New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees in turns was inspirational and laugh-out-loud funny when he took to the stage for The Advocate’s Star of Stars event on May 20 at the L’Auberge Event Center.
Awards were presented to 25 Star of Stars who were the best in their respective sports in 2018-19. Honors for Special Olympics Athletes of the Year, and two new awards, the Courage and Spirit awards, also were given out, as was Coach of the Year, Team of the Year and Athlete of the Year honors.
The evening began with a VIP reception for sponsors and other special guests, who got to meet the celebrated quarterback and have their photo taken with him. Our Lady of the Lake Children's Health was the presenting sponsor, and ExxonMobil the red carpet sponsor.
Cox, Paretti Jaguar Land Rover Baton Rouge, RKM Primary Care, Acadian Ambulance Service, Walk On's, Go Auto Insurance, Louisiana Army National Guard, Louisiana Seafood and Carco Awards also were sponsors.
Brees was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation and a surprise performance by rapper Choppa that brought down the house. During an interview with Advocate sports reporter Rod Walker, the affable Brees shared how important playing multiple sports was in preparing him to become the player he is today.
“High school sports is sports in its purest form,” he said. “Don’t just play one sport; they will all make you a better athlete when you choose which one to pursue … play them all for as long as you can.”
The father of four also talked about his children and how he shares his Saints experience with them.
"They come in the locker room and they steal Mike Thomas' gloves, they go to (Alvin) Kamara's locker and steal his shoes, and Marshon (Lattimore)'s locker and take something of his. And (those teammates) come to me the next day like: 'Where's my stuff?' And I'm like, 'man, that's my kids, I'm sorry. I'll get it back.' And it's in their pillow case at home," Brees said, drawing laughter from the crowd. "My kids are sports junkies. And they love the Saints, they love football."
And the crowd loved the future Hall of Fame QB.
A veritable who’s who of Baton Rouge — including Louisiana's first lady Donna Edwards and her bundle of fur, Lady — filled a Celtic Studio sound stage May 18 for the eighth annual Fur Ball benefiting Companion Animal Alliance.
Before the evening even got underway, $92,000 had been raised in the online “Rock the Vote” campaign. Another $34,000 was raised in the live auction, conducted by Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, who is sucker for a cute pooch. And so is LSU Basketball coach Will Wade, who strutted the runway with a fury friend to help raise funds for the LSU Foundation’s Wayde Forever 44 Emotional Support Dog Fund.
Also walking the catwalk, or maybe we should call it the “dogwalk” since no kitties were allowed at the celebration of pups, were this year’s court members. Crowned Fur Ball king and queen for raising the most money were Prescott Bailey and King Larry, and Leslie Berg and Queen Ginger.
Rounding out the court were Lexy Freeman and Princess Jasmine, Mary Beth Chevalier and Prince Parker, Shanna Boudreaux and Duchess Essie, Amelie Bernhard and Duke Mousse, Katie Cheatham and Countess Dixie, Phil Preis and Earl Blue, Berry Balfour and Baroness Junie, Kim Wampold and Baron Moose, Bradley Sanchez and Lady Fancy, and Keaton Dubois and Lord Gus.
In one of the night’s more emotional moments, Chad Kenny-Possa presented this year’s Happy Award to Taylor Hammond and Bera. The award is given in memory of Gracella Simmon’s precious pup Happy, a member of last year’s court who was tragically killed in a traffic accident.
DJ Karold Smith kept the atmosphere electric with his fabulous selection of music, which enticed gold- and silver-mirror-clad dancers to boogie in their go-go platform boogie shoes.
A very busy May 16 began at a breakfast news conference introducing Peter Claffey, a 20-year veteran of children’s museums, as the new executive director of the Knock Knock Children’s Museum.
“We needed someone with very specific experience,” said Aza Bowlin, who chaired the search committee, and cited Claffey's most recent duties as executive director of Sci-Tech Discovery Center in Frisco, Texas.
“I was blown away the first time I saw the Knock Knock Museum,” said Claffey. “What’s here is so integral to early childhood education. … I’m very impressed by all of the efforts that went into this. … The enthusiasm for this place fuels me.”
Symphony thank you
Another new cultural leader was introduced at the Baton Rouge Symphony’s thank-you reception on May 16 at the City Club fêteing its 2018-2019 sponsors and donors. The gathering doubled as the perfect opportunity to introduce its new executive director, Eric Marshall, who comes to us from the Austin Symphony, where the Pennsylvania native served for more than nine years.
