Last month kicked-off various seasons: football, social, hunting and deb. On the social and cultural front, it started when NOMA flung open its doors for “Overture to the Cultural Season,” and since then it’s been a “dressy casual” or “dressy dressy” occasion after another. Folks are hoisting glasses, breaking bread, dancing until way past dawn, and having a merry time.

Then there are the birthdays—so  many birthdays you just know what was going on over Thanksgiving, Christmas and after those annual football rivalries, like Tulane – LSU and Harvard – Yale, in years past. One Sunday at Galatoire’s, I counted six singings of “Happy Birthday”—and it wasn’t even for my table. But it wasn’t the only place that birthday cheers were heard.
Along the Avenue
Thea Pagel in a Marilyn Monroe wig with Pam Senatore at the party at Marian Wallis’ house.

At the Andrew Jackson, where the rooftop deck has a 360-degree view of the city, several September birthday celebrants partied together:  Newman’s Aline Walshe, McGhee’s Maureen Gilly for husband Joe, and Tulane’s Joe Himel and Joan Peterson shared cake, cocktails and lots of laughter among pals. There was no talk of school matters, but lots of nostalgia about old school days.

Chaffe & Associates’ Gay LeBreton juggled clients’ financial reports and menus from Gautreau’s as she planned a small, but mirthful surprise party for husband James Farwell. There were “sub rosa” meetings with Christa Montgomery, Brooke Duncan
and others who dug through files, photos and clippings for a PowerPoint presentation down memory lane. Jimmy’s Sam Barth football helmets; Cub Scout badges; military hats and toy tanks; and Cambridge, Tulane and De La Salle diplomas were among the table decorations. If you think pulling a surprise off on him was easy, think again: the guy’s run numerous political campaigns and has clients including the U.S. Government. But, surprised he was indeed.

Urban designer Grover Mouton and wife Bitsy ducked into town for the Farwell party, then headed to East Hampton to attend an Animal Rescue Fund benefit. (The organization sent air-conditioned pet buses post-Katrina, plus helped reconnect owners with pets).  In New York, they caught Robert Wilson’s production of “The Fables of la Fontaine” in French. “It was fables, fables, fables followed by a fabulous dinner at the French Consul General’s house on Fifth Avenue,” reports Grover. “Now Bitsy’s reading the original in French!” For the opening Bitsy wore a silk combo Grover had made up in Shanghai. Oh, yes, he flew to Shanghai for a Tulane project sometime between his travels to East Hampton, New Orleans and Manhattan.

Speaking of Consul Generals, we bid “adieu” to Pierre Lebovics and his wife. He arrived a few weeks before Hurricane Katrina and heads to Belgium leaving behind a legacy of good will and gifts to the city—almost $30 million in aid, from helicopters to helping organize NOMA’s  “Femme, Femme, Femme” exhibit to music, including the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra’s French Masterworks Concerts, this Nov. 9  to 11. Under Lebovics’ creative spirit, France even adopted the Tremé neighborhood. If all our Consuls had the power to adopt an area, we’d have the city back up and humming in double-time.

Members of the Cincinnati Society met for a party at the historic home of Smith Barney’s Charles Fenner. There the music of a harp—and harping about history—but mostly just a very good time in a very gracious setting. There was plenty of levity in a variety of languages: French and Spanish, as well as “Southern,” and course, chatter about this season’s debs. “Who will have what honors?” is always a favorite guessing game with this set, and the Fenners, like many of their guests, hang flags out come Carnival.

Congratulations to the much beloved Mary Ann Valentino of St. Michael’s School, St. Louis Cathedral, Cenacle, St. Elizabeth’s Guild, YMCA, N.O. Opera Association, LPO, Loyola School of Music, NOMA and heaven knows how many other volunteer efforts. She is the recipient of the Pope John Paul II Award, which will be bestowed at a gala dinner hosted by the Catholic Foundation, which has assets of over $56 million and benefits 39 schools in 25 parishes and 37 other ministries. Hardly anyone, short of the late Pope himself, could deserve it more. For the dinner at Hilton New Orleans Riverside, the honoree will be wearing an important designer gown. No, she won’t reveal whose it is until she steps out on to the red carpet on Oct.18.

Along the Avenue
Brenda Fenner, Scott Monstead and Charles Fenner at the Cincinnati Society fête at the Fenner home.

There was no need for red carpet clothes at the celebration for the 150th Anniversary of the Immaculate Conception, a.k.a. the Jesuit Church on Baronne Street. Recently named pastor Fr. Richard C. Hermes, formerly of Jesuit High School,  Fr. Paul Osterle, Fr. John Edwards and the church itself were the stars. There was Mass and dinner at the rectory next door for about 100. Some, including teens and schoolchildren of the parish, dined on the terrace set up atop the building. There were no glittering robes until Fr. Hermes was presented with a dazzling set of vestments by very devoted and rapidly growing parishioners.

Thea Pagel and Sally Suthon have a new biz venture (like they aren’t busy enough): BYO Tote. The very green tote made its debut at a fantastical book club party complete blonde wigs à la Marilyn Monroe and a floral centerpiece adrift in the pool at Marian Wallis’ home. The BYO Tote, which folds flat for packing, doubles as a doggie tote, wedding goodie bag or makes a perfect hostess present. (To buy one, go towww.byotote.com or stop by Savvy Gourmet on Magazine Street.) Okay, book club members were hoping it would be a memento of the party, but settled for jumps in the pool—wigs and all—after a few bottles of whatever. Yes, Thea did produce the party, that’s her “real job” and she’s really good at it.

There is so much going on in our beloved City Park, it’s worth a look at its Web sitewww.friendsofcitypark.com so you make your fall into winter plans. If you made it to “Martini Madness” on Sept. 21 (who knew there were so many kinds of martinis?), you really should turn out for the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” come Oct. 7. We all have to do our bit … drink a little, walk a little, all for a cause and a cure.

Along the Avenue
Grover Mouton

Speaking of cures, Ochsner Hospital has unveiled big plans for its much-battered Baptist campus on Napoleon Avenue. According to Dr. Patrick Quinlan, CEO of Ochnser’s health system, by the time you read this Baptist will not only have the ancillary and medical admission areas open, but also much of the critical care expansion area. All very much-needed medical facilities in the area. Work continues with the hospital being fully operational some time in 2008. Well done.

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