Top Hat & Tails has always been good, clean fun where local celebs wear costumes and dance their way into embarrassment on behalf of Paws in the City. It’s so outrageous that you come to realize that your serious newscasters do have senses of humor.
Ah, but this year on June 9 the Dallas version of “Dancing With The Stars” turned into a game of “Clue” — which was the contestant with moves to kill?
After weeks of lessons with Arthur Murray pros, all eight contestants went upstairs at the Frontiers of Flight Museum to be made up, combed out and dressed up like they were going to the prom. Except for financial guy Rodney Anderson and Lance Armstrong‘s mum, Linda Armstrong Kelly, the rest of the crew was made up of foodies (Monica Greene and Lynae Fearing) and TV types (Ron Corning, Melissa Newton, Steve Noviello and Shelly Slater).
Was KDFW-CH. 4′s Noviello the one who was going to be the show stopper? After all, his mom was a Rockette. But after taking 10 lessons, he admitted “So I thought there might be some genetics there; not so much!” But he was there for the animals. After all he has three-year old Sam, a rescue Weimaraner.
But before an interrogation of the other dancers could take place, they scurried downstairs where all the two-legged guests were eyeballing each other, silent auction items and four-legged critters in need of “furever homes.” In their cages doing their most lovable moves, Venus and her companion Teddy Bear were not pleased at all when another dog walked by stealing the attention of human guests. Across the way a little of kittens were playing toys. Seems someone had told them that people are suckers for playful kittens. Peaches the terrier/pit bull mix was just lying around in her crate looking about as scary as Benji.
Paws in the City’s Tara Harper, who was with John Broderick, reported that last year’s take of $130K was outstanding. This year they were just hoping to top $100K because of the economy.
Past St. Francis of Assisi recipient Holly Forsythe had been faced with a Solomon-like situation. Be with her family at Texas Motor Speedway for the Indy race that night of be at Top Hat & Tails. Yes, she used to date Indy driver Scott Pruett and her family does have a condo at TMS on Turn #2, but with two dogs and three cats, she opted for the Paws In the City fundraiser. When asked if she had ever thought of dancing in the competition, Holly said they had tried to get her to dance, but she’s not comfortable in the spotlight.
Last year’s St. Francis of Assisi award recipient Jonnie England joked: “They just begged me to be one of the dancers. But I didn’t want to put the others to shame.”
With “All My Lovin’” and “Dancing Queen” playing in the background, the “All They Need is Love” theme brought out a handful of Beatles-era costumed guests like Bill Smith in a tie-dye shirt, headband, hippie outfit complete with goatee. Where’d he find his vintage clothing? “I shouldn’t tell you where I bought it. At a head shop! They had the T-shirt, the bad, everything.”
Before the dancing began, the sold-out crowd including Carol Roberts and a table of Albertsons’ guests along with honorary chairs Jack Lindstrom, Rebecca Miller, Michelle Witten, Sherry Boone, Nicole Hutchison and Jocelyn White (Yvonne Crum couldn’t make due to a bad case of shingles) took their places for dinner, saw videos and heard from emcee Scott Murray and host Preston Pearson, who told the story of his remarkable dog, Lucy, after which the dancing trophy is named.
Then came the live auction with a football package including a photo with Drew Pearson and Preston plus their Super Bowl rings. That one was so popular, they sold it twice.
Finally it was time for the competition with the introduction of the judges. Preston introduced Allen Wranglers GM Drew saying Drew “did
something I thought was great. They got rid of T.O.!” In addition were Sassy Steve Kemble and local Arthur Murray Dance Studio owner Claudia Marshall, who has been a judge for all five years.
Now it was dance time:
- Rodney Anderson in white suit and huge black Afro wig danced with Lindsey Dellucci to a Jackson 5 tune. When Preston asked, “First of all, where’d you get your hair? I could use some of that!” Rodney replied, “Hair Club for Men!” He then placed the wig on Preston, who seemed to disappear under all the hair. Then Rodney was asked how he got involved in the dance-off. . . “Holly Forsythe sent me an email. I took me 48 hours to say, ‘Hell, no.’ But it was the best experience of my life. I took 24 lessons!” Receiving thee 8′s from the judges, he also got reviews that included: “Back in the day, I had a bigger one. Let me borrow it; I’ll go to the club,” from Drew.
- Ron Corning did a Quick Step with Adriann Alexander to “Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes. Upon completing his performance, Ron asked, “What just happened? Is it over?” Judge Steve “loved the outfit and gave him a 9. Drew summed the dance up with a 8 and “Good job.” Then Claudia reviewed Ron saying, “Terrific job,” but only gave him a 7. That last score resulted in boos from the audience.
