Nell Nolan: The way we wore our hats

Three groups recently made chapeaux, fellowship and scholarship their festive focus. Two hailed birthdays. All three limelighted folks who wear a lot of figurative hats in the community.

Mad Hatter’s Luncheon

“Alice’s 30th Un-Birthday Party” rallied hundreds on a recent Tuesday “down the Rabbit Hole to the New Orleans Hilton Riverside.” There, and replaying Alice’s many adventures in Wonderland, the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association created luncheon levity.

Tasty fare it was with a fine spinach salad commencing the meal that segued into a filet of beef and a chocolate pot de crème. It followed the fashion show presented by Saks Fifth Avenue, the “Best Men & Women’s Collection for Spring 2014,” which concluded with a fabulous Marchesa strapless ballgown.

Earlier, the doors opened to Alice’s World and theme colors of white, pink and red, respectively for the Rabbit, Alice and Queen of Hearts. Green foliage, colorful plants, sash-tied chairs and centerpieces of red crystal and metal heart bouquets with twinkling lights added to the lovely look. Adding to the lively look were the individuals cast as “Alice” characters: Brett Bauman, Mad Hatter; Maria Muro, Queen of Hearts; Anna Justice and Elizabeth Kathleen Robert as Alice in Wonderland and Petite Alice; Dr. Byron Scott, White Rabbit; and Margarita Bergen, the Hookah Smoking Caterpillar. Carl Mack was credited as the Cheshire Cat.

Additional notables were Michael Michalopoulos and wife Reese Johanson, Jeremy Davenport, Ed Marshall, Kris Fairbairn, Suzie Capitelli, and Peter O’Neil, all judges of the hat contest chaired by Mary Dana Dandry and Michele Burke. In winning categories were Kim Woolf, Suzanne Scott, Joan Ingram, The Pearly Girls, “Very Unhappy Birthday Cakes,” The Tea Cups, Verleen Matheney, and The Bag Ladies. A tip of the hat!

Further excitement was generated by the souvenir photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz of New Orleans, the Wonderland Board and raffle, the silent and hat auctions, and all the hats worn by the men and women in attendance. Compliments abounded.

The biggest tip of the hat went to event co-Chairwomen Evanne Casso, Gail B. McKenna, and Mary Katherine Lonatro Tusa; honorary Chairwoman Gayle Marie Benson, who chatted at lunch with Saks general manager Carolyn Elder, Sara Ray, Damicenda Behlar, Jennifer Lauscha, Jane Bensel, Jennifer Hale, special adviser Steven Putt (also of Saks), and Jean Rice (resplendent in pink); master of ceremonies Norman Robinson; respective Opera Association and Women’s Guild presidents, Meredith Hathorn Penick and Dr. Erin O’Sullivan Fleming; and at-home patron party hosts Gerri and Murray Valene.

More hobnobbing “down the Rabbit Hole” came from Eileen Capritto, Annette Hudson, Marcel Leone, Kathy Singleton, Sammy Steele, Betty Davidson, Bette Marks, Joe Young, the Opera’s Robert Lyall and Timothy Todd Simmons with spouse Kate (who sang at the Atlanteans Carnival ball), Ted Martin, Linda Tufton, Barbara Ballard (who did the 50/50 Raffle) with Bill Hunter, Irene Klinger, Diane Dupin, Betty Brooks Doss, Pat Kelly, Sonda Stacey, Stephanie Osborne, Mary de La Barre, Mary Ann Valentino and daughter Ann Fuselier, Debbie Alciatore, Carlyn Goodwin, and Dr. Warren McKenna and Dominick Tusa, the helpful husbands of co-Chairwomen Gail and Mary Katherine.


Whereas “Mad Hatter Turns 30!” billed the above ado, double that number marqueed the annual Cocktail Dansant of the Townsmen Inc. at the Omni Royal Orleans. Spotlighted were 2014 officers Michael Dukes (president) with Sylvia, Charles Kennedy with escort Laura Lipps, James H. Bradshaw with Loyce, Howard L. Rodgers III with Belinda, and Dr. Willard L. Dumas Jr. with Karin. They were introduced to the invited guests, whose ranks included the Clarence Ancars, Charles and Linda Teamer, the Wayne DeLarges, Alden and Rhesa McDonald, the Edgar Chases III, the David Bocages, the Thomas Hydes, the Charles Webbs, state Sen. Edwin Murray, the Clarence Wilsons, Cornelius and Dr. Karen Lewis, Keith and Judge Robin Pittman, the Jeffrey Thomases, Howard L. Rodgers IV and Dr. Lovie Lewis Rodgers, the Walter Robinsons, the Lloyd Dennises, and Charles and Vonda Rice.

They in turn milled with members Dr. Joseph Bouie and Leslie, Earl Brown and Michele, Carl Baloney and Geri, Dr. Emmett Chapital and Jovita, John C. Charles Jr. and Sharon, Sidney Fauria and Vaughn, Bryan Fulton and Conchetta, Leon Fulton and Alma, Wilmer Jacobs and Pat, Dr. Joseph Labat and Deidre, Rudy Major and Carla, Dr. Roy Marrero and Charmaine, Dr. Jerome T. Medley and Alexina, Ronald Sholes and Valerie, and Wayne E. Wright.

Floral arrangements embellished the lobby and the ballroom, where folks made paces to the food stations of roast beef, ham, turkey, and pasta. To make scintillating sounds at the organization’s 60th anniversary, the band, Clark Knighten & 4x4, was tapped. Their versions of the electric slide and the bus stop brought the crowd to its collective feet.

Bonnabel Bash

A transformed gym became the site for the night when supporters of St. Catherine of Sienna School held “Bonnabel Bash.” Chances to win in the auction and raffles enhanced the fun, as did the generously donated food from some of the city’s finest restaurants (with Winnifred Whitner and Emily Hardin as committee chairwomen), and the decorations spearheaded by Elizabeth Ranson and Nicole Allen of white draping, twinkling stars and candle light. They were joined by husbands Richard Whitner, Kerry Ranson and Duke Allen.

“Bash” luminaries included Chairwomen Dawn Oster and Kristy Cohn with Stephen and David, Co-op Presidents Dorothy Cuccia and Helen Fish with Dr. Brian Fish, school principal Frances Dee Tarantino, church pastor the Rev. Gene Jacques, and Dr. Jan Lancaster, superintendent of Catholic schools.

Jennifer and Dr. Keith Collins, Jennifer and Danny Poulin, Melissa and David Broussard, Claudia and Eric Dusang, Jamie and Josh Thomas, Wayne Francingues, Kim and Michael Heller, Karen and William Reinhardt, Holly and Ernie Hansen, the Scott Walkers and scores more added their participation.

When it was time to head to the dance floor, dozens of partiers complied. And, according to the above Dawn Oster, “4 Unplugged (the band) was a great addition to this amazing night.”