Maj And Larry Hagman Brought Together The Starpower Including Linda Gray And Lee Majors For The 2013 A.W.A.R.E. Luncheon

Inside the beautiful North Dallas home of Pam and John Borders on Thursday, April 4, you could almost feel the excitement building for the 2013 A.W.A.R.E. Luncheon & Auction that would take place the next day. You might call the Borders’ patron party a teaser before the main event—the big, annual, mid-day fundraiser at the Hilton Anatole for the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

John and Betty Crawford

John and Betty Crawford

There were stars of commerce and show business at the Borders house, after all, from Maryellen and Ron Spears of AT&T and Betty and John Crawford of DowntownDallas Inc., to WFAA Daybreak host Ron Corning, actor/playwright Anthony Wilkinson and actress Linda Gray, who would star at Friday’s luncheon.

Becky Prince, president of the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s group, came up to Corning and said, “I watch you every morning.” Wilkinson said he was looking forward to the opening of his second off-Broadway show, My Big Gay Italian Funeral, in New York on June 1. It’s a sort of sequel to Anthony’s long-running My Big Gay Italian Wedding.

Gray, meantime, had showbiz on her mind as well—namely, the fate of the Dallas remake she’s starring in on TNT as Sue Ellen Ewing, the wife of J.R. Ewing, played of course by the late Larry Hagman. The cast had just “wrapped” the show’s second season and was waiting for word about a third, Linda said. After enjoying the city of Dallas during filming, she added, she was looking forward to resting and seeing her family on her “ranch” in L.A.’s Valley area. Her cat is also looking forward to the ranch, she laughed: “He’s in the condo here, and hasn’t had a mouse in six months!”

Kay Hammond, Ron Corning, Linda Gray, Carmaleta Whiteley and Anthony Wilkinson

Kay Hammond, Ron Corning, Linda Gray, Carmaleta Whiteley and Anthony Wilkinson

Then, during brief remarks, Patron Party Chair Carmaleta Whiteley reminded attendees about the serious purpose of the A.W.A.R.E. luncheon, pointing out that Alzheimer’s has the “highest cost” of the major ailments. “Cancer and heart disease are the biggest killers, but families with Alzheimer’s, and society, pay approximately $215 billion a year on care for loved ones,” Carmaleta explained. “Another recent study said that one in every three people will suffer from dementia. That is why it is so important that you are here tonight, and have contributed to the care and research for this horrible disease.”

Faith and Lee Majors

Faith and Lee Majors

Some 850 attendees took Whiteley’s words to heart the next morning at the Anatole, where luncheon guests perused the silent auction items and chatted just outside the Chantilly Ballroom. Ramona Jones seemed tired after a frenzy of recent activity, for causes including the Dallas Arboretum, the Salvation Army, and the Eye Ball for UT Southwestern. Patricia Will, president and CEO of Belmont Village Senior Living, was up from Houston and excited about the company’s new Turtle Creek facility, which will open this summer. Jack Jacobs was complaining about being one of the few men at the luncheon. “About every five minutes another one goes by,” he muttered. But there was another man close by Jack, and quite the “hunk” at that: Lee Majors, the actor who starred in TV shows like The Fall Guy and The Big Valley. Majors, who was accompanied by his wife Faith, an actress and model, said he’d just appeared on Dallas with Gray and was here because his mother died of Alzheimer’s, among other reasons.

Sally Bos, Myron Martin  and Laura McClung

Sally Bos, Myron Martin and Laura McClung

Then it was time for the lunch (spring vegetable and goat cheese tart, braised chicken and pearl onions, fresh asparagus, chocolate strawberry shortcake) and the program, which was introduced by Corning of Channel 8. “There is no place in the country where they have more pre-events [for charity affairs] than Dallas,” Ron marveled as an icebreaker. “You could literally almost have Alzheimer’s and never forget that there’s another event!”

