The Past Social Season in Review
Most Dazzling: "Sugarplum Ball," benefiting Children's Hospital
Another busy and fun social season has come and gone and we’re already halfway through the next year. As I reflect upon this past year, in the realm of fascinating and fun facts, I wonder exactly how many volunteer and preparation hours are needed to pull off all of New Orleans’ social events. Whatever the number is, I’m confident it would challenge any other city’s count as a percentage basis. And talking about other cities, we have to appreciate and be thankful for how welcoming other cities have been in supporting New Orleans in our times of need, especially post-Katrina. We also have to appreciate the many who came to help immediately after Aug. 29, 2005 and stayed. As you look around New Orleans, our transplants are everywhere – Teach for America, City Year New Orleans, Idea Village, YLC and many more. So thank you to those who stayed – to all of us who are here are working to make our city even better.
Summer makes its presence known as temperatures and humidity rise, but the parties continue. Commanders Palace owner Ti Martin served as keynote speaker for Dress for Success’ annual “Suits and Salads” luncheon. Martin danced her way to the stage in her Aunt Adelaide’s monkey coat and hat and gave a funny yet meaningful speech about surrounding yourself with a positive community and helping others. The Hyatt was flowing with the latest fashions as our local style setters put on their best to celebrate helping less fortunate women get a suit and ask for a job. What is encouraging for some of us older community activists was that the room was full of young, smart, fashionable women. Our city is in good hands for our future.
The Preservation Resource Center had its 15th annual “Ladies in Red” with “A Red Hot Jazzy Gala.” At the Carver Theater, the group honored Antoine “Fats” Domino, Doreen Ketchens, Ellis Marsalis, Deacon John Moore, Tipitina’s Foundation and Joseph Torregano for their contributions to the cultural legacy of New Orleans. Red dresses, red bows, red lighting and specialty drinks made up the perfect blend for a red-hot night!
Right in the middle of summer is FestiGals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting, educating and inspiring women through seminars and events that empower, showcasing the culture of New Orleans and raising awareness and resources for targeted women’s causes. The group raises funds for cancer and several other women-centric needs. The “Bodacious Bras for a Cause Luncheon & Auction” has generated more than $95,000 to support women with cancer through the auction of more than 100 original and custom bra creations.
To end the summer, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity put on “Songs from the Heart,” two star-studded evenings in recognition of the 10th anniversary of Katrina. Warner Music and Nonesuch Records, which had helped immediately after Katrina, returned to the city for the anniversary. Nonesuch Records President Bob Hurwitz spoke passionately about his commitment to the area and how proud he was to build a house for Habitat.
First up was Randy Newman at the lovely home of Jennifer and Fred Heebe. Newman has many hits, including several for Disney movies, but most of us know him for his famous song, “Short People.” The Heebe home, as always, was beautifully decorated with collectible antiques, art and rugs – endless elegant pieces including the antique piano that Newman played. Chef Susan Spicer of Bayona provided the food.
The second night, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell performed at Danielle Kavanagh’s home, where chef Nathaniel Zimet of Boucherie catered. The Kavanagh home was a hit because of its stylish modern décor. Everyone who attended (and many attended both nights) raved about what intimate, elegant and entertaining evenings they had, though both were completely different experiences.
We then fell into fall with multiple events. Le Petit Théatre du Vieux Carré had their “Curtain Call Ball” at the historic theater combined with Dickie Brennan’s Tableau, the adjacent restaurant. Enjoying perfect fall weather, the courtyard connecting the restaurant and theater was packed. Talent was everywhere, especially on stage, with multiple acts including a Motown review by The Big Easy Babes and New Orleans musical classics by David Torkanowsky, Gerald French and Shannon Powell.
This March, the Le Petit board hosted their Centennial Kickoff Party, where they announced next year’s shows and presented a prototype of the new theater seats. The theatre is on a roll with a great lineup, and now patrons can enjoy new and more comfortable seats.
The following night was Young Leadership Council’s annual “Role Model Gala” at the Hyatt. The YLC is now 30 years old, and still growing and going strong. The black-tie affair included some of our top community do-gooders who were recognized and thanked for their good works.
KID smART had its annual “Cocktails for KID smART” at the lovely Audubon Place home of Caroline and Andre Robert. Stunning flowers, tasty food by Joel’s Catering and flowing libations were the exact mix to create the perfect evening. The Robert home was full of flowers of every color, size and fragrance – what a treat! George Dunbar was the featured artist and donated one of his unique pieces for the auction. Additionally, all patrons and sponsorships received a giclée created from George’s art. To showcase Kid smART’s mission, teaching artists did demonstrations of how they encourage young artists.
If ever there is a magical night, it is under the oaks in City Park for the Botanical Garden Foundation’s annual “Magic in the Moonlight.” This past October, patrons enjoyed wine from Republic Beverages, dinner by Bayona’s Susan Spicer and an outstanding auction. The event enjoyed beautiful weather and again allowed its guests a special experience because the park was already decorated for “Celebration in the Oaks.” White balloon lights hung from the enormous oaks, creating the perfect setting for a romantic evening.
