With a coat of new paint and a new General Manager named Christian Tavelli, Rosewood’s Mansion on Turtle Creek was ready for the sold-out TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction Friday. It was a first sell-out in recent memory for the annual gala benefiting TACA, but it wasn’t the only “WOW!” factor of the night. With more than 330 guests, it seemed like every room in the Mansion was filled to capacity.
Greeting guests at the front door were gala Co-chairs Jacquelin and Phillip Taylor and Nick Even and Honorary Chair Lynn McBee. Talk about a great looking welcoming committee. The co-chair trio greeted all as old friends with hugs, smiles and handshakes.
With a return to a black-tie venue, oldtimers and fresh newcomers dressed to the hilt. It was interesting to note that the younger crowd seemed to dazzle in dynamite long gowns with bare arms and backs, while some of the veterans opted for formal short dresses with loads of bling.
The cocktail reception in the Promenade and Ballroom dazzled with Nancy Halbreich baring shoulders in black Chanel, Rachael Dedman in black Carolina Herrera with a major slit in the back, Erin Mathews combining Chanel dress with Tom Ford heels, Henny Wright in a one-shoulder Richard Tyler and Joel Bines, who came formal sans any tie–black, white or bolo.
While most guests checked out the 11 precious auction items and started plotting their strategy, others had already planned their gameplan and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Lucian LaBarba reported his FreshPoint company was going “through the roof” thanks to restaurants being in overdrive. . . Linda and Steve Ivy were making a return visit to the Mansion. Seems they had been there Thursday night for the Merrill Lynch dinner with James Carville and Mary Matalin.
(SHAMELESS PLUG: James and Mary will be returning to the area for the Dallas Annual Awards Luncheon on October 18, at which time T. Boone Pickens will be presented the 2012 Distinguished Health Service Award. A chap by the name of Glenn Hunter will be interviewing Mary and James. Told you it was a shameless plug.)
Jerry Ford admitted beforehand, “I hope to buy nothing,” there was a synergy in the room that spelled others didn’t have the same attitude. Ah, but the night was just starting and the champagne was flowing like the White Rock spillway.
Very soon the chimes to dinner were heard and the beautiful people sought their tables throughout the Mansion. Perhaps the only rooms without a dining table with place cards were the powder rooms. And yet, there was never a feeling of being crowded within the various suites and restaurants for a first course of short rib ravioli, carrot reduction, pickled shallot and arugula; and entree course of wild striped bass, artichoke composition, black olive and basil gribiche. Dessert would be served in the ballroom.
Simona Beal, Mary Gill, Lara and Bob Tafel, James Campbell and John Phifer Marrs were part of the crowd in the main dining room; Barbara and Don Daseke, Jennifer and Coley Clark, Laree Holshoff and Ben Fischer, Ann and Alan Bagdanow, Linda and Steve Greer, Greg Patterson and Betsy Whitson were in the Garden Room; visual art lovers Joyce Goss, Kenny Goss and Jessica Nowitzkiwere in the bar. Ah, but one of the best rooms was the Sheppard King Room. In addition to having a string quartet providing a marvelous subtle
ambiance, Neiman Marcus Senior VP and Chief Marketing Officer Wanda Gierhart was at a table with Audrey and Joel Bines, Stephanie and Todd Anderson, Tia Pettijohn, Marianne Cook and Jeff Johnson. Having masterminded the 11 choice auction items, Wanda was not only gracious, she also encouraged guests to join the auction action. It was obvious from the talk that one of the hot items was the last one — Farm-To-Table that would allow 30 couples to purchase an afternoon of wining and dining at Lavon Farm for a flat $700 per couple.
Still, as ideal as the auction items were, there is always concern — “Will it be a blow-out or a fire sale?”
Since there seems to be a plethora of polls and surveys being done nowadays, a survey was taken among TACA people-in-the-know on their predictions for the auction outcome.
- Gala Co-chair Jacquelin Taylor — $100,000
- Gala Co-Chair Nick Even — $125,000 (“We’re gonna knock the lid off.”)
- Gala Honorary Chair Lynn McBee — $133,000
- TACA Chairman of the Board Andy Teller — $125,000
Keep those numbers in mind. You won’t be tested, but you’ll be glad.
As guests returned to ballroom, it was an entirely different scene. Where once had been an open area with a scattering of high-top tables and a stage with mammoth screens along the back wall displaying the items, now there were rows of chairs with names like Bashore, Einspanier, Briggs, Roberts and Clause and tables reserved for power bidders.
