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by Jo McDivitt


I have a bright, lively friend who constantly asks, "Jo, why on earth don't you write the stories you tell me in your newspaper?" Standard answer, "Because my mother is still alive."

Here is an old story I wrote just for her.

A decade ago, I discovered what a private gala is all about. An exclusive private gala is one where the excluded are green with envy. It is a posh, small event attended by what I term VIPs, IPs and just a few Ps (Very Important People, Important People and People).

Admittedly, I was in the P category for this outing; however, I did not care one whit. What was all of the hoopla about?

My artistic older friend Bonnie Everson, wife of renowned artist Knox Everson, had somehow talked Shelby Foote into coming to a small concert and dinner afterwards where highly polished, world renowned opera diva Clamma Dale would sing (in a private chapel) and, later, join Mr. Foote and guests for dinner.

I dressed in a vintage black Yves St. Laurent smoking jacket, tuxedo trousers, a silk crepe de chine blouse, velvet cumberbund and enough strands of pearls to make the Duchess of Windsor gasp. My date was a good-looking Irish fellow I had known since pigtail days in Mississippi. He happened to be living in Memphis and always owned a great tuxedo. We were excited because Ms. Dale is legendary, dramatic and beautiful -- and because Mr. Foote was almost impossible to meet.

Arriving at the chapel, we joined a receiving line with the VIPS in front and so forth. We were about midway in line with about 100 people behind us. Ms. Dale was inside protecting her luxurious voice before the performance. Mr. Foote and the arts council members were cordially greeting each guest personally. As we moved within hearing distance of Shelby Foote, almost every guest offered effusive praise of his Civil War books. And then, it was my turn to look into the eyes of the most dapper man I have ever seen or will ever see again.

I said, "Sir, my favorite book you have written is Love in a Dry Season. It is the best book on loneliness I have ever read."

He gazed at me for what seemed like a long time, then turned to my date and said, "Sir, you are going to have some competition this evening."

I was utterly delighted as we entered the chapel expecting a nice performance by Clamma Dale. Her grand entrance was greeted with applause. She opened a trunk, which turned out to be her grandmother's from a pre-Civil War attic. She sang almost all of the works found in the trunk with a musical power defying description. When she finished, the entire audience was awestruck. There was absolute silence. I discovered tears of joy trickling down my cheeks.

I don't recall the midnight supper menu at a local mansion; I don't recall anything anyone wore; but I will never forget Clamma Dale’s agreeing to come to Memphis, forgoing her usual fee just for the honor of meeting Shelby Foote. And I cannot ever forget Shelby Foote's flirtatious humor and impressive personal style.

Two great artists were brought together by a twist of fate in a small southern city, while I learned about truly exclusive private galas . . . a once in a lifetime evening.



A year or so ago, Jo McDivitt gathered 300 hats, 2 cats, 2 dogs, and a passel of beloved creature comforts, and headed home to Mississippi after 34 years of leaving size 7 narrow footprints from New York to Marrakech.

McDivitt returned to Mississippi with the idea of publishing a small newspaper with good news features on the wise, witty, wonderful women in the state of Mississippi. She did that.

McDivitt’s dream has quickly become a reality. The publication is distributed in over 100 locations in more than 20 cities across the state with a home base in Hattiesburg.

Articles in Today’s Mississippi Woman run the gamut – something for everyone. The issues contain stories on people, fashions, sports, recipes, politics, music, travel, as well as decorating and much more.


E-mail Jo: CLICK HERE!

To subscribe to Today's Mississippi Woman, send $36 (for 12 issues) to
TMW / P. O. Box 15343 / Hattiesburg, MS 39404.

The "D" Word
My New Beau
I Don't Know!

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