Flying High

The invitation’s graphics said it all. Pictured were several pelicans, pigeons, too, for local coo and color, and a Creole cottage. Hanging from the beak of one of the pelicans (a blindfolded one) were the scales of justice.

A once-in-a-lifetime evening was promised by the Pro Bono Project and honorary Chairwoman Gayle Benson for the 27th annual Justice for All Ball, which took place at the Saints Indoor Training Facility on Airline Drive with, as features, the Lombardi Trophy, the 610 Stompers, more than 40 food and beverage providers, purveyance from Lea Freeman and her team at Pigeon Catering, contributions from Jay Nix (Parkway Bakery & Tavern) and nephew Justin Kennedy, raffle prizes, an auction, entertainment by the Saintsations, and music by Joe Simon’s Jazz and The Yat Pack. Of particular note were Pierre the Pelican and the Pelicans Dance Team to further the “Flying High” theme.

Thanks galore went to the management, players and staff of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans, as well as to Gayle Benson and husband Tom Benson without whom the “evening tonight would not have been possible.” Top sponsorship came from Herman Herman & Katz, LLC, Baker Donelson, and Entergy.

Leslie McMichael and her team at LesCo Productions donated the stunning look. She transformed the field into intimate areas for relaxation and socializing via tables, sofas, hi-boys and a spectacular lighted triangular-shaped bar. The colors she used echoed those of the invitation: royal blue, orange, golden, purple and green.

To be sure guests would understand PBP’s mission, Leslie and her team created a dozen miniature New Orleans houses to highlight the theme of “opening doors.”

More thanks tapped Stephen Lindsley for caricatures, The Red M. Studio for photography, the invitation design by Hoffman Miller Advertising, American Luxury Limousines LLC and owner Michael Brinks, and Zephyrs owner Walter Leger, New Orleans Bar Association president.

Headliners included Justice for All Ball Chairman Steven Lane, Maury Herman and Cristina Wysocki, PBP board Chairwoman Carole Cukell Neff with husband Dick, executive director Rachel Piercey, and Judges Lance Africk with Lisa, Karen Wells Roby, Karen Herman with Stephen, Tiffany G. Chase, Nannette Brown with Marcus, and Bernadette D’Souza with Dr. Terry. From the board came Christopher Ralston, Joseph Ching, Mindy Brinkman, Van Robichaux, Sherry Dolan, Mike Tusa, Lindsey Ladouceur, Dominique Bright-Wheeler, P. Kevin Colomb, Patrick Frazier, Wendy Hickok-Robinson, Roxanne Newman, and Chris Short.

More within the crowd of 700-plus (including the earlier 300 partying patrons) were Juli Miller Hart, Dottie Belletto, Michael DePetrillo, Michael Green and fiancée Mikalia Kott, Joanna Broussard, Paulette Zibilich, Jennifer Greene, Brett and Cheryl Mintz Bauman, Lindsey Mitchell, master of ceremonies Mark “Voice of the Saints” Romig, John and Vickie Shreves, Denise Puente, and Louis and Nairne Frazar Lupin.

Quite a few of them figured on the 34-person ball committee.

In addition to the above Carole, Rachel, and Christopher, officers on the board are Norm Rubenstein, Jan M. Hayden (immediate past chairman), Caroline McSherry Dolan and Wendy Hickok Robinson. They, and the 18 other board members, further the mission of Pro Bono Project to provide free, quality civil legal services to the poor through volunteer attorneys.

Live auction items riveted the ball brigade. A New Orleans Saints exclusive package was copped by a beaming Bridget Higginbotham, while the “And Justice for All” original invitation art crafted by Michael Guidry found the above 2015 committee Chairman Steven Lane (of Herman Herman & Katz, LLC) as the top bidder.

After the “Flying High” hobnobbing, Saints and Pelicans executive officer Gayle Benson remarked how proud she and her husband were to have the Saints’ and Pelicans’ facilities as the evening’s backdrop. She continued, commenting on the inspired work of the Pro Bono Project and on all of the support for the gala event. “It went very well. It was a huge success.”

Two to Tango

They were all superb and six in number, but a pair of the performers at Tango Celebration 2015 for Casa Argentina claimed special attention. They were Enrique and Guillermo De Fazio, Los Hermanos Macana, two brothers, who are famous as tango dancers, choreographers and performers around the world. They danced together in a swirl of activity. Equally praised and spotlighted were Claudio Otero and Elizabeth Roccella, Maria Blanco, and Giovanna Dan, who also electrified the dance floor. Their outfits, make up, coiffures, and general theatricality added to their feat of feet during the two parts of the performance. At the conclusion, the entire cast received a standing ovation with begging for more. “Otra, otra!”