On the front row were Nick Even with his “Puh-leez” paddle all ready for hoisting on one side and Jacquelin with mother Peggy Sewell by her side. Smart thinking. If anyone knows about auctions and bidding, “mother knows the very best!” Joining the mother-daughter team were New York designer Chadwick Bell and Vanessa Webster, who found the sport of bidding to their liking.
However, Team New Zealand were the memory-making bidders of the night.
Adding to the fun of the bidding activity were the bid paddles. Dang! Some clever person had been scratching their brain. Instead of being known by numbers, bidders were flashing “Dallas Rocks, “Can you make change?” “Uncle,” “This one’s on me,” “Will you take an IOU?” and “Po-po-po-poker face.”
The final ingredient to the auction equation was the auctioneer — Christie’s President Andrea Fiuczynski in from L.A. She’s the Jaap van Zweden of auctions. With the command of Patton,
the sleek elegance of a cheetah and a room-shaking gavel sound block, she took charge and made “spending money fun.” And, oh, what fun it was!
The wine country item was first up for bid. Valued at $9,200, it went for $6,000. Not bad, but not great. Next up was fashion week with Ken Downing and Jason Wu. It was billed as priceless and went to an unknown blonde holding a “Dallas Rocks” paddle, for $10,000.
So, who was this new kid on the bidding circuit? She didn’t have a reserved seat, but she definite had a low-cut silver sequined gown, a wickedly naughty smile, and an entourage (Holly Reed, Brad Beaird, Gillian and Mark Breidenbach and Marco Marinkovich). Hey, she also had a non-Texas accent. Her name was Annette Presley. Someone said she was a New Zealander. Hmm, how nice of a visitor to invest in Dallas arts.
Third item up was the Grammy Award package again valued at priceless. Annette raised her paddle for a neat $19,000. Whoa! Nice one. Someone across the room raised that bid. Andrea had a bidding war on her hands and was working it like a starlet on the red carpet. It took no time at all for the room to swell with people vying to see who was going to win. Eyebrows raised as the paddles did, too. Cheers were heard throughout the ground floor of the Mansion. Pity the poor check-in guests, who wondered if by chance they had checked in during Texas-OU weekend. Finally, Annette had her way and it cost her $55,000.
As the TACA staffer scurried to Annette to handle the billing, the New Zealander’s biggest problem was which credit card to use. She opted for the one that offered the best frequent flyer points. (Somewhere, Hal Brierley was smiling.)
Lynn McBee’s blue eyes were wide open as she said, “These are Cattle Baron’s numbers!”
So, who was this woman, who had dropped $65,000 in a matter of minutes? Someone passed the word that she’s in the telecommunications business in NZ. That’s like saying that Bill Gates is in the computer business. Annette was a co-founder of Call Australia and Slingshot, one of NZ’s largest internet service providers. Her focus has lately been aimed at charitable causes and mentoring others.
In addition, she’s best friends with Holly and had flown up just for the auction after receiving item listings from Holly. After attending the Cowboys game on Sunday, she was catching a plane back south with Marco.
But Annette had obviously impressed and inspired many in the room.
By the sixth item (dinner in the Mansion wine cellar) that went to Tanya Roberts for $6,000, the total was $100,000 and there were still five more items to go.
While some of the items went for under-listed values, others joined the OMG! strata. For instance, the Kent Rathbun dinner had three bidders including Faye Briggs competing. Finally Mr. BMOC (Big Man On Cooking) shook his head and made a deal. He would provide three separate packages, if the three bidders each agreed to a $12,000 purchase price. Done deal!
Throughout the room, people continued using their smartphones to add up the progress of the auction.
When Laree Hulshoff purchased the Ultimate Overseas Air Travel package for $19,000, the total was hitting $162,000. In the back of the room, TACA Executive Director Becky Young looked as if she was in need of oxygen. Wanda just kept looking around. She probably wondered if she was dreaming.
Unlike some auctions, where guests start heading toward the door before the final items hit the block, the room seemed to stayed full and was building with enthusiasm.
For the final two items, it was home-run time. With Chadwick waving to the crowd, his offering for seats at his runway show was purchased for $11,000.
Then Andrea announced the last package — the Farm-To-Table afternoon. She had no sooner announced the name of the item, than a battle of paddles took place. Those who had hinted they might break loose with $700 for the meal, suddenly were not going to be denied. Has an auction paddle ever been considered a lethal weapon? Staffers nearly had to fight off guests insisting that their paddle be registered.
And what was the grand total for the evening? Becky couldn’t believe it when a number-counting guest told her: $194,000. Not only was that $75,000 more than last year, it was a true record breaker for TACA.
Yup, dessert was definitely served in the ballroom, with the frosting provided by a New Zealander.