With freedom and liberty celebrated this weekend, Innocence, a new pavilion, and Summer Jazz Camp all headlined activities that build future strength. Each one was coupled with socializing circles.
Against the Odds
The 13th anniversary gala of Innocence Project New Orleans was housed in The Foundry and started with a cocktail party before moving on to dinner with catering by Jacques-Imo’s, drinks, dancing and an auction. A particular highlight of the evening featured Louisiana and Mississippi exonerees, aligned with the IPNO’s purpose of freeing or exonerating wrongfully convicted prisoners. According to IPNO, a nonprofit law office that represents innocent prisoners in Louisiana and Mississippi serving life sentences and helps them in their transition into the free world upon their release, the above two states have “the highest incarceration rates in the world.”
Jones Walker law firm served as the fundraiser’s leader sponsor and Jason Rogers Williams & Associates, the sustainer sponsor. The gala, which hailed the project’s “13 years of freeing innocent prisoners, exposing injustice and preventing wrongful convictions,” honored IPNO’s heroes and those who make its work possible. The award recipients were the Orleans Public Defenders Office and the Louisiana Bar Foundation.
Among the event’s features were greenery provided by Harold’s Indoor and Outdoor Plants, Kupcake Factory and Shake Sugary for the desserts, deejay Elizabeth Christiansen spinning the sounds, videos (including one titled “Against the Odds” with an acknowledgement to Mississippi lawyer Rob McDuff), and a silent auction of almost 75 enticements, including a private wine tasting for 12 at Pearl Wine, and photos by Robert Warren.
Milling about within a crowd of 275 were retired Chief Justice of Louisiana Pascal Calogero Jr. and wife Leslie Langhetee, IPNO board Chairwoman Liz Talbott with husband Galen Brown, spouses Michiel Huisman (the Dutch-born actor, singer and guitarist, whose credits include “Game of Thrones,” “Treme” and “Nashville”) and Tara Elders, Judge Laurie White, Bernard and Jane Berins, Councilman Jason R. Williams, Dr. Louie and Jane Glade, IPNO managing director Jene O’Keefe Trigg, and Sandra (Mrs. Edward M.) Heller with daughter Milly Denegre. After the welcome and the “thank you’s,” there was the announcement of the Edward M. Heller Conference Room dedication in memory of the late lawyer, Mr. Heller.
Figuring, too, as gala guests were two dozen exonerees and their loved ones, one of whom was Reginald Adams, who had just been freed from prison after spending 34 years wrongly incarcerated.
Due fanfare accompanied the opening of the East Jefferson General Hospital Outpatient Oncology Infusion Center with invitations extended by The EJGH Foundation. Cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and music beckoned, as did complimentary valet parking. “Business attire” was the suggested dress. Honored at the opening ceremony were the donors and patients who have already been receiving treatment in the new space. The expansion in the Yenni Treatment Center, or Yenni Pavilion, is the culmination of a capital campaign chaired by Dr. Paul Monsour, an EJGH radiologist.
Within the formalities were the welcome by EJGH President and CEO Dr. Mark J. Peters (with spouse Kim), the donor wall unveiling by Dr. Monsour (with Alice), and personal remarks and a testimonial by Christy Senner (with Ralph). The 200-plus guests then toured the facility to experience the results of their philanthropy.
Noted were Jefferson Parish President John Young, Sheriff Newell Normand, EJGH Foundation board Chairman Bob Mathis with Cheryl, Henry and Pat Shane, Dr. Gerry, Tommy and Klara Cvitanovich, Ashton Ryan, Walter and Tamberly Gray, Tom and Jan Leonhard, Grady and Toni Hurley, Stacey Shane Schott, Judge Robert and Julie Murphy, and Marc Eagan.
All enjoyed the Pigeon Catering, including seared sashimi tuna, a ceviche bar, and crab cake sliders; the NOLA-FLORA white and green arrangements to complement the new colors in the Infusion Center; and the music. The Joe Simon Jazz band played downstairs, and, on the third floor, a classically trained pianist entertained at the keyboard.
Still others were Kevin and Hollie Ericksen, Diane Hollis, Dianne and Barry Breaux, Wayne and Roni Thomas, EJGH executive Vice President/chief operating officer Judy Brown, Dr. Joe and Amy Uddo, and Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng.
Surveying the new center, Mattie Hobley, RN, and EJGH director of Oncology Services, said that it was a cancer center built for — and by — our community.
She added, “The entire oncology staff is so proud of this facility and what it means for our patients.”
On a recent Thursday, the New Orleans Arts and Cultural Host Committee held a fundraiser for student scholarships for the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, a project of the Louis Armstrong Jazz Academy. A sure cynosure for the event was the multi-hyphenated Allen Toussaint, who performed. Musician, composer, record producer Toussaint co-chaired the campaign along with home hosts Joseph “Joe” and Stephanie Bruno and John and Dathel Georges. A host of sponsors abetted the cause (including The New Orleans Advocate).
Additional performers were the Jazz Camp Senior Student Band and the faculty band, who entertained from a stage. The grounds of the Bruno home were transformed into a cabaret for the occasion.
Galatoire’s catered, delighting the group with smoked salmon, duck confit, pasta, risotto and bread pudding. For starters.
In attendance, among the many, were Jan Johnson and David Marcello, Judge Sidney Cates, Jimmie Woods, Maple Gaines, Dr. and Mrs. Francis Rodwig, Beverly McKenna, Monique Morial, Cobb and Helen Barksdale, Dr. Steve Price, and Kidd Jordan. All thrilled to the solo performance by Allen Toussaint in the Brunos’ piano room, which was punctuated with stories of his childhood and members of his family. Trips that he and his siblings took to the country in his early years inspired the song, “Southern Nights.” And to treat the party pack, along with his rendering of “St. James Infirmary,” he played that hit.
Around and About
What becomes a landmark legend most? A party! To recognize the 120th anniversary and five year historic restoration of The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, invitations were issued to celebrate with the hotel’s brass at “A Night in the Blue Room.”
It was hosted by Angela Hill, who paid tribute to the beloved hostelry and its enduring history. Most fittingly, she donned a royal blue tunic, which she paired with white evening pants, and gold jewelry. Gold in various tones is the Blue Room’s predominant color now.
Among those gathered were former Mayor Moon and Verna Landrieu, who exchanged pleasantries at a table with Jeffrey and Elizabeth Elizardi; Dr. Irwin Marcus, Angela’s husband; Roosevelt general manager Tod Chambers and spouse Liz Riggs; Councilwoman Susan Guidry and Hervin, one of the many with particular sentiment for the Blue Room; Sammy Steele; Kathy Singleton; Susan Ford and Jim Capparell, who were spotted the next night at the Deveney (Communication) open house for the advertising agency’s handsome new digs on Magazine Street; Gary and Martha Solomon — “Oh I wish T.J. was here,” said Gary about his late father, who loved to dance; and Coleman Adler, who likewise, loves to dance and did so non-stop to the music of Jimmy Maxwell.
All the while, guests relished the array of cocktails and other drinks, hors d’oeuvres, birthday cake, and spontaneous singing by Suzaune McCamey (with husband Don Rees) and food critic, radio host, author Tom Fitzmorris. He was up to joyfully croon a number of songs, and compliments flowed.
As she addressed the Blue Room brigade, and in the course of relating facts and tales of the hotel, Angela Hill looked around and said with a smile, “If these walls could talk.” Amen.