Next Corning brought on Kay Hammond, the 2013 A.W.A.R.E. president, and Laurie Kidder, the 2013 luncheon chair. After Becky Prince said the luncheon had raised more than $13 million for Alzheimer’s research since its inception, singer Rudy Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers—he is Hammond’s former son-in-law—sang the invocation. Rudy was joined at the end of the prayerful tune by Sam Harris, the singer and actor who got his start on Star Search.

The title of Linda Gray’s talk was “Remembering Larry Hagman and Honoring Maj Hagman.” (The Swedish-born Maj, Larry’s widow, has had Alzheimer’s for several years.) Recalling stories, showing video clips, and describing photos from Hagman’s life that were displayed on the room’s giant screens, Gray told of the close, mutually respectful relationship that she and Larry shared for 35 years.

“Linda is my best friend—the perfect woman,” Hagman said of Gray in one clip. “She is the greatest leading lady a man could ever want.” Gray returned the compliment: “It was as if we were married in other lifetimes.”

Linda and Maj—married to Hagman for 52 years and the “rock” of his life—called each other “wife,” Gray recalled with a smile. Maj was strong and feisty and kept it all together, she said, “because, basically, Larry was 5 years old!”

Maj was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008, Linda said, “and it’s very challenging to be with her now.

“My mother had early Alzheimer’s, but my mom always remembered me,” Gray went on. “Once when we were driving in the car she told me, ‘I’ve found this wonderful thing.’ ‘What is it?’ I said. ‘Depends. I have one on right now, and I’m peeing.’ I said, ‘That’s just great.’ She said, ‘I have another one in my purse. Why don’t you pull over and put one on so you can drive and pee?’ ”

After bringing down the house with that story, Gray concluded her talk on a serious note: “Steve Jobs once said that we were all put here to make a dent in the universe. So I say to all of you: Look inside. What kind of a dent in the universe would you like to make? Whether it’s volunteering … or contributing … or giving love to someone in need.”

February 7 Round Robin: A.W.A.R.E, New Friends New Life, Family Gateway, WaterTower Theatre And Junior League Of Dallas

Once again Thursday turned out to be the workout night for the fundraising powerhouses throughout the North Texas area. Some folks found themselves hustling from one event to another and apologizing for not making it to a third one.

A.W.A.R.E. Kick-off Party

Jack Broyles and Jim Hammond

Jack Broyles and Jim Hammond

There’s a real momentum driving this year’s A.W.A.R.E. luncheon. Unfortunately, the inspiration is being derived from the loss of loved ones. This point was very apparent at the A.W.A.R.E. kick-off party at Pat Villareal‘s home in Preston Hollow for about 80 guests including Ramona Jones, Kim Gatlin, Jack Broyles and Carmaleta Whiteley. Yes, everyone was still reeling from the death of planned-for-keynote-speaker and much-loved Larry “JR” Hagman, who died in November. Luckily, A.W.A.R.E. President Kay Hammond and Luncheon Chair Laurie Kidder were able to arrange for Larry’s screen-wife Linda Gray to take over the role at the luncheon. Couldn’t have been a better choice. Not only

Laurie Kidder and Kay Hammond

Laurie Kidder and Kay Hammond

was Linda very aware of Larry’s involvement with Alzheimer’s (his wife Maj suffers from the disease), but Linda’s mother also is an Alzheimer’s victim. Laurie’s goal is to have 1,000 guests at the Hilton Anatole on Friday, April 5, to raise funds. What some guests at the kick-off party did not realize was that Pat lost her mother to Alzheimer’s just two weeks ago.

New Friends, New Life

Pat Schenkel and Katie Pedigo

Pat Schenkel and Katie Pedigo

Over in the Park Cities, Lana and Barry Andrews opened up their new home for the kick-off party for the New Friends New Life‘s 10th Annual WINGS luncheon. Raising funds to assist women trapped in the sex trade, the luncheon is turning out to be a mother-daughter undertaking. First, there’s the speaker for the Friday, April 12 luncheon at the Hyatt Regency. It’s Barbara Pierce Bush. Introducing her will be her mom/former First Lady Laura Bush. According to Katie Pedigo, grandest mother/former First Lady Barbara Bush is taping a message for the luncheon. She wanted to attend, but is keeping close to home after husband George’s recent prolonged hospital stay.

