Drinking with Dallas' One Percent: A Gala Guide for the Creative Class
Flickr user Kent Wang
"Let me pour you the good stuff. I like to reward the creative drinkers," he said as he pulled out a fresh glass.
The audience had just poured out of the McDermott Concert Hall in the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on the vibrations of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra's dynamic final offering from French composer Maurice Ravel. Jaap van Zweden conducted with a strut that rock stars could benefit studying. Soprano Renée Fleming colored the early part of her performance with beautiful arias and gave good cape.
But now it was time for the after-party. The crowd was thirsty; the eternal ovations reserved specifically for opera singers can trigger cottonmouth, I've learned. The pours were strong but the lines were long.
I knew there was a secret bar. There is always a secret bar. Meant for those who simply cannot suffer a line or the brief wilderness of an empty glass. We had just been taken down into the belly of the first floor of the Meyerson in a bid to cheek-kiss the diva herself, soprano Renée Fleming.
Something about that first floor lobby is so strangely beautiful. Amidst the stark geometry and glass of I.M. Pei's breathtaking entryway, a walk down that marble staircase into the lush underground first floor brings to mind something indulgent and of the 1970's. Behind a rope and a clipboard a line was forming behind another set of heavy doors. A person would ask a person would ask another person. The green room, it seemed, was growing crowded.
I wasn't really sure what I was going to say to a talent as present as Ms. Fleming, though if she still had the bustled silver Vivienne Westwood cape on...probably I'd just do my best to charm someone into a try-on. Distracted, I glanced around the room, dark woods and soothing music playing and there it was; the secret bar.
"Well, we tried. I don't think there will be room for us to go say hello," a kind soul offered apologetically.
"Well, I suppose we will just hit the bar real quick then, " I said.
"Champagne," I asked the bartender. "And just a splash or two of gin in there if you don't mind?"
We rarely talk about the actual business of getting over served in The Overserved. It's more of a metaphor. But if I may offer a little tip when you find yourself not driving, in formal attire and in the presence of an open bar: Add a little liquor to your champagne. Gin or tequila work best; though toss in an orange slice with the tequila if you can. It's not a terribly creative move; adding gin is just the beginning moments of a French 75. But a simple request like that, if it does not bewilder the bartender, it will certainly momentarily endear you to them. Plus your date sounds so cool ordering it all night.
I was rewarded with a new glass and fresh pour of bubbles of the stuff I can assume was only being served at the secret bar and the strongest sling of gin I had all evening. I wanted to see the cape, but confirmation of the tucked away bar with no line would also do the trick.
As we made our way back up the stairs and eventually behind the curtains, the dance floor had finally warmed up a little.
The night was filled with the little details meant to separate these black tie affairs. A masquerade photo booth allowed for playful moments, a relaxation area complete with foot massages provided a respite from the beautiful if torturous footwear sprinkled throughout. A tequila bar kept us tequila'd. Run-ins with guests Dirk Nowitzki, Emmitt Smith and Ross Perot meant there was a Dallas celebrity capable of bringing out the groupie in each of us, no matter who we were.
DJ Lucy Wrubel doesn't get enough credit in the Dallas DJ streets. The socialite DJ of choice, she is beautiful and even whimsical as she dances along to her curation from the very start of the evening, smiling and laughing and clapping along the way. Her crowds, though are not at clubs, at weeklies or in tucked away dance parties. Her crowds are at events where small talk is the norm. Where the old white men with money, who this city commends and complains, about hold court.
So when she gets on the mic to yell, "Oh, you love this song!" or starts the dancing herself from behind the booth, she is kick starting her own dance party, and it works. By the end of the night, who you thought was stuffy, who you thought couldn't let loose, who you thought might never be seen losing their inhibitions on the dance floor, they all are.
The mix moves around. That Daft Punk song that won't go away, Queen, and Usher deep cuts all make their way out of the speaker. I saw a woman tap her cane from a seated position near the dance floor, I saw a younger counterpart lift her full length skirt a bit to make room for her hips shaking. The Meyerson lobby makes for a beautiful makeshift club, but it's not quite dark enough or loud enough to really lose yourself, which is how I know Wrubel is making up the difference when I see someone's grandfather really getting all the way down.
The midnight bar closing seems early, but we all pack into a town car and make our way to the next place, which is actually the secret to nights like these. Dressed to the nines in a room we'd normally be in fives or sixes, everyone tells us we look great, everyone asks where we have been.
"Oh," we say sheepishly, as though the pleasure of a gala is always on our calendar, "tonight, we were at the Symphony." And we push a little dust off our shoulder.