Jul 5, 2015

September 2, 1966: La Dolphine, Hillsborough, CA


The rock 'n' roll beat of the Grateful Dead blasted the night air above La Dolphine, one of Hillsborough's most noted estates, when Mr. and Mrs. Albert C. Mattei gave a large dance there last night for their granddaughters, Ayn and Lyn Mattei.
The combo, which is well known to the Fillmore Auditorium set, if not to society, played on a dance platform set up in the formal garden, which was beautifully lighted for the ball.
Inside, in the ballroom, which has not seen a party this large and festive in many years, another orchestra, headed by Al Trobbe, played music that was far from staid, but more suitable to the adult guests. . . . .

[The rest of the article is a lavish description of the house and garden decor.] 

(from the "Women's World" column, San Francisco Chronicle, 3 September 1966)

* * *


Police and PG&E repairmen got in on the action at the weekend's two big deb balls on the Peninsula, and the culprits in each case were rock 'n' roll bands.
Hillsborough police had hoped to keep the racket of the Grateful Dead a "family affair," when the group played Friday night at the dance the Albert C. Matteis gave for their granddaughters, Ayn and Lyn Mattei, at La Dolphine, the Peninsula showplace.
But then complaints started to come in from residents in the Burlingame-Broadway area. The Grateful Dead were noisy enough to wake the dead, the cops were told, and so the band had to be moved from the garden to the inside of the beautiful mansion.
The following night, when the Edward Morse Hamiltons gave a ball for her daughter, Virginia (Lyn) Belcher, at their villa in Atherton, neighbors were more tolerant - probably they were all at the party - but the electrical requirements of two rock 'n' roll groups were too much for the wiring, and the lights went out all over the house.
The party carried on by candlelight for an hour or so, until service was restored at midnight. Naturally, the blackout put the combos, the Outfit and the Gordion Knot, out of action. Immediately, rumor spread that Walt Tolleson, whose music does not require amplifying, was guarding the fuse box.
Along with three bands, the Hamiltons presented a surprise feature: a belly dancer to match their Egyptian-style home. She performed sinuously in the living room at the height of the party.
The Hamilton dance had further unscheduled excitement when three CORE protesters, all properly dressed, crashed the party. They were permitted to stay and went unnoticed by most of the guests.

(by Frances Moffatt, from the "Who's Who" column, San Francisco Chronicle, September 1966)

* * *

Debs Danced To Rock 'n' Roll Beat

La Dolphine, the beautiful Hillsborough mansion that has been silent and unoccupied off and on since it was built before World War I, burst into brilliant life with a rock 'n' roll beat Friday night, for a deb ball the Albert C. Matteis gave for their granddaughters, Ayn and Lyn Mattei. . . . 
The 18th century styled chateau is set in 3 1/2 acres of terraced gardens which were floodlighted with pink and white spots for the party. Despite the evening's chill, the young set stayed outside to dance to the rhythms of the Grateful Dead, while their elders remained in the ballroom where Al Trobbe played. . . .
One of the members of The Grateful Dead is Bob Weir, the brother of Peninsula Ball deb Wendy Weir, who made her bow earlier this year at a marvelous pop party at San Francisco Airport.
The beat of the band was so infectious that the adults were eventually lured to the outdoors dance platform where credible frugs were performed . . . .

 [The rest of the article describes the ball arrangements and attire.]

(by Joan White, from the "Women Today" section, the San Francisco Examiner, 5 September 1966)

Picture from the SF Chronicle: 

For more background & details, see:


  1. These society writers were hardly interested in the Dead, but this was a well-attended high-society ball, so we have three different reporters describing the evening.
    Over 400 people attended, many of them "the young set" who went out to the garden and danced or posed (somewhat stiffly) to the Dead while their elders stayed in the ballroom and danced to the "far from staid" sounds of Al Trobbe's orchestra.

    For those curious, here's an obituary for Al Trobbe, "the man with a thousand fingers":
    The Al Trobbe Orchestra played ballroom jazz for years at SF hotels - his son said, "He was the musician to get at many socialite parties in San Francisco as well as the Peninsula."

    Curiously, only one of the writers mentions the noise complaint - perhaps the others left early? After neighbors protested at the din, "the band had to be moved from the garden to the inside of the beautiful mansion." No word on whether they continued playing at high volume to the alarmed adults, or whether there was a spontaneous jam session with Al Trobbe's orchestra....

    Despite Weir's sister Wendy being one of the debutante set (she booked the band and attended), there was a significant culture gap between the elegant ballroom guests and the scruffy band, who were then living in a camp out in Lagunitas. One reporter here sniffs that the band "is well known to the Fillmore Auditorium set, if not to society."
    The Examiner's claim that "all ages took to the dance floor to the frenetic beat of 'The Grateful Dead'" sounds unlikely!

    The photo doesn't capture much enthusiasm from the Dead. McNally reports in his book: "Garcia would recall being treated as though he was 'unclean.' Lesh said it was 'boring...we weren't allowed to fraternize with the natives.' Naturally, Weir's sister Wendy, who'd arranged the booking, managed to catch Phil smoking a joint in the backyard." (p.155)

    One article mentions another deb ball out in Atherton (where Weir had grown up) the next night, which sounds almost exciting. Notice the custom of having a rock group for the young (or two rock groups, in this case), and a jazz orchestra for the adults. (Walt Tolleson, the suspected fusebox malefactor, was a society bandleader and "king of swing," "a fixture at gala openings.") The Lost Live Dead post notes another ball in September '68 with "two orchestras, Walt Tolleson's and the Sons of Champlin."

    As for the Mattei sisters? "The debs were in the white gowns they wore last June for their presentation at the San Francisco Debutante Ball. They carried bouquets of white roses... They returned in June from Switzerland, where they spent a year studying at the American School in Lugano. They have been attending summer school at UC, and plan to enroll there."

  2. Thanks for the post. Absolutely loving this site! My my, having the Dead play at a Deb....😊