Lana Andrews and Natalie McGuire

Lana Andrews and Natalie McGuire

Another mom-dotter in the mix is Lana’s daughter Natalie McGuire, who is honorary chairing the luncheon with her mom and helped Lana host the KO party. At one point when a photographer was trying to arrange a photo, Lana was in the backyard with Honorary Chair Allie Beth Allman taking photos of some artwork. Natalie’s call to arms got the petite Lana to conclude the photo session and tip-toe over. Why tip-toe? Well, the deck surrounding the pool is a piece of artwork in itself with a pebble-style stone pattern. While gorgeous, it’s heck on high heels requiring toe-walking. No wonder Lana had such great legs!

Nancy Ann Hunt

Nancy Ann Hunt

As 130 guests like Luncheon Chair Gina and Ken Betts, Toni Brinker, Nancy Gopez, Carol Seay, Lee Ann White and Nancy Ann Hunt and daughter Ashlee Kleinert filled the Andrews mansion, Katie reported that 35 tables had already been sold, making them more than one-third of the way to their goal of 100 tables/1,000 guests. Texas Health Resources will be the presenting sponsor for the luncheon that has come a long way in a short bit of time.

Family Gateway Dinner

Nancy Halbreich

Nancy Halbreich

It was hard to imagine cramming any more people into the Mansion’s Pavilion and Promenade for Family Gateway‘s 25th Anniversary Celebration honoring Ted Strauss, and he loved it. Far from being a roast or a teary testimonial, it turned out to be a typical Strauss affair — great food, top-tier types and memorable moments with a twinkle in the eye. The secret ingredient was the behind-the-scenes planning by Annette’s and Ted’s daughters Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr.

Janie McGarr

Janie McGarr

(If you just arrived at D/FW International, you need to know that Family Gateway was the brainchild of Ted’s late wife Annette, the former mayor of Dallas. While he wouldn’t take credit, he was the patient husband.)

Linda Custard

Linda Custard

Following the cocktail party upstairs, guests like Margot and Ross Perot, Brian Heflin, Cheryl and John Hall, Linda and Bill Custard, Caren Prothro, Gene Jones, Martha Ann Schneider, Lee Cullum, Roger Horchow, Hill and Renee Feinberg and Nancy Dedman found their way to their tables complete with place cards. It was a little tough getting this crowd seated. They were having way too much fun catching up and patting the honoree on the back as he tried to make his way to numero uno table with wife Sue.

Sue Strauss

Sue Strauss

Finally, all were seated and Family Gateway’s Robert Alberts welcomed the group, reporting there are 5,000 homeless children in Dallas. He then announced an ambitious goal for the program that provides shelter for homeless families — the opening of a Montessori school for homeless children and renovating the Strauss Center, among others. Eyebrows that had raised with the announcement of the 5,000 homeless children rose to hairlines with Robert’s biggest goal — the ending of child homelessness by 2017. It also provided food for conversation during dinner.

Stan Levenson, Rabbi David Stern and Jeremy Halbreich

Stan Levenson, Rabbi David Stern and Jeremy Halbreich

Following Rabbi David Stern‘s typically memorable invocation, it was dinner Mansion style (tortilla soup with chicken, avocado, cheddar cheese and tortilla strips; roasted filet mignon with Yukon gold puree , broccolini, trumpet mushrooms and cabernet jus; and chocolate imperial dark chocolate cake with vanilla crème brûlée and hazelnut crisp and vanilla ice cream). Diets were being blown.

Ralph Gorman and Faye Briggs

Ralph Gorman and Faye Briggs

Faye Briggs arrived with her entourage a couple of minutes late. Seems that daughter Pebble McKenzie was in charge of driving and missed a turn. . .  While Barbara Levenson was tableside with Patsy Donosky, husband Stan told friends that he’s starting his 46th year in the pr business. . . Ruth Altshuler, who was seated with husband Ken on the Promenade with Margaret McDermott, was asked about the recent Dallas Morning News article on her. Ruth’s response? “Tomorrow they’ll be using the paper to wrap fish.”

