Angie Barrett Does Not Use Butt Cream

Or so she says— and from the looks of her, she doesn’t need it. Although she once stole hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of clothes from Neiman’s—and did hard time in the state penitentiary—she’s clawed her way to the top of the Dallas socialite heap and now hosts her own reality TV show. Who says there are no second acts?

July 2005By Comments

THIS PAST SPRING, I asked the Dallas socialite Angela Barrett if I could follow her around for a few weeks. A striking fifty-year-old brunette with the obligatory blond highlights, along with bluish-green eyes, a dandelion-slim body, and perfectly exercised arms and legs, Angie, as she likes to be called, is famous among Dallas’s moneyed class for her devotion to the social life. Most days of the week she makes an appearance at a charity luncheon, a cocktail party, a fashionable restaurant, or a seated dinner, and when the social season is in full swing, she hits as many as four events in an evening, racing around the city in a snazzy Porsche.

Wherever she goes, just about everyone stops what they are doing to stare at her. She is always dressed in some staggeringly expensive outfit—Women’s Wear Daily, the fashion bible, has called her “possibly Dallas’ biggest fashion fiend”—and she seems to be having the time of her life, smiling cheerfully at everyone she sees, chatting with her friends, and invariably pausing long enough to pose for the society photographers.

The photographers especially love taking her picture at Dallas’ society balls. One year she arrived at the Crystal Charity Ball, the preeminent social event in the city, in a Roberto Cavalli crystal-beaded bodysuit that fit so tightly around the bottom that many people were convinced that it was completely see-through. Another year, she came to the same ball dressed in a $70,000 black leather Versace gown with a six-foot-long train that knocked over chairs and tripped waiters as it trailed behind her. A few partygoers applauded as she walked past them. Alan Peppard, the Dallas Morning News society columnist, was so impressed with her gown that he spent a paragraph trying to describe it to his readers. The train, he wrote, was long enough “to house a family of Oompa Loompas.”

Even Dallas-area residents who know nothing about high society know about Angie, in large part because she is now starring in her own self-produced and self-funded weekly television show, Grin & Barrett, which premiered in early April on the local ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV. Grin & Barrett is essentially a reality show about the way Angie lives her life as a socialite: going to parties, donating money to charities, meeting celebrities, interviewing fashion designers, and trying on expensive new clothes and jewelry. For one episode, she flew to New York to interview Karl Lagerfeld. In another show, she visited one of the new stores at Dallas’s Galleria mall, where she became infatuated with a $12,000 handbag. For comic relief, she has also included segments in which she tries not to act like a socialite. She worked as a waitress on roller skates at Keller’s, a drive-in and hamburger restaurant in East Dallas frequented by the working class; she pretended to be a maid at the Hotel St. Germain, one of Dallas’s boutique hotels; and she showed up in a limousine at the mansions of Dallas barons Ross Perot, Jerry Jones, and Tom Hicks and tried to talk her way past the security guards, telling them that she was there to deliver pizzas.

Dallas, of course, is not unaccustomed to flamboyant society dames. Nancy Hamon, the 87-year-old grande dame of Dallas society who has a wing of the Dallas Museum of Art named in her honor, was once a Los Angeles “hoofer” who danced in a flesh-colored bathing suit in the Mae West movie-musical The Heat’s On. When she came to Dallas in the late forties to become the trophy wife of the great oilman Jake Hamon, the city’s old-money families could not stop talking about her.

But Nancy herself admits that Angie might be the most flamboyant of them all. “That girl is one of a kind,” she told me. “To be where she is today, considering where she used to be, is pretty damned hard to believe, don’t you think?”

Indeed it is. The story of Angie Barrett’s ascension to the top of Dallas’ social heap is a story so unusual, and at times so utterly comical, that many people who have heard it told around the tables at the city’s best restaurants still have trouble believing it is true. Exactly twenty years ago, Angie was not a famous socialite. She was not even remotely on her way up the social ladder. Her name was then Angie King, and she was on her way to the state penitentiary, charged with stealing more than $500,000 worth of designer clothes from the downtown Neiman Marcus.

