, including Sylvia and Al Ganier, Linda and Jere Ervin, Dianne Neal, Laura and Nathan Green, Shirley and David Horowitz, George Barrett, Howard Gentry with his most attractive mother, Carrie Gentry, Marianne and Andrew Byrd (always reminds me of Andrew Jackson), Patsy and Bob Weigel, Ladies and Gentlemen’s Committee Chairs Pam and Mike Kobin, auction chair Nancy Russell with Andy Potts and Jim Marvin, Tennessee Museum Director Lois Riggins-Ezzell and Leigh Hendry. I must tell you that my friend and former first lady Betty Dunn was a vision of beauty in an all-white, flowing gown. Betty shared with me that the gown had not been out of the closet in over forty years, not since she wore it at the Governors Conference she and Winfield attended, which was chaired by then-governor Nelson Rockefeller.
I must say, after having been a tour guide for two summers in my youth and coming to the Capitol regularly, there is nothing like being there on a wonderful black-tie, candlelit evening. It still gives me chills! What a superb event to end a busy night on the town, and yes, I was dancin’ with my darlin’ to “The Tennessee Waltz”!
Under the leadership of Chairs Debbye Oliver and Stephanie Conner, once again The pARTy, benefiting Watkins College, was a great, sell-out evening. This event was held at OZ, a great venue for parties, but I must say I did miss the past fundraising events on the thirteen-acre, lakeside campus that is home to the College of Art, Design and Film. A quite eclectic silent auction, consisting of art, wine, jewelry, and clothing, was followed by the live auction of exotic trips under the direction of auctioneer Mac Hardcastle. Checking their auction bids during the evening were Watkins College President Ellen Meyer, Congressman Jim Cooper, Pat and John Shea, Debra Powell and Casey Reed, Amy and George Cate, Clare Armistead and Martin Brown, Agneta and Brownlee Currey, Judge Carol McCoy and Judge Rodger Page (now this is a power couple!), and Board Chair Sam Stumpf. It was a great evening celebrating a great Nashville institution, but I still miss the good ole tent parties.
Another A-Plus-Plus gathering held at Cheekwood last month (under tent off the loggia) was the Society Celebration honoring Cheekwood’s most loyal and generous donors. Julie and George Stadler were the honored couple of this evening, receiving the Jane and Guilford Dudley Award for Excellence in Philanthropy, presented by Tooty Bradford, vice chairman of the Board of Trustees. Julie and George and I are members of the generation that have grown up at Cheekwood because of our parents’ and grandparents’ involvement in what is a precious jewel in our city’s crown.
Jane MacLeod, President and CEO of Cheekwood, welcomed Cathy and Clay Jackson, Kate Grayken, Linda and Steve Harlan, Jane Dudley with hubby, Dwayne Johnson, who by the way looked fab in his white linen suit, Betty and Jimmy Perkins, Emily and Tee Zerfoss, Gigi and Ted Lazenby, Lisa and John Campbell, Alice Hooker, Betty and Jim Stadler, Quinn and Jim Bond, Patti and Mike Bottomy, Catherine and Pete DeLay, Elaine and Bruce Sullivan, Ann and Walter Morgan, Martha Ingram, Joanne and Mike Hayes. Yes indeed, the A-Plus-Plus Socials were right at home at their home away from home, Cheekwood.
After a long week of rain, the sun came out bright and clear for the 72nd running of the Iroquois Steeplechase. For almost three decades this event in association with the Volunteer State Horsemen’s Foundation has benefited the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. From the Iroquois Society party to the Paddock Club party, the Hunt Club party, box holders’ individual parties, and the infield celebrations (and yes, I attended all!), it was a day of thoroughbred horses, jockeys, socials dressed to kill, and the younger generation showing how creative they could be with an outdoor picnic.
Members of the Iroquois Society enjoyed lunch on china and silver with linen napkins followed by ice cream served on silver platters. The box holders were seen with a lavish feast of chicken, tenderloin, pasta, shrimp, and of course a race-day punch! Social ladies were adorned in snappy sundresses with matching hats, but in my opinion this is a day when the social gentlemen steal the fashion show! At so many events that I attend, we men are in black or white tie and all look alike, but this certainly is not the case at the Steeplechase. From the silk pocket squares to the fancy socks, these social men know how to dress to impress, notably Richard Patton, Bill Andrews, Tom and Todd Cato, Fleming Wilt, Jere Ervin, Steve Fortunato, Grant Smothers (Grant was a runner-up in the Best Dressed Man contest), David Hitt, and Burk Lindsey.
Speaking of the Best Dressed Man award, it was presented to my buddy and client Tom Ozburn in his colorful Clayton Collection attire and a custom-designed fedora by Carol Carr Millinery of Stacey Rhodes Boutique. I was so excited for Tom, I felt as if I had a winning horse in the haberdashery race. OK, I do not feel bad about not mentioning the lovely ladies, because for the upcoming months that is all you will read about and see at the Frist Gala and the Swan Ball, where once again all of us gents will look identical.
So again on the second Saturday in May, as it has been for seventy-two years, this Nashville tradition continued to be a truly unique experience.
I was honored to attend what I have decided is the Patrons Party of this century honoring the Frist Gala. Denice and Milton Johnson hosted this most stunning evening in their home with additional host couples including Brenda and Joe Steakley, Trish and Tommy Frist, and Judy and Tom Foster. The current exhibit at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is Rembrandt and the Dutch Golden Age. Using the exhibit as the theme of the patrons party, the seated dinner under a blue-and-white tent was all done in Delft blue by designers Terry White and Jayne Bubis. I love a party that carries out a theme as well as this one did.
Denice Johnson shared with me that she is first-generation American, being that her parents are from Delft, Holland, in the Netherlands. From the centerpieces, which were Delft cachepots filled with white tulips, to the blue crystal to the wooden chandeliers painted to resemble Delft Porcelain, this was a knockout! Talk about details: upon entering the Johnsons’ home, the patrons were directed to the damask-covered dining room to receive miniature, reproduction masterpieces in gold frames with their name inscribed on the front and their table number on the reverse side. Now, friends, this was elegance at its finest.
I cannot wait to share with you next month the details of the Frist Gala and the Swan Ball. Goedenavond (Dutch for “Good evening”) for now.