St. Jude in the Big Easy

“Little Warrior, Big Fight” describes so many of the youngsters affected by cancer, many of the ones who were helped by the recent St. Jude in the Big Easy event, the second — and now annual — one. The beneficiary was ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Founded by actor Danny Thomas, it now has celebrity recognition with his daughter, Marlo. The president and CEO is Richard C. Shadyac Jr. More than 700 children in Louisiana are being treated by St. Jude, which has a satellite clinic in Baton Rouge.

Titled St. Jude in the Big Easy: A Legends for Charity Event and put on by Ocean 2 Ocean Productions, it took place at the Hyatt Regency Hotel with Doug Thornton as the Regional Legends for Charity honoree. President/CEO Shadyac acknowledged Thornton, executive Vice President of SMG, “for his dedication and service to New Orleans, and his instrumental leadership in rebuilding the (Mercedes-Benz) Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.” He led a $336 million renovation and upgrade to the stadium, “which was viewed by the industry as the largest stadium reconstruction project in American sports history.” The recovery project was completed within one year.

Recognition from Shadyac also targeted Executive Committee Chairman Gary Solomon Sr. (joined by wife Martha), whose committee cohorts were James Barkate, Al Bienvenu (with Carol — they were the 2014 event chaircouple), Ron Forman, Roland von Kurnatowski, Billy Perez (with Marcelle), Patricia “PK” Scheerle (with spouse Bruce Bolyard), and Gary Solomon Jr., as well as the 23-person Leadership Committee Chairwoman Bo Farrell, “(both) for making this incredible event possible.” The von Kurnatowski and the Solomon families were the presenting sponsors.

The evening’s program was emceed by Ken Trahan, sports director of WGSO, 990 AM, who gave a tribute to Doug Thornton and to his restorative efforts. Then a question-and-answer session ensued with Doug and Paul Tagliabue, who served as commissioner of the National Football League from 1989 until 2006 and led the NFL in dealing with “the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the New Orleans Saints and the League.” Tagliabue was tapped for the awards presentation.

Another highlight of the program was the “patient family talk” by Hugh Hamilton. His and spouse Kim’s son, Bradley, who is currently a high school senior, was diagnosed two years ago with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Bradley’s family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research for his care.

Among the fundraiser’s many features were a four-course dinner by chefs Eric Damidot, Brian Landry, Tory McPhail and Chris Wilson; table flowers of red roses and greenery by Federico’s Family Florist; entertainment by Deacon John & the Ivories; the silent auction of 68 enticements (which included a guitar autographed by James Taylor, a fishing trip, and a signed-Saints football) and the four-items live auction, including “An Emeril Inspired Weekend.” Unique was the live auction’s “Celebrate an Artist’s Masterpiece” by Richard Thomas, who collaborated with local artists for his “Dat Number” work that showed post-Katrina resiliency. Hyatt Regency New Orleans owner Christopher Robertson was the purchaser.

Within the caring crowd of 750 were Denise Thornton with honoree Doug, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and husband Coach, Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and Gayle, Archie and Olivia Manning, the above Richard Shadyac Jr., the above Barkates (who gave another great live auction item, “Your Personal Soap Opera Experience”), former Saints player Steve Gleason and spouse Michel Varisco Gleason, Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and Cooper Manning. (He and wife Ellen Manning joined family and closest friends of Lamar and Michelle Villere for a “Big Easy 40” birthday celebration, a through-the-decades costume party, at the Villeres’ home.)

Still others at the St. Jude event were Conway Farrell with the above Bo, political consultant Mary Matalin, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Stephen Perry, the above Chris Robertson, the above Solomons, Evans and Shannon Schmidt, P.A. “Al” and Betty Bienvenu, Suzanne Emerson, Sharon and John Lagarde, Julie Vanderbrook, and scores more, who assembled for St. Jude’s “Finding cures, Saving children.”

Blues Night

Held at the House of Blues, the 2015 Blues Night to benefit Crimestoppers GNO featured lots of fine food by area restaurants and some top entertainment. Showcased as performers were, among others, Charmaine Neville and Rockin’ Dopsie. Folks packed the premises.

It was a special evening and in memorium was the theme. The event honored and “saluted the fallen heroes who have lost their lives in the line of duty following Hurricane Katrina.”

