“Easily sold out. Raised over $1.8 million.” This was music to the ears of VIPs at the recent UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans. Hard work, good organization, and purposeful partying all blended to make the gala a success. Underlining it all was the UNCF slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste,” in recognition of the importance of higher education. Focused on during the evening were the two involved New Orleans universities, Xavier and Dillard.
Prior to assembling in the Celestin Ballroom for a seated, served dinner, luminaries amassed in the hotel’s Storyville Hall for hand shaking and a rash of photos. Click, click, click! Forming the host committee were New Orleans Mayor Mitchell “Mitch” J. Landrieu; UNCF President and CEO Dr. Michael L. Lomax; and, from UNCF, Therese Badon, vice president of development Southern and Western Division, and LaJuana G. Chenier, regional development director of Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.
Representing the Presenting Sponsors were CEO LCMC Health Gregory C. Feirn and Ochsner Health System President and CEO Warner L. Thomas. More mastheaders were UNCF Masked Ball founders Alden J. McDonald, Liberty Bank and Trust Company president and CEO, and his wife, Rhesa, as well as the event Chairmen Michael O. Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans; and Joel Vilmenay, president and general manager of WDSU-TV.
The co-chairmen were numerous: Dottie Belletto, Cecil “C.J.” and Sheri Blache, Ronald V. and Sheila Burns, Edgar “Dooky” Chase IV and Gretchen, Henry and Karen Coaxum, Leo P. Denault, Aaron and Christy Dirks, Thomas Dortch, Kyle and Kendra France, Tim and Ashley Francis, and Michael and Marlene Hecht. That’s not all. Also, Blaine and Tammy Kern, Dillard President Dr. Walter M. and Adria Kimbrough, Christopher and Martha Robertson, Mark Romig (the auctioneer for the stupendous live auction items, including trips on a yacht to the Bahamas and, by airline, to Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics), Damon and Tami Singleton, Gary and Martha Solomon, Dr. Charles C. and Linda Teamer, Dr. C. Reynold Verret (newly installed president of Xavier, succeeding the in-attendance Dr. Norman C. Francis, the ball’s 2015 honoree), Roderick “Rod” West, and Jimmie Woods. Most were noted, turned out, for the men, in tuxedos, and the women, long gowns.
The host hotel figured as a Marquis Sponsor, along with Supreme Automotive Group; Donna and Paul Flower and Sherry and Alan Leventhal; Entergy; WDSU; and Mardi Gras Productions. Additional sponsors were numerous.
During the VIP Reception, where comfortable, bright white lounge furniture and the requisite masks were features, Mayor Landrieu, at 7 p.m., said a few welcoming words, eliciting the compliment from chef John Besh, “short and sweet.” Then guests, such as the Leon Cannizzaros, the junior Charles Rices, and the Wayne Neveus, started moseying to the ballroom. There, tables were set with pale gold linens, and decorated with centerpieces of lanterns containing big candles, white ostrich feathers, and, as flowers, white roses and hydrangeas.
For the prandial pleasures, chefs Leah Chase, Alon Shaya, Stephen Stryjewski and host chef Eric Damidot (of the Hyatt Regency) created the respective, first, second, main and dessert courses. All delicious.
The formalities were made fun, thanks to high-energy emcees Kevin Frazier, co-host of “Entertainment Tonight,” and Camille Whitworth, WDSU-TV news anchor, who caught every eye in a fabulous red dress. They presented the above Drs. Kimbrough and Verret, Mayor Landrieu, chef Besh, Dr. Lomax, Smith, Vilmenay, Thomas, Feirn, and the Marquis Sponsors. Davell Crawford provided dinner music.
A particularly choice moment occurred when scholarship recipients Shavondria Jackson (Xavier) and Tyron Williams (Dillard) delivered their student testimonials.
As always, a crowning moment is the introduction of the Masked Award honoree. Kayla Boyd, a recent Dillard alumna, made the tribute to William “Bill” Goldring, chairman of Sazerac Co. and co-chairman of Crescent Crown Distributing, saying, he is “trying to make New Orleans a better place.” She then launched into the singing of “What a Wonderful World.” Bill Goldring praised UNCF’s “unsung heroes, our great educators,” and concluded with how humbled and honored he was to be the 2016 award recipient.
