Brazilian Ball Contrasts with Students’ Formal

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, February 9, 1988

The swing to conservatism in the 1980s often makes it difficult to distinguish between adults trying to escape middle-aged ennui and their straight-arrow offspring. A case in point occurred last Saturday night when Trinity College students held a formal dance at the same time as their parents were whooping it up at the Brazilian Ball.

It was the 105th annual Conversazione held by the students. It began as a social evening to gather and talk and has evolved into a very formal ball.  In celebration of this year’s theme  “Babylon Revisited, An Evening in the Jazz Age,”  the students staged a week of events culminating in the ball, including the showing of a 1920s gangster movie, waltzing and Charleston lessons, a debate on “Heaven Knows, Anything Goes,” and a prose reading titled Martinis and Modernism.

About 600 college students and their dates attended the ball, some of them, such as Malcolm MacLaren, son of publisher Roy and his wife Lee. holding dinner parties before the main event. The convenors of the evening were Michael Szonyi in his third year of Chinese studies, and Francine McKenzie, a history specialist. The guest of honor, singer Maureen Forrester, was entertained beforehand by Robert Painter, provost of the college,

The ball on Saturday night, which was a black-tie affair, took place in five or six rooms decorated to different themes. The students could take their pick of, say, waltzing in an art deco ballroom or dancing cheek-to-cheek in a hall fixed up to resemble the New York Stock Exchange.

Their adult counterparts, meanwhile, had no such choices. Packed like sardines into the barn better known as the Metro Toronto Convention­ Centre, there was little opportunity for conversacao, at least once the raucous music began. All one could do was get up and  dance or gawk at the endless parade of young  men and women either decked out in outlandish costumes or wearing almost nothing at all.

Some of the onlookers were Mayor Arthur Eggleton and his wife Brenda, who’d just finished her stint as model at fashion designer Marilyn Brooks’ 25th anniversary; fundraiser Inta Kierans with Wellesley Hospital urologist Dr. John Rankin; lawyers Robert Lindsay and David
Purdy, both with wives named Ann(e). Anne Lindsay is in the process of writing The Lighthearted Cookbook on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the recipients this year of the ball’s proceeds.

The Braziiian Ball, which was started by Anna Maria de Souza in a church basement 22 years ago, and was co-convened this year by Anne Laurier, has become one of the main events of Toronto’s social season. For that reason it attracts a high percentage of the Toronto society crowd that you run into at every big function: Senator Jerry and Carole Grafstein, Alf and Louise Powis, David and Catherine Nugent, Hal Jackman with wife Maruja, etc.

Several people had parties before the event, including Grafton Group Ltd. chairman William Heaslip and his wife Nona Macdonald. Among those admiring the view of the city from the Heaslíps’ spectacular living room were Harry Seymour, a founding director of Yes Canada, and his wife Lillian; Flare magazine publisher Donna Scott with her management-consultant husband Hugh Farrell; and William Weldon, a managing partner of Arthur Andersen & Co., and his wife Audrey.

Those dancing up a storm at the ball included Ruth Grant, vice-chairman of Women’s College Hospital, and her husband Douglas, chairman of Sceptre Investment Counsel; socioìogy professor Merri-joy Kellner, who was columnist Doris Anderson’s husband’s second wife; businessman Morris Kenner and wife Miriam.

There was no dearth of egos in the room. At one table sat Peter Nygard, chairman of clothing chain Nygard International, with his blonde-of-the-moment; and CITY-TV president Moses Znaimer accompanied by Erica Ehm, a mini-skirted deejay from MuchMusic.

A brief word of advice to the organizers. The ritzy but drawn-out eveníng (the prize-giving took forever) was not the appropriate time for a restricted bar. Cocktails such as manhattans and martinis were surprisingly not available. The Trinity students would have laughed.