It's called The Answer, and it's the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation's annual trivia event, which is fast becoming one of the city's more popular fundraisers. This year’s April 12 event had a space theme, and there was more than one table full of folks decked out in Star Trek uniforms. There were also teams dressed like the agents from “Men in Black” as well as some “Space Cowboys,” "Dr. Who," “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Jetsons” and “Space Jam.”
The two “Space Jam” tables, filled by members of Leadership Baton Rouge Class of 2019, were the night’s big winners, taking home a huge trophy. April Kirwan, wife of Pennington Biomedical Research Center Executive Director John Kirwan, and I had the task of judging the costumes and table decorations.
Cynthia Michaels as Rosie, the Jetsons' maid, earned first place in the individual costume competition. Second place went to Andrew Smith’s Einstein and third to a pink-haired Beverly Brooks Thompson.
The top five in the costumed teams’ category were Live Long and Prosper, first; Smartions, second; Agent L, third; Space Jam, fourth; and USS Tiger, fifth. The top five in the table category were, Dr. Who, Space Gems, Hitchhikers Guide, third; Long Law Time Ago, fourth; and CP Aliens, fifth.
A very busy Charles Landry (read on and you’ll understand) served as auctioneer for the night. Houmas House owner Kevin Kelly doubled the offer of dinner for 10 and a private tour of the plantation to bring in $8,400, and the $5,000 Ippolita jewelry shopping spree at Lee Michaels brought in $6,500.
April 12 began at the Baton Rouge chapter of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana’s annual awards luncheon at LSU’s Lod Cook Alumni Center. Taking home the chapter’s most prestigious honor, the First Circle Award, was Stafford Wood, owner of Covalent Logic.
The 2018 Practitioner of the Year Award went to Congressman Garret Graves. Louisiana Department of Health press secretary Kelly Zimmerman received the 2018 Member of the Year Award, and LSU Manship School of Mass Communications instructor Sadie Wilks was tapped as the 2018 Practitioner of the Year.
Immediate past President Delia Taylor and President Cheryl Michelet also handed out the Red Stick Awards, which recognize the creativity and talents of local practitioners. Winners included: Audio/Visual — “Be a Hero, Get to Zero,” Taylor, Angela de Gravelles and Capital Area Human Services; Audio/Visual — Child Life Month, Caroline Isemann, OLOL; Blog — Health Blog, Louisiana Department of Health; Collateral Material — Shell Chemical signage, Courtney Greathouse, Covalent Logic; Hilton Online Newsroom, Margo Jolet, Covalent Logic; Lagniappe — ICU Wedding Story, Isemann, OLOL; Newsletter, Cornerstone, Jennie Gutierrez, Ashley Motsinger and Sara Whittaker, LSU Foundation; One-Time Special Event — Ending the Waiting List for OCDD, Louisiana Department of Health; Long-Term PR Campaign — “Catch Beads Not Flu,” Louisiana Department of Health; Short-Term PR Campaign — “Kick Butts Day” for Well-Ahead Louisiana, Lauren Davidson, Feigley Communications; Press Release — OLOL Children’s Hospital, Animal Reveal, Isemann; and Social Media — “Beat the Heat,” Louisiana Department of Health.
A busy April 11 got underway at the Public Affairs Research Council’s annual luncheon at the Crowne Plaza. At a VIP reception for PAR board members and luncheon sponsors, we got to meet the day’s keynote speaker, Lance Fritz, CEO of Union Pacific Corp., who provided insight into the importance of the railroad to the future of Louisiana’s commerce. The day’s other special guest was Gov. John Bel Edwards, who, following the luncheon, participated in a debate with Republican candidate Ralph Abraham.
After welcoming guests to the luncheon, board Chairman Scott Hensgens asked for a moment of silence in memory of longtime PAR champion Fred Loy. He also got to introduce his grandfather, former Gov. Edwin Edwards.
“I think this may be the first time I’ve gotten to do that,” said Hensgens.
Guests also included Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, Ralph Bender, Donna Saurage, Beth Courtney, Michelle Hardy, Kelly Hurtado, Jill Stokeld, Jim Engster, Adam Knapp, Nancy Dougherty, Erin Wesley, Julie Miller Payer, Stephanie Cargill, Jay Dardenne, Mark Drennan, Jim Brandt, Mike DePaul and Michael Tipton.
Virginia Freeman Rowan and Charles Landry served as co-chairs for the event.
Easter at the Mansion
Visits with the Easter Bunny, rides on a special train, a huge tiger bouncy house, face painting and the grand finale, hunting eggs, were all on the agenda at the annual Easter at the Mansion celebration hosted by Donna and Gov. John Bel Edwards on April 11. Special guests included former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and husband Raymond, and former Gov. Edwin Edwards, wife Trina and young son Eli. The afternoon guest list also included the governor’s cabinet and staff members and their families as well as other movers and shakers in the world of politics.
