I was a little confused at first by the invitation from “the big cheese and his doll.” It urged us to “get your wiggle on with some hooch, show your gams with an old sport and be gay.”
Fortunately, there was a translation on the back of the card. The “big cheese” was businessman Pete DeBusk with his wife, Cindi, as his “doll,” of course. We were being invited to a “Great Gatsby” party! There even was a password for entry: cat’s meow.
Seems the couple recently had seen the latest version of the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and had fallen in love with the lavish party scene. And they have just the kind of over-the-top home, situated between Halls and Powell in North Knoxville, that would allow them to duplicate that fictional soiree.In the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, Jay Gatsby drives a Rolls Royce. It just so happens that Pete DeBusk also owns a Rolls — but his is a 1986-1/2 vintage.
Alan Carmichael, left, and Gay and Bill Lyons pose with Pete's Rolls, which was parked out front when we arrived.
Unfortunately, we had to leave our guns outside.
I think Jay Gatsby would have approved of the setting.
Cindi helping "the big cheese" with his tie.
Fred and Faye Langley looking dapper.
Annelle and Warren Neel
Kati and Jim Blalock with Pete DeBusk, center
Stunning orchids, a very popular flower in the 1920s, were everywhere throughout the party. These were flown in from New Zealand.
The book is set in 1922, so Cindi did a lot of research on what was popular in the 1920s when planning the party. At one point, Fitzgerald writes, “Every Friday, five crates of oranges and lemons arrive from a fruiterer in New York.” So oranges and lemons were a big part of the decor.
Crates of oranges and lemons
Citrus and orchids
Tony and Sharon Spezia
Mike and Kelly Conley
Cindi DeBusk with Kay Clayton, center, and Brenda Wood
Pete joked that these are the most expensive boxes in the world because Cindi stopped production in the print shop of Pete's company, DeRoyal Industries, to get them printed! Ha.
Cindi's mother, Pat DeBusk, made all the food for the huge spread with help from a couple of friends. It was delicious.
Cold fried chicken, Cindi's research showed, was a popular 1920s party staple.
Pineapple upside down cake
I guess chocolate cake is popular in every generation!
Music was by the Brad Walker Orchestra. Here is Brad Walker dancing with Tori Tate.
Brad and Tori
Cindi knows The Charleston!
So does her mother, Pat. Interestingly, Pat also married a man named DeBusk. "I married the poor one," she quipped. Ha.
Pete made a few introductions and remarks.
Sylvia and Dr. Jack Lacey with Sherri Lee, right
Ann and Dick Goldstine
Avis Phillips and Pete
Tony and Sharon Spezia
The DeBusks, center, with Teddy and Christy Phillips. (I almost didn't recognize Teddy with that fake mustache!)
Sherry and David Milhorn
Vocalist Valerie Duke
There was plenty of space for mingling when you weren't dancing.
And then a poker game broke out! (I guess this is why they collected all the guns!)
But the dance floor stayed crowded. Here are Mike and Allison York.
Cindi's brother, Sonny Gresham with his wife, Stacy
Cindi and her niece, Misty Gresham
Some folks enjoyed the patio out back. There are those orchids, again.
Kristin and Mark Williams
Bill Lyons tried on Alan's hat. I think he looks good in it!
Out front, the beautiful sunset highlighted the huge fountain.
If any person in Knoxville could tame a lion, it would be Tony Spezia!
And the dancing continued! Tori Bowling, left, and Marcinda Asburry, Cindi's daughter.
Cindi with her other daughter, Madison Wilder, visiting from South Carolina.
The house at night really did remind me of those scenes from "The Great Gatsby."
A night to remember, for sure.
Click below for a 15-second video of Cindi and her mom on the dance floor. Cute.