Monday, May 07, 2007

One-Offs: Debutante Ball

Stephen Stills, Change Partners.
The Rolling Stones, Miss Amanda Jones.
Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson, Miss Brown to You.
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, Miss Molly.
Bert Firman's Rhythmic Eight, Miss Annabelle Lee.
Fred Astaire, Change Partners.
Run DMC, Miss Elaine.
Little Richard, Miss Ann.
Roy Brown, Miss Fanny Brown.
The Police, Miss Gradenko.
The New Pornographers, Miss Teen Wordpower.
Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim, Change Partners.
Kirsty MacColl and the Pogues, Miss Otis Regrets.
Harry Nilsson, Miss Butter's Lament.

The Texas Dip is an over-the-top, forehead-to-the-floor bow perfected by debutantes from the Lone Star State. An amusing tonic for people suffering from debutantitis, it could be seen last Tuesday, for one night only, at the 39th annual International Debutante Ball at the Waldorf-Astoria. While other debutantes merely curtsied and received applause when formally introduced, all eight Texas debutantes elicited whoops and cheers with those dips.

You don’t need to be a debutante to do the Texas Dip. You do, however, need a white ball gown or a floor-length bathrobe to create the illusion of sinking into yourself on your way down. You also need a bouquet (any flowers will do), which you should hold with both hands below the waist.


Miss Amanda Jones, of Hampstead, daughter of The Rt. Hon. Viscount Ellery Jones and Viscountess Frances Jones. Miss Jones, noted companion of ironic rock stars, also allegedly inspired bestselling novel ("Heartless Bitch") by novelist Owen Peating, later made into film ("Girl Trouble") starring Shia Labeouf (Golden Globe nomination). Married into minor Sardinian royalty. Dead at age 44 after falling off a hotel balcony while, according to witnesses, doing a vicious impersonation of her mother. (Between the Buttons.)

Miss Emily Brown, possibly of Knoxville, Tenn., parents unknown. Miss Brown appears as a recursive memory throughout the early years of the 21st Century--turning up in dreams, flickering at the edge of the frame in several films of the period (including "Girl Trouble"). At least eight women are on record claiming that Miss Brown was their sister or daughter, though no proof was ever produced. The town of Oak Brook, Illinois, once elected Brown mayor, and a handful there still recall a brilliant weekend in which everyone in the town wore white, and mysterious figures circled in the crowd, distributing rosettes. One man in Seattle married her and raised two children with her, until he woke up one morning in a furnished apartment that he didn't recognize, with no trace of his previous life ever having occurred. (Quintessential Billie Holiday Vol. 1.)

Miss Molly Bledsoe, of River Oaks, Texas, daughter of Hugh Abbot Bledsoe, CEO of Houston-based Enecgro, the result of 18 utility and agricultural producer mergers in the Southwest during the 1990s. (Mother deceased). Patroness of the arts: sponsor of the Houston Ballet, primary force behind the Thomas Kinkade Chapel in Kingwood ("Sacellum Lucidae"), which she said was to meant to be a counterweight to the Rothko Chapel. Author of eight books of poetry, two of which were found to feature blatant plagiarism of the works of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. (Essential Bob Wills.)

Miss Annabelle Lee, of Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, daughter of Dr. Raymond Lee and Alice Keating Lee. Said to be amanuensis of husband Walter Crockery, a would-be rival to celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay; Crockery, author of several "theoretical cooking" books, argued for what he called the "flawless" theory of cooking, in which food is conceived but actually not prepared or eaten (Bartlett's: "When will we finally wash off the stain of the chef's filthy hands?"). Crockery's death due to an oven fire ruled an accident. (Jazz in Britain.)

Now, find the inner serenity that elicits your most confident smile, take a breath and raise the bouquet with both hands. When it’s at shoulder level, let go of it with your left hand and slowly, as if you’re blossoming, open your arms.

Then you begin the descent. Cross your ankles without looking at them. Fluidly, effortlessly, bend the knees and sink down. (Think, “I’m melting” from “The Wizard of Oz.")

Now comes the hard part.

While holding onto your escort’s gloved hand (you can practice with a desk or table edge), collapse onto your behind while smiling. Then, keeping your bouquet extended while looking forward, lean down with utter humility, bringing your face all the way into the skirt of your gown. Close your eyes as you go (think “dying swan"), and tuck in your lips so you don’t get any lipstick on your dress while you’re down there.

Miss Elaine Wood, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, daughter of Charles and Koko Wood. Went on to distinguished career in public education. Favorite film: "Girl Trouble." (Tougher Than Leather.)

Miss Ann Blake, of Macon, Georgia, daughter of Tyrone and Aurelia Blake. Even as a toddler she was a crack shot, winning several marksmanship competitions before the age of eight, and, on her sixteenth birthday, entered the Army via its Advanced Placement enlistment program. Served with distinction in Iraq, Iran, the Greater Mesopotamian War, the Afghanistan Resurgence, the Second Turkish War, Operation Eagle Scout (Mauritanian theatre), the Neo-Boer War, the 1,000 Day War (Indonesian theatre), was with the Filipino Army in the final advance on Reykjavik, and finally, Iraq, where she was wounded and received the Purple Heart. Upon retirement she became active in the church. (20 Greatest Hits.)

Miss Fanny Brown, of New Orleans, parents unknown. Noticeably older than the rest of her debutante class, and she struck an observer dead in the face when he mentioned that fact. (Good Rockin' Brown.)

Miss Tatiana Gradenko, of Kiev, Ukraine, daughter of Saskia Gradenko (deceased) and Dmitri Vidushinsky (missing). Exchange student, Bacon Academy, Colchester, CT. When both father and son in host family were arrested (pelt smuggling, methadone, respectively), Gradenko transferred to New Rochelle, NY. Started popular blog "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A." Became a debutante as part of Web-based expose/prank; folded website soon afterward, leaving an MP3 file of the Rolling Stones' "Hand of Fate" as her final statement. Current whereabouts unknown. (Synchronicity.)

Miss Alesha Joanna Biko Billingsley ("Miss Teen Wordpower," nickname, later title of first memoir) of Newton, Massachusetts, daughter of Dr. Chandar Billingsley (biochemistry) and Dr. Joanna Baines Worthington Billingsley (pediatrics). Valedictorian, Newton High School; B.A., Harvard; M.A., Ph.D, Columbia (dissertation on Owen Peating). At Harvard was spokesperson of the New Deists. In New York, co-founded Backwards Forwards Square & Round, leftist pornography journal; worked for Farrar, Straus (edited Walter Crockery's Ideal Italian); co-owner, briefly, of the Massachusetts Stingers; partner, Wickham Wilson & Lange; currently governor-elect, New Jersey (R). (Electric Version.)

Unable to attend:

Miss Otis. Tragic. Her parents managed to keep the story out of the papers, and later endowed a scholarship to Trinity College in her name. (Red Hot + Blue.)

Miss Butter. Believed she was going to the ball, and stayed up all night in anticipation, but her date never arrived. Every night since she sits in her parlor, dressed in her white gown. (Personal Best.)

Escorts: Mr. Stills, Mr. Astaire, Mr. Sinatra and Mr. Jobim.

As you arise with the help of your escort, lift your head out of your dress, opening your eyes as if awakening after a hundred years. (Think “Sleeping Beauty.")

Then, fluidly and effortlessly unseat yourself and unbend your knees, taking care not to move too quickly or too slowly. If you do, you’re likely to fall down.

New York Times, “Texans Dip to Conquer," 3 January 1993.

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