LEFT › "Cocktails for KID smART" RIGHT › The Emeril Lagasse Foundation's "Carnivale du Vin"
For the first time in the history of “Odyssey,” the New Orleans Museum of Art produced three events in a year-long odyssey of visual arts, music and entertainment. The Odyssey Chairs were Robin Burgess and husband Terence Blanchard, the renowned trumpeter.
In mid-November, sponsors attended an evening featuring a special performance by Monica Mancini at the artful home of Dathel and Tommy Coleman. Two nights later, Grammy Award-winning artist Patti Austin performed following a black-tie seated dinner and DJ Soul Sister hosted at the After Party. Earlier in the spring, there was a jazz brunch featuring Grammy Award-winning artists Terence Blanchard and Poncho Sanchez at NOMA. The public was treated to a free concert on the museum’s steps.
Only in New Orleans can a football field look glamorous, and Ochsner does just that with their annual “Moonlight and Miracles Gala,” benefiting Ochsner Cancer Institute programs. With thousands of people in black-tie and cocktail dresses, the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is illuminated both inside and out. Since the purpose is to raise funds to battle cancer, the color scheme represented every type of cancer. I certainly didn’t realize that each type of cancer had a color associated with it, but I do now. A Patron Party at Club XLIV in Champions Square a few days beforehand was yet another benefit for donors.
The Emeril Lagasse Foundation's signature annual event is “Carnivale du Vin.” The list of purveyors included Champagne Louis Roederer, Silver Oak Cellars, Tamber Bey Vineyards, Ramey Wine Cellars, Revana Family Vineyard, Paul Hobbs Winery and Molly Dooker Wines.
People from all over the United States fly into New Orleans to attend one of the finest parties in the city, where you have a five course gourmet meal, drink fine wines, bid on unique items and dine with interesting people. The event is one of the top fundraisers in the city, and Lagasse donates 90 percent of the proceeds locally.
As we entered New Orleans’s version of winter, we first celebrated St. Charles Avenue magazine’s 20th year with a first ever tri-fold cover honoring many of the 49 former recipients of the “Activists of the Year” award. The magazine also included many of the past honorees’ personal perspectives on the importance of activism. Each of their statements reinforced that each person's approach is driven by different reasons connected to their own personal stories. Thank you and congratulations again to all of the honorees who are active in many of the fundraisers profiled in this article.
In early January, there was a new event called “Bal Masque” held by the Link Stryjewski Foundation, and it was a celebration of New Orleans Creole Carnival roots. The Link Stryjewski Foundation was created to address the cycle of violence and poverty, as well as the lack of quality education and job training opportunities available to young people in New Orleans, by providing support to organizations that directly work to end the cycle of violence and poverty that affect the lives of children; this year’s organizations to benefit were The Kingsley House and YEP. In Mardi Gras style, the guests put on their costumes and masks and lit up the Orpheum Theater. Guests enjoyed a four-course dinner prepared by chefs Oakes, Lata, Goin Stitt, Reddington, Ruesing and Kahan. Jimmy Buffet and the Coral Reefer Band was the entertainment highlight. Others adding to the music were Jon Cleary and the Preservation Hall Horns, The Roots of Music and Cha Wa, a Mardi Gras Indian funk band.
LEFT › St. Charles Avenue's 20th Anniversary Cover RIGHT › "Downton Abbey – Going Out in Style," benefiting WYES
In anticipation of “Downton Abbey's” final season WYES hosted numerous “Downton Abbey”-themed events. In November, the Northshore celebrated “Downton Abbey” at Kathy and Scott Gutterman’s stunning home. Then in mid-January, the Fayards at their iconic “wedding cake” house hosted “An Afternoon With WYES, ‘Downton Abbey,’ Tea and Wine, Too!” Many ladies (and some men) put on vintage outfits and jewelry to raise a glass to the worldwide success of the Masterpiece series. In early March, WYES hosted “‘Downton Abbey’ – Going Out in Style” gala. Guests went all out with their costumes, again, and enjoyed taking pictures in front of a 1920s vintage car as they approached the Ludwigs’ sprawling home in Old Metairie. Throughout the house were life-sized cutouts of “Downton Abbey” characters including the Dowager Countess, Lady Mary, Lord and Lady Grantham, Carson the butler and poor, pitiful Edith, who in the end made out just fine. A few days’ later guests from far and wide enjoyed watching the final episode of “Downton Abbey” on the big screen at the newly renovated Orpheum Theater. There was a costume contest, champagne and lots of laughs and gasps as over 650 people said goodbye to the beloved series. And finally, in early April, to take us all back to the beginning, the author of To Marry A Nobleman, the book upon which the “Downton Abbey” series is based, spoke to a full house at Bonnie’s House of Broel.