“We’re on the precipice of being debt free,” he said. “That’s in no small thanks to those in this room.”
He also gave credit to the orchestra’s musicians, an ensemble of which donated their talents to entertain guests. Under the baton of David Torns, they provided the music to unwind from a busy work day.
Enjoying it all were Paula and Jack de la Bretonne, Diane and Johnny Tate, John Turner and Jerry Fisher, Betty and Harvey Schwartzberg, Barbara and Camp Matens, Janice and Gerald Pellar, Shirley and Gardiner Bourque, co-worker Lou Hudson-Coulter and stepdaughter Carolyn Coulter, and Darryl Gissel, chief administration officer for Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
Maison des Amis
A May 16 reception wrapped up fundraising for Maison des Amis. Board President Joe Simmons and wife Patricia Day hosted the event at their fabulous Mid-City home. In a short program, Joe touted the work of the agency, which provides a home for up to 46 adults whose mental illness has left them homeless, and talked about the new partnership with Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. He also announced that, as a result of a financial surprise in the aftermath of a fire, he and sisters Becky Simmons and Jean Wilcox were making a substantial donation to jump-start a capital campaign for Maison des Aims.
Instead of a traditional silent auction, Joe and fellow board members had specific items that guests could help fund: three showers at $700 each, 14 chest of drawers at $250 each, two toilets at $150 each and four lavatories at $120 each. If you’d like to help, give them a call at (225) 343-3827 or online at maisonbr.org.
The afternoon of May 15 had me at the Baton Rouge Country Club, where the Baton Rouge Assembly was hosting its annual tea to introduce this year’s debutante coterie to the wives of Assembly members and guests. Welcoming them were Robin Patty, wife of Assembly Chairman Drew Patty; Autumn McCowan, wife of Assistant Chairman Trey McCowan; Amy Johnson, wife of ball Chairman Ryan Johnson; Missy Higgins, wife of Assistant Ball Chairman Miles Higgins; and tea coordinators Maradith Boone, Catharine McKay and Gabriella St. Amant.
The debs are Hannah Grace Babin, daughter of Susannah Marie and Carl Edward Babin, of Sunshine; Clare Marguerite Barfield, daughter of Nan and Thomas Atkinson Barfield Jr.; Cathryn Reiley Coulter, daughter of Ann Allen Coulter and John "Chip" Coulter, and stepdaughter of Lou Hudson Coulter; Clayton Kaufman Daniel, daughter of Kellie Kaufman Belk, of Baton Rouge, and Edward Irwin Daniel IV, of St. Francisville; Anna Catherine Field and Elizabeth Beryl Field, daughters of Tonya and Col. Walker Magruder Field Sr., of New Orleans; and Claire Augusta Harrington, daughter of Dr. Laurie and Scott Lowery Harrington.
Also, Meredith Margaret Landry, daughter of Deborah and Alton Joseph Landry Jr., of Plaquemine; Margaret Emelie McCowan, daughter of Autumn and Charles Simon McCowan III; Isabel Rose Oatley, daughter of Aimée Stuckey Kilchrist and Donald Townsend Oatley II; Mary Scott Pourciau, daughter of Anne Scott and Jacques Thomas Pourciau; Jane Avery Price, daughter of Jennifer Boyce Couvillion and Gregory Brian Price; Anna Bechtold Shortess, daughter of Paula and John Bechtold Shortess; and Lindsey Kirk Weinstein, daughter of Tara and David Weinstein.
These 14 young women will be presented at the Assembly’s 59th annual ball Nov. 29 at the Raising Cane’s River Center. Also assisting with the tea were Debbie Landry, deb coordinator; Kyler Selser and Dana Brown, dress coordinators; and Aza Bowlin and Conway Petit, publicity.
Women in Media
Earlier I joined Women in Media at its May 15 luncheon at Provisions. Advocate President Judy Terzotis was the featured speaker, sharing the papers’ exciting news of winning a Pulitzer Prize and the purchase of The Times-Picayune and nola.com.
In addition to hearing from Judy, I also got to catch up with longtime media buddies Kendall Hebert, Holly Andrews, Ashley Fox-Smith, Renée Bourgeois, Michell Rabalais, Marielle Land-Howard and President Laurie Hardison. I also put faces on email pals Jasmine Hunter and Janel Page.