Celebrating the Titanic’s most famous survivor

Courtesy of Suzanne Parker

Because Margaret Tobin Brown, better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown, hailed from Denver, her former home, now a museum, is holding a series of events commemorating the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. Durangoans Laurie and Rod Barker, left, and Suzanne Parker and Tom Doak, attended one of those events, the Titanic Gala, on April 14 at the Oxford Hotel.

Her nickname resonates with anyone who ever heard of the famous ship that was supposedly unsinkable. The Titanic’s billing was way off the mark, but she lived up to her Unsinkable Molly Brown moniker by not only surviving herself, but keeping others on her lifeboat in good spirits and alive during the tremendous ordeal.

Brown gained her hardiness in the mining camps of Colorado, and she’s definitely one of Colorado’s own. So it makes sense The Molly Brown House Museum is offering a variety of events in 2012 to commemorate her “unsinkableness.”

Local history buffs Tom Doak and Suzanne Parker, and Strater Hotel owners Rod and Laurie Barker, traveled to Denver last weekend to attend one of the main events, the Titanic Gala at the Oxford Hotel.

Before I go any farther, I should make one thing clear. The press and Hollywood dubbed her the Unsinkable Molly Brown, but she never went by that nickname. She was Margaret Tobin Brown, if you please.

Most of the people who attended the gala, including our intrepid local foursome, were dressed in 1912 evening attire, which included tuxedos for the men and vintage gowns for the ladies. Heavily beaded gowns were all the rage at the time, so it wouldn’t be an overstatement to say the room was aglow.

The menu included deviled crab croquettes, butternut squash soup served in small goblets, mixed Belgium endive salad, tenderloin of beef with red wine gravy, marinated asparagus, garlic and herb potato nests, freshly baked rolls, punch Romaine and the White Star Cruise Line’s grand finale of chocolate mousse with eclairs.

Gala guests enjoyed the appearance of two prominent personages. A re-enactor portrayed Capt. John Edward Smith, the captain of the ill-fated ship. And Muffet Laurie Brown, Margaret Tobin Brown’s great-granddaughter, was there to recount her great-grandmother’s heroic experience during the sinking and her philanthropic life in Denver afterward.

A string quartet playing vintage music provided opportunities for the guests to trip the light fantastic. (At least these musicians didn’t have to continue playing gallantly as the ship went down.)

It wasn’t all fun and games for the Durango foursome. They’re helping organize the Strater Hotel’s “Dinner Aboard the HMS Titanic,” which will be held Oct. 12 as part of the Durango Heritage Celebration. They held a Titanic dinner in 2011 that got rave reviews, including one from yours truly, so of course had to do it again in this, the Titanic’s centennial. They kept their eyes open for some tips on how to improve the party this year.

I often wonder why we don’t make a big deal about the anniversaries of other major disasters. Why not the Hindenberg or the Lusitania? Movies have been made about those disasters, too, but none has captured the public imagination like the Titanic.

I guess none of that matters as much as making sure I get a ticket to this year’s dinner, which sold out quickly last year. Tickets go on sale May 1 at the Strater for $40 per person. There will be fewer tickets available this year to make it less of a crush, so this is not the event to pull a Durango on and wait to purchase the tickets. I’m just saying.

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Happy Taurus birthday greetings go out to Norm Goldman, Laura Jaramillo, Ronda Conrad, Dorothy Gore, Liz Callard, Jean May, Pam Leder, Sonja Smith, Kathy Anderson, Coy Bryant, Doris Higgins, Kyle Houle, Jeanette Johansen, Rileigh Leininger, Ashlee Hermesman, Caleb Johnson, Aleksia Nesset, Jean Pearthree, Aidan Roessler, Zoe Wright, Tom Hartnett, Phyllis Hoyt, Mary Ann Craig and Annslee Crouch.

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Beware the Neighbors columnist who is recuperating from surgery, as she might forget to plug your event until it’s halfway over.

The Friends of the Durango Public Library is holding one of its occasional big book sales today. Except for a few special volumes, the books are $1.50 per pound, and it’s a great way to stock up on books for summer.

The hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today at the library, 1900 East Third Ave. Audio/visual items are priced as marked.

If you can’t make it today, or even if you can, stop by the Friends’ bookstore in the library lobby soon. Nancy Peake tells me they have purchased larger shelves so they can display twice as many books as before – even more temptation for bibliophiles like me.

Money raised by the Friends makes a big difference at the library in these budget-strapped days. Feeding our book habits by supporting its book sales is a win/win situation for the entire community.

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Members of the Durango Friends of the Arts are continuing to do what they do best to raise money for the organization’s Grants Fund, to support local artists and arts organizations.

Niles and Carol Bruno went all out for their “Taste of the Wild” dinner April 14. They have a deal – he hunts and she cooks her heart out. (My family greatly enjoyed the antelope soup and antelope stew she brought me during my recovery, so I know whereof I speak when I say she’s a fantastic cook.) She was joined in her chef duties by Richard Cortese, another outstanding cook.

The menu was pretty outrageous: antelope Italian sausage-stuffed mushrooms and elk turnovers accompanied by prosecco for hors d’oeuvres; lobster bisque paired with sherry amontillado B. Vergara; and greens with champagne-cream dressing served with Robert Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc Private Selection 2007. Wait, they were just getting started.

Next up was a fowl course of grilled chucker with orange sauce, grilled duck breast with Gorgonzola butter and pheasant saltimbocca served with baby carrots and risotto with artichoke and pimento, paired with Fetzer Chardonnay 2006 or Tegrino Castel Pictraior Toscana 2003. At this point, I would be requesting a wheelbarrow to roll me out to the car, but the cooks were on a roll.

The game meat course included roast saddle of venison with cranberry chutney, grilled loin of antelope with blackberry brandy sauce, elk with Grand Marnier sauce, citrus squash purée and asparagus tips. Sommelier Niles Bruno paired the game course with Rancho Zabaco Syrah 2000.

And because no great meal can end without dessert, guests enjoyed raspberry trifle with a choice of port or brandy. Yikes, and Jiminy Cricket.

Servers Cindy Cortese and Janice Martin told me that even though everyone had more than enough to eat, there was more than one request for seconds of dishes that were too exquisite for words.

It’s easy to see why this dinner sold out almost instantly and had a long wait list. The Brunos donated all the ingredients and wines, so the Grant Fund is now $1,800 richer.

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Spring has sprung – again – for the anniversaries of Steve and Marti Kiely and John and Kathryn Ogier.

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Here’s how to reach me: neighbors@durangoherald.com; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk. Please include contact names and phone numbers for all items. If you are submitting an item for preview, please send it with briefs in the subject line and e-mail it to herald@durangoherald.com.

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