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Saturday, April 21, 2007

30 Pounds of Paradise

Los Angeles blows its cool for a night—and a Bonne Vivante wins the Headdress Ball.


“Birds of Paradise,” designed by Gerry Gregg

2nd Runner Up, Las Floristas Headdress Ball

Beverly Hills, CA (April 20, 2007)

Photo: Scott Acevedo

Back! back! all you purveyors of minimalism! Simple-lifers, get a life!…

And witness 2007’s Las Floristas Headdress Ball. Thanks to Richard Seekins and Scott Acevedo of The Flower Place in Fountain Valley, CA, here’s a runway-side seat from last night’s exuberant charity fund-raiser in Beverly Hills. Scott was the evening’s emcee, and with 20+ years’ involvement in the event brightened the night with anecdotal glitter.

The theme for this year’s ball—“Ticket to Paradise”—inspired elephant heads, angels, and crested blackbirds. But wouldn’t you know it, the Sweepstakes Winner, entitled “Bonne Vivante Living the Good Life” featured a pretty girl shaking up cocktails.

imageLinda Nies as ‘Cinderella’

design by Richard Seekins and Scott Acevedo

winner of Las Floristas Headdress Ball, 1996

Photo: Scott Acevedo

Each year, members of Las Floristas, an all-volunteer organization that raises money for children’s charities,  contact the hottest florists in Southern California and plot their costumes. Richard explains, “From the design of the headdress, the colors are picked and the dress is decided on and the music selected. We do a complete package of the colors of the headdress, the ball gown and the music so it all coordinates.” He and Scott have learned what does best under the glare of stage lighting: “Dark colors like lavenders turn gray, dark reds are flat, greens turn black, and pale yellows and peach wash out.” But look what becomes of silvery blue, their design-choice for a “Cinderella” that won the Sweepstakes and People’s Choice prizes several years ago.

Richard kindly sent along some photographs of Linda Nies wearing the winning headdress he and Scott created in 1996 (“The Magic of Walt Disney”) as well as shots of this tour de force in the making. Using a fiberglass helmet, aluminum tubing and window screen, they made the armature. Richard explains, “It took the petals of 400 white carnations and 12 bunches of glads to do the flower petaling to cover the frame.” In the 24 hours before the ball itself, they added “100 white cattleyea orchids, 400 stephanotis blossoms, the flowers from 100 stems of white dendrobium orchids and 100 white phalenopsis orchids.” Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!

imageLinda Nies gets in practice

with the frame for her 1996 headdress

Photo: Scott Acevedo

Las Floristas Headdress Ball was clearly born in an earlier L.A., one with studio moguls, hunger for glamour and “high society.” This is the party where you could have seen Marilyn Hilton or settled in for a black-tie tribute to Bob Hope. It used to be, says Richard, that designers who hoped to take part would have to earn their way in through a “centerpiece competition,” but no more.  The florists who pour weeks into these feats of costuming are gradually backing away, and the area’s float-decorators (think Tournament of Roses) comprise more and more of the designers. As recently as the 1990s, Seekins says, there would be some 700 guests at the ball, but that’s dwindled to about half.

The group supports Rancho Los Amigos Children’s Rehabilitation Center in Downey, CA. Las Floristas’ fundraising, through the ball and other efforts, has created clinics there for children with birth defects, for burn victims and for paraplegic children. For more on Las Floristas, plus some photos of past headdress balls, please check out our post from April 15.

“Today, people don’t have the same desire to participate,” Seekins says. Wealthy L.A. ladies of decades past had both time and “money to burn.” They volunteered in greater numbers for charities like Las Floristas. As women put in 40 hour workweeks now, there’s less time to be fitted for a 30 pound headdress and beaded evening gown or to practice being “a mannequin.”

imageThe Parade, “Ticket to Paradise”

Las Floristas Headdress Ball

Beverly Hills, CA (April 20, 2007)

Photo: Scott Acevedo

And practice is a good idea. It takes two people just to hoist these headpieces into place and then rig them into a corset so the weight won’t fall on the model’s lovely neck. “When you get 30 pounds on your hips, things do not move like they used to,” Richard says. It’s “like giving birth to quadruplets!”

We suppose that stylish L.A. is resuming its cool, putting back on its dark glasses, its slimming black attire. But for a few hours, Hollywood’s old glitz Genie was out of the bottle last night. Congratulations to all who entered, all who petaled, and all who attended this outrageous event.

Posted by Julie on 04/21 at 05:58 PM
Culture & SocietyFloristsSecular CustomsPermalink