Mardi Gras kicked in and, as always, the fundraisers take a short break to allow the locals to host the biggest free show on earth. There are several Mardi Gras groups which have incorporated philanthropy into their organizations, such as the Krewe of Muses and Rex’s Pro Publico Foundation, which has donated generously to numerous education-focused groups. Most recently Hermes has started a foundation to support groups such as the New Orleans Police Department. The heart and soul of Mardi Gras is that there is something for everyone – parades, balls, house parties, balcony hanging and most importantly, family fun!
Spring is in the air and the flowers are fragrant at NOMA’s “Art in Bloom” – always a unique and magnificent event. The two-day event kicked off with a patron party where the ladies showcased their new floral dresses. The next day there were three presentations from a2b table, Princess Giorgiana Corsini and Francis Schultz. A luncheon followed with a Saks Fifth Avenue style show. The museum is magical with a wide range of flowers and plants displayed to support the party’s theme or to interpret a painting or to exhibit a tablescape. Beyond “Art in Bloom,” the museum always has stunning floral arrangements in the urns in the Great Hall.
Bridge House / Grace House celebrated its 20th year at “Cochon Cotillion” with Queen Mary Matalin and King James Carville, who invited all past royalty to be in their court. The royals enjoyed a preview party at the royals' home, where Southern Hospitality catered. Then a police escort led the royal bunch to the eastbank Mardi Gras World for a fun filled evening of food, drink and dancing. The royal couple paraded around and threw beads to patrons at the packed party. Thereafter, Queen Mary and her court made their way up on the stage to take the party to another level of energy with dancing to ELS.
LEFT › Men & Women of Fashion's annual "Prix d'Elegance Awards Luncheon" RIGHT › NOMA's "Art in Bloom"
The local alumni chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma supports STAIR, so in late March the ladies gathered at Mary Hines' home for a party with a purpose. Several other sorority alumni groups support local causes, so a fundraiser isn’t always a big affair yet can be just as impactful.
If you ever want to see people thoroughly enjoy themselves while modeling, attend the Men and Women of Fashion’s annual “Prix d’Elegance Awards Luncheon.” There are two style shows: the professional one with some past honorees, then the current honorees, who made their celebrity walk with high fives and lots of groove.
For over 20 years Emeril Lagasse has hosted and underwritten the annual “Sundays at Emeril’s Dinner” at his iconic eponymous restaurant. The dinner benefits the LSU Psychiatry Department chaired by Howard and Joy Osofsky. The five-course meal had matching exquisite wines paired to each course. This dinner is quite a treat!
The Most List
Most Active: “Power of Women,” benefiting the American Red Cross
Most Artsy: “Cocktails for Kid smART”
Most Beautiful: “Autumn Affair,” benefiting Friends of Jefferson the Beautiful
Most Dancing: “Azúcar Ball: Silver Jubilee, a Masquerade Ball,” benefiting the New Orleans Hispanic Heritage Foundation
Most Dazzling: “Sugarplum Ball,” benefiting Children’s Hospital
Most Elegant: “Odyssey,” benefiting New Orleans Museum of Art
Most Dramatic: “Moonlight and Miracles,” benefiting Ochsner Cancer Institute programs
Most Festive: “FestiGals”
Most Glam: “You Night”
Most Hats: “Mad Hatter’s Luncheon,” benefiting the Women's Guild of New Orleans Opera
Most Heartfelt: “HeartGift’s Northshore Breakfast”
Most Humanitarian: “Weiss Awards,” benefiting New Orleans Council for Community and Justice
Most Humorous: “Cochon Cotillion,” benefiting Bridge House / Grace House
Most Illuminating: “Magic in the Moonlight,” benefiting the New Orleans Botanical Garden Foundation
Most Inspiring: “Downton Abbey”-themed events for WYES: “Northshore Celebrates Downton Abbey”; “An Afternoon with WYES, ‘Downton Abbey,’ Tea and Wine, Too!”; “Downton Abbey - Going Out In Style"; and the last episode screening at the Orpheum with the author of To Marry a Nobleman
Most Interactive Style Show: “Prix d’Elegance Awards Luncheon,” benefiting Men and Women of Fashion
Most Jazzy: “The Jazz & Heritage Gala,” benefiting the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.
Most Kid Friendly: “Zoo-To-Do For Kids,” benefiting Audubon Nature Institute
Most Literate: “One Book One New Orleans,” campaign for community literacy led by the YLC
Most Lively: “Ezra Open,” benefiting the Better Than Ezra Foundation
Most Musical: “Return to the Orpheum Dinner,” benefiting the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
Most Paddles: “O What A Night!,” benefiting the Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Most Retro: “SweetArts,” benefiting the Contemporary Arts Center
Most Wine: “Amazing Grapes Wine Auction,” benefiting Hermann-Grima + Gallier Historic Houses
Most Youthful Musicians: Roots of Music