Ruth Altshuler

Ruth Altshuler

Following dinner, it was time for speeches. But again in typical Strauss style, they were brief and kept everyone’s attention. Actually there were just two speakers, and they went head-to-head in the upstaging department.

Mayor Mike Rawlings

Mayor Mike Rawlings

First at the podium was Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings. Graciously, he started off by saying, “If you didn’t buy a table, write this man a check,” pointing to Robert. Then he went on to say, “I have a lot of heroes that make this state great, people who have made the city of Dallas great, made everybody around them great. . . ” Oh, dear. Was it going to be one of those predictable tribute-style speeches? Nope. Mayor Mike then added, “. . . and Bob Strauss is one of them.” A nano moment of air being sucked in could be heard around the room. Had the mayor accidentally referred to Ted’s brother, Bob? Nope. A big old Mike grin appeared on his face as he looked at Ted, who was laughing. Then the room burst into laughter and applause.

Ross Perot Sr.

Ross Perot Sr.

He continued,

  • “We’re here to honor Bob’s younger and richer brother, Ted.”
  • Recently he saw Ted, who said, “Mike, you’re doing a wonderful job, but you’re no Annette Strauss.”
  • Ted’s grandkids nicknamed him “Poopie,” because one night came home and said, “I’m pooped.”

In closing Mayor Mike read a letter from the governor’s office praising Ted.

Ted Strauss

Ted Strauss

It was now time for Ted to acknowledge the accolades of the night. Graciously he acknowledged some of the ladies in the room, like Caroline Rose Hunt for establishing the Mansion. He then told of a letter written long ago by a woman, whose family Annette had personally taken to Family Gateway five years before. She had written the letter to Annette thanking her and telling her how she had gotten a job, that her two daughters were in school and that life was good.

At one point Ted admitted that he was having problems reading his notes because of the spotlight and the lack of light at the podium. Within seconds, Mayor Mike from his seat told Ted that he’d had a similar problem. Still finding the lighting difficult, Ted asked Mike, “Are you sure you don’t have a flashlight?” At that the towering mayor brought a cellphone up to the podium, which offered a small amount of illumination.

But Ted was not going to be upstaged yet. As the mayor/former Pizza Hut president returned to his chair, Ted said, “And your pizzas were lousy, too!” Highlights of Ted’s talk included:

  • “You will not see a gathering that will turn you on anymore than this one. I am so thrilled to be a part of it. After 88 years I’m thrilled to be a part of anything.”
  • He acknowledged the development of the Parkland/University of Texas at Southwestern complex and Kern Wildenthal. But Ted couldn’t let that go without a wink. “My last operation over there, it wasn’t a success, but they gave me a great deal on a cane.”
  • In praising Ruth Altshuler for her role in the assassination anniversary, Ted turned to the mayor and said, “I know that will be nice. Who you gonna shoot this time?”
  • In accepting a plaque from Robert, Ted said, “We don’t need another plaque. We need a quarterback!”
Micki Rawlings

Micki Rawlings

Robert then announced the naming of the organization’s complex, the “Theodore H. Strauss Gateway Apartments.” Once again the mischievous Ted wasn’t about to miss an opportunity for levity. He said, “I’ve never enjoyed myself like I have the last 12 years,” due to “a wonderful lady named Sue.” Then he looked at his wife, who was seated next to Micki Rawlings, and said, “Maybe you and I will go over to the Gateway Apartments!” It was indeed a night to be remembered. Perhaps not the one that Robert had planned, but it was one that was typical of Ted Strauss — deliciously mischievous with old friends for a great cause.