In addition to the above live auction, there was an extensive silent one; a Nissan car raffle, won by Hyatt’s Chris Robertson, purchaser of 100 tickets, but who donated it back; and the Parade of Masks, with Dr. Kiki Baker Barnes wearing the winning feathered mask.
Masks were offed at that point, and with the program over, people flocked to the floor to dance. “Let the party begin” said master of ceremonies Kevin Frazier. The wobble line dance packed the area.
To cap all of the ado, the multi-titled Chaka Khan (born Yvette Stevens) took to the stage with her show-stopping voice and powerful stage presence to entertain. And entertain, she did.
n How Sweet It Always Is
For years, the Contemporary Arts Center has recognized accomplished individuals in the world of art, combining those laurels with levity. On a recent Saturday night, the fete, SweetArts 2016, hailed Francoise Billion Richardson (posthumously), visual artist Jacqueline Humphries, performing artist CCH Pounder, and arts educator Jill Basile Hitchins as honorees. Smith & Fawer LLC was the Presenting Sponsor, while First NBC, Phelps Dunbar and Premium Parking were the Lead Sponsors. The gala, titled “A Celebration of the CAC’s Founding Decade,” served as a prelude to the CAC’s 40th anniversary season. And the turn-out was in full 1970s mode and spirit. “Andy Warhol” was omnipresent.
Teamed as the chairing force were MaryBeth Guarisco, Jim Mounger, Judith Oudt, Gregg Porter, and Julie and Dr. David Silvers. Dozens figured on their committee. Co-chairing the Young Friends were Chrystal and Todd McDonald, and spouses Kendall Winingder and Patrick Schindler.
A Studio 54-inspired patron party got things going with cuisine by Palate New Orleans, a Taittinger Champagne Bar, the honorees’ presentation by CAC director and CEO Neil A. Barclay, and a performance by David Oh! and Kid Mambo of Glamarama. Then came the 8 p.m. main event with Anais St. John for “disco throwback,” Raine Bedsole and Elizabeth Shannon’s installations, Structural Films and Avant-Garde Projections, and yummy food from 12 purveyors. All the while, 70s-garbed guests perused Jacqueline Humphries and James Hoff’s ‘”B-R-I-C-K-I-N-G” exhibitions in the center’s galleries. Raffles beckoned, as well. Late night activity lured with a DJ Set by Bouffant Bouffant, food trucks and dessert.
Notables within the energetic crowd of 475 were Mayor Mitch and Cheryl Landrieu, Randy Smith, Mark and Jennifer Jeanfreau, Holley Haag, Leo Radosta, Susan Gisleson, Rita LeBlanc, Valerie Besthoff, Gretchen and Rodger Wheaton, Barbara and Biff Motley, and, with husband Bryan Burkey, Lesley Castay as Liza Minelli in “Cabaret.”
n Green and Gold Gallivanting
Auction items (151), music by Band Camp, super eats and drinks from 31 restaurants, and the hosting Cabrini High School (“Stand Among Great Women”) all combined, with Gulf Coast Bank & Trust Company, for “Cabrini’s Night of Green and Gold.” Classes from various years were honored. Everyone marveled at the “magic” decor of white lights.
Headliners, and many with pertinent titles, were Ashley Brennan (gala chairwoman), Ardley R. Hanemann Jr. (president) and Liddy, Yvonne Hrapmann (principal) and Daniel, Helene and Richard Tucker, Vivian and Gustavo Coutin, Cristen Conwell and Zachary Watters, Carol and Jules Martin, Allison Braxton Baehr, Sister Alice Zanon, MSC, Millie Jones-Michael, Steve Herbert and Blaine Gahagan, Teresa Doran Billings and Robert, Lenny and Cheryl Grabert, Cat Fleuriet and Spencer Smith, Dr. Laurie Moeller and Pam Weiser, Barbara Keenan and Stacey Maylin Wohlgemuth, Erin Moregas Abney and Gregory, Erin Marrero Savoie and Jamie Clark, and Kelsey and Kenny Jumonville. Scores more, too, in the G &G party pack of 250 fans.