WE HAD OUR FIRST meeting in a corner of the bar of one of the city’s best see-and-be-seen restaurants, Café Pacific, in the Highland Park Village. Angie was wearing a light-blue Gucci jacket, a floral Rochas camisole, embroidered jeans, and a pair of Jimmy Choos, the heels as high as football goalposts. She had come from a workout with a personal trainer, followed by a session with her hairstylist, whose name is Twan but whom she calls the Twanster. Angie looked at least a decade younger than her fifty years, which was perhaps the reason a couple middle-aged men at the bar kept turning to look at her. Or maybe they were looking at her because they realized who she was. A couple of tables away, other women were also doing double takes. Then, after a few moments, they leaned forward and began whispering to one another.

For the first minutes of our conversation, we discussed her cram-packed schedule: a fund-raising luncheon for a homeless program; a cocktail party for Regis Philbin, who was coming to Dallas; a Tom Jones benefit concert for a United Way agency; another party to celebrate the opening of new luxury suites at Hotel ZaZa; and an interview for her television show with a very important florist whom I had never heard of. “Oh, for heaven’s sake,” she said, playfully punching me on the arm. “Would you like for me to spell his name for you?”

She was the quintessential Texas socialite, charming and sassy, as frolicsome as a palomino. She told me about a New York designer she had just hired to design a gown for her—“I said to him it had to be just fabulous”—and then she talked about her new interior decorator, who was renovating her mansion in Highland Park, Dallas’s richest residential area, where she lives with her husband, Bill Barrett, the multimillionaire former owner of the Dallas Coors beer distributorship. (Rumors had been flying around town this spring that the couple was getting a divorce, but I wasn’t ready to ask about that yet.) As our drinks were being served, she launched into a variety of funny stories about her refusal to cook—“I use the oven for storage,” she said—and her attempts to stay young. “My daughter told me the other day that I’m so old that she catches me using thigh cream, face cream, arm cream, hand cream, butt cream, knee cream, and foot cream,” she said. “I told her, ‘That’s outrageous. I don’t use butt cream.’”

ACCORDING TO HER close friends and relatives, Angie has been acting like a socialite since her childhood in the very small East Texas town of Gilmer. “She was just this wildly popular and very social girl who was always great at a party,” said her mother, Jean Crawford. “And when she was a teenager, she developed this remarkable eye for fashion. She knew all the designers, all the right colors, all the best shoes—everything.”

After high school, Angie attended Kilgore Junior College, where she won a place on the high-kicking Kilgore Rangerettes drill team—the ultimate status symbol for an East Texas girl—and then she attended the University of Texas. On a weekend trip to Dallas, she met a handsome young guy named Allen King at a nightclub. She quit UT in 1977, moved to Dallas to marry him, and soon they were starting a family.

For someone who loved fashion, Dallas was, as Angie told me, “a kind of heaven.” Dallas women were renowned for looking as if they had stepped out of the pages of Vogue. They worshipped Dior the way museum curators worshipped Monet. And many of them felt that their lives were not complete without periodic trips to one of the hallowed temples of American fashion: the flagship Neiman Marcus in downtown—in those years, one of the few stores outside of New York where the most luxurious clothes in the world could be found.

After they married, Allen worked at a store that sold men’s clothes; Angie went to work at a clothing store for women at the tony NorthPark Center. Noticing how good Angie was with customers, the manager of a more expensive boutique in the mall quickly hired her away, and then she was hired away again by another boutique. By the early eighties she was working at Lou Lattimore, one of the best boutiques in the city, and she was developing a clientele of wealthy Dallas women.

Some of her clients became so fond of Angie that they began inviting her to lunch, to their children’s school plays, and to dinners at their homes. A few women began asking her to come along to social events. When Diana Strauss, one of Dallas’s great clotheshorses, threw a huge fundraiser featuring Robert Redford, she invited Angie to attend. There, the Dallas social bug began to bite at her. “I sat at my table and looked around at everyone—at this world of beautiful people and beautiful clothes—and I thought, ‘Now this is the definition of glamour,’” Angie said.

Angie and Allen bought a two-bedroom home for themselves and their two daughters on the outskirts of Highland Park, paying $975 a month in mortgage. Hoping to cash in on the city’s housing boom and make real money, Allen quit his retail job in 1984 and enrolled in real estate school. That same year, a manager at the downtown Neiman Marcus offered Angie the opportunity to work in its exclusive Silver Key Club, which catered to the store’s biggest spenders, most of whom were well-known socialites. Suddenly Angie, at age 29, found herself working in the store she’d once dreamed about as a child, associating with world-class shopaholics, women so rich that they didn’t think twice about spending $50,000 a month on clothes.

