Christmas is a mere nine weeks away! That fact was made perfectly clear Oct. 18 when the Junior League held its 33rd annual Hollydays market.
Upstairs at the Raising Cane's River Center, this year's committee turned the space into a winter wonderland for the kickoff Preview Party. As always, it was packed and numerous air kisses were exchanged as everyone was in a festive mood. Libations and yummies were available throughout, but for those feeling special, there was the Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry VIP tent with comfy white leather sofas for resting shopping-weary feet. Here you could visit with Scott Berg, Johnny Tate and Anthony O'Connor as well as buy a ticket for a chance to win diamond earrings and some other goodies.
I also got to chat with Johnny's better half, Diane, Marianne Freeman, Alice Kronenberger, Kim Morgan, Meg Gerald, Bobby Bernard and Eddie Sims, Bruce Attinger, Frances Bennett, Marvin Borgmeyer, Ann Hamilton, Steve Storey, Marc Goldstein, Ann Felice Fourrier, Karen and Bill Profita, Gary Miller and Ralph Ostermann, and, after much searching, Ann Guercio, whom I was giving a ride home.
Kudos to chairwoman Teal Gray and her team on another successful Hollydays!
I left Hollydays for a brief time to pop in at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge's River City Jazz Masters reception and concert, which, luckily for me, were taking place a short walk away at the Manship Theatre. The Shaw Center's Riverview Terrace was already humming with excitement when I arrived for the pre-concert party, which fêted the night's featured performer — jazz saxophonist and clarinetist Victor Goins — and recognized the induction of Zia Tammami and the late Alvin Batiste, who was represented by his widow Edith, into the Jazz Masters Hall of Distinction.
Among those on hand for the celebration were Arts Council CEO Renée Chatelain, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Gwen and Leo Hamilton, Cornelius Lewis, John Gray, Jim Urdiales, Ellyn Couvillion, John Wirt, Todd Sterling and Perry Franklin, who was sporting an out-of-character, jazzy-cool casual look that a few of us couldn't refrain from commenting on. They and the other guests were led in a second-line from the reception to the theatre by students from Park Forest Middle School.
In a tribute to Batiste, Stephanie Jordan, Greg Agib, Harry Anderson and Herman Jackson made cameo appearances during the performance.
Hunks in Heels
It was all about the hunks the following night as another group of men accepted the challenge of "Standing Tall for Social Change" at STAR's fifth annual Hunks in Heels fundraiser at The Varsity. Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response provides support, education and advocacy to empower all individuals and families affected by sexual trauma, which knows no social, racial or economic boundaries. And it doesn't just affect the victims but also their families, friends and co-workers.
Introducing the hunks as they pranced around the stage in all manner of glitzy, bedazzled footwear were emcees Heather Day and Gordon Meese, last year's Hottest Hunk. By the end of the show, he'd relinquished that title to attorney Joe "Rhinestone Cowboy" Possa, who raised more than $13,000 for STAR and its mission.
Southern University professor Carlos Thomas' white-feathered walk on the runway brought down the house and earned him the Crowd Pleaser award. Close on his, ahem, heels was Brandon Barker's spot-on take of Queen front man Freddie Mercury, which earned him Best Persona/Best Actor honors. Orthopedist Vincent Shaw's transition from old lady with crutches to "Dr. Hunk" was another crowd favorite and got him the prize for Best Smile/Hollywood Ham. Jeremy Theriot's "Purple Rain" rendition in shoes designed by Sara Smith wasn't bad either; he claimed the Red Carpet Ready award, as well as Best in Show.
Bryan Fontenot's onesie earned him Best Legs; Chris Suba's James Bond garnered him Best Dancer/Choreography and Oscar Worthy performance; Brian Rodriguez's snapping alligator shoes won him Best Costume; Matt Vondenstein won Best Attitude; Bill Gussman won Cutie Patootie; Kenny Nguyen won Funniest; Daniel Richard won Smooth Operator; Franz Borghardt won Biggest Surprise; and Josh Howard won Best Original Talent.
The night opened with a dance performance by Whitney Vann and Leonard Augustus, who have been involved with the event since its inception. Also entertaining the packed house was vocalist extraordinaire Quiana Lynell.
Art of Food
Sunday night had me dining in the studios of Louisiana Public Broadcasting for a first-of-its-kind dinner. "The Art of Food," co-sponsored by Country Roads Magazine, challenged chef Phillip Lopez, of New Orleans' Root and Square Root restaurants, to create a dinner inspired by the art of a particular artist all to benefit LPB's "Art Rocks" program. After a trip to the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, Lopez selected artist Jacqueline Bishop as his muse.
Lopez told the sold-out crowd about the dishes we were about to be served and which painting was his inspiration. He also prepared the dish as he talked. It made for an intimate dining experience. We had a salad made from all manner of root vegetables on a plate painted with burnt eggplant, shrimp and grits made from burnt popcorn (delish!) and a sugar egg filled with yellow creamy goodness that when cracked looked exactly like a real egg. Each course was paired with wine, including Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay and Duckhorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
The best part, though, was making new friends — Fred Wood, Jorge Sandoval, Doreen Brasseux and mom Diane O'Quin — and getting to catch up with old ones, Suzanne and Chris Andrews, as we talked all things food and wine.
The week got underway at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation's annual Angel Awards Oct. 16 at the Renaissance. If you ever need to be inspired, attend this event and hear the amazing stories of a special group of "Angels" who go above and beyond for Louisiana's children. Welcoming guests and introducing this year's honorees were foundation President Michael Tipton and emcee Melanie Hebert.
This year's honorees include Baton Rougeans Jonathan James, founder and CEO of Hope Charities; and Clyde Johnson, a retired Southern University professor who works with Volunteers in Public Schools. Anselmo Rodriguez, who volunteers with the Capital City Rotary Club's CHOICES program, received the Blue Angel Award, which recognizes a Blue Cross employee for their volunteer efforts.
Also receiving Angel Awards were Kim Winston Bigler, of Covington, founder of James Storehouse; Tammey Cook, of Lake Charles, founder of School2U; Lloyd Dennis, of New Orleans, co-founder of the Silverback Society; Maegan and Mark Hanna, of Lafayette, founders of Clearpoint Learning Center; Verni Howard, of Shreveport, executive director of Provident House; and Peggy Kirby, of Monroe, a 30-year foster parent veteran and executive director of the Louisiana Foster & Adoptive Parent Association.