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Celebrity wedding on aisle four

Columbia plays host to a once-in-a-lifetime Wal-Mart special

September 28, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST

Denver media call him “Silent Stanley.” Denver is where multi-billionaire businessman Stan Kroenke, who happens to be married to Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton, occasionally resides in his mountain-view penthouse atop the Pepsi Center, home court for the Denver Nuggets. Columbia is where on Saturday, their daughter, Whitney, married Ben Burditt, a Warsaw guy, in what has to be the most talked-about, gossiped-about, speculated-about wedding in Columbia history.

And now Columbia has its own version of the Silent Stan — and Silent Ann -— story. The families and their close friends are reluctant to dish about the lavish wedding hosted at the Kroenkes’ gated home overlooking the Country Club of Missouri. The Kroenke Group spokesman did not return our calls. L.A. celebrity wedding coordinator Mindy Weiss and other hired help had to sign confidentialty agreements. But Vox got the scoop on a few details. We don’t usually cover society, but who could resist?

The rock

With the Kroenkes’ beaucoup bucks, one might assume Cartier et al. would be called. Instead, local jeweler Gary B. Robinson was the couple’s choice. Robinson termed the engagement ring and the bands very traditional, “nothing with a lot of bling.” To see for yourself, check out Robinson’s Inside Columbia ad this week.

The couple

Outsiders have been in the dark about Ben Burditt, knowing only that the media billed him as a “Warsaw high school football star.” Vox talked to his father, Larry, a Warsaw judge who said Ben, 28, studied agricultural economics at MU and is now a California remodeling contractor. Whitney, who turns 29 this week, graduated from Northwestern University and produced films such as Playing for Change and Shiloh 2: Shiloh Season.

The wedding

Fellow Wal-Mart heiress and the bride’s cousin Paige Laurie was maid of honor. (She’s one of the few among the Wal-Mart crowd who’s ever received the full glare of media attention. Remember the Paige Arena, now known as the Mizzou Arena?)

Word has it THE dress was a strapless, champagne-colored number with a fluted bottom. On Sunday, Kroenke wedding guests attending another wedding were still agog about the previous night’s event. They say white roses were everywhere and chandeliers hung in the trees. Plexiglass covered the pool to provide a sleek space for the bar.

Leslie Perna of the MU music department was a member of the band that played Motown, disco and Sinatra for dancing guests. Musicians — including L.A. studio singers and supposedly a Grammy/Oscar winning pianist — performed in a tent from 8 p.m. to midnight. Things were still hopping, she says, when she left.

At Stoney Creek Inn, temporary home for some of the wedding party, an employee spotted a number of young women in blue dresses that looked suspiciously like bridesmaid attire. Another onlooker described the design as sky-blue, strapless, fitted bodice with a small triangle of rhinestones beneath the cleavage. Was this the Kroenke party? We can’t guarantee it.

The pre-game

Thursday’s welcoming party for out-of-town guests hosted by Otto and Stella Maly remains under wraps. A reporter asking Mrs. Maly about the occasion was told, “Oh, you’re so bad.” The partying didn’t, of course, stop there. Harpo’s bar/restaurant was the spot for a post-rehearsal bash Friday night. When queried about celebrities present, one guest retorted, “We’re all famous in there.” The Kroenkes flew in security guards from L.A. to fend off party crashers. Off-duty Columbia cops employed elsewhere for the weekend were, it seems, not enough to handle all curious onlookers.

The buzz

Before the wedding, guests were seen hitting up at least one downtown shop. Chic boutique Swank attracted two petite blondes in trendy designer jeans and black nail polish worrying if their dates would make it on time from the football game. Across town, Salon De Capello owner Steve Stephenson was doing something regarding hair. We assume he paid attention to the bride’s head, but he won’t say.

Columbia shouldn’t be surprised at the “don’t ask, don’t tell” Kroenke policy. One Denver columnist compared the Denver Nuggets’ owner to the King of Saudi Arabia in his efforts to “control what is said about them and the things they hold dear.” Denver Post society columnist Joanne Davidson said that although the Kroenkes are generous to charities, they don’t show society much face time. Ann, listed at 107 on the Forbes’ 2006 list of the 400 wealthiest Americans, and Stan, listed at 153, are “private to a fault,” says Davidson.

We do know that prior to her wedding, Whitney had appeared at another mysterious formal event. She was maid of honor to the Queen of Love and Beauty at the 1996 St. Louis Veiled Prophet Ball. The men who sponsor that cotillion, one of the largest in the country, wear veils and are unidentified except to one another.

Also contributing to this story were Elisa Glass, Elizabeth Chan, Joe Tighe, and Sarah Bono.

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