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Nell Nolan: Le Debut 2024



Nell Nolan: Le Debut 2024

When Miss Celia Shane Hardin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery Simms Hardin, appeared as a debutante at Le Début de la Nouvelle Orléans, music makers Deacon John and the Ivories struck up “Shining Star” as her song. Now, try a constellation! Thirty-three young women caught the spotlight within the cotillion at The Hilton Riverside Hotel. All sparkled.

For hours, the Grand Ballroom was filled with the delights associated with any debutante year. And this year “was a big one.” Close friends and families assembled, as did a few Le Debut alumnae — and future debs. Young men, who will be on the party circuit for the next months (and maybe more), made rounds. So did dozens of Le Debut members, as well as those on the board. With a nod to the summer socializing, guests were asked to don formal wear befitting the occasion. Light colors, along with white suits for men and pastels for women, dominated the dress.

Once the doors to the Grand Ballroom were opened, the guests — many of them attending at the invitation of parents of the honored 33 — found their tables to await the presentation. Post curtsies, the attendees mingled and then queued up at the food tables for the tasty breakfast fare. Bars were closed during the presentation.

The mothers of the debutantes had reserved seating on the ballroom floor. As a lot, and divided in half, they flanked the central aisle used for the presentation and received curtsying recognition by their daughters as the latter group processed with their fathers (or family designate).

For patriotic flourish, Deacon John launched the levity with “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Then master of ceremonies Mark Romig made his announcements. He asked the assembly to refrain from applauding until all of the 33 young women were placed on the stage and so hailed. He also introduced the four young men who would be the final escorts. During the formalities, the fathers strode the floor to admiring glances with their daughters. Right after each debutante turned to curtsy to the audience, a Jeune Monsieur stepped forward to nod to the father and escort the presentee to her place on the stage. With vigor, emcee Romig called forth the foursome, announcing “Les Jeunes Messieurs.”

They were Messrs. John Stafford Charbonnet, son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Storey Charbonnet; William Lyons Cook, son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Patrick Cook; William Davis Hardie, son of Mr. and Mrs. Scott Davis Hardie; and Davidson Penn McCay, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Penn McCay.

The next to appear were the 33 debutantes, who were led off by Miss Carolyn Taylor Bienvenu, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Albert Bienvenu IV. Her song was “Dancing in the Moonlight.” The subsequent ones were Misses Grace Simpson Brady, daughter of Mr. James McDowell Brady and Ms. Caroline Monsted Brady, to “Baby Love”; Marguerite Lisette Breaux, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Gerard Breaux, to “In the Mood”; Teresa Mallard Brewer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Craig Wren Brewer, to “Isn’t She Lovely”; Elizabeth Gale Brooks, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Schoen Brooks Jr., to the debutante anthem, “My Girl”; Anna Baldwin Brown, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Baldwin Brown, to “La Vie en Rose”; and Abigail Hartsfield Chaffe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Blackshear Hamilton Chaffe IV, to “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch.” Remember, they were not individually applauded and cellphone photos were prohibited.

To “All of Me,” Miss Elizabeth Wilder Drennan stepped into the limelight with brother Douglas Graham Drennan III as her escort. She is the daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeffery Beuker Amann and daughter of the late Mr. Drennan II. The next were Misses Brenda Marguerite Ellis, to “Basin Street Blues,” and daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Duggan Fowler Ellis (Mrs. Ellis also answers to Dr. Blesilda Quiniones Ellis); Elizabeth Shaw Feirn, daughter and stepdaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Charles Feirn, and daughter of Ms. Amy Shaw Feirn, to “Moon Dance”; Flora Elizabeth French, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Fenner French, to “Dream a Little Dream of Me”; and Charlotte Anne Galloway, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Randolph Galloway, to “All You Need Is Love.”

A distaff foursome then made individual appearances. They were Misses Katie Paige Gardes, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Derek Dylan Gardes, to “Here Comes the Sun”; Miss Hardin; Mary Grace Jenkins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Scott Jenkins, to “Midnight Train to Georgia”; and Mary Morgan Lilley, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Justin Weaver Lilley, to “Build Me up Buttercup.”

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cooper Archibald Manning, Miss May Heidingsfelder Manning, appeared next as the ensemble played “Tupelo Honey.” Following her were Misses Margaret Anne Mentz, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Henry Alvan Mentz III, to “Oogie Boogie”; Morgan Elizabeth Nalty, daughter of Mr. Morgan Shaw Nalty and Ms. Jill Knight Nalty, to “Smile”; Victoria Livaudais Nieset, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Robert Nieset Jr., to “September”; Charlotte Heyward Parrino, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Eugene Parrino, to “Be Young, Be Foolish”; and Lauren Michelle Perlis, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Wicker Perlis, to “Georgia on My Mind.”

Three more processed, in turn: Misses Julia McLain Pilant, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Denny Austin Pilant, to “How Sweet It Is (to be loved by you)”; Eleanor McCall Plauché, daughter of Mr. Walter Evan Plauché and Ms. Lisa Breeden Plauché, to “Fly Me to the Moon”; and Eugenie Gardiner Selser, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Michael Selser, to “When You’re Smiling.” And everyone was.

Most appropriately, Miss Sarah Butler Sumrall, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. William David Sumrall III, walked with her father to “Sara by Starship.”

The remaining seven were Misses Susan Rayne Swanson, daughter of Mr. Alaster Drew Swanson and Ms. Ashley Susanna Price, to “What a Wonderful World”; Melanie Kathleen Talbot, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Brent Arnold Talbot, to “Hold on I’m Coming” (Sam & Dave); Patricia Diane Taylor, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Frank Taylor III, to “Southern Nights”; Laura Elise Vickery, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Benton Vickery III, to “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans”; Marianne Pratt Villere, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. St. Denis Julien Villere III, to a robust “Gonna Fly Now” (the “Rocky” theme song); Margo Irene Gilthorpe Weese, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Stuart Chaffe Bicknell Weese, to “The Pink Panther theme”; and Helen Landry Young, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas William Young, to “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.” The musical gamut ran from “Moonlight” to “Sunshine” with some “Stars” sprinkled in between.

Once the 33 debutantes were assembled on the stage, emcee Mark announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, Les Jeunes Filles,” as they curtsied in unison. “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” the first dance, was for the dads and the debs.

In addition to the white-gowned coterie, summertime decorations caught the collective eye. As designed by Paul Lacour, there was black drapery as the stage backdrop, white lattice work, pedestals containing soft pink and white flowers, and, on the individual tables, crisscrossed green ribbons and pretty floral centerpieces.

As the evening moved along, so did the musical momentum. Revisiting Livy Nieset’s song, “September,” the band had a real draw for the dance floor. Enthusiasm was contagious and segued into “Iko Iko” with a pack of young women (and some Le Debut presentees mixed in) pressing against the stage’s edge and singing along with Deacon John. When “Shout” played, the crowd gyrated and gesticulated with glee, making stars of the lively lot.

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