Monday, February 1, 2010

Dinner at Daddy Warbucks’

By Pat Tanner

Remember the movie “Annie,” starring nine-year old Aileen Quinn? Do you know that the scenes of Daddy Warbucks’ mansion were filmed at a real-life manor house on the grounds of what is now Monmouth University? And that is remains EXACTLY AS DEPICTED IN THE MOVIE?

I think I knew back around 1980 that filming was taking place in Monmouth County, but then didn’t give it another thought for decades. Until, that is, I learned of an annual candlelight dinner held in what is in reality Wilson Hall, but which is forever etched in my mind (and that of millions of others) as Daddy Warbucks’ mansion.

The yearly dinner, open to the public, is a fundraiser for the upkeep of the 130-room limestone palace, built in 1929 and dubbed “Shadow Lawn” by its owners - Woolworth president Hubert Parson and his wife, Maysie. The dinners, which accommodate about 120, are held in the gilded splendor of the Versailles Room. They sell out well in advance, and are so popular that the University doesn’t bother to promote them. When I inquired a month in advance of this year’s dinner, which I’m sorry to inform you was held on January 22nd, they were already 90% full. Which is why I’m telling you about it after the fact--so you can get your name on the list for next year.

Which you will want to do, because the evening features a three-course dinner with wine, a captivating after-dinner lecture and photo presentation that relates, with great affection, the truly sad, truly strange tale of Shadow Lawn, and a guided walking tour. All for $50 per person.

I signed up because of the unique venue and its history rather than the food and wine, which is overseen by the University’s caterer, Aramark. So I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of both, and learned that Aramark’s man there once worked at the acclaimed restaurant Nicholas in Middletown.

I was also tickled to learn that the grown-up Aileen Quinn actually returned to Wilson Hall/Monmouth University, where for a while she was an adjunct professor in the theater department. Daddy Warbucks would have been proud.

To get on the mailing list for next year’s candlelight dinner and tour, phone 732.571.3505 or send an email to:

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