By early 1985, however, she was lying awake at nights in bed, terrified. Allen was making next to nothing in real estate, and her commissions at Neiman Marcus didn’t come close to covering the mortgage, the babysitter, and the other bills.

“And is that when you decided to become a criminal?” I asked. “Just like that?”

I didn’t ask that question until our fourth meeting. Until then, we had only danced around the subject. But during this interview, we were sitting alone seventeen floors up in the quiet Crescent Club, near downtown. “It was something I was going to do just one time and one time only,” she said, looking out the window. “Right when things were going bad, this woman named Heide Levy, who was a former customer of mine from another boutique, called me and said, ‘If you can ever bring me clothes, I can sell them and give you cash.’ And that began churning around in my brain. 

“And so one day, I took a sales receipt from a previous sale I had made and attached it to a set of clothes I had not sold. Then I walked out the employees’ entrance with the clothes, telling the security woman I needed to deliver them to one of my customers. If she had looked at the receipt and the clothes, she would have realized the vendor numbers and the designers didn’t match up. But she didn’t look. She checked me out and I was gone. My heart was pounding, my stomach was turning upside down, and I just kept trying to think, ‘I’m saving us from foreclosure for another month.’”

The crime she had committed was a rather simple one, hardly the stuff of Hollywood. But she unknowingly had set into motion a scandal that would soon become the talk of Dallas. Levy, a well-connected woman in University Park (Highland Park’s sister city) took the clothes Angie had stolen and then fenced them out of her home in a kind of glorified garage sale, splitting the profits with Angie.

Before long, word was spreading among the neighborhood women. Discount clothes straight from Neiman Marcus! Original price tags still on the clothes! See Heide Levy! Most of the women who came to Levy’s didn’t ask too many questions about where the clothes came from. Those who did were told that a very rich Dallas woman, irritated that her husband would not give her more spending money, was buying the clothes under her husband’s open charge account at Neiman’s and then having the clothes resold.

“I kept telling myself to stop, but I never did,” Angie said. “My mind was crazy, in total autopilot survival mode.” In August 1985, when store executives finally realized that clothes were disappearing and then traced those clothes back to Angie, she wept and confessed to everything. (She said she didn’t come close to stealing $531,000 worth of merchandise, as Neiman’s had claimed. She said that that was the store’s entire loss for the whole year. But she decided not to fight their allegations.)

Meanwhile, police detectives working the case began receiving phone calls from attorneys who said they were representing well-known Dallas women who had bought clothes from Levy. The attorneys insisted that the women were shocked—absolutely shocked!—that the clothes had been stolen. They were socially upstanding women, the attorneys said, who were only trying to save their husbands some money. Levy’s attorney also argued vehemently that Levy had no idea that the clothes were stolen.

Perhaps for that reason, Levy received only a ten-year probated sentence. Angie, however, was convicted of larceny and sentenced to three years in the state penitentiary. The fallout was immediate. Her husband filed for divorce and won custody of their children. The socialites who had once bought clothes from her refused to speak to her—only one of the women sent her a note wishing her well, Angie said—and, according to one source, Neiman Marcus executives, furious at the way they had been hoodwinked, eventually decreed that she would not be welcome at Neiman Marcus ever again. Banned from Neiman Marcus: For a woman who loved clothes, was there any worse punishment?

WHEN IT CAME time to head off to prison, the still-fashion-conscious Angie, unaware that she would be able to wear only a white uniform behind bars, packed her finest dresses and favorite Lancôme makeup into leather French luggage. She was taken to one of the women’s units in Gatesville, just outside Waco, where burly female guards led her to her dormitory and told her that she would be awakening every morning at four-thirty to work in the prison kitchen.

All day long, she served food and cleaned dishes. During the afternoon recreation period, she did sit-ups to keep her stomach toned. At night, she lay in her bed and listened to her fellow inmates talk about how they had murdered their husbands or sold drugs. When they asked about her past, she told them about the beautiful clothing she had stolen from Neiman Marcus.

“You ripped off Neiman Marcus?” the inmates said. “Girl!”

“I ruined my life,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “I ruined my life.”

IN OCTOBER 1991 the members of Dallas’s “fete set,” as the Dallas Morning News likes to call the society crowd, had gathered at the Anatole Hotel for the annual TACA Custom Auction Gala to support the city’s arts programs. It was a beautiful affair. Men in tuxedos and bejeweled women dressed as colorfully as Rose Bowl floats stood in little circles, laughing uproariously at the latest story about who had done what to whom.

