Wow! What a week of great parties! The grandest of them all was The Gala Goes Global, a fabulous evening benefiting Mary Bird Perkins — Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center and Cancer Services.
And we all went first class to places like Italy, France, Mexico, Greece, Asia and India. Smartly attired flight attendants waving their ubiquitous flashlights lined the entrance to the L’Auberge Event Center for the Sept. 12 celebration. As guests waited to board, they noshed on hors d’oeuvres compliments of Louisiana Seafood while shopping the silent auction. VIP guests did their hobnobbing in the Sky Lounge, where Cancer Center Vice President Linda Lee and I sipped on single malt scotch.
When the call came to board, guests entered the ballroom where lavish sets depicted various countries, and sampled their cuisine courtesy of local restaurants Monjuni’s, Ruffino’s, Gourmet Girls, Mestizo Louisiana Mexican Cuisine, Gov’t Taco, Zorba’s Greek Bistro, Serop’s Café, Soji Modern Asian, Rock-n-Sake Bar & Sushi and Bay Leaf. DJ Bob Blanchard added to the mood with his international musical selections.
By the time our captain, Mary Bird Development Director Ethan Bush, welcomed us aboard for the evening’s live auction, everyone was ready to travel. With auctioneer Brian Fourroux at the helm, some of the top moneymakers were a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; a New York Fashion Week experience and a seven-night Caribbean yacht voyage. They brought in $29,500 and weren’t the only items on the auction block.
And, Kristen Denicola will be packing her bags. She won the Lee Michaels Fine Jewelry raffle for a five-day stay for two in Venice, including airfare and luxury hotel, a tour of the Marco Bicego Jewelry factory in Trissino and $1,500 shopping spree at Lee Michaels for a Marco Bicego product.
Friday the 13th started off at WRKF’s fifth annual Founders Day Luncheon at the Crowne Plaza, where the packed ballroom heard from NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson. Naturally her talk focused on the 2020 presidential election, but she started off by challenging high schools to go back to teaching civics.
“It’s the only way to keep our democracy alive,” she told the crowd.
Liasson went on to say that President Donald Trump sees everyday as a reality TV episode of which he is the hero defeating his enemies, one of which is the media. The challenge for the Democrats is to determine if they want to be the left-wing mirror to Trump or fill the middle “which is this big void that most of the country falls into.”
Also in the spotlight at the luncheon was Mary Ann Sternberg, who received this year’s Founders Award, presented by board Chairman Rodd Naquin. He thanked her for her eight years of leadership on the WRKF board as well as her impact on our community.
“I’m really pleased to receive this award from WRKF,” said Sternberg. “At the (LSU Manship School) journalism school, what we teach is what NPR brings to the table and offers for thought. It’s what matters to me and to you as well.”
Broadway at the Ballet
A glowing harvest moon on Friday the 13th lit up the sky for the Baton Rouge Ballet Theatre’s Broadway at the Ballet kickoff of the 2019-20 season. The evening honored Michele Ball, retired director of BRBT’s Ballet for Children, which for 28 years showcased BRBT dancers in local schools with interactive performances introducing children to the world of dance while weaving messages of health and nutrition into the presentation.
The evening also included a heart-thumping performance of Broadway classics by local dancers, vocalists and musicians — “At the Ballet” from “A Chorus Line”; “I Got Rhythm” from “Girl Crazy,” “Dancing Queen” from “Mama Mia,” and “Shall we Dance” from “The King & I.”
Choreographers for the program were Rebecca Acosta, Leonard Augustus and Jonna Cox. Jennifer Ellis and Elizabeth Mathews were program directors.
Every Disney princess to grace the screen was joined by the likes of Batman and Spider-Man for Bella’s Royal Celebration Sept. 15 at the Renaissance.
Kim and Trey Bowman have turned the tragic death of their daughter Bella into a celebration of her short life to make it easier for other children battling cancer and their families.
A bevy of little ones, accompanied by moms, dads and some grandparents, squealed with delight as they got up close and personal with the characters for hugs and photos. The afternoon also included a performance by Theatre Baton Rouge and a sing-along.
Also on Sept. 15, the second annual Teal Reveal Fashion Show & Brunch was held at L’Auberge Event Center. Welcoming guests, most of whom wore teal or sported a teal accessory, were Patsy Richmond with the Kelli Leigh Richmond Ovarian Cancer Foundation and Kelli’s Kloset, and Terri Gerace, the Louisiana advocate leader for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance.
Strutting down the runway were cancer patients and survivors Trudy Langlois, Monica Bishara, Jeannette Montgomery, Ory and Oaklee Ford, Trez Owen, Kaitlyn Ervin, Janese Pugh, Theresa Bourgeois, Cherri Phillips, Kelsey White, Kami Cole, Betty Dieter, Lisa and Lailah Sylve, Neta Wright, Anne LeBlanc, Lauren Hedreth, Jill Tanner, Toni Hardy, Rosemarie Hymel, DeAnne McCullough, Kristen Richmond Stewart and Sage, Katie Aucoin, Amara Blust and Alexis, Shannon Hesler and Shonda Johnson.
As you might imagine, there were a few moments that required a Kleenex or two. One was the testimony of Dieter, an ovarian cancer survivor. Another was Cole singing “I Hope You Dance” in memory of local attorney Amy Counce, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer last month.
Next, it was on to Perkins Rowe where the Friends of Louisiana Public Broadcasting hosted a reception before a special VIP screening of the long-awaited, much-anticipated “Downton Abbey” movie. More than one fan was attired in period attire. I bet there must have been 20 miles of pearls all told.
By the time Cinemark staff opened the doors to let everyone in, a full four days before everyone else, everyone was downright giddy with excitement.
Krewe of Assisi
There’s nothing more relaxing than a drive north to the Felicianas, which is where I also headed on Sept. 15. At the soiree at Wyoming Plantation, the home of Leonard Sullivan, I learned Sullivan will reign as king of the newly formed Krewe of Assisi's debut Mardi Gras Ball, which takes place at Hemingbough on Feb. 7. Also introduced to krewe members and guests as members of the inaugural royal court are Queen Nancy Vinci; and duchesses and dukes Brandy and Daniel Fournet, Mitch Brashier, Kelli David, Butch Jones, Wendy Phillips and Heather and Chuck Walters. Miles Higgins is serving as ball captain.
The krewe will celebrate Carnival and raise money for various community causes. First up is a structure at the Sports Park for all the kids of West Feliciana Parish to enjoy.
Battle Against Autism
Sept. 15 came to a close at the Battle Against Autism fundraiser founded by Sandi and Chip Robinson, which marked its 10th anniversary with a kickoff party and live auction at Ruffino’s. This event has some fabulous items up for bids in what’s always a lively live auction: tickets to watch LSU take on the Florida Gators, Auburn Tigers or Utah State; dinner and tickets to the Saints vs. Arizona Cardinals game; two beach getaways; LSU baseball packages; and several hunting and fishing trips. When all was said and done, the auction and tournament raised $144,840 for the Emerge Center.
Earlier in the week, the Charity Ball Association hosted its new member welcome party at Ann Connelly Gallery. Introducing the newcomers to the association was President Stephanie Grand.
Serving on the party committee were Lynn Box, DeDe Ferrara, Stacey Moore, Marcia Sanchez, Allison Cascio, Julia White and Anna Wolf.