Sunday, January 15, 2012

Opening the doors briefly

LOS ANGELES -- Each Monday in a building on Wilshire Boulevard on the west side of Los Angeles, women gather for a luncheon prepared by an in-house chef. At round tables in a large and lofty dining room, they greet old friends, make new ones, converse, maybe even debate. Over dessert, they are entertained by a speaker - a painter, perhaps, or a novelist or a historian of early Los Angeles.
Often they come to do good works, doling out college scholarships and money to help women in need. Sometimes they show up for a happy hour or for classes - on cooking or writing a memoir.
And of an evening, now and then, in their silk and sequined gowns, they arrive at the building accompanied by tuxedoed men in cummerbunds. There is a band. They dine. They dance. They step into the courtyard and gaze upon its elegant fountain.
The fountain is the work of Henry Lion, who designed the front doors of City Hall. At its center is a graceful bronze maiden who honors "husbands, brothers and sons" lost in the First World War. She is meant to inspire hope, and above her head, she holds the lamp of learning in an open palm.
It was a desire for learning and finding ways to be of service that long ago drove a small group of women to form the Ebell of Los Angeles, a club that on Sunday will hold its very first open house.

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