Birthday Girls celebrate ‘Rhapsody in Blues’

Erlene Nelson speaks at the opening of the Birthday Girls’ celebration, which was held Sunday, September 18, 2011. — PHOTO/ROBERT MENDELSOHN

Erlene Nelson is a very meticulous lady who does everything with flair and grace. When she hosted The Birthday Girls on Sunday in East Falls, Nelson pulled out all the stops! The theme of the luncheon, “Rhapsody in Blues,” was carried out in seamless detail. “Due to the size of the venue, I had to limit my guests list to 20 ladies and there were so many more I wanted to invite,” she explained.

Her beautiful granddaughters, Dr. Melissa Nelson-Perron and Dr. Kibibi Gaughn, with Joy Tate, were hostesses and helped to carry out the program with gracious precision. Each guest received a warm welcome when they arrived and gathered outside the “pagoda.” We were escorted into the dimly lit room to feast our eyes upon elaborate centerpieces with blue accent lights and white gardenias, as George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” played. Nelson, wearing an elegant blue suit with covered buttons, sapphire blue stilettos, and sapphire and diamond jewelry, gave us an enthusiastic welcome! Her vignettes about guests and members throughout the afternoon kept us thoroughly entertained!

In 1978, three friends with similar interests in the arts, theatre, travel and fashion — and who all celebrated birthdays together — decided to form a club called “The Birthday Girls.”  The originators of the group were Elaine Coston, Bettie Lawson and the late Bernice Kemp Bell. Other current members are Juanita Amonitti, Bert Asbury, Norvella Benning, Barbara Braxton, Anne Frazier, Carole Williams-Green, Lorraine Brown-Long, Alicia Perkins and Rosemary Valentine.

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Guests “Out & About” for a truly memorable afternoon included Nelson’s childhood friend from St. Louis, Mo., Edith Perkins, Sharon Parks, the Rev. Dr. Sadie Mitchell of The African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, Deborah Johnson, Audrey Lipscomb and Nathania Johnson, who is an administrator with the Philadelphia School District.

True to their mission and passion, the ladies have enjoyed many trips nationally and internationally to enjoy theatre, museums, spas, fashion exhibits and art openings, with each ending with a luncheon or dinner at a special restaurant. The have visited such places as Mexico, the Bahamas, Vienna, Germany, Amsterdam, Belgium, Paris and many cities in the United States.

The theme was derived from the fact the event’s china, crystal and linens were all in shades of blue. The centerpieces were a creative work of art of blue and white flowers, pearls and miniature stilettos, which are the trademark of the hostess. The hostess coordinated each luncheon course with food relating to the name or color blue. The unbelievably beautiful music was painstakingly selected as “blues and jazz” and related to each food course. The colossal lump blue crab appetizer was an introduction to the blues. The salad, featuring star fruit, was a symbol of the midnight dark blue sky. The entrée was a symbol of the ocean, and even the blue mouse dessert was in remembrance of the first lady of the blues, Billie Holiday. Each lady was presented with a beautiful gardenia wristlet to wear while enjoying the final course and listening to blues and jazz classics such as “Blue Gardenia” by Nat King Cole.

I loved the interactive part of the luncheon. Before each course was served, each lady at individual tables received a card bordered in blue with a question she would respond to in a light hearted, humorous manner. After her response, she was presented with a small blue gift bag containing several treats, all in the color blue.

Following each course, members and guests enjoyed a wonderful display with 60 photographs of The Birthday Girls at different activities throughout the years. After the luncheon each lady selected several of the photographs as keepsakes. Finally, everyone joined hands and sang “Happy Birthday.”

Everyone also received a lovely parting gift — a blue organza bag holding a gorgeous blue and gold birthday card together with a DVD of the Diana Ross-starring movie “Lady Sings the Blues,” a separate CD of all three movements of “Rhapsody in Blue,” and other small treats.

Everyone enjoyed this most creative, unusual and delightful luncheon — a breathtakingly beautiful treat with the most delicious and creatively prepared food. The amazing center pieces and wrist corsages were lovingly created by Erlene.

The white gloved servers were David Lipscomb and Rashaan Fuche, nephews of the hostess. Additionally, photographer Jesus Rincon provided some of the beautiful photographs of the luncheon.

The gorgeous personalized invitations, beautiful place settings, stunning centerpieces and each and every element of Erlene Nelson’s style and attention to detail made for a truly incredible experience.

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