It’s a vision of two Detroits that have mostly faded now — the social set born of the American auto industry’s vast wealth and the galvanizing magic of ’60s Motown — together in a room.
In June 1965, the Supremes, one of America’s biggest and most glamorous groups, performed at a debutante party at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe, Mich., the posh all-white enclave just northeast of the city.
It was the debutante party of Christy Cole Wilson, and The New York Times pictures of the event tell a layered story of two groups connected, at least for the evening, by the music of that time and place.
The three elegant darlings of Detroit, led by the 21-year-old Diana Ross, serenade a room of finely attired guests, many of practically the same age. But between the groups were also the realities of race and class — the distance between Grosse Pointe and the Brewster projects where the Supremes grew up, 10 miles and several worlds away. The Times covered the lavish event in avid detail. “It took three days, hundreds of fresh blue irises, thousands of little Italian lights and hundreds of thousands of yellow plastic flowers to turn the club into a French garden,” the story enthused. “Whole walls had disappeared behind Austrian silk panels of gold and mirrors before the 750 guests arrived.”
Not until the eighth paragraph did the story mention that “when they were not dancing and being entertained by a rock ‘n’ roll group called the Supremes, the Wilsons and their guests were polishing off 20 cases of French champagne, attempting to create a liquor shortage (the plot failed), and heaping their plates with food from an abundantly stocked buffet table.”
The trio hardly needed an identifier at that point. Between August 1964 and June 1965, the Supremes had five No. 1 singles, including “Baby Love,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again,” which had gone to the top of the charts just six days before this party. Which is exactly why Ms. Wilson’s parents hired them.
“Everyone had very glamorous deb parties when I was growing up,” said Ms. Wilson Hofmann, 72, who now lives in Bristol, R.I.