Acting as master of ceremonies, and at approximately 9:20 p.m. on stage, Bryan Batt called attention to crime in the city. “It’s like cancer. It must be stopped,” he said. He also hailed his brother and sister-in-law, former City Councilman/event Chairman Jay Batt and Andree, in the audience as major event supporters. The next up was Darlene Cusanza (with Sal), president and CEO of Crimestoppers GNO. Numbering in the audience of 600 were Crimestoppers GNO Chairwoman Caryn Rodgers, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and Shawn, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael S. Harrison and C.C., District Attorney Leon Cannizarro, St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne and Alice, Janice and Dr. Ed Foulks, Cate Czarnecki, Bill and Mittie LeCorgne and Donald Markowitz and Jason Villemarette. To mention a few.

The most important names of the evening were the Fallen Heroes, who were recognized for “selfless bravery and ultimate sacrifice.” They were New Orleans Police Department Officers Christopher John Doyle III, Thelonious A. Dukes Sr., Nicola Diane Cotton, Alfred Celestain Sr., Rodney Renee Thomas, Daryle Holloway, and Vernell Brown Jr. And from several sheriff’s offices, Deputy Jeff Watson, St. Charles Parish; Captain Octavio “Ox” Gonzalez, Deputy Brandon Nielsen, and Deputy Jeremy Triche, St. John Parish; Officer Joshua Norris, Jefferson Parish; and Deputy Hillery Mayo Jr. and Deputy Linden “Beau” Raimer, St. Tammany Parish.

And, Lt. Douglas Wade Sharp, Covington Police Department; Officer James Bennett Jr., Housing Authority of New Orleans; and Senior Trooper Steven Vincent, Louisiana State Police.

In the tribute to them, they were called “guardian angels, (who) will continue to live in our hearts forever.”

Cavaliers

More than 300 alums, spouses and guests made tracks to De La Salle High School’s Summer Alumni Party at which alumni soccer players and teams were honored. A special presentation was made to Gerald Mueller, a mentor and head soccer coach from 1974-1986, who in 1977 and ’82 led his teams to win the State Soccer Championship games.

Party sponsors included the Altobello family, the Gaudin family, the Royal Norwegian Consulate, Sysco, and Whitney Bank. Among the many present were Alumni Board President Johnny Altobello (class of 1974) and Carolyn, and Pete Gaudin (’54) and Kathleen.

Alumni representation came from restaurants or food connections: Barcadia, Dickie Brennan Restaurant Group, Eiserloh Food Brokers, Langenstein’s, Little Gem Saloon, Louisiana Fish Fry, Spitale’s Deli, Sysco, and TA Dowd and Sons. Libations were thanks to Bruno’s, F&M Patio Bar (Trevor Palmer, ’83), Prytania Liquor (H.D. Lanaux, ’72), S&M Vineyards (Merrell Fischer, ’55) and Southern Eagle and Wines Unlimited (Howard Brown, ’76).

Lavish door prizes, such as the “Party on Wheels” red Roadmaster wagon donated by Le Jouet and filled with goodies from Langenstein’s, created a heap of excitement.

Headliners were alums Dickie Brennan and U.S. Sen. David Vitter (in absentia), the honorary co-chairmen; event Chairman John Humphreys (’76); and De La Salle President Dr. Myles Seghers (another alumnus as are most of the following) and Linda. Also, Bernard “Dr. Bud” Landry, Jane and Herb Anderson and Emily, Karen and sponsorship Chairman Jimmy Baldwin, restaurants Chairman Ferd Lorio, Jill and Paul Kelly, Lydia and Matt Barousse, Sonya and Larry Buccola, Toni and Dr. Wynn Russo, Carolyn and Gary Lorio, Norlisha and Tim Burke, and Winnie and Mark Brown. For starters. Many queued up to get souvenirs from the photo booth.

The music is always a draw. Eddie Melera launched the sounds during the cocktail hour. Then Peter Dupuy and alumni Jimmy Baldwin, Jack Coiron, Stewart Douglas, Bill Folse and the above Wynn Russo commanded the stage, delivering hot song after hot song, under their headlining name, Flambeaux-Loureaux.