Mother Nature cooperated with a picture-perfect spring day. Squeals of delight filled the air, and, while most of the younger set were more than happy to pose for photos with the big bunny, that thought elicited tears on a few occasions.
Red Carpet Gala
Stop No. 3 on April 11 took me to the Manship Theatre, which was hosting its annual Red Stick Gala. Before the night’s entertainment, the amazing Motown kings The Four Tops, took the stage, a VIP reception was held in the Hartley-Vey Black Box Theatre. It was a second visit of the day with several folks I had lunch with earlier: Layne and Jill McDaniel, Ralph Bender, Michelle Hardy and Charles Landry and wife Crissie, who served as gala co-chairmen. I also caught up with Tonya and Cliff Dixon and Brenda Hodge and David Kors.
Manship Executive Director Melanie Couvillon and marketing director John Kaufman competed against board members Courtney Baker, Amy Canik, Eric Dexter and Michael Hackett for the title of Star of the Red Carpet. The bragging rights went to Kaufman.
Fête du Vin
The last stop of the night was Juban’s Restaurant where the Baton Rouge Epicurean Society’s sixth annual Fête du Vin high-end wine tasting was already underway when I arrived. Sixty-three wines were uncorked, including a 2015 Plumpjack Estate Oakville Cabernet, a 2014 Keenan Spring Mountain Mernet Reserve, a 1994-96 vertical of Clos Du Val Reserve Cabernet, a 2013 Reynolds Family Stags Leap Reserve Cabernet, a 2016 Cognard Monagny “Clos De Vieux” Premier Cru, a 2008 Dom Perignon and a 2015 Peter Michael Mon Plaisir Chardonnay, donated by a BRES board member.
As we sipped, we sampled eats prepared by chefs Don Bergeron, Bergeron’s City Market; Danny Santana, Bin 77 Restaurant & Side Bar; Scott Varnado, Juban’s; Jim Urdiales, Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine; and Lisa Boudreaux-LeCoq, the Gilded Artichoke Catering Co.
Among those celebrating were Jan and Bruce Attinger, Dori Murvin, Justin McDonald, Helen Graf, Kevin Kimball, Heather Kleinpeter and dad Kenny, Gary Miller and Ralph Ostermann, Laura Poché, Bill Profita, John Jackson and Warren Frazier, Carmen Williams, John Hightower, Hugh Freeze, Mike and Patty DePaul, and Sheryl and Jim Teske. I also enjoyed chatting with worker bees Bergeron, Boudreaux-LeCoq, BRES President Brian Dyes, Kelly Firesheets, Abby Hamilton, Donté Phillips and Y'Zell Williamson.
Pearls of Excellence
Nine young women were presented by the Nu Gamma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at its annual Debutante Cotillion at the Hilton Capitol Center on March 30. Leading the toast to welcome the 270-plus guests to the celebration was chapter President Jacqueline Nash Grant. Leah Cullins served as mistress of ceremonies for “Pearls of Excellence, Elegance & Grace” while Britney Temple delivered the official charge to the debutantes.
Deb Dareon Elizabeth Verret, daughter of Ebony Ward and Darrel Verret, was crowned as this year’s queen by her predecessor, Raven Kelley. Verret was escorted by Dominique Johnson.
Deb Alexis Dominique Phillips, daughter of Dee Brown and Allen Phillips Jr., was recognized as Miss Amity and Second Pearl. She was escorted by Eric Washington.
Reigning as princesses were debs Ashley D’Shea Jones, daughter of Jéne and Daryl Jones, who was escorted by Brienn Batiste, first princess; Morgan Elyse Tucker, daughter of Angela and Mike Tucker, who was escorted by Adonis Hughes, second princess; Bayleigh Elizabeth Jefferson, daughter of Christopher Ravare and the late Bridget Ann Jefferson, and granddaughter of James and Mamie Jefferson, who was escorted by Jalen Toaston, third princess; Italia Michelle Ravasio, daughter of Hermanese and Gerald Ravasio, who was escorted by Byron Sanders Jr., fourth princess; and Reigan Paeja Miles, daughter of Heidi and Keelus Miles, who was escorted by Carter Tucker, fifth princess.
Maid Britney Lee, daughter of Catrice and Morio Lee, was escorted by Jalen Ferguson; and First Pearl Danielle Brianne Jones, daughter of Jennifer and Chip Jones, was escorted by Chancellor Hitchens.
Ball captains for the evening were Evan Jupiter, Mason Edwards and Myles Edwards. Danielle Staten served as general debutante chairwoman with Carla Harmon, Cynthia Reed and Joyce Trusclair as her co-chairwomen. Also assisting with the evening were Angela Gooden, Crystal Patterson, Jerilyn Tucker, Linda Piper, Shondra White, Contessia Brooks, Eileen Kennedy, Clyde Watkins and Shenequa Grey. Proceeds from the cotillion help fund academic scholarships and sponsor community service projects.