Half a century ago, Cornelia Long chaired her first Museum of Fine Arts, Houston ball. Friday night, she stood once again in the Grand Gala Ball spotlight not only reprising her role as gala chair but also standing as chair of the MFAH board of trustees.
In tribute to that 50 years of dedication, generous patrons contributed more than $1.4 million toward the evening's success.
In contrast, it was the Grand Gala Ball debut for MFAH director Gary Tinterow, who joined the museum last January. He took the opportunity to praise Long, describing her as the city's "first lady in art in Houston," placing her in the ranks of Ima Hogg, Oveta Culp Hobby and others.
The well-heeled legions partied in an Art Deco-inspired setting, based on an Edgar Brandt firescreeen.
"I can tell you Cornelia is simply the best," Tinterow said in brief remarks to the gathering of 400. "With enormous determination, she gets things done." The salute continued with a nod to the museum patron's husband, Meredith Long. "They have made our lives richer and more complete."
In the decades since that ball in 1962, the gala has evolved into the premiere black-tie event of the fall social season, drawing the creme-de-la-creme of Houston society, both old guard and new sophisticates. Consider Friday night's guest list — Nancy and Rich Kinder, Martha Long with Sean Wade, Marie and Ed Bosarge, Ann and John Bookout, Macey and Harry Reasoner, Leslie and Brad Bucher, Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence and so many more. Alley Theatre artistic director Gregory Boyd and Houston Ballet artist director Stanton Welch added cross-cultural enthusiasm.
The well-heeled legions partied in an Art Deco-inspired setting, based on an Edgar Brandt firescreeen — the decor deftly handled by John Friedman and by Scott McCool's In Bloom Inc. City Kitchen provided dinner and showband Starlight supplied the music that kept the dance floor packed.
While many of the ladies looked for Art Deco-flavored gowns such as Isabel David in Dolce & Gabbana or Jeanie Kilroy in Valentino, Lynn Wyatt stole the show donning a blonde wig, a la Daisy in The Great Gatsby, and wearing an haute couture Yves Saint Laurent gown from her attic and an embroidered satin and velvet cloak by Ungaro. The Camel cigarette in her cigarette holder was borrowed from one of her staff.
Contributing each his or her own measure of glamour to the evening were guests including Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Diane Lokey Farb, Franci and Jim Crane, Windi and David Grimes, Carol and Mike Linn, Heather and David Mitchell, Janice and Bob McNair, Nancy and Andrew Abendshein, Lisa and Downing Mears, Susan and Lenoir Josey, Gail and Louis Adler and Barbara and Michael Gamson.