Purposeful Partying

Hungry for Justice

The invitation’s symbolism made a statement and staked the theme. In between a judge’s gavel were a fork and a spoon, respectively to the left and right. This was for the 29th annual Justice for All Ball 2017 that took place at the Audubon Tea Room, both for the patron party and the main merriment, and bore the marquee, “Hungry for Justice.” It was presented by The Pro Bono Project and honorary Chairwoman Leah Chase. During the mingling of the 300 patrons, Leah Chase Kamata entertained, while Commander’s Palace (with chef Tory McPhail) and Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse catered. Thanks tapped TPBP executive director Jennifer Rizzo-Choi and Chauntis Trenelle Jenkins (with husbands Chris Choi and Gregory Floyd) for the signature drink, the Leah-inspired Chaser.

More acknowledgment occurred at 7:40 p.m., when master of ceremonies Mark Romig gathered guests to thank Leah Chase. Then Rizzo-Choi and ball Chairwoman Dana Douglas, president-elect of the New Orleans Bar Association, presented her with an engraved bowl, courtesy of Adler’s. Following the program, the doors of The Tea Room were opened to welcome the 600-plus ballgoers in support of The Pro Bono Project, which provides civil legal service through pro bono (free) representation to low-income residents in the six-parish area.

What first caught the eye was the configuration of The Audubon Tea Room. An oversize square bar was placed smack in the center. As bartenders served The Chaser, lighting produced pops of color. The Solomon Group added a large LED video screen behind the bandstand, projecting images and information throughout the event and providing an electronic backdrop for the live auction conducted by John Calhoun. Meanwhile and along with the Audubon Institute Event/Catering Service, more than 20 food and beverage purveyors fed the supportive flock. Later on, mini grilled-cheese sandwiches (sponsored by Baker Donelson) became a welcome snack.

Further features were the fresh floral centerpieces donated by WYES; the auction tables that zigzagged across the back of the room and held more than 40 coveted items; and the patio area that had tenting courtesy of Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and high-top and bistro tables.

Notables included the above, as well as Edgar Chase III and Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, Leah’s son and grandson; artist Gustave Blache III; and TPBP board Chairwoman Caroline McSherry Dolan. Also, Sharonda Williams, Kevin and Nancy Colomb, William Cherbonnier, Norm Rubenstein with Elonide Semmes and son Ben Semmes, Marcus Brown and Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, Mark and Nancy Samuels, George and Vickie Demos, Michelle Egan, Helena Henderson, Betty and Norm Sullivan, Kim Boyle, Russ and Sandra Herman, Steven Lane, David Thornsberry and guest Kim Behrens Shofstahl, Molly Vigour, Phillip and Anne Wittman, and Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson. And Judges Robin Giarrusso, Nakisha Ervin-Knott, Tiffany Chase, Rachael Johnson, Jay Zainey (with Joy), Robin Pittman (with Keith), Tracey Davillier, Terri Love, Paula Brown and Piper Griffin. Still others were Gary Solomon Jr. and Seth Bloom, Ken and Gigi Carter, Michael Ruffin, Desiree Charbonnet, Christopher Ralston, Van Robichaux, Chris Short, Nadege A. Assale, Philip Franco, Wendy Hickok Robinson, Joanna Broussard, Mark and Barbara Kaplinsky, Roxanne Newman, Alan Brackett, Steven Lane and Lacey Rochester.

Hundreds more added to the who’s who, many revved up by the sounds of The Bucktown All-Stars. Their “Brown Eyed Girl” rallied a bunch of dancers to the floor, who then enjoyed “Barefootin’” (but weren’t!), and the Audubon Zoo’s signature song, “They All Ask’d For You.”

Hope Grows Here

Tom and Connie Kitchen were limelighted as the honorary chaircouple at an event they’ve supported for many years: Boys Hope Girls Hope Fall Gala, titled “Hope Grows Here.” The Junior co-chairwomen were Sally-Rose Cragin (with Mike Gaglione) and Caroline Broussard, and board Chairwomen Janis van Meerveld (with husband Charlie Cerise).

“Cocktail” was the stated attire for the gallivanting that unfolded in the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in City Park and amassed more than 400 guests, who support the BHGH mission of helping motivated children-in-need “by providing value-centered, familylike homes, opportunities and education through college.” It was founded in 1980.

Additional chairing forces were Ann Heslin, decor; Liz Creel (with Terry), Ann Queyrouze (with Steve) and Patti Mahoney, restaurants; and Charlene Baudier and Sheila Vocke (with Jay and Gerard), auction. They milled with Lynne Burkart, Charles and Vonda Rice, and Cliff and Michelle Cardone. To mention a few.

Attractions were myriad and included lighted topiary centerpieces for the sponsor tables; flower walls as the backdrop for the bars and selfies; hydrangeas, eucalyptus, palms and greenery; navy draping, lighting and paper flowers; taste treats from 18 top restaurants; Glazer’s Apricot Moscow Mule as the specialty drink; and live auctioneering by Tom Fitzmorris, including a dinner party for 10 at a beautiful home on Prytania Street. The 60 silent auction items were bid through Handbid, and the Wine Pull had prize bottles ranging up to $200.

The entertainment rated raves. The Kinfolk Brass Band second-lined from the pavilion’s entrance to the stage and, to get the decibels in line for dancing, B Street Benny played with a nod to Michael Jackson.

What Friends Are For

An inaugural event, an indoor garden party and seated dinner, welcomed charter members, a new philanthropic leadership circle, of “Friends of BIALA” at the home of board member Kathleen and Ben Waring. “The house was truly beautiful,” said hostess Kathleen, giving credit to all of those who contributed to the special occasion benefiting the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana.

Royal Artists lent their Mardi Gras parade float flowers; centerpiece arrangements included lovely flowers and greens, some from Kathleen’s garden; blue and white themed the indoor garden party; and Kitty d’Litter and the Ladies of Petronius served the food and provided entertainment in the form of singing in elaborate drag. Langenstein’s, Mr. Ed’s Oyster Bar and Seafood Restaurant, Catering by Laura Arrowood, Jake Thomas of AfterDark Production, Sapphire Events and Lula Restaurant Distillery purveyed fine food and drink. More atmosphere came via Kim Starr Wise and her decorative donation, and Gregg Porter, who hung up lanterns in the front garden and living room.

BIALA VIPs included Chairman Paul Genco, Treasurer Michael Frenzel and wife Anne Marie Marmande, Vice Chairwoman Janet Clarke and husband Richard Nick, board members Dr. Korak Sarkor (with Ashley) and Karen Roy, and director of development Kathleen Mulvihill.

Guests were the Waring daughters, Ellie and Nina (with Dun McIntosh), Dr. William “Will” Waring with Dot Weisler, Dr. Phyllis Waring, William Vollenweider (hostess Kathleen’s dad) Dr. Glenn and Karen Barnett, Geoffrey and Holly Snodgrass, Maryanne Van Meter and Jean Lapeyre, Susan and Kathryn Burkenstock, Grace Kaynor, Drs. Randa and Freddy AbiSamra, Eileen and Gene Gambel, Adrienne Hammer and Jonathon Rhynning, Dr. Richard and Cathy Scribner, Jake and Kevin Thomas, Linda and Larry Abbott, Cecile Picou, and Gregg Porter.

A particular highlight of the gala evening was the talk by Nicole Marquez. A former dancer, she fell from a five-story building, resulting in traumatic spinal cord and brain injuries. Now, eight years later, she teaches dance and yoga, is a motivational speaker and a BIALA board member.