A trio of titles bannered recent bashes. “The Legacy Lives On,” “Le Gala de la Bonne Vie,” and “Un Refuge de l’Orage II (Shelter from the Storm)” headlined, in turn, the 86th annual Summer Ball of the Famous “G” Club, and fundraisers for the National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana Inc. and Animal Rescue New Orleans: ARNO. Good times, good cases set the scenes.
Famous ‘G’ Gallivanting
The Omni Royal Orleans was the location for the annual summer levity of the men’s club, which was established in 1927 “to engage in playing contract bridge, bring about closer social relationships among members, and engage in (community) welfare and civic endeavors.” As for the club’s name, it might be The Famous Gentlemen.
Each year, the club’s men don white dinner jackets, black tuxedo pants, and green vests, bow ties and pocket squares for a handsome, summer look. Male guests must wear formal jackets and black tuxedo pants, and their female counterparts, “ankle and floor-length gowns only.” Not only is this dress decorum made known in advance, but there were individuals, Elyse Harrison, Corrine Williams and Jeremiah Roberts, stationed at the ballroom’s door to ensure compliance.
While G’s and their guests milled about in this formal, yet comfortably fun, atmosphere, they made stops at the various food stations for smoked country ham, carved steamship of beef and selections from the cheese montage, pairing the purveyance with fine libations. They also posed for souvenir photos around the organization’s signature “G” sculpture, which was set up on a green and white draped table outside the ballroom.
Always a highlight of the event, the 2014 Call-Out was spearheaded by the club’s long-serving master of ceremonies, Charles Beckwith. During this annual ritual, members and their spouses or dates are introduced to the assembled guests and officially photographed for a keepsake picture.
In alphabetical order, except for the ball chairman, vice president and club president, who came out last, the Call-Out was led off by Mike Diandra, who escorted Lavern Rose. (Tracy Dickerson would have followed, but he was vacationing in Hawaii.) Then came Darryl Harrison with spouse Eurydice, Carl Jasper with Stershell Genell Flowers, Kenneth Lawson with Juannika Armstead, Gary Lewis with Greta, Willie Stafford with Mildred, Samuel Walker with Patricia, Vice President James F. Williams with Deborah Montrell, Carl V. Williams with Wanda Myers, President Elvin Martin with Faye, and ball Chairman August P. Bourgeois with Rose.
The ladies, who were positioned on one side of the podium (with the members on the other side), received gift bags from the men, along with a courtly bow.
Additional formalities included the thanks from Messrs. Bourgeois and Martin to their guests for attending; the announcement of book scholarship winners the above Corrine Williams and Kamryn Brumfield, recent alumnae of Lusher High Charter School and L.W. Higgins High School, who will matriculate at St. John’s University in New York and Dillard University this fall; and the champagne toast, followed by the G Waltz.
Among their guests, a number traveled in from out of town, were Michael and Jami Roussell, Lottie Irving-Nelson, Chaka Carmena, Nicole Larkins, Karen Lewis, Garron Lewis, Sheryl Lewis, Robel Howard, Freida Howard, Twyla Smart, Helen Washington, Clementine Miller, Joe Boykin, Nolan and Joyce Stafford, Ispy and Gretchen Ketchens, Anthony and Joan Jasmin, Terrance and Monica Jasmin, and Stan and Equilla Bazile. To mention a festive few.
Dancing beckoned and the assembly responded most readily to R&B songstress Gina Brown and Anutha Level Band for the G Slide, cupid shuffle, electric slide and some “old school” tunes. “Misty Blue” and Etta James’ “At Last” were favorites for the “Legacy” legions, who packed the floor until midnight.
The Kidney Foundation’s ‘Bonne Vie’
On a Sunday afternoon, guests hied to the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street for the gala of the National Kidney Foundation of Louisiana and a slew of gastronomic, auction and entertainment delights. Cox Communications and Fresenius Medical Care were the top sponsors, Silver Partners. Another donor (in the listing of 11 as Table Sponsors) was Dr. Myra Kleinpeter, the foundation’s immediate past president and the 2014 Julio Figueroa Award recipient.
Additional notables were board President Dr. Shawn Donelon with husband Dr. Gregory Dowd, CEO Torie Kranze with Patrick Richardson, Tulane University School of Medicine Dean Dr. L. Lee Hamm, New Orleans East Hospital CEO Mario J. Garner, former state Sen. Diana Bajoie, gala Celebrity Chef Chairman Rene Bajeux, spouses Dr. Eric Simon and Dr. Cathy Lazarus, Dr. Rick and Kathy Harris, Marla Donovan, Dr. Mustafa Hatipoglu with doctor daughter Arzu, and NKFL board members Shawn Carroll with Curtis Herring, Audra Detillier with Travis, Ashlie Castro, Dr. Shaminder Gupta, Clint Smith with Dr. Sheryl, Sandra Tate, and Dianne Castano.
Spotted, too, were sponsors Edward Bonin and Rene Fransen, who exchanged news with Mark Romig, the “live” auctioneer. Top items included a week-long stay in a villa in Ildir, Turkey, donated by the above Dr. Mustafa Hatipoglu, and a dinner for six prepared by actor and chef Dwight Henry of Buttermilk Drop Bakery and Café. He was an Academy Award nominee for his riveting performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”
The silent auction and its 100 items drew lots of excited bidding, as well. One of them was two Sparkling Memberships for the Krewe of Cork’s 2015 parade. The donor was Patrick Van Hoorebeek, the krewe’s yearly king.
Additional features included cocktails, hors d’oeuvres donated by the Marriott, the Batiste Cultural Academy Marching band (who ushered the chefs in, second-line style), the award presentation to Dr. Kleinpeter, and dancing. Melanie Martin of New Orleans Celebrations donated the flowering plants-centerpieces that were placed atop dramatic black linens. Jean Luc Albin, Dwight Henry, Matt Murphy, Chad Roland, Ben Sarrat, Jacques Saleun, Jacques Soulas, Grant Wallace, Jason Walter and Clark Leblanc were the featured chefs, along with the above Rene Bajeux.
Another of the many guests was Whitney Guarisco, attending with young daughter Gigi. Husband and dad Michael was in Ukraine and hoping to be home for Father’s Day. He made it.
As Whitney was relating her story, the band (composed of David Russell, and Jamal, Ryan and Damon Batiste) played Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World.”
The elegant Metairie Club Gardens home of Danielle Kavanagh was the setting for the Animal Rescue New Orleans: ARNO fundraiser to help the “only no-kill shelter in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.” It is a volunteer-run group led by executive director Charlotte Bass Lilly, who was unable to attend, but was duly represented by husband Edward.
Headliners included party arranger Ginnie Baumann Robilotta; musicians Wes Raymond and Soul Factory, event Chairwoman Elesha Kelleher with husband Albert and children William, Albert and Ellie, Marla Garvey with Ann Bailey, Marilyn Rusovich and Carey Hammett; Terry and Henrietta Hall; Beverly and Doug Lore, along with Lee and Paul McKee, Mary and Michael Whealdon, Paulette and Frank Stewart, and Tony Chauveaux; Pam Burck and pal Beth Webb; Jane and Tom Wicker with Betty and Bobby Killeen; Mary Lou and Dr. Bob Carter with Lynn Chiche; Robin Beaulieu; and the above Eddie Bonin and Rene Fransen.
All enjoyed the catering by 15 fine eateries, the auction goodies, the attendance by precious pups looking for a home, and the cause for the paws.