Shelby's Social Diary

And we thought it wasn't possible! Dallas shows Houston social scribe how to party at Crystal Charity Ball

And we thought it wasn't possible! Dallas shows Houston social scribe how to party at Crystal Charity Ball

6741, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, crowd, venue
The 40-foot tall Eifeel Tower with twinkling lights was built specially for the Crystal Charity Gala, held in the Dallas Hilton Anatole. Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, ladies in ballroom
Just before ballroom doors opened, the chair and her gala generals gathered for official portraits. Photo by © Robert Bostick
Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Jack Pratt, Aileen Pratt
The chairwoman selected a gown by Oscar de la Renta for the evening. Aileen Pratt , Jack Pratt Photo by © Robert Bostick
6844, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Ross Perot, Margot Perot, Linda Custard, Nancy Halbreich
Ross Perot , Margot Perot , Linda Custard , Nancy Halbreich Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6673, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Vin Perella, DeeDee Lee, Jim Lee
Vin Perella , DeeDee Lee , Jim Lee Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6791, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Del Frnka, Yvonne Crum, Caroline Rose Hunt
Del Frnka , Yvonne Crum , Caroline Rose Hunt Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6819, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, table decorations
The ballroom was a vision of floral elegance. Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6707, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Brett Collard, Haley Collard, Victoria Cullum, B.A. Cullum
Brett Collard , Haley Collard , Victoria Cullum , B.A. Cullum Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6675, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Hal Urschel, Christi Urschel, Billie Leigh Rippey, John Marston, Paige Locke
Hal Urschel , Christi Urschel , Billie Leigh Rippey , John Marston , Paige Locke Photo by © Sylvia Elzafon
6741, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, crowd, venue
Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, ladies in ballroom
Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Jack Pratt, Aileen Pratt
6844, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Ross Perot, Margot Perot, Linda Custard, Nancy Halbreich
6673, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Vin Perella, DeeDee Lee, Jim Lee
6791, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Del Frnka, Yvonne Crum, Caroline Rose Hunt
6819, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, table decorations
6707, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Brett Collard, Haley Collard, Victoria Cullum, B.A. Cullum
6675, Dallas Crystal Charity Ball, December 2012, Hal Urschel, Christi Urschel, Billie Leigh Rippey, John Marston, Paige Locke
Leigh Brock Friend, Ryan Friend

For decades we've heard about Dallas' venerable Crystal Charity Ball, the glamorous epicenter of Big D's social swirl, the must-attend event of the year for anyone who values his or her social credentials. Saturday night, we stepped through the looking glass into this stunning chamber of sophistication for a taste of partying Dallas style.

Let me just say, it was spectacular.

At the evening's start, the 1,650 guests, paying $5,000 per couple, partied in a lavish French garden setting. The 40-foot tall Eiffel Tower, created just for this night, featured blinking lights and was surrounded by a garden of boxwood and white cyclamen with French-style statuary punctuating the scene.

After all it was the charity's 60th anniversary gala. Why not?

Eiffel Tower ice sculptures marked the location of the chilled-seafood stations. 

Five-foot tall urns overflowed with massive arrangements of peonies, casa blanca lilies, roses and hydrangeas. Eiffel Tower ice sculptures marked the location of chilled-seafood stations while huge floral arrangements designated the bountiful cheese displays. We would wager that the Hilton Anatole has never looked better.

The well-heeled coterie, dressed in black-tie splendor (think Houston Grand Opera Ball, Museum of Fine Arts Grand Gala Ball), challenged Lady Luck in the packed casino, lined up for holiday photos and browsed through the gift arcade in between preening, seeing and being seen as society mavens are wont to do in every city. 

This A-list crowd looked not unlike the players in Houston's galas. The svelte swans, their dashing husbands, the rich May/December pairings, the pinched and pulled, the jewel-bedecked, the billowing designer gowns -- familiar characters, a different cast.

The most noticeable difference was in the elaborate level of decor. By the time Tom Addis Productions had finished the transformation, the convention hotel ballroom had been fantastically transformed into a salon worthy of Versailles.

This was the special events guru's 19th year with Crystal Charity  — a monumental effort that included draping ballroom walls in floral murals and adding mullioned mirrors and gilded columns. Vast bouquets of peonies, roses, hydrangeas and fragrant lilies filled the space with heavenly fragrance and enveloped the soaring cocktail lighting at each table.

Names you might recognize in the mix included Sarah and Ross Perot (whose namesake Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened earlier in the day).

Unlike other charity galas which are all about the fundraising on that particular evening, the Crystal Charity Ball is a celebration of funds raised throughout the year. The well-placed ladies of Crystal Charity had raised $4.5 million for 2012 (thanks in no small part to the $1 million gift from Dallas billionaire philanthropist Harold Simmons and wife Annette), funds designated for eight area charities that serve the needs of children. So this night was party time!

Heading the revelry was ball chair Aileen Pratt, accompanied by husband Jack Pratt, and underwriting chair Michal Powell on the arm of husband Loyd Powell.

Names you might recognize in the mix included Sarah and Ross Perot (whose namesake Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened earlier in the day), Caroline Rose Hunt, Francie Moody Dahlberg of the Galveston Moody family, Nancy Halbreich (daughter of former Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss), Fresh Faces of Fashion founder Yvonne Crum, interior designer Barbara Daseke and Laura and Mark Flagg, who moved from Houston two years ago with Northern Trust Bank.