At some point, one socialite noticed another woman, blond and well dressed, perusing the silent auction items lining a corner of the ballroom. She thought the woman looked familiar. Another socialite thought the same thing, and then another. Then someone gasped, “It’s Angie King!”

Angie was on the arm of Bill Barrett, the Coors distributor and philanthropist. Bill had briefly met Angie soon after her arrest, when she was volunteering part-time for a foundation that raised money to pay for craniofacial surgeries for disadvantaged children. (The job, Angie said, was her way of trying to pay penance for what she had done at Neiman’s.) Bill told me that he thought the young woman, who was 31 years his junior, was “wonderful” and that he wanted to help her in some way. Once she went off to prison, he came to visit her, and on the day she was released, in 1987, he sent a limousine to Gatesville to pick her up, with a bottle of champagne in the backseat. Alas, prison officials required her to ride a Greyhound bus back to Dallas, Angie said, and, from there, take a taxi to her halfway house.

Angie said that the courtly, white-haired Bill was her “knight in shining armor.” But she said they did not have their first date until 1990, a year after Bill’s wife died from a long battle with cancer. Angie was then working as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, based out of Phoenix and then Houston, flying back late at night to Dallas, on a prop plane that carried canceled checks, so she would be able to see her daughters during the day. In those post-prison years, Angie said, she was living in near poverty, staying in a tiny duplex, driving a $600 Ford Escort, and eating airline peanuts for lunch and dinner. But all that changed with her marriage to Bill, in April 1992. He gave her a blue Jaguar as a wedding present, and for their honeymoon, they flew on the Concorde to Europe, where they rode the Orient Express and sailed on the Queen Elizabeth II.

They had no plans to return to the social scene. After their wedding, they moved to the far-off suburb of Colleyville, close to where Angie’s children lived with their father. Angie said the idea of being at a society party terrified her. “I was seeing a psychiatrist then because of the anxiety I felt whenever I saw people just looking at me when I went to the grocery store,” Angie said.

But after she made an agreement with Allen to regain custody of her daughters, she and Bill decided to return to Dallas, buying a grand two-story home in Highland Park on Beverly Drive, one of the city’s most exclusive streets. Her psychiatrist had been telling her that the time had come to live her life without feeling shame about her past. What’s more, her daughters had wanted to move back to Highland Park to be at their old schools and among their old friends. “I knew I couldn’t hide forever,” Angie told me.

With Bill’s encouragement, Angie began using his money to buy the most expensive tables at a variety of events to support local charities and the arts. She also became an underwriter for some of the bigger luncheons and galas, paying the entire cost of everything from the food to the entertainment.

In Texas, buying your way back in by donating to charity had always been an acceptable way to rejoin society. But needless to say, Angie was not welcomed back with open arms. Some socialites said that under no circumstances would they lower themselves to speak to a thief, especially one who had stolen so much merchandise from the Store, as the downtown Neiman’s was reverentially called. Other socialites were no doubt horrified to see Angie for a different reason. These were women who six years earlier had stocked their wardrobes with the half-priced dresses that Heide Levy had sold them. They couldn’t help but wonder if Angie knew their names. (Angie said she knew no names of Levy’s customers.) Was it possible, they asked, that Angie might try to blackmail them for her silence? “God, you should have heard the talk,” recalled Gloria McCall Godat, a veteran socialite who befriended Angie. “People were simply in disbelief that she had returned to circulate among them.”

Yet for all the talk, no one tried too hard to keep Angie out of their parties. “Oh, no,” said Yvonne Crum, another Dallas socialite. “When it came time for these women who were gossiping about Angie to chair their own charity events, Angie was the first person they would call, because they knew she would support them. They wouldn’t pose for a picture with her or invite her to their homes for dinner. But they didn’t mind at all asking her for a two-hundred-thousand-dollar check.”

Angie insisted to me that she was not trying to buy her way back into the other socialites’ favor. “I believed these events were important,” she said. “They kept a lot of charities and nonprofits from closing their doors.” But she also admitted that she kept coming to the parties because she loved them. This was indeed her chance to step into that glamorous world that she had seen only from a distance, years before, at Diana Strauss’s dinner for Robert Redford. “I loved the atmosphere. I loved wearing the couture dresses. Going to parties was what I liked to do. Should I have to apologize for that?”

