“Meet” was the message at two recent events when The Touchdown Club of New Orleans held its 46th annual Meet the Saints Luncheon at the New Orleans Marriott. Who Dats were out in numbers, well over a thousand. Days later, “Please join us for Dinner honoring Steve Scalise on his election as Majority Whip” bannered the invitation extended by Dathel and John Georges, owners of The Advocate, and The New Orleans Advocate team. Guests, a high-profile pack of Orleanians, headed to Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak, where cocktails launched the prandial activity. Several individuals were spotted at both events.

Supporting the Saints

“Meet the Saints,” which packs the host venue each year in one of the season’s most anticipated events, introduces the team to the Touchdown Club and its pals in an atmosphere that’s both personal and close-up. Spearheading the call to order and introductions with mastery and wit is Jim Henderson. He was on target again this year citing a pre-cut Saints roster that began with Derek Dimke (No. 2) and ending with Parys Haralson (No. 98). For each player, Henderson praised, quipped and cajoled with risible remarks about their prowess, personality and, in many cases, hair styles. The audience applauded, smiling and laughing throughout.

Prior to the assembly of Saints, their brass and Touchdown clubbers in the Grand Ballroom of the New Orleans Marriott, a select grouping gathered in the nearby Welcome Room. Included were TC Chairman Byron B. Bordelon III, President John Kohl, first Vice President Theresa Lowe, board director/luncheon committee Chairwoman Roslyn Duplessie and Rita Benson LeBlanc, owner/vice chairwoman of the board of the Saints and Pelicans. Some of the biggest-name players, such as quarterback Drew Brees, mingled.

Then it was on to the fanfare and excitement in the ballroom, when the Saints went marching in, led by the Saintsations. Next was the Presentation of Colors by the Marine Corps League (with Paul E. Boyd, Dennis Bergeron, Joe Lorio, Sal Serio and Chuck Simoneaux), which was followed by Amanda Shaw’s robust singing of the national anthem and Monsignor Christopher Nalty’s invocation. He greeted the crowd, saying his late father, Deacon Paul Nalty, was one of the original Saints season-tickets holders, and continued: “The name of the team makes it easy for me to incorporate in my homilies.”

Lunch was served in timely and tasty fashion while the program ensued. After his official welcome, the above TC President Kohl announced the club’s intended gifts of more than $37,000 to a pair of charities. Then Henderson commanded universal attention with the introductions of the head table (such as head coach Sean Payton, now in his ninth season) and players. Next up was Payton, who announced awards to Saints Zach Strief, Keenan Lewis, Ramon Humber and Marques Colston.

In conclusion, Kohl gave Payton a special symbolic football made of wood, saying the wood had (after the flooding) transformed New Orleans as the coach had transformed the Saints into a winning team.

Reveling in all this Black and Gold mania and adulation were representatives from the major sponsors Bud Light, Mass Mutual and Geaux for the Gold, along with the club’s officers, board of directors, advisers and luncheon committee. Noted, too, were Karen Hegner, executive director of Payton’s Play It Forward Foundation; Paul Varisco, executive director of Team Gleason, and father-in-law of Steve Gleason; and Gerald Duhon (with wife Missy), who accepted the donation from the TC to Team Gleason. And, Daniel Rodrigue, Sam Abate, Dom C. Grieshaber Jr., Betty Giardina, Karen Abate, Mike Giardina, Dianne Cook, Doris Rappold and Rosalie Edwards, all seated at an up-close table. Elsewhere were Eve Vavrick, Jason and Ann Turner, Evangeline Vavrick, Tony Nettleton, McKinley Eastman, Brian Berrigan, Tommy Benge, Faith Peperone, Rhonda K. Rodrigue and well over 1,000 more, who dropped financial support at the silent auction, clamored for Saints’ autographs and started counting the minutes until the team’s opening game this past Sunday.

  • Scalise Salute

“Dinner honoring Representative Steve Scalise” topped the Galatoire’s Restaurant menu card prepared for the dinner. On the front was a picture of the acclaimed landmark, which celebrated a centennial a few years ago and is one of the city’s oldest restaurants.

History, the present and political future fused at the dinner festivity that limelighted U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Republican, who, on Aug. 1, officially assumed the title majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He’s an alumnus of both Archbishop Rummel High School and LSU. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, Madison Carol Scalise and Harrison Joseph Scalise.

Local luminaries from the areas of public service (such as U.S. Sen. David Vitter with Wendy, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni with Michelle), civic and community activism, business, academia, the arts, and health mingled. From The Advocate masthead came co-host John D. Georges, publisher and CEO; Dan Shea, president and chief operating officer; Peter Kovacs, editor; and managing editors Martha Carr (New Orleans) and Gordon Russell (investigations).

Making rounds — all with a title or two, and most joined by a spouse or a guest — were F. King Alexander, Pat Brister, Bill and Mary Hines, Walter and Adrea Kimbrough, Mary Matalin, Bob Merrick with Sheryl Duplantis, and Susan Taylor, who enjoyed a pre-dinner, museum-related conversation with Nick Mueller.

And, Warner Thomas, Victor Ukpolo, Greg and Sarah Feirn, Frank and Paulette Stewart, Paul and Donna Flower, and Lou and Ruthie Frierson.

At 7:30 p.m., it was time to sup and guests obliged, moving to their tables and place-card-assigned seats. All the while, conversation was brisk and animated. As he did for the Touchdown Club, Monsignor Christopher Nalty gave the invocation. The first of the five courses arrived, followed by turtle soup, Gulf fish meuniere amandine, petit filet Bearnaise and a banana bread pudding. Red and white wines accompanied the repast that was enjoyed by Table 4 guests Peter and Lou Fos, Joseph and Sue Ellen Canizaro, and Greg and Jackie Gunter.

At 9:15 p.m., Shea arose and started the formalities with an introduction of Georges, “the man who brought a seven-day newpaper (back) to New Orleans.” Georges spoke next, with a particular acknowledgement to his wife, Dathel, whose parents, Dathel and Tommy Coleman, were also present.

Among John Georges’ remarks were those about the common ground “that brings us together, enjoying our lives, and loving our city.” He then paid tribute to guest of honor Scalise, who “is now the highest-ranking federal official for Louisiana.” The microphone was subsequently turned over to Scalise, who recognized the hosting Georgeses, saying “the dinner was a great night for Jennifer and me,” and thanked them for the daily newspaper. He thanked his wife for her support, acknowledged the in-attendance Vitters and Richmond, and Melvin Rodrigue of Galatoire’s, and talked about the race to become majority whip.

His final say embraced the entire spirit of the evening. Said Scalise, “One of the great things we do in Louisiana is to celebrate. And, it’s important to celebrate together.”

View all Nell Nolan: ‘Come Marching In’ photos here.