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Hard Times Hit La Jolla Debutante Ball

January 23, 1992

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Disappointed would-be debutantes are saving their curtsies until 1993 - many because their parents can’t afford the high cost of introducing them to society, organizers said.

The 30-year-old La Jolla Debutante Ball, one of the area’s oldest, was called off after only four young women signed up out of 100 invited to participate. The ball usually has 16 to 40 participants.

Dona Whitaker, who would have been chairwoman of this year’s event, blamed the recession. ″We got letters from parents saying that they just couldn’t afford it,″ she said.

Debutantes, who range from age 16 to 21, must pay $2,000 to participate. In addition, dresses can cost hundreds of dollars, tickets cost $150 each and debutantes’ familes are expected to throw parties.

The fee is tax-deductible because the ball’s proceeds go to children’s charities.

Brownie Kniff, who helped establish the ball in 1958, said it once was more affordable.

″It’s only high-society now because they’ve raised the fees so much and because the expenses are so high,″ said Kniff. ″A lot of people can’t afford to present their daughters now because they have to send them to college.″

Linda Merkin, who helped organize last year’s ball, defended the fee. She said La Jolla debutantes ″were never chosen because they were very rich.″

″We’re not talking about Texas debutante balls that cost $50,000 or something like that,″ Merkin said.

Some people blamed the cancellation on competition with similar balls and the beating the La Jolla ball’s reputation took several years ago when an organizer was accused of slapping a debutante.

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