Parties to Aspire To

When my editor Tom Boone wanted me to step in as society editor, I asked what I’d done to make him hate me.

Carolyn Tillery

Covering society wasn’t why I’d studied journalism. And the mere idea of replacing stalwarts Agness and Tom Robertson was daunting.

However, I was able to chart my own path. People knew I respected confidences and kept my word. I listened as excited chairs shared their plans, later privately fretted, and even cried from the stress. Under that enormous responsibility – and obvious capability – they were still busy wives, moms, daughters, and, in most cases, professional women.

Social events aren’t all cocktails and couture. They raise a shocking amount of money for charity, and most chairs have personal connections to the causes. For example, many Cattle Baron’s Ball chairs had family members who’d battled cancer, some successfully, others not.

They taught me much, as did the kind folks at Neiman Marcus when I’d call and ask, “What does one wear to…?”

Crystal Charity Ball – the grand dame of Dallas society – was a dream to cover. From the top-tier fashion designers to ball chair profiles to patrons’ incredible homes, features to write proved endless. When the giant doors opened, it was magical.

I always thought Cattle Baron’s Ball was what a fun party should aspire to be when it grew up. Take the best of country music, add great food and drinks, chic clothes, and you get the idea.

Despite weather curses that meant either sweating profusely or getting drenched by storms, having the infamous affair at an actual ranch was incredible. 

My favorite CBB memory was Cindy Crawford telling me she wished she had on what I did, not having realized she’d be attending a ranch cocktail party.

I’ve always loved hats, so covering Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was delightful. Women can spend months building their hats, some elegant, others outrageous. I’ve seen a running waterfall, a caged bird, and creations so tall and heavy their wearers suffered headaches..

For all the fun, there were trying times. The day after 9-11, I interviewed the CBB co-chairs for their scheduled profile. We all felt being there trivial, but we had jobs to do.

Some friends I worked with are sadly gone.

Covering four events a night was my limit, and James Hatcher, valet parker de jour, always kept my car close to the door. He was funny, kind, and we enjoyed talking about gardening. 

I never saw Andy Hanson without his camera. Each year, he arrived at our Fourth of July party after everyone was gone, camera around his neck. We’d visit as he ate, played with our dog, and shared his career stories about “the good old days.”

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