It was finally show time. Cheeks brushed for air kisses. Champagne flowed freely. After more than ten years and $354 million dollars donated mostly from private pockets, the AT&T Performing Arts Center opened with a whirlwind of ballet, opera, and theatre. Over the course of three days, some of Dallas’s most deep-pocketed philanthropists mingled with artists, architects, and aesthetes. The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House, with its glossy candy apple red exterior, hosted ballet, opera, and a night of Broadway. An evening of theatre was seen at the thoroughly modern Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre, an innovative rectangular box covered with vertical aluminum tubes.
But Saturday night was the evening everyone waited for. With Tony Award winners Patti LuPone, Kristin Chenoweth—the Oklahoma native walked out on stage wearing an oversized UT football jersey bearing Colt McCoy’s number 12—George Hearn, and Kiril Kulish performing, it was regarded as one of the biggest parties of the decade in Dallas. More than 2,000 guests shelled out up to $5,000 for the opportunity to attend and they took getting groomed just as seriously as LuPone belted out “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” Women booked appointments weeks in advance for one of facialist Renee Rouleau’s new facials, Le Visage Extraordinaire, a treatment done in “three scenes and a curtain call.” Others traded their ho-hum au natural mani-pedi for va-va-voom fire engine red hues to match the new opera house. The dress code was black tie, and while that means tuxedos for men and floor-length gowns for women, some say tu-mate-uh, some say toe-mah-toe.
Jeanne Marie Clossey, the chair of the opening, wore a strapless deep blue Oscar de la Renta with black bead embroidery. She shimmied away on the dance floor while Heroes star Zachary Quinto twirled her around. Muffin Lemak wore a tea-length citron-hued Isaac Mizrahi with peach satin heels. On her finger was a Sue Gragg ring of multi-colored stones the size of a large marshmallow. Dee Wyly wore a black Oscar de la Renta embedded with rhinestones while her daughters, Emily Wyly and Martha Miller, wore elegant gold gowns that skimmed the floor.
For men it meant one-of-a-kind cufflinks and even more unique shoes. Niven Morgan showed off recently purchased vintage smoky topaz cufflinks that looked like faceted tootsie rolls. Shelby Wagner wore a pair that his mother had purchased for his father at Tiffany in Paris, small dark stones carved into detailed monkey heads that glowed with sparking diamond eyes. The clasping side bore the monkey’s hands in gold. John Lemak, well known for snoozing away at public events, was on his toes with his monogrammed velvet slippers. Below each billowy “L” on the top of his shoes was a pair of gold embroidered breasts. He wanted to be clear that they were a gift. Kiril Kulish, Broadway’s 15-year-old sensation, walked up to the bar—he ordered a Coca-Cola—wearing a post-show gray pinstripe suit. Then there was the more dubious attire, the stuff that made you go “Really, now.” One man wore a black dress coat with tails, what seemed to be a harmless throwback to the British Regency, but upon his exit an eyeful of aggressive patent leather straps and buckles gave way to bondage gone terrifically awry. Another wore a silly pork pie hat dappled with holes, as if a moth had just thrown a cookout for himself and thirty of his fabric gnawing friends.
Whether you agreed with it or not, just about everyone pulled together an inspired ensemble, black tie or otherwise. Gabrielle de Papp, VP of corporate public relations for Neiman Marcus, summed up what was most important that evening. “Everyone really got dressed for tonight,” she said. “But aren’t the buildings amazing? To see this come together after all the hard work. It’s so great for Dallas.”