Khyentse George on Glamour, Nostalgia and the 1940s White Christmas Ball
Holiday music, dancing and tinsel bring back the feeling of a Christmas just like the ones you used to know. The seventh annual 1940’s White Christmas Ball runs from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Saturday, December 3, at the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, 11705 Airport Way in Broomfield; in advance of the big night, we caught up with Khyentse George, creator of the 1940’s Ball, a nonprofit commemorating the Greatest Generation with two yearly charity events.
Westword: I just double-checked my calendar, and it’s almost 2017. What’s up with throwing a 1940s-era ball?
Khyentse George: Christmas, especially, is an awesome time to step back in time. My grandmother and grandfather were both radio performers in the '40s; that’s how they met. My grandparents raised me. Grandma also taught voice and piano out of the house, and I grew up listening to a lot of Frank Sinatra and Glenn Miller. Every Christmas, Grandma decorated the house to the nines, and we’d have these giant parties with amazing food, and a recital and a big, gorgeous tree. Women of that era really knew how to decorate — and cook! I wanted to re-create the warmth and comfort my grandma brought to my childhood.
How do you bring all of that 1940s nostalgia into the present?
Everything from the lighting to the decor to the World War II planes and cars and the big band and our reenactors — when you put it all together, it feels like you’re at a party that could have actually happened in the '40s. This year’s venue is an active airport; guests will see planes coming and going throughout the night, and that helps with the time warp. But the time warp really happens the minute you walk through the door, when you take a horse-drawn sleigh ride into the venue.
Sounds like you’ve pulled out all the stops. Any other noteworthy attractions?
We’ll also have the Satin Dollz. We’ve been trying to get these girls for years! They’re coming in from Hollywood and are true Ginger Rogers tap dancers. There will be reenactments from White Christmas and It’s a Wonderful Life. We’re doing a vintage Vegas show, too, with the most sought-after Elvis and Judy Garland impersonators, and we’ll have big-band music from the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra and the Hot Tomatoes, along with swing-dance demonstrations and lessons and a dance contest. Everyone gets to dance!
Nobody ever goes out dancing anymore!
Exactly! A real big element of this is how we’ve lost touch with couples' dancing. My grandparents were always out dancing when I was younger. It’s just such a fun, classy way for humans to connect, and that’s something that is missing in our modern age. That, and the glamour. It’s a really magical night, and people get genuinely excited about picking out an outfit. Back in the old days, you spent hours getting ready for a party.
The whole night sounds so romantic. I can't help asking: Have any love connections been made at a 1940's White Christmas Ball?
We’ve had over a dozen marriage proposals happen at the ball! And people meet here all the time. In fact, I met my husband through the 1940's Ball.
That sounds like a pretty good story. Care to share?
He’s been going to the ball for years now; he’s been to every single 1940’s Ball except for the first one. He’s a swing dancer, World War II historian and reenactor. We got to know each other over the years, and then, last year, I threw a party for people I’d met through the ball. He came, and our relationship took off from there.
This year marks the seventh installment of the 1940’s White Christmas Ball. What inspired you to throw that first ball?
I organized another event in Chicago called Estrojam. That was a music festival geared toward promoting women in the arts. I moved out here to go to graduate school, and I threw the first 1940’s Ball as a fundraiser for Estrojam when I was in school. The first ball was our annual summer ball; it’s called the 1940’s WWII Era Ball. The 1940’s Ball was just supposed to happen once, but we had an amazing turnout, and the event grew and grew. Other people wanted the nostalgia, too. They wanted to experience the wholesomeness and the community and the fashion. There aren’t many opportunities we have to escape reality and spend an entire night in another era in history.
How many people are you expecting at this year’s White Christmas Ball?
We usually get about 2,000, sometimes more. People have started bringing their families and extended families; they’re bringing their grandparents. It really makes me excited to hear that, or to see a family show up with a grandpa who was in World War II. To see them dancing together — that makes me really, really happy.
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