Happy Birthday to you!


Ruthe Burgener

A formal invitation in calligraphy arrived. Who was it from? What was it about?

It was my invitation to a special birthday dinner party Downton Abbey style—white tie. Michael Popovice was turning “55-ish.” I knew a party given by Michael and Ray Wortinger was not to be missed.

As the 18 guests arrived to the Saguaro Room at the MountainView Clubhouse their Downton Abbey name was announced by the Butler. Four special guests had flown in from the east coast including Michael’s daughter Jessica Popovice. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres were served by footmen (MV Clubhouse staff) before guests were ushered into the Downton Abbey dining room (previously known as the MountainView West Ballroom).

The authentic English, flower-laden candelabra lit the table with Michael’s own silver complementing the beautiful china and the Bishop’s Hat folded napkins took our breath away.

The menu consisted of regal brown Windsor soup, shrimp cocktail, classic beef Wellington, duchess potatoes, asparagus with hollandaise sauce, Yorkshire pudding, spinach salad with goat cheese, toasted walnuts and pears. Carefully chosen wine was paired with each course.

Assorted chocolates and cookies were enjoyed prior to the “piece de resistance,” the elaborate candle-covered birthday cake was wheeled in to piano music and the singing of Happy Birthday. Following a champagne toast and the blowing out of the candles, the cake was enjoyed by all.

Throughout dinner there were beau coup toasts and one that I especially remember was how lucky we all were that Michael and Ray moved into our neighborhood.

As the clock struck 12 (actually 10) the guests hurried home so as not to break the spell of a wonderful Downton Abbey evening.

The guest list follows: Michael Popovich, The Duke of Jade Crest Your Grace Michael; Ray Wortinger, The Marquess of Jade Crest Lord Ray; Ms. Jessica Popovice, Lady Jessica Popovice Lady Jessica; Mrs. Lisa Pleiss, The Baroness of Reading Lady Lisa; Ms. Fran Ruchman, The Duchess of Annapolis Lady Fran; Mr. Garrett Long, The Earl and Countess of Camas Lord Garrett; Ms. Nancy Macklin, Lady Nancy; Ms. Christina B. Von Seggern, The Duchess of Wilton Lady Christina; Mr. and Mrs. Richard Green, The Earl and Countess of Whispering Tree Lord Richard and Lady Karen; Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Simester, The Earl and Countess of SaddleBrooke One Lord Tom and Lady Sandy; Mr. and Mrs. Steven Winkelmann, The Earl and Countess of Lower Brassie Lord Steven and Lady Nikki; Mrs. Ruthe Burgener, The Dowager Countess of Brassie Lady Ruthe; Mr. and Mrs. Michael O’Donnell, The Duke and Duchess of Brassie Your Grace Mike and Lady Sue; Mrs. Chris Jeffery, The Countess of SaddleBrooke Lady Chris; Ms. Katharine Newman, The Baroness of Elbow Bend Lady Kass and Ms. Gloria Eby, The Baron on Patrol Lord Gloria

Special thanks to Banquet Manager “Liz” Elizabeth Lawson and Executive Chef Alan Lambert and the staff at SaddleBrooke TWO MountainView Clubhouse.