Byline: Aileen Mehle

The ultimate honor at the International Debutante Ball on Dec. 29 at the Waldorf-Astoria is to lead the procession of dewy young things who, gliding across the ballroom floor on that night of nights, make their bow to society. Although this is an international gala with girls from many countries represented, the lead girl is always an American. This year, two debutantes, Catherine and Charlotte Forbes, cousins, share the honor and will be presented simultaneously. They are the daughters of, respectively, Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm S. Forbes Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Forbes, members of the publishing dynasty. Surely the girls' grandfather, the late Malcolm Forbes, a peripatetic tycoon who loved life and lived it to the hilt, would have loved being there for the big pink and silver extravaganza. The evening before the party, the Forbes brothers and their wives will give a private black-tie cocktail dance in honor of Catherine and Charlotte at the Forbes Magazine Galleries to which all the debs and their parents have been invited. Catherine and Charlotte were also launched in Washington earlier in the season at a party aboard the Forbes yacht, The Highlander. If you're going to do it, do it. Catherine is almost a veteran, having bowed in London earlier this year at the exclusive Queen Charlotte Birthday Ball.
This will be the ball's 41st anniversary, and, as ever, the Waldorf's Grand Ballroom will be transformed by Count and Countess Nicholas Bobrinskoy into a fantasy of twinkling lights, with swaths of pink, silver and burgundy draped on the balconies and boxes and a wintry backdrop of the New York skyline silhouetted on the ballroom stage, glistening with snowflakes, the same color as the sea of white ball gowns worn by the 29 buds. The tables will be covered in pink cloths and centered with masses of white Hawaiian orchids, pink lilies, freesia, silver foliage and pink candles. Accompanying the weaving and bobbing and curtsying going on in the ballroom, Lester Lanin and his musicians will be doing their best to keep the crowd happy.
For many of the girls, coiffed and perfumed, dressed in shimmering satin, silk and lace, and escorted by midshipmen from the Naval Academy, cadets from West Point in full dress and the cream of Ivy Leaguers in white tie and tails, the night will be a dream come true. Even for the most sophisticated of them, it will be a party they'll remember the rest of their lives. Let's face it. If they didn't like coming out in this traditional rite, they wouldn't be doing it.
This year, nine pedigreed Euro-debs from eight countries, some with titles, will bow. They'll fly in like pretty birds from England, Scotland, France, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Romania. Nineteen American girls from Connecticut to Texas, including a South American honoree from Colombia, will fill out the flock, all in white, all in elbow-length gloves, all carrying nosegays of pink roses and silver lace. Once again, the largest contingent will come from the Lone Star State, splendid girls whose great, swooping bows to the floor with swanlike grace never fail to bring down the house. Some say they practice this incredible curtsy for a year ahead of time. Called the Texas Dip, it's worth it.
The general chairman of the ball is Margaret Hedberg, and the honorary chairmen are Mrs. James Van Alen of New York, Palm Beach and Newport, and the ball's sponsor, Mrs. Ewing Kauffman, one of the country's leading executives, of New York, Kansas City and Palm Springs. They will head the receiving line, along with Mr. and Mrs. Ivan Obolensky. He is the president of The Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Club, which benefits from the evening; she is a ball chairman.
Two girls will represent England. Victoria Hamilton-Russell of London, the daughter of Col. Brian Hamilton-Russell and Lady Leigh, studies Chinese at Oxford and rides with the Warwickshire Hunt. Claudia van Der Werff, also of London, is the daughter of Judge and Mrs. Jonathan van Der Werff and attends the British Institute in Florence. She has also crewed at Cowes, being a keen sailor.
The French deb is Mlle. Aurore d'Espinay Saint-Luc, the daughter of Count and Countess Jean-Loup d'Espinay Saint-Luc, who was schooled in England and whose noble lineage dates back to 1066. She will wear a drop-dead Balenciaga of silk organza because Balenciagas are forever.
The Italian entry, Annapaola Mistretta from Rome, is the daughter of Italy's new Consul General in New York, Minister Franco Mistretta and his wife Lucia, an official of the Italian House of Representatives. Annapaola studies at the University of Rome, speaks four languages and enjoys the sportive life. Domitilla designed her ball gown.
Aiste Eidintaite, the bud from Lithuania, a senior at the Oakcrest Catholic Girls School in Washington, is the daughter of the Lithuanian Ambassador to Washington, Dr. Alfonsas Eidintas. The debutante from Poland, Caroline Kostka de Sztemberg, the daughter of Count and Countess Paul Kostka de Sztemberg, is studying law in Paris when she isn't riding a horse. Then there is Fiona de Almeida Araujo of Portugal, multilingual and an expert fencer, who has applied to Oxford to study law. Valentino designed her white lace ball gown.
Representing Romania will be Countess Bianca Vidaeff-Tyoran, who studies at Warwick University in London and will make her entrance in a Vivienne Westwood creation with a cream and white lace bustier, a nine-layered skirt of cream tulle and a little lace apron. Talk about coming out.
When the bagpipes begin to play, that means Lady Cecilia Jocelyn of Scotland will take the floor wearing her Macdonald tartan sash over a satin and tulle gown embroidered with pearls. She is the darling daughter of the Earl of Roden and Sara, Viscountess Jocelyn. The Colombian debutante, Claudia Cifuentes Castro, is the daughter of Col. and Mrs. Arturo Luis Cifuentes of Bogota, has traveled extensively and is just wild about golf.
As for the United States adorables stepping out in society that night, they include a pair of buds from Connecticut: Sandra Rearden from Darien, wearing a Priscilla of Boston, and Cynthia Richards of New Canaan, in satin and lace by Richard Glasgow. The Florida belle, Cherish Thompson from Fort Lauderdale, who plans to attend Yale, will be dressed by Dior in peau de soie and organza. Her mother, Dr. Christina Thompson, and a family friend, Angus Robertson, will host a reception the day after the ball at Doubles in honor of Cherish. (Do you love that name?)
The Kansas sunflower, Jenny Sherman, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Neal Sherman of Overland Park, attends Marymount Manhattan College and is an accomplished pianist. The Maryland deb, Savile Lord, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Lord of Chevy Chase, is a graduate of Miss Porter's and the sister of Stavely Lord, who was presented at the 1987 ball. Savile will again be presented in Italy next year under the sponsorship of Count and Countess Vittorio del Buono.
New Jersey will send out two stunners, Andrea Terra from Morris Plains and Dorothy Giordano from Moorestown. The New York blossoms are Elizabeth Diaz-Cruz, Kathryn Moran-Finn and Nina Rutsch. North Carolina's pride is Jennifer Erwin of Charlotte, who will wear silk shantung by Van Lear, and two Tennessee dreams walking are Micaiah Prater of Knoxville and Virginia Williams of Memphis. Both will wear satin, lace and pearls.
Finally, the Yellow Roses of Texas will float in to turn the ballroom upside down. The crowd-pleasers include Liza Denton of Fort Worth, dressed by Scaasi; Hattie Parker of Houston, in another Scaasi; Joanna Jett of Dallas, and Mary Whittle from Corpus Christi. When they do perform that recklessly low curtsy, watch for their foreheads to touch the floor. It's the only way, really.

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