Give a Gala Four




              . . . invite a faux international superstar to your next themed party?



             May 19, 2018 was Mamie Walton’s 90th birthday  . . .  And Prince Harry’s wedding day.

             It was Tom Kehoe’s brilliance to pair the two English natives at the extravagant party his Kehoe Designs created in The Peninsula Ballroom to celebrate the birthday—if not the wedding.

            It wasn’t easy to find another 34 year old, red-haired, bearded prince—well maybe not a prince. Yet Kehoe Designs did—not across the pond, but somewhere out there in the American West.


              Tom Kehoe and Mamie Walton against the Harrods backdrop at the very English birthday party.




Mark Campbell Productions. Clients have included the Women’s Board of the Field Museum.

Bob Carl Photography. Clients have included Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Auditorium Theatre.

Cheri Eisenberg Photography. Clients have included Lyric Opera of Chicago, Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

fig Media Inc. Clients have included the Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, University of Chicago Breakthrough Ball,

Kyle Flubacker Photography. Clients have included Lyric Opera of Chicago, Steppenwolf Theatre.

Bob Kusel Photography. Clients have included Chicago Botanic Garden, Christie’s, Steppenwolf Theatre, Art Institute of Chicago

John Reilly Photography. Clients have included Service Club of Chicago, Goodman Theatre.

Dan Rest is retiring. Clients have included Harvard Club of Chicago, Solti Foundation.

Jaclyn Simpson Photography. Clients have included Lyric Opera of Chicago, Steppenwolf Theatre.

Robin Subar Photography. Clients have included Woman’s Board of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Steppenwolf Theatre.

Jessica Tampas Photography. Current clients are mainly hosts of private parties, events at private clubs and individuals sitting for portraits.Widia Viti Photography . Clients have included the Woman’s Board of Rush Unversity Medical Center, Kohl’s Children’s Museum.



        From Brian D. White


In each Give a Gala celebrated party givers let you in on their top-secret formulas for success.  Learn from our experts about creating a mood, choosing the perfect date, seating a challenging table, and insuring the fun to share the advice of with our readers.

A recent conversation with one of Chicago and Palm Beach’s most seasoned and sensational party givers Brian White touched on several key elements which can create a legendary party.


Rodger Owen, Janet Owen, James M. Kinney (behind), Bill Parke, Susie Kealy, Brian D. White and Joe Meyer (with Bill Gates in the background at the Buffet!!) 

“I’ve been ‘Social Chairman’ ever since I was planning black tie wine tastings with Chateau Latour and Opus One when I was 18 at Rollins College.  It comes naturally to me and I can’t help but notice every detail or anticipate issues before they happen.  I’ve never done it ‘professionally’ but have loved working on things for friends or charities for the past 27 years in Chicago.  I have an autopilot philosophy breaking it down to Theme, Dress Code, Location, Music and Food and given one hour can plan a fabulous dinner dance if necessary!

“I planned an ‘English Regency’ theme which worked perfectly in the location we used.  One trick I came up with was to have ‘dance cards’ with little pencils attached for every guest upon arrival.  Guests were encouraged to mingle during cocktails and fill as many names as they could for dancing and believe it or not the first dance came around and the ballroom was packed and remained packed with people dancing the entire night.  It worked and is certainly not done these days but I thought it was cool. 

“For another New Year’s Eve dinner dance I planned I ordered 80 fresh gardenias and literally made them up myself wrapping up the stem and preparing them with pins and pinned them on the first 80 guests arriving for the party.  It was just enough to add an elegant old-fashioned touch, a beautiful fragrance wafting around the club but not enough for every single guest to have so they were considered something special and coveted. The party was white tie as well which added to the fun.


Mary Carter and Angie Euston.

“Dress Code has a powerful impact on the feeling, mood and tone of any event and a theme gives guests something special to anticipate. I plan a Lilly Pulitzer theme party every year and you’ve never seen so much pink and green, blue blazers, colorful bow ties and the uniformity of a fun dress code like this also becomes part of the decor and guests can feel the difference and how much fun it is the minute they arrive.  And I love costume parties — ever since attending Twelfth Night back in the 90’s in Chicago.  A costume theme really enables you to let your hair down and transform into someone else– just for that evening. 