 WaterTower Gala Patron Party

Not all the fun(d)raising was taking place in Dallas proper. Heck, no! Those folks in Addison know how to use a Thursday night for honoring patrons. This report was filed from Barbara and Don Daseke‘s home

Barbara Bigham, Joyce Sanders, April Bosworth, Debbie Staggs, Elizabeth Fratantuono, Mark Brooks, Corky Pledger, Maureen Anderson, Katie Myatt, Terry Martin and Barbara Daseke.*

Barbara Bigham, Joyce Sanders, April Bosworth, Debbie Staggs, Elizabeth Fratantuono, Mark Brooks, Corky Pledger, Maureen Anderson, Katie Myatt, Terry Martin and Barbara Daseke.*

“More than 80 people attended WaterTower Theatre’s Spotlight Gala 2013 Patron Party catered by Doug Boster Catering with florals by Todd Events and music by jazz/blues combo, the Tu-Tones. The cocktail party paid tribute to the more than 40 underwriters who are supporting this year’s fundraising Gala. VIPs in attendance included political types like Addison Mayor Todd Meier, council members Bruce Arfsten, Blake Clemens, Janelle Moore, Margie Gunther and Chris D’Francisco.  Other guests included Barbara and Bob Bigham, Producing Artistic Director Terry Martin, Karol Omlor, Chris Miller, Joyce Sanders and Bob Lebovitz, Live and Silent Auction Chair April Bosworth and Cuisine Chair Corky Pledger. “Barbara, who is chairing the Saturday, February 16th Gala at the Addison Conference Center, thanked all of the underwriters who will raise more than $125,000 in support of WaterTower Theatre’s artistic and education programs this year. April gave a preview presentation of some of the live auction items including a wine trip to Napa/Sonoma Valley, a private tour of the White House and Capital buildings and a New York theatre trip among many more exclusive items.”

Junior League of Dallas

As further proof of the expanding party room of Dallas, the Junior League of Dallas was feted at Gary Riggs Home Interiors for the unveiling of the GrandLuxe Magazine. And what exactly was the connection? Perhaps the upcoming JLD ball? According to this field report,

Kelley Robinson and Jackie Converse**

Kelley Robinson and Jackie Converse**

“Gary Riggs Home Interiors, Alpha Road Location, provided a lovely backdrop to unveil the February issue of GrandLuxe Magazine with JLD President Aimee Griffiths and Ball Chair Bunny Cotten on the cover (along with an interesting and informative article about Junior League of Dallas inside the magazine). Before the big unveiling, Tim Miller, president of GrandLuxe, welcomed guests and made introductions. Afterwards, husband and wife team, violinist Gary Levinson and pianist Daredian Baya Kakouberi, both with the Blue Candlelight Music Series, presented two moving pieces from “Schindler’s List” and “Scent of a Woman.” Villa O Restaurant catered the event and served delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails to the guests during the evening.”

* Photo by Buddy Frazer
** Photo provided by the Junior League of Dallas

Former Miss America And Sportscaster Phyllis George Is Returning To Emcee 2012 A.W.A.R.E. Luncheon

Denton’s own Phyllis George has accomplished so very much. In addition to being Miss America, she’s been a morning show co-anchor, wife, mom, actress, businesswoman and sportscaster. It was during her days as the first female to have a nationally prominent role in televised sports coverage at CBS Sports that many recall her interviewing Joe Namath, Roger Staubach, Muhammad Ali and Reggie Jackson and covering three Super Bowls. That experience has prepared her for her upcoming role when she returns to Dallas on Friday, March 23, at the Hilton Anatole. She’ll serve as mistress of ceremonies for the A.W.A.R.E. 2012 Luncheon honoring college football’s legendary rivals/friends, the Texas Longhorns’ Darrell Royal and the Arkansas Razorbacks’ Frank Broyles.

The two coaches were not selected just because of their successes on the football field. They also have a vested interest in the battle against Alzheimer’s.

As you may know, Frank wrote “Coach Broyles’ Playbook for Alzheimer’s Caregivers” based on his being the caretaker for his late wife Barbara, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in 2004. Not only were Darrell and his wife Edith known for their ongoing support of the Broyles family, but Frank’s son, Jack Broyles, is chairman of the board for the Greater Dallas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

You can definitely expect many alumni from both schools to be in attendance.

A.W.A.R.E. Luncheon Speaker Announced At Holiday Tea Honoring Pat Burford