- Lynae Fearing with dancer Ryan West did the Hustle after which Preston told her, “Relax. You look like you’re about to go into a firing machine.” Lynae revealed why she decided to participate in the dance competition this year: “Last year, my life was a little more chaotic. This year it’s calmer, so I said yes.” Owning three cats and a dog, Lynae also earned three 8′s and reviews like “The dance was untamed and relentlessly erotic. I loved every minute of it” from Steve and “When you came out, the first thing I said was, ‘Whoa! I’m old, but I can still see.’”
- Monica Greene performed a salsa with Justin Brown to “Quando, Quando, Quando.” Before Preston could get a chance to asked the restaurteur a question, Monica did a shout out: “Holly Forsythe, you owe me one, bad!” With still another repeat of three 8′s, the judges’ reviews included Steve’s “You dirty, dirty girl. I loved it.” Drew’s “Great job!” and Claudia’s “I thought you were really beautiful.”
- Linda Armstrong Kelly did the swing with Antonio Rivera to “Think” by Aretha Franklin. The adorable grandmother and motivational speaker admitted, “You get out of your comfort zone. It’s a great cause. I had a blast!” Evidently the judges did, too. Steve gave her a 10 saying, “You look amazing. It was absolutely more delicious than my grandmother’s apple pie.” Drew gave her another 10 adding, “I think you nailed it.” Claudia provided a 9 with “It takes a competitive spirit. I think your son would be very proud of you.”
- CBS11′s Melissa Newton did a West Coast swing with Ian Kelley and admitted afterward, “I have a blast.” Her wardrobe provided a blast of comments and three 9′s from the judges. Steve reviewed: “I bet the wardrobe department was under-budget.” Drew: I loved the way your partner matched his tie with your dress. I never watched Channel 11, but I will now. Sorry, Newy Scruggs (of KXAS-CH. 5). They say sex sells, and it also gets votes.
- Asked what “the story” was behind his doing the swing with Bailey Kenzington, Steve Noviello said, “Don’t call and try to quit after the first lesson, because it gets a little bit easier.” Judge Steve countered with, “You can tell me a story and put me to bed anytime. You had the untamed energy of a young pup tonight. ” Drew: “I saw your clip (of rehearsing) last week on Channel 4 and said, ‘This guy’s got no chance.’ But you’ve come a long way.” While the judges gave the performance thee 9′s, some in the audience grumbled that it should have received at least one 10.
- Last up was Shelly Slater with Daniel Dellucci doing a tango to “Whatever Lola Wants.” So stunning was the performance that both the judges and the audience seemed speechless resulting in three 10′s, a first of the night. It also left Shelly out of air, saying, “I can’t breathe.” Even saucy sassy Steve admitted, “Beautiful dance.” Drew: “Very smooth. . . very sexy.” Ever professional Claudia summed it up saying, “A really serious routine. Very difficult. Great job.”
While the votes from both the judges and guests were being tallied, it was a perfect time to recognize the various organizations and people who have made Paws in the City a success. In addition to the various boarding kennels (Barking Hound Village, The Boarding Bungalow, Canine Country Club and Wellness Center, Downtown Dog, Kinder Kritter, Barney’s Ranch, Tailwaggers Country Inn, Toothacres Pet Care Center, Urban Paws, VHEA’s Laudromutt, Shari’s Family Pet Spa, Paw Tenders, Camp Diggy Bones and Paradise 4 Paws, longtime Paws in the City advocate and Top Hat & Tails Event Co-chair Tina Fairbanks was presented the St. Francis of Assisi award along with Dr. John Vandermeer and Dr. Wendy Dearixonwere give the Man’s Best Friend Awards.
With Preston off to the side, you could tell he was dreading this next part — In Memoriam. During the past year, three individuals, who had supported Paws in the City and Top Hat & Tails over the year, had died — Janie Tilford Pearson (Preston’s wife), Al Huchet and Joe Avezzano. Tina said, “We owe this event to Janie. She was watching ‘Dancing With The “stars” and said, ‘That’s what we need to do for Paws in the City.’” Calling Preston to centerstage, Tina and Event Co-chair Becky Haisma announced the creation of the Janie Tilford Pearson Fairy Godmother Fund, for people who can’t pay for pets. As a mega-sized check of $5,000 was revealed, Preston shook his head, wiped a tear from his face and stepped behind the judges’ backdrop.
But this moment of remembrance was quickly replaced with the presentation of all the dance couples and judges on stage for the announcement of the winning team.
Ah, the mystery was solved. Who was the mystery celeb, who admitted that dancing was one of her longtime favorite things to do? Shelly ! Seems those years of dance lessons had paid off.
After receiving her flowers and congrats, she said of her partner: “Daniel is the bomb. He’s patient and loving and he’s sassy and he’s got class.” He also had a talented partner.