“Of course location is essential.  I tend to go to my top five favorite clubs around town because they are elegant, stylish, have superior service and staff and excellent chefs. One in particular has the finest club manager I’ve ever known and I met her for the first time 27 years ago when she worked at another club.  The most lovely, professional person you could ever meet, and she anticipates every need before you even know it.  The waiters bring my usual Gin and Tonic (with Nolet’s Gin– which is the very best) before I’ve ever even had to ask for it.  These work for parties of 10 or up to 300 and makes it special if guests don’t go regularly.  They instantly add the cache that something special is about to happen and they know what they are doing and keep the highest possible standards. 

“I also love entertaining at home which seems to be done less and less these days. You are opening up your inner most private sanctum to your friends to see your collections, family photos and things that have been handed down from generation to generation.  I have a silver tea set that I remember my mother having 30 ladies over for tea when I was little. I know that my father grew up with it as a child in Massachusetts and it was a wedding gift two generations before my father’s parents received it.  I have several of my grandmothers’ very favorite paintings and I love sharing little stories about the things I’ve inherited.  Opening up to your friends about these special things is more special than you know and there is an intimacy that no other location can provide.  Whether it’s an intimate dinner for 10 or 80 packed in like sardines, there is nothing more special than entertaining at home.

“Music is one of my favorite topics!  I have been known to spend five hours carefully putting a curated song list together for my favorite orchestra on the planet, the Alex Donner Orchestra from New York for a special Gala I chaired in Chicago for Prince Edward last year for The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, USA.  I plan the first song as guests enter a ballroom and asked an orchestra play the hauntingly elegant song from 1931 “Midnight: The Stars and You”, originally by Ray Noble and his orchestra for a 1920’s theme black tie.  People don’t quite know where they’ve heard it but I love this song which was used in The Shining.  Most bands don’t know what “society” music is but Lester Lanin certainly did! (We were friends and I had him to Chicago for two big Gala’s in the 90’s) -From “Just One of Those Things” to “I Love Paris” to “Mountain Greenery” to the “Acceleration Waltz”- these songs are so elegant they make you feel like you are transported to another era BUT then later on in the evening they have to have the range to play Disco and the most current top pop favorites like Flo Rida, Lady Gaga, One Republic, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Calvin Harris & Lil Nas X. 

“That is how you capture an entire audience of ALL ages–you must have the range.   I also love Calypso which sets the tone for a rooftop, summer party and is fun too.

“Food is important and cannot be so theme related or esoteric that nobody wants to eat it.  I tend to like things that are more old-fashioned and not seen every day.  As a starter I love Coquille St. Jacques, served in a shell and used that for another “1920’s Glamour” theme.  My other favorite entree my whole life has been lobster thermidor, and have used that for 10 to 300 people I organize a dinner in Palm Beach now every year in February at Club Colette for around 40 people and they do an amazing job.  Everything has a story behind it. When Brideshead Revisited first aired back in 1982 when I was 12 watching it with my parents, there was a scene where Sebastian served lobster thermidor to his friends at his college room and I never forgot it.  I have no brain for math or languages but I NEVER forget a detail from a party!

“Finally to wrap up my philosophy on entertaining there are three little details remaining.  First, ‘it’s the people who make a party’ and never forget it.  You can have the most wonderful event planned– but if it’s for an odd group that ‘just doesn’t get it’ it will be lost on them.  Planning in advance is important too—usually I work a year in advance because it lets people know it’s going to be the most special event down to the smallest detail.  I even go so far as to have special place cards printed up to coordinate with the theme and with the Palm Beach theme had a pink and white awning design at the top of each place card.  Guests who hosted tables were invited 30 minutes before everyone else to put out their place cards with Veuve Clicquot waiting for them in the ballroom and it adds another detail of uniformity which is noticed and appreciated. 

“Then, it all boils down to enthusiasm.  I have a passion for parties (and having fun at them with my friends!) and when I announce a theme and relay the details I do it with an excitement that is contagious.  I literally study the theme, research the style and details and put a sheet together drawing out my vision from the chairs used, the centerpieces, staging, invitation idea and place cards and have found great inspiration from “The Memoirs of the Baron de Rede” as well as from “Elsie De Wolf’s Paris.” My enthusiasm translates to another 30 people on a committee and they in turn can fill a ballroom with 200 or 300 people……in 24 hours.”

Compiled by the editors of Classic Chicago with

Andrea Aguilar and

Jonah Nink