Dallasites who kept up with the social scene only by reading the society columns were never given a clue by the writers about who she once was. (“Why rub it in?” an editor of one Dallas society publication told me. “There are lots of socialites who have had rather interesting pasts that we don’t mention.”) Instead, they learned about Angie walking the runway with other socialites at a fashion show during a fund-raising lunch or getting some award with her husband for contributing generously to the United Way or some other organization. At one point in 1997, she and Bill were seen so often at so many events that one of the Morning News’ society writers suggested to her readers that the couple could very well have been cloned.

What no one expected, however, was for Angie to return to the downtown Neiman Marcus, the scene of her crime. According to one former vice president at Neiman’s, the company’s policy had remained absolute through the nineties: no Angie Barrett. Security guards at the store were even given her photo, he said, to make sure they didn’t let her slip past them.

But in July 1999, Angie’s friend Shelle Bagot, one of Dallas’s most respected fashion retailers, took the job as manager of the downtown store, and apparently some conversations went on in the executive offices about Angie’s social rehabilitation, as well as her love of expensive clothes. (Neither Bagot nor any other Neiman’s official would comment for this story.) One day Bagot called Angie and casually invited her to drop by and see the new collections.

“I took the elevator up to the second floor [where the top designers’ clothes are showcased], and I was queasy,” Angie said. But then she took several deep breaths, gazed at the elegant dresses adorning the mannequins, and finally picked out some Yves Saint Laurent and Michael Kors. And just like that, the most infamous thief in Neiman Marcus history became one of its most prized customers. “I thought, possibly, for the first time, people would start thinking of me as a person and not as a felon,” Angie told me. “I thought the scarlet letter would finally start to fade.”

WELL, NOT QUITE. While more of the fete-setters did embrace Angie, others maintained their resentment at her attempts to reinvent herself as a socialite. Despite her world-class wardrobe—her bedroom closet is the size of a one-bedroom apartment—the members of the Crystal Charity Ball adamantly refused to vote her onto their annual list naming the ten best-dressed socialites in Dallas. (According to one well-placed source, the chairman of the luncheon was even given a special vote to eliminate one person from the ten-best-dressed list who he believed did not deserve to be there, which became known as the “Angie Barrett blackball vote.” A spokesman for Crystal Charity called the story “ridiculous.”) Reid Slaughter, the publisher of Park Cities People, a popular weekly newspaper that circulates through Highland Park and University Park, also ordered his staff to stop running “party pictures” of Angie in the newspaper’s society pages. Every time she appeared in the newspaper, he said, he would get calls and letters, mostly from older residents. “They’d all say the same thing: ‘Stop giving Angie Barrett so much attention!’ ‘The woman is an ex-con!’ ‘She’s not one of us!’ And you know, I had to agree with them. I didn’t dislike Angie Barrett. I disliked the concept of Angie Barrett, the idea that someone with no discernible talents could hype herself into a celebrity by throwing parties or by showing up at a bunch of parties or by writing checks to charities from her older husband’s vat of wealth that she had no hand in creating.”

When the announcement was made in 2000 that Angie’s eldest daughter, Alana, would be making her debut with Dallas’s prominent Idlewild Club, several Highland Park residents, who remembered the days when Idlewild catered only to old-money, conservative Dallas families, were disgusted. A few other parents presenting their daughters let it be known that they were not happy either. “These were people who refused to accept that Alana was very popular around Highland Park and that the young men who ran the club genuinely adored her,” Angie said. “What mattered to them, I guess, was that they were going to have to see me at all the debutante parties. There was so much bad-mouthing that I thought, as a joke, I should turn a get-acquainted luncheon that I was throwing for the other mothers into a white trash party, with broken-down cars in front of our house and wine served out of boxes.”

Instead, she not only threw an elegant lunch for the mothers (many of whom were also using their husbands’ money to achieve social status) but also created one of the most memorable balls in Dallas debutante history, chartering three jets and flying Alana, the other debutantes (except for a couple whose parents didn’t want them to go), and more than 160 other guests to Los Angeles, where Alana’s ball was held at the Skybar, on the top floor of the chic Mondrian Hotel. Painted across the bottom of the pool was the phrase “aLAana Confidential.” The Pointer Sisters performed a ninety-minute concert, and everyone then walked over to the hotel’s Asia de Cuba restaurant for a seated dinner. Then it was back to the Skybar until the wee hours. The next day, everyone got on the jets and flew home.

“And even then people were saying, ‘Oh, there goes Angie, putting on a big show just to get attention.’ And I thought, ‘Wait a minute. Am I not allowed to celebrate my daughter’s debut too? Haven’t I yet paid my dues?’”

