Along the Avenue

Oh, how busy are we? The symphony is playing, opera is sining, ballet shoes are strapped on and artists are showing work they diligently created over the summer. All the hard work of volunteers and committees – your mail box must be brimming with invites to fanciful fundraisers – proves no one was sitting around twiddling their thumbs and eating bon-bons until after Labor Day!

When calendars get crammed with so many events, benefits and cultural options, one can have a tough time finding time for strictly social occasions. Oh, genial gents of good standing can trot off to private clubs for daily luncheons, rubbing elbows, sharing laughter then heading back to work. But for ladies, it’s harder. Even the genteel Orleans Club has lined up heavy-duty speakers to make for serious discussion over lunch: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, NOMA’s retiring John Bullard and Police Chief Ronal Serpas.

Ladies luncheons disappeared decades ago when careers and children began crowding schedules. In a nostalgic twist, they are back and oh so en vogue. Now, the busiest of us are swapping the personal trainer for personal time with old friends and new. Hosting a luncheon seems one of life’s giddy pleasures, which is how sisters-in-law Faye and Cecile Ballard felt when they asked a few fabulous femmes for soup and salad at SYC one fine Wednesday.

How great to see Louise McDonald, Caroline Wogan, Maxine Fox and a few of my year’s coterie again. We laughed about standing under the live oaks in Audubon Park in long white dresses at 10 a.m. in June for those C. Bennett Moore photos for The Times Picayune’s official announcement of our “deb” status.

A few days later, another ladies lunch complete with caviar stuffed eggs, crêpes and macaroons took place in the French Quarter. Nadine Blake, artist Amanda Talley, Alexa Pulitzer (creator of fine stationary and newest member of the Anthropologie store family) and others enjoyed lively conversation, a never ending flow of champagne and miles of catching up. Ti Martin of Commander’s Palace and In the Land of Cocktails fame regaled all with stories of her restaurant-centric Brennan cousins’ seminal birthday celebrations this year. Talk about divergent styles!

Dickie, of the steak and Bourbon House fame, headed to Europe; Lally surprised family and old pals with video remembrances after sunset cocktails on the levee where the Mississippi meets Gov. Nicholls. One received a gift-wrapped case of Chef Boyardee SpagettiO’s – a childhood favorite. Another requested “pigs in a blanket” from Sam’s Club. They got them, but made by award-winning Brennan restaurant chefs, not from Sam’s!

The ladies gathered for some serious business and musical biz over tea sandwiches at the handsomely restored Women’s Guild of the N.O. Opera Association’s home on Prytania. Wearing smart suits and pretty tea dresses, some recalled the “spontaneous” opera highlights which surprised crowds one warm Saturday morning at the farmers market in the Warehouse District. Out of nowhere, folk began singing duets and choruses from this year’s productions … shoppers seemed bewildered at first, then joined in the fun. Charlotte Bollinger and Sandra and Louis Wilson declared the singing “enchanting.”

Enchanting describes the sunsets at the sorely missed but now reopened Lake Shore Club, blown away August 29, 2005 and re-commissioned August 29, 2010, on the West End of Lake Pontchartrain. Like many homes, camps, clubs and places people gathered before Hurricane Katrina, there wasn’t much memorabilia to be found after the walls came down. But with its new venue, a stalwart band of brothers managed to hoist a flag over their new digs and hoist a beer in salute to good times past and future.

Hoisting a few isn’t an uncommon event for the New Orleans Chapter of Ducks Unlimited, which ranks fourth in the entire country for donations. Oil spills and all, the flock gathered at Galatoire’s on a Monday, when the restaurant is “officially” closed, to kick off the season in style. If this year’s season has been iffy, the camaraderie wasn’t. Crack shot Bee Fitzpatrick, of Orient Expressed fame, with Dr. Vic Babin, Bonnie and Peter Waters, Clark Fitz-Hugh, Hardy Fowler, national president Dale Hall, E.J. Duebler, Gambit’s Clancy DuBos, Wildlife and Fisheries’ Jason Adriance and others were anxious to say, “The ducks are on the pond.”

Meanwhile, debs frolic, ladies lunch and the über-glam are back in from places as dear as Aspen, far-flung as St. Petersburg, curious as Australia and mysterious as Romania. From now until Thanksgiving it will be a sprint to get to at least three events each night; each weekend makes one wonder: How do they do that?

Heard something interesting for “Along the Avenue?”
If so, please send it to:
St. Charles Avenue
110 Veterans Blvd., Ste. 123 Metairie, La. 70005
Attn: Diane Sustendal
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