Only The Best Rise To The Occasion For TACA

While others cheered for their teams at Highlander and Ford stadiums Friday night, a well-heeled 250 pulled out their wallets and invested in Dallas culture. No, they didn’t call up their stockbroker and buy a load of equities. They attended the sold-out TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction Gala at the Mansion to fund-raise for local arts.

The cocktail reception alone was magical with a nonstop cast of staff passing the most delicious appetizers that required little if any mess. There are a couple of tricks that event organizers know so well. For appetizers, no double dipping in sauces is number one. Second, never serve anything that can’t be eaten in one bite. There is nothing worse than balancing a drink in one hand and the second bite in another, all while trying to conduct a conversation.

But like we said, this was a well-heeled crowd with an equally Gosford Park staff in attendance. No mistakes were to be allowed.

It was also a community of friends, many of whom hadn’t seen each other since their summer hiatuses in La Jolla, The Hamptons or in the Rockies. “Hi, girlfriend,” was the greeting call among many of the blondes whose roots have never been exposed. As for the men, it was a handshake with the right hand and the left hand on the other fellow’s shoulder. The whole scene reminded you of sorority and fraternity reunions.

Newcomers to this soiree, though rare, were easy to spot. Their mouths gaped open and their pupils expanded as they beheld the jewelry and clothes worn by the veterans. With darling Judith Leiber bags glittering, it was obvious that the least expensive accessory for the evening was the ladies’ pedicures. For this group wears tuxedos and gowns the way most folks wear a smile — naturally and happily.

But don’t think it’s a show of ostentatious consumption. The jewelry is never overdone and the dresses are always in the very best of taste. For instance, Emily Summers‘ (pictured) beige silk cocktail dress by late great 6267 team sparkled with bead trim. Her jewelry of gold band bracelets, pearl and gold necklace and gold drop earrings highlighted the look exquisitely. Oh, and did we mention her matching Louboutins? But don’t think Emily stressed and stewed over her ensemble. She just naturally knows how to put “the look” of natural perfection together.

Major fashion statement of the night was the bare-arm look among the ladies. They must have been working out all summer to tone up.

Ah, but not all fashion was perfection. There was the adorable gal in the black cocktail dress with the grey suede fringe heels that pushed the any-high-heel-is-a-great-high-heel deal to the limit.

And then there were the men in their Brioni, Hugo Boss and Armani tuxedos. Some opted for double breasted and others added a touch of color with a red handkerchief or a colorful bow tie like Ken Travis. Yes, there was even a true minority group that opted for the non-black-tie, black-tie look, like Steve Durham and Don Carty. But then they could get away with it thanks to wives Ana Carty and Barbara Durham.

But back to the cocktail reception in the Promenade and ballroom, where the nine auction items were being perused. While some guests checked the various items, others had been plotting for days which they would be bidding on.

Then it was time to head to the Mansion restaurant, Sheppard King Suite, bar and wine cellar for a feast prepared by Executive Food Wizard Bruno Davaillon. But herding this blue-ribbon crowd does not mean clanging of chimes or flashing of lights. No, instead TACA organizers and Mansion hierarchy gently suggested that their guests take the front door through the auto courtyard to the restaurant entrance. Why not go straight through the hallway connecting the Promenade to the dining areas? Because the anorexic passageway might crush a full skirt, and one never crowds this crowd. Besides it was a spectacular night and the stroll seemed as enchanting as the evening.

But a few pokey types still in the Promenade raised their noses like bird dogs on scent. “Do you smell something burning?” Heads turned, looking in all directions. No, the votive candles on the cocktail tables were behaving themselves. Nor was it a maverick cigarette left lit too long. “È vietato fumare,” you know. One cool Mansion staffer smiled and said, “It must be something that Chef is cooking up.”

Following the multi-course dinner with perfect wine pairings, the guests were ready to take on the evening’s action. With auctioneer Mike Jones on the podium surrounded by reserved tables for some of the more familiar bidders, the scene was set to make $100,000 off nine items. Despite the crowds’ growing chattier as the bids went up, Mike was able to be heard over the din as his spotters located bidders. Steve Summers looking very tan and happy at his table on the front row topped all others for the Bulgari watches (one for him and one for Emily). . . Gwen Echols and Susie Bashore (pictured left with Gwen Echols) were high-fiving each other after posting the winning bid for the Lela Rose Runway and Dinner Party Valentine’s weekend in NYC. . .After snagging the trips to four Rosewood hotels/resorts, Rebecca Fletcher immediately hugged the Mansion’s Tracy Fitz before hugging her husband Barron, who had won the trips. . .  . The big spender of the night was Bill Bogart, who paid $15,000  for a trip to Paris and the French countryside complete with French lessons. Needless to say, wife Brenda (pictured right with Bill Bogart)was pleased with her husband’s decisive win. . . . and then there were the dinners.

Judging from the auction action regarding the dinners, there are a lot of high-profiled folks who are hungry. Across the room, Hal Brierley got into a bidding match with petite Faye Briggs, (pictured) who met his challenge for a Kent Rathbun dinner for 30 at the former 48 Nights. Thank heaven, TACA negotiators worked out a deal where a second dinner was added, so both Hal and Faye got their own dinners at $12,500 apiece.  . . Hal’s tablemates Helen and Frank Risch (pictured left with, from the left, Hal and Diane Brierley and Helen Risch) decided to get in on the action for the “Stellar (Mansion Wine) Cellar Dining” for eight, plus the top chaps from the Dallas Opera, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Dallas Theater Center. But it was going to come with a battle royale. From the crowd standing toward the back of the room, attorney Nick Even (pictured left with Heather Alexander) countered with his own bids. Hal with wife Diane had purchased a similar dinner last year with Jaap van Zweden and knew how truly regal the occasion could be. So, Mr. B suggested the Brierleys go in together with the Risches on the bidding. With that suggestion the bidding rose to $10,000. Quickly, the TACA mediators saw another double-whammy opportunity and moved into action resulting in both the Risch team and Nick getting their own dinners with the artistic types for a cool $10,000 each.

On the sidelines, TACA Board Chair Lynn McBee, who had worked out earlier in the day, was getting a second workout coordinating all the deals with TACA Executive Director Becky Young. But it was all worth it when you realized that TACA not only hit its $100,000 mark, it surpassed it–thanks to a lot of hungry folks who know a bargain when they see one.