For many years, I’ve heard about the Women’s Guild of the New Orleans Opera Association’s Mad Hatters luncheon, so I was excited to finally get to check it out. You can check out the fun of Mad Hatters and all my other stops via the photo gallery online at

‘Mad Hatters Goes...’

Jean Rice graciously invited me to join her for the March 13 luncheon at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside. This year’s theme, “Mad Hatters Goes Broadway,” proved an enticing theme for luncheon-goers — quite a few, I was pleasantly surprised to see, were men. Several folks dressed in costume for the affair, not just their hat — complete costume, including my hostess, who was doing her best Auntie Mame tribute.

Taking home prizes for their chapeaux were Jan Greco, Best Ensemble; Suzanne Scott, Most Beautiful; Samantha McRaney, Best Theme for her “Shades of Gray” interpretation; Elizabeth Schindler, Most Whimsical; and “The Book of More Men,” Best Group Theme. Judges for the competition were Juan Barona, Gayle Benson, André de La Barre, Terrance Osborne, Randi Rousseau and Anais St. John. Skarlett Roa won the Mad Hatter’s choice for the Maddest Hat.

Of course, there were the traditional Mad Hatters characters: Richard Buchsbaum portrayed the Mad Hatter; Christine LeBlanc, the Queen of Hearts;Karen Villavaso, Alice in Wonderland; Katherine Tober, Petite Alice; and Dr. Byron Scott, The Rabbit. Attorney Stephen Rue donned top hat and tails to portray Mr. Broadway and brought down the house as he danced down the runway, even getting a few dollars stuffed in his pockets from appreciative fans.

Providing a tempting look at spring and summer fashion were models for Saks Fifth Avenue. The luncheon also featured a silent auction and an auction of hats created and/or donated by local celebrities. Emcee for the luncheon was WDSU news anchor Norman Robinson.

The Taste

Back in Baton Rouge, I headed to the home of Rebecca and Dyke Nelson for a soirée honoring patrons of Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center’s upcoming fundraiser, The Taste, which is set for April 11 at the Capital Atrium. Welcoming guests with the hosts were party co-chairwomen Gretchen Petersen and Lindsay Chustz Guerin, honorary chairmen Donna and Dr. John Fraiche and Mary Bird Executive Director Todd Stevens.

Attendees also got first dibs on tickets to win a five-day, four-night trip for two to Paris donated by Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry. Aside from the hosts and party co-chairwoman, I enjoyed visiting with Wendy Shiroda, Eric Guerin, Courtney Newbill, Lauren Hensgens, Nicole Tarleton, Kenneth Brown, Peggy Wooley and Danielle Mack.

St. Paddy’s Day

The day couldn’t have been any more perfect for Houmas House owner Kevin Kelly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party March 14. This is one of those events I look forward to every year, as you never know what Kevin is going to have new to show you at this magical place he calls home.

This year it was the recently completed Carriage House, a truly beautiful addition that looks as if it’s been there forever. In fact, it was built based on the 1858 designs of James Gallier, the famed Irish architect who designed a pair of carriage houses for Houmas House owner John Burnside. They were never built, but the original designs survived in the archives in New Orleans, and leave it to Kevin to unearth them and bring them to life.

Not only did we get to experience the ambience of the new facility but we got to sample some of chef Jeremy Langlois’ tasty dishes that will be on the menu there. Like I said, a perfect day.


My Friday party hopping started off with a stop at the Baton Rouge Country Club for BRAVO’s (Baton Rouge Area Volunteers for Opera) March 15 luncheon. Performing for members and guests were LSU Opera students Jenee Luquette, Zuly Inirio, Penelope Shumate, Greg Gallagher and Megan Barrera. Accompanying them was musical director Michael Borowitz.

I didn’t get to stay and listen like I normally do because I had another luncheon engagement.

Big Buddy

Ever since he participated in Dancing with Big Buddy, Sullivan’s Steakhouse GM Leo Verde has hosted a “getting to know you” luncheon for the dancers and their dance professionals. This is typically where the good-natured smack talk starts, stories of sore muscles and aching feet are shared, and bonds of new friendship are cemented, and this year was no exception. In fact, the smack talk between Leo and Ty Hingle, who won the year they competed, continues still and was going on throughout the luncheon.

