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VIP Party, Home of Celeste and Charles Patrick, Sunday, May 24, 2009
John Dunnan and his son, Mac, were in good spirits when we arrived simultaneously at the Church Street home of Celeste and Charles Patrick for an early evening garden party before heading to the Mem for the evening performance of Don John. Tom and Joann Nipper walked up about the same time, and Joann and John began coaching Mac on the proper form for executing a successful courting maneuver on the joggling board out front.
In a blink, all three were on the board. In their exuberance, they were carrying on some pretty aggressive joggling (I’m not at all sure Victorian Charlestonians would have approved). Let’s just say the joggling board folks could hire the three for quality testing purposes, because they were pushing the apparatus to its full limits. I fully expected one of them to joggle right off, up, and through a front window. The scene and the trio’s laughter were attracting quite a lot of attention as other guests entered the piazza door just to their left.
“John and Joann haven’t even been to the bar yet,” I explained to John’s wife, Meredith, who was walking up just then with a bemused look. “No,” replied John, “but I have been on Merrill’s boat all day—that’s why I’m wearing boat shoes with my suit.” “How Jay Gatsby,” I said. Turns out Merrill Benfield had chartered this vintage 90-foot wooden yacht to entertain folks during the Rolls and Bentley club he’d been hosting in town over the weekend, so apparently a few folks had a jump on the partying (which became apparent when Elisabeth and I ran into Merrill later at the Alvin Ailey party at Tristan around midnight and he actually greeted us with a hearty and sincere, “Merry Christmas!”).
Just inside the piazza, things were a little calmer. Celeste Patrick offered a relieved smile when I mentioned the weather, since showers had been passing across the peninsula all day. Now that the sun was shining merrily, the only token of all that rain was that it gave their garden a fresh bit of perkiness. Even with everything going on around town, though, Charles and Celeste had managed to finagle getting an additional tent up that afternoon, just in case.
The bar was tucked in the end of one tent, but dominating the opposite side was someone—something—who looked familiar. Wait, it was the girl-in-the-table from Bubbles & Sweets. “Do you wear that table everywhere you go?” I asked her. She was offering some very tempting and refreshing looking Blue Lagoon cocktails. Passed hors d’oeuvres catered by Fish included delicious tuna tartare served on edible pastry “spoons” and pulled pork barbecue. Meanwhile, a buffet set up on the piazza was attracting an eager crowd with its scrumptious build-your-own soft-shell fish and grilled shrimp tacos with such accompaniments as rice, guacamole and fresh salsas.
In line for food, I ran into Todd Brown. I asked him if he and his wife, Melissa, had been to any performances yet. He said he hadn’t, so I tried, very unsuccessfully, to try to explain the extraordinary Alvin Ailey performance the night before. “I really don’t know how to tell you what they were doing,” I finally said. “That’s alright,” he replied, “you could have told me anything and I wouldn’t have known the difference.”
Before heading off to pick up Elisabeth on the way to Don John, I ran into a few Spoleto folks, producer Nunally Kersh, marketing and PR manager Caroline Maas, and the always impish looking Louise director Sam Helfrich were conspiring about something. “You’re everywhere,” Nunally said as she spied me with my camera. Sam groaned and claimed he didn’t like his picture made, but he was a good sport about it nonetheless. Caroline said she’d look for me at Tristan late that night for Lawson Robert’s Alvin Ailey party. Back on the sidewalk, I glanced at the Patrick’s joggling board, which was sitting there with its prim South of Broad reserve, as if nothing had ever happened. But I knew better.