Yakelis Anzola, Marlene “Marla” Donovan, Dr. Juan Jorge Gershanik and Betty Speyrer chaired the event that took place in the New Orleans Marriott at the Convention Center. Funds were raised for Casa Argentina, a nonprofit, volunteer organization founded in 1982, to preserve the Argentinean culture, as well as to develop educational and philanthropic activities. In the top two sponsorship categories were the Lupin Foundation, Drs. Agnes and Michael Kotler, and RemoteMD and Pelican State Outpatient Center, all Platinum; and, for Gold, the Gershanik family (attending were CA President Dr. Juan, Ana, and son Dr. Esteban), and the Goldring, Patrick F. Taylor and Zemurray foundations.

Patrons gathered at 6:30 p.m. As the “Celebration” activity ensued, there was general dancing (with many a tanguero on the floor); music by another pair of brothers, Guatemala-born Julio and Cesar Herrera, the guitarists behind the Julio y Cesar Band; and a dinner that started with a winter green salad with goat cheese, offered a choice of fish or chicken, and concluded with a very tasty pina colada flan. Argentine wines served as the vinous accompaniment.

And then there was the dancing. Superlatives abounded.

Within the appreciative audience were Consul General of Argentina in Houston Daniel Deodato, who came especially for the event and praised its organizers; Consul of Mexico in New Orleans Ramon Gonzalez Jameson and spouse Tari; Luz Caputto (with Dr. Salvador) and Rosa Blanca Maldonado, who did the lovely decorations; master of ceremonies Rafael Shabetai and spouse Claudia; and with their above spouses, Carlos Anzola and Greg Speyrer. Also, the Jose Amadeos, Wilma and Dr. Richard Dickey, Nellie Catzen and Reuel Reis, Dr. Jane and Bruce Miller, Ilana and Dr. Efrain Reisin, Dr. Carlos Trujillo, Theresa and Crumpton Anderson, Vivian and Richard Cahn, Karen Villavaso, Helen Flammer and Raul Fonte, Susan and Bill Hess, Barbara and Dr. Arley Jaramillo, Emma and Joseph Kazda, Dr. Eugenio Labadie, Dr. and Mrs. Patrick Quinlan, Rebecca Favre and Dr. Eddy Randrup, Jacqueline Simon and a host of others, who made “Tango” their tout.

n Strings Attached

On Tuesday evening, internationally acclaimed violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was the guest of honor at Carondelet, an event venue at 825 Carondelet St. opened in the summer by Gene Todaro Sr. and Gene Todaro Jr., of Marcello’s Restaurant and Wine Bar. The reception hailed the violinist, who is launching a new year-long residency program at Loyola University. On Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m., “An Afternoon of Chamber Music featuring Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg & Friends” will draw crowds to Loyola’s Nunemaker Auditorium in the transformed Monroe Hall (which will have a formal “dedication” in the next few days).

For the Carondelet reception, Marcello’s catered with Sicilian-Italian fare in tribute to the violinist’s Italian heritage. Reveling in the gastronomy, with such dishes as veal meatballs, cannelloni, and cannoli, were Loyola College of Music and Fine Arts dean Dr. Anthony DeCuir, associate dean Dr. Vicki Vega, honorary Consul of Italy Frank Maselli, Scott Hutcheson representing Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Jackie Lyle (in from Lafayette to be with Nadja, as were Patra and Jerry Fontenot), Marion Bruno, Lorraine Rabito, Dr. Ranney Mize, Dr. and Mrs. Walter Harris, Tiffa Boutte, Jean Montes, Amy Thiaville, Bruce Owen, and Derby Gisclair, who’s co-chairing the “Faith in Future” investment campaign.

On the Loyola campus, and concluding this evening in the Lower Depths Theatre, is “A Grand Night for Singing,” with credit to director C. Patrick Gendusa, Ken Weber and Georgia Gresham and performers Chandler Keen, Cailyn O’Hara, Charis Michelle Gullage, Jake Gomerick and Hannah Jacuzzi. Giving them and the lush Rodgers and Hammerstein music, done in a one-hour revue, a hearty ovation on a recent evening were Carol Rausch, Edie and John Wilson, David and Ann Williams, Florence Andre, and Wayne Amedee and Celeste Bertucci McShane.