So, mark your calendar for April 27 and get your tickets for the seventh annual Dancing with Big Buddy extravaganza at the LSU Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Dancers include Shelly Beall, Nikki Caldwell, Rosa Flores, Scott Kaiser, Nan McCann, Kelli and Dr. Douglass Mendoza, Michelle Pricer, Heather Kleinpeter Savoy, Ob Soonthornsima, Ralph Stephens, Wayne Talbot, John Tyler, Todd Waguespack, Jim Uridales and Dr. Ann Zelditz


LSU alumna Suzanne Perron’s gowns lived up to their billing in the latest exhibit at the LSU Museum of Art’s “Revealed: Exquisite Gowns by Suzanne Perron,” which opened with a patrons’ reception March 15. Among those sponsoring the exhibit was Chuck Schwing, who was fêted at a reception prior to the opening reception in recognition of his tenure on the museum’s board. His late wife, Jerry Schwing, was quite the fashionista and he and I both agreed she would be all excited about Suzanne’s creations. “That made it easy to say yes to sponsoring this,” he added.

Other sponsors include Charlene Favre and Shelley Favre Zeringue, whose wedding dress is included in the exhibit; Katherine and Paul Spaht; Lizand Lynes Sloss, of New Orleans; One Cleaners; and Catalyst Event Solutions. If you have a touch of the fashionista in you, be sure and check out this “exquisite” collection, which is on display through July 28.

‘Unrivaled Beauty’

Six young women were presented at the Nu Gamma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority’s annual Debutante Cotillion March 16 at the Capital Atrium. This year’s theme was “Unrivaled Beauty: Six Pearls of Perfection.” Angela Lee Domingue served as mistress of ceremonies for the evening, and chapter President Linda Early Brown welcomed the 350-plus guests and led the toast.

Crowned queen of the festivities was Angel Sierra Tucker, daughter of Angela and Mike Tucker. She was escorted by Barin Boudreaux.

JáVonna DáShawn Lewis, of Port Allen, daughter of Lisa Lewis and Douglas Lewis Jr., was honored as first princess. She was escorted by Tranto Wilson Jr.Raven Renée Price, daughter of Stephanie and Derek Price, was honored as second princess. She was escorted by Matthew Listach. Bria Leshae Johnson, daughter of Andrea and Ronald Johnson, was honored as third princess. She was escorted by Blake E. Johnson. Natasha Navonne Rankins, daughter of Yolanda Rena Rankins and Christopher Johnson Sr., was honored as fourth princess. She was escorted by Robert Jordan St. Aime. Rikitiana DéreL Martin, daughter of Ursula Branch and David Domingue, was honored as a maid and as Miss Amity. She was escorted by Marcus Villiá.

Ball captains for the event included Kendall Brown, Trevon Goins-Williams, Taylor Matthew, Michael Mitchell and Sidney Washington III.

Linda Smith Griffin served as debutante chairwoman with Kimberly McCants, Cynthia Godfrey and Marjorie McClinton serving as her co-chairwomen. Gracie Perkins served as choreographer for the cotillion ball.

Also assisting with the event were Erica Sanders, Garrity Williams, Sheila Sims, Pamela R. Ginn, Aleria Reed, Clyde Watkins, Chandra Stacie, Eileen Kennedy and Jewel Payne. Proceeds from the debutante ball are awarded as college scholarships and to sponsor community service projects.

‘Evening with Mike VI’

Mike the Tiger wasn’t there but attendees of the LSU Vet School’s “An Evening with Mike VI” did get to go and visit the LSU mascot at his nearby digs. A congenial crowd filled the L-Club at the PMAC for the fundraiser which doubled as a 40th anniversary celebration for the school. Serving as emcees for the event were WAFB’s Diane Deaton and state Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain.

Another Dr. Strain, this one George, kicked things up a notch when he made a grand entrance playing the bagpipes and dressed in his finest St. Patrick’s Day garb. Talking about the newly formed Krewe of Mike, which is composed of those who’ve had the honor of taking care of Mike the Tiger over the years, was Dr. David Baker.

Tickled pink

My last stop of the evening was Woman’s Hospital, where the powers that be were so “tickled pink” by the generosity of their leadership donors that they decided to throw a party. Gracing the tables throughout the lobby area where the celebration was taking place were photos of donors’ children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews who were born at Woman’s. Among that group was the Mayfield clan. Mary Jane Mayfield was showing off great-grandsons Hays and David Wise, Thomas Delahaye and great-granddaughter Mary Michael Delahaye.

Driving home the importance of their contributions was the touching story of Amy Benton and son RH, who spent 14 weeks in Woman’s NICU.

Cullen farewell

In the midst of all this partying, my Advocate co-workers and I, along with former employees, friends and family, gathered to bid a fond farewell to a retiring Ed Cullen. I feel honored to have called Ed a co-worker for four-plus years. Reading his “Attic Salt” column since I moved to Baton Rouge 33 years ago was part of my Sunday routine and I’ll miss his musings on life that have inspired me, tickled me, brought a tear to my eye, etc. Enjoy your deadline-free life, Ed. We’ll miss you on the fourth floor.

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