Give me a Mad Men era moment, and I’m all in: glamorous women with perfectly coiffed hair wearing bouclé day dresses and dashing men in gray razor-sharp suits with crisp white shirts, sipping martinis at lunch. Yes, please. This month’s PaperCity Bomb, Sheila Grant, was delivering chic memories and enchanting stories, some from that bygone age, during our recent lunch at Dallas Country Club. In a yellow dress as bright as the summer sun, paired with a white cardigan adorned with a sequined flower and a suite of matching white jewelry, this modern-day Betty Draper outshone anyone in the room.
Sheila was born and reared in Dallas, then studied English literature at Southern Methodist University and University of Texas, Austin. After she met her future husband and philanthropic partner, Jody Grant, they moved to New York City. This was the late ’60s and ’70s. Sheila didn’t want to be one of those women who simply threw fabulous dinner parties (although many rank her among their favorite hostesses). Instead, she chose a career — or rather, it chose her — and found herself working at CBS in the programming department. She read novels and turned them into scripts that became made-for-TV movies. These were the glory years when Bill Paley was chairman. Sheila adored seeing the “truckloads of clothes that CBS took out to the Hamptons every summer” to Bill’s icon-of-fashion wife, Babe.
My favorite story from those golden years of television was the morning when Sheila found a wall in her office painted a horrific puce green. The evening before, a naughty Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett had come upon the can of paint, likely after post-filming cocktails, and decided to play a practical joke. “It was the worst color you’ve ever seen,” Sheila says. “The ‘suits’ came in the next morning and were just beside themselves.”
After New York, Jody and Sheila spent time in Houston and Fort Worth before returning to Dallas in the early ’90s. As a child, Sheila was enamored with dance. In New York, she was a patron of the ballet and co-founded, alongside Anne Bass, the Fort Worth Ballet. Sheila recalls that it was a startup in every way imaginable: “We had to hire everyone, from the artistic director to the dancers who were lured to Texas from around the globe.”
Sheila’s greatest community accomplishment is still a work in progress: Klyde Warren Park. She and Jody began working on the plans and fundraising in 2004 and were overjoyed when it opened in 2012. The green space that covers I-75 and connects the
downtown arts district to the uptown neighborhood has been transformative for the city. Not only has it created more than $2 billion in new real estate value in the area, but it’s become a much needed city center. Another reason Sheila became involved was because the Park could be a venue for the arts.
“If you take a family of four or five to a ballet or the opera,” she says, “it’s going to cost a fortune. If we could do that in the park, that was one of the things I was interested in.”
She and Jody wanted to ensure that free programs were integral to the future. But there’s still work to be done, and plans are afoot for the next chapter, which will expand the overall footprint and bring more neighborhoods together. Sheila is equal to the challenge, and, I’m sure she’ll use her charms to ensure that Dallas will have even more green space — verdant, not puce — in the future.
Approximate date of this photo.
Either 1987 or 1988.
Fort Worth Ballet Gala.
What you were wearing.
What price fashion.
My husband loved the dress, but not the price — although he later admitted it was worth every penny I’d paid for it.
Why this is a Bomb picture?
This dress has a special meaning for me in several respects. I wore it to the most financially successful ballet gala that Anne and I chaired together. A couple of years later, I wore it to a Paris Opera Ballet Gala, where I was seated in a box with Princess Margaret, whom I greatly admired — a patron saint of ballet, a lifelong devotee of the art form, the first president of the Royal Ballet, and someone who was equally as passionate as I am about dancers and ballet.