Marymount School Gala Gets Straight A’s

It’s no surprise that Marymount School has the art of the dinner-auction-gala down to a science.

Bob Bason started off this local trend some 25 years ago while serving as a development consultant to the school. Marymount has had its gala at all kinds of interesting settings – including one year early on where organizers tented over a tennis court and transformed it into a ballroom.

So for this year, the school transformed a more conventional setting – Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort. But wow! What a before and after.

The theme was Black and White Ball and when you entered from the side doors into the hallway/lobby, you were flanked on either side with black drapes, an inventive corridor leading you directly into a large room (actually just the midsection of the ballroom). The effect was pleasantly disorienting – as you did not get a sense you were in the hotel at all. This room you stepped into was also draped in rich black fabric – floor to ceiling. Huge oversized prints of classic movie stars – Clark Gable, Elizabeth Taylor, Jean Harlow – set the mood of black and white as the two-tone atmosphere of classicism.

Here the tables of auction items were highlighted with dramatic lighting. The bar at the end of the room was right out of an old B&W movie, with a chandelier above. The attendees were mostly attired in black dresses or were fashionable in black and white sets (such as event underwriters Laurel Barrack with Tom, and Melissa Iannelli with Ralph). Few women can wear all-white, but Lisa Rottman was one who could and she looked stunning in an ivory gown. A fair number of females were in elegant black and white prints such as committee members Marissa Grimes and Maria Fazio (event chair with husband Joe Fazio). Marymount development director Andrea McFarling looked chic with her hair swept up and pinned like Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Guys came in an array of black tuxes, black suits and even some white dinner jackets.

The bell rang for dinner. The curtains parted in the mid-section of the room, and voila! – a parallel room was unveiled. The crowd oohed and aahed as they poured into the room: Andrew and Cindy Wilson, Darcy and Gene McKight, Pat Nesbitt and Ursula Beaton, Jenny McClure, Lucinda Winters, Diana Vestal, Dolly and Andy Granatelli and Nina Terzian. Again the walls and the tables were all draped in black. Atop the tables, mirrored vases with magnificent sprays of white flowers, orchids and black and white feathers coming up like fountains on each table top. Classy, classy, classy.

Marymount’s auction books deserve an “A” for Best in Show – the design and layout, and information, ads, bindings – these are booklets the families will actually keep each year. The auction booklet is filled with precious pictures of each class and family “ads” with kids announcing their class year.

Head of School Deborah Davis is a prize. Since we are on the theme of black and white, Davis seems like she is straight out of Central Casting to play the dedicated school principal in one of those old 1940s movies. Davis’ unabashed enthusiasm for the school and her role to guide the process of education was palpable.

“What a beautiful school you’ve brought me to,” she exclaimed, “and what beautiful children you have loaned me to care for.”

I remembered she was new this year, and board member Roger Battistone leaned over to tell me, “Yes! We were really lucky to find her.”

For the after-dinner auction “Jumping Jim” Glines moved around the room and Marymount parent and event emcee Rob Lowe offered a pleasant visual distraction for the women while the men were busy answering to the call of the auctioneer. Glines gleaned nearly $200,000 from the room, all to benefit the kindergarten through eighth grade classes.

Marymount had several original auction items. One was a painting by Marymount alumna Meredith Brooks Abbott, a mountain view from Marymount School. Then, how about a puppy? A Golden Retriever puppy. The canine came complete with six weeks of dog training, one of those Dog Watch Hidden Fences, doggie bed, pet grooming and a portrait series of the puppy with his new family at 2, 6, 8 and 12 months by Christine Photography. What a hoot! Or perhaps I should say, what a hound!

When the auction finished it was time for dessert. Hmmm…what in the world do you suppose that could be, knowing that our theme was black and white? Well it was chocolate, a dang good start regardless of the color theme. But this was too clever, servers passed trays with Oreo cookies and small glasses of cold milk. A gold star for a dessert finish – cute and in keeping with the theme.

And with that, Marymount ‘s Dinner-Auction-Gala went to the head of the class.