A godparent is one who sponsors a child and assumes responsibility for its faith. Reveling in Los Angeles' heritage, Las Madrinas (The Godmothers) 53 years ago took the appellation and with it a pledge to aid Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and to stimulate interest in health care of the young.
They staged the Las Madrinas Debutante Ball, the premiere white-tie social affair of the Christmas season, to honor young daughters of families who contribute substantially to the Southern California community.
Monday evening at the Beverly Hilton, 29 debutantes, most of whom volunteered last summer at the hospital, were presented by candlelight and klieg light at the 53rd ball. They stepped from behind a glittery curtain in the International Ballroom to be announced by attorney/investor Thomas McCarthy, accept the arms of their fathers (or grandfathers), circle the room before more than 1,000 elegantly groomed socialites and bow to the head table before returning to a three-tiered lineup for a group curtsy.
According to protocol, the father-daughter waltz followed, then McCarthy instructed the escorts to dance with the debutantes as the fathers returned to their tables, removing their white gloves. A few moments later the stags, a group of young men invited by the debutantes, cut in on the escorts to claim a dance.
For ball chairman Penne Durst, wife of investor Willis Durst, and Janice Carpenter, wife of advertising executive Robert Hudson Carpenter, the evening had special meaning. They had been Las Madrinas debutantes together 30 years earlier. It also was a significant evening for bandleader Joe Moshay, whose orchestra played till the wee hours. "This is my 200th debutante ball, my 22nd Las Madrinas ball," he said. It was also his first Las Madrinas Ball since 1970, the year Patti Davis was presented, he noted.
Las Madrinas president Elayne Techentin, wife of investment counselor Thomas Techentin, summed up the evening: "This is a joyous occasion. We honor 29 darling debutantes and their families. . . . At the same time, we benefit the hundreds of children fighting bravely to find good health at Childrens Hospital. . . . Let us be especially grateful to the brilliant, caring members of the staff of the hospital who are spending their holiday season in the ongoing care of those children."
As president, she was thrilled that her look-alike daughter Kristin Elayne Techentin was being presented, and she took the opportunity to gather chums who had not only attended Marlborough together, but had been presented with her at Las Madrinas in 1958--Margaret Bushee Skibitzke, Julie Cosgrove Masterson, Sandi Pauley Edwards, Sally Mage Keller--and their husbands. Barbara Michel Fountain (of that same group) and Rex Fountain also presented their daughter Melinda.
Television producer Stephen J. Cannell admitted: "Yes, this is a production," as he kibitzed with his pretty deb daughter Tawnia, whose mother Marcia, grandparents Joseph and Carolyn Cannell and aunt and uncle Danford and Joan Baker were among the happy throng. It definitely was a more formal occasion than last summer, when the Cannells sailed the 29 debs to Catalina on their yacht for a picnic and swim.
Admiring his beautiful deb daughter Cecelia from a distance, Christopher Cord said: "I feel unbelievably proud--not nervous yet, because the rehearsal went well, but this is a real tradition, and I just couldn't be more proud of my daughter and this cause of helping the hospital." Cecelia's grandmother, Onnalee Doheny, and her husband, William, and her aunt and uncle, Judy and Henry Duque of Los Altos, attended, as well as aunt and uncle Arthur and Merril Park. Cousin Errett Cord was her escort and cousin Rick Duque the stag.
Las Madrinas member Sally Keon and her husband Joseph, veteran deb watchers, commented that the girls' curtsies were perfect, not one even quivered, though Katherine Horton, the daughter of Daryn and Rufus William Landon Horton III, after standing for photographs and preliminary rehearsals from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., felt a little faint for a few moments at rehearsal and rushed to the powder room. She had her beautiful deb gown to remind her to stand tall: "This was my sister's Las Madrinas gown. I didn't think I could ever find another dress as beautiful as this."
Frank Dennis and Ann Boren came from Washington (where he's president of the Nature Conservancy) to present their daughter, Sarah. Linda and William Denzil Campbell were up from Laguna to present their daughter, Kathleen, a student at Colorado College. Ashley LaShelle's favorite aunt,
Rose Fox Noll, came from San Francisco to join Ashley's mother, Laura La Shelle, and her father, Brett LaShelle.