When she told me that particular story, she was sitting on a couch in the great room of her home. Just off that room was her bedroom, with an unusual piece of art on the wall that had been created by the noted British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. The art was essentially a neon pink sculpture that spelled out the word “vicious.” Angie told me that she had purchased that piece so she’d remember the way some people in Dallas felt about her. “I think they would just love to see me disappear. But every day that I walk out of that bedroom, I look at that sign and think, ‘I am not going to let them beat me.’”

THEY HAVE NOT beaten her. In recent stories describing Angie’s new television show, Dallas’s monthly magazine, D, heralded Angie as the city’s “undefeated heavyweight socialite” and the Morning News’ Alan Peppard went so far as to call her Dallas’ “social diva.” And even Reid Slaughter, at Park Cities People, agreed to let his society columnist run one more article and photograph of Angie this spring regarding her television venture. (The headline read “Almost Famous.”)

Angie is far from a polished television hostess—“I’m still learning how to do this,” she  said cheerfully—and in its weekend afternoon time slot, the show is hardly producing blockbuster ratings. Still, such posh local establishments as Il Mulino restaurant, William Noble Jewelers, and some of the better clothing boutiques like Stanley Korshak and Tootsies have begun to run commercials on the show, no doubt because they realize that many members of Dallas society, their target audience, are periodically tuning in just to see what Angie is doing. In May she flew to Cannes to interview movie stars at the film festival, and before returning to Dallas, she flew to Paris to interview fashion designers and to film herself playing chef at the Cordon Bleu cooking school. The highlights of the show, however, are her non-socialite segments, such as the morning she worked at a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, slipping across the floor in her Manolo Blahniks and destroying all the doughnuts. “I want the show to be like a video version of Town & Country magazine, with some Access Hollywood and Punk’d thrown in as well,” she said.

Grin & Barrett is certainly costing Angie a lot of money. (Insiders estimate that she is paying $10,000 a week for the airtime and at least that much each week in production costs.) And in one of our last interviews, Angie did confirm that she is getting a divorce from Bill, which raises the question of whether she can afford to remain the kind of socialite she has become. But Bill, who turns 82 this month, told me that he has arranged for Angie to continue living the life she loves. “I always knew the day would come that I would be a millstone to Angie’s success and her age,” he said about his decision to file for divorce. And then he chuckled. “She doesn’t need a decrepit old bastard like me.”

Who knows if that’s the real reason. At least on one occasion their marriage had been rather volatile: After a party in 2000, a Highland Park police officer came to the Barretts’ home to investigate Bill’s claim that Angie had scratched and kicked him during an argument. But no charges were ever filed. And when I was around both of them in the spring—at the very time their lawyers were working out the settlement—they continued to live under the same roof and they went to many parties together, acting so cordial with each other that it was hard to imagine anything between them being wrong. “This is the all-time friendliest of divorces,” Angie said. “Bill is ready to move on, and he’s told me he wants me to stay in the house and keep moving on with my life, just as it is.”

Which is exactly what she is doing. In the last week of April, it was time for Angie to make her appearance at the biggest social event of the spring season, the Beaux Arts Ball, a benefit for the Dallas Museum of Art. In the previous week, twelve couture gowns had been sent from as far away as New York and Beverly Hills for her to wear to the ball. The owner of one of Dallas’s hottest boutiques, 4510, had personally brought over six gowns, and Shelle Bagot at the downtown Neiman’s had sent over a stunning beaded Michael Kors dress.

But on the day of the ball, Angie still hadn’t made a decision. That afternoon, with only a few hours to go, Angie raced to see the Twanster to get her hair done, and then she was home by six. At the last minute, she picked out a rare yellow James Galanos gown sent to her from Lily et Cie, in Beverly Hills, that had been featured recently in an exhibition of famous vintage fashion at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She threw it on and was out the door with Bill at her side.

They were more than an hour late—the last people to arrive at the ball. The other partygoers were already headed up a hallway toward the main banquet room. But the photographers were still waiting for Angie. They whisked her away to an empty gallery and for ten minutes took shot after shot. When she finally got to the banquet room, women began stopping her: Was that a real Galanos she was wearing?

She told me later that the evening was a huge success. She couldn’t have been happier.

“But what are you going to do with all the other gowns that were sent to you?” I asked.

“Oh, I’ll keep some of them,” she said with a smile. “There are still a lot of parties to go.”

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