Music Feature

The 2012 Mutter Ball

by James Boney
America's oldest medical society brings the roaring twenties to Philadelphia. Photographs provided by Megan Ritchie.
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At midnight, January 16, 1920, the United States went dry; breweries, distilleries and saloons were forced to close their doors.

Out of sheer liquid necessity, speakeasies were formed as a means to satisfy our country's thirst for spirits. For every legitimate watering hole that closed as a result of prohibition, a half dozen underground saloons immerged. From this, the glory days of Al Capone were born.  

Paying tribute to this infamous time in American history, the Mutter Museum held its annual Mutter Ball this past Saturday, March 31st.

Clad in their 20’s regalia, the attendees charlestoned the night away at the Mutter’s 4th annual ball to raise money for the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the oldest medical society in the country. With their collective clocks turned back to the 1920’s, the ball drew a spectacular showing of costumed glamor. “I can’t take credit for the theme,” says Director of Communications, J Nathan Bazzel, “But you must see the gin bathtub.”

Provided by Philadelphia Distilling, the ball featured a classic era bathtub overflowing with bottles of Bluecoat gin. “Not only does Philadelphia make gin, but it makes some of the best gin in the world.” Mr. Bazzel tells me as we are standing in the VIP speakeasy lounge. And delicious gin it is. Featuring two distinct gin cocktails, Philadelphia Distilling was also preparing classic Absinthe drinks. Cut with the traditional slow drip water and sugar, the Vieux Carre Absinthe was exquisite. (As I later learned, Vieux Carre is the first legal absinthe to be distilled, bottled and sold on the east coast of the United States in nearly 100 years.)

While the DJ had those of us at the Cat’s Meow Dance Party moving to contemporary hits, the evening took a distinctly nostalgic turn when Jill Tracy was announced to perform. Named by New York Times best-selling author Melissa Marr as the official song for her new novel Graveminder, Tracy’s track “Sell My Soul” was a haunting solo that captivated all. Tracy's signature blend of cabaret-noir infused with classic jazz and blues was a fitting compliment to such a diverse group of attendees.

Beyond the gin, music, and costumed party-goers, the evening also featured, in addition to a formal dinner, a magnificently catered hor d’oeuvres and desert bar. Furnished by the in-house caterers of the College of Physicians, the food was crafted by Catering By Design. It was impossible not to find something delicious to enjoy.

With proceeds going to help the college continue to engage visitors in medicine through its unique collections, array of educational programs for students, and thought provoking public lectures, all could be sure their participation was going to a good cause. “We always have fun at the Mutter Ball,” Dr. Stephen Permut, Professor & Chair of Family & Community Medicine at Temple University, tells me as we enjoy the show. “It’s a great cause and a fantastic time.”

And although we will have to wait another year until the next Mutter Ball, donations can still be made to the “Save our Skulls” fundraiser they are currently having. With your donation you can ‘adopt a skull’ and have a plaque with your name next to the skull for 18 months. I ask you, who wouldn’t want that!?

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