Philanthropists Pamela and David B. Ford recently hosted a private white-tie ball in Newport that may well be remembered as one of the most glamorous parties of the year.
Hosted at Miramar, the couple’s spectacular Newport “cottage,” the party—the Coaching Ball—was held to celebrate the beginning of Coaching Weekend, a triennial Newport event honoring the history and tradition of coaching, a horse-and-carriage sport during the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the more than 200 guests in attendance were friends of the Fords, members of the Coaching Club, whips (the term used to refer to drivers in the sport of coaching) and their families, and benefactors of the Preservation Society of Newport County.
Pamela and David B. Ford welcome guests to the Ball
Perched on a seaside cliff between the Vanderbilt’s Marble House and Doris Duke’s Rough Point, Miramar, one of Newport’s most famous Gilded Age mansions, served as a breathtaking locale for the Ball. Completed in 1915, the French neoclassical-style mansion was designed by legendary architect Horace Trumbauer and initially owned by RMS Titanic survivor, Eleanor Elkins Widener. Miramar suffered years of neglect until the Ford family purchased the estate in 2006 and set about painstakingly restoring it to its historic glory.
The couple’s meticulous approach to honoring history was also evident in their Coaching Ball; not a single detail was overlooked or lacking in authenticity.
Pamela’s inspiration for her Coaching Ball
Pamela, who envisioned and planned every detail of the party, was inspired to create an event that harkened back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. The Ball was a triple dose of Old Hollywood glamour: the hostess was inspired by the iconic pink and green color palette of the Beverly Hills Hotel, the Hollywood Regency style of interior designer Dorothy Draper, and the romantic open-air dinner parties depicted in the Audrey Hepburn film, Sabrina. Said Pamela, “I wanted guests to have fun at a party Newport had never before seen.” She delivered.
Pamela Ford on the pink carpet of her Coaching Ball
The brunette beauty also looked the part, exuding Old Hollywood glamour in a pink and green Oscar de la Renta gown, white opera gloves, and jewels.
Upon arriving in horse-drawn coaches, guests were greeted with a pink and green signature cocktail called “Pretty in Pamela.” A tribute to the hostess, the refreshing libation of pink champagne, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and club soda was garnished with a mint sprig and served in a vintage coupe glass.
Guests dined beneath the canopies of towering floral arrangements
After enjoying cocktails on the lawn, the guests walked to the dinner tent via a lantern-lit, pink carpet. Once inside, guests were treated to a glamorous ambiance that featured chandeliers, elegant draping, white garden trellising, tropical palms, pink up-lighting, strands of twinkle lights, gold votive candles, gilded bamboo napkin rings, and the Beverly Hills Hotel’s iconic banana-leaf print. Authentic bamboo chairs were a lovely touch, adding comfort and a chic retro appeal.
Pamela Ford and her mother, Josie Fielder
Punctuating the space were breathtaking floral arrangements that towered above each table. Each featured a striking combination of pink Phalaenopsis orchids, palm fronds, and pink peonies that Pamela had flown in from Alaska for the occasion. Each arrangement was placed on a glass pedestal at the center of the table to ensure that guests could engage in conversation with ease and a sense of intimacy beneath the floral canopy.
The cabanas at the Coaching Ball
After dinner, Pamela led her guests to the terrace to dance to the tunes of the White Heat Swing Orchestra, an award-winning swing band that has performed with Tony Bennett, Cab Calloway, and Norah Jones. Those needing a break from the shimmying relaxed in nearby cabanas that looked like the famed poolside retreats at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
As dessert ended and the evening began to draw to a close, a loud “bang” was heard in the night sky over the Atlantic. Guests quickly gathered to the sea cliff to watch a festive fireworks display that rivaled any that one would see on the Fourth of July. It was a grand and sparkling end to a triumphant, elegant, and unforgettable evening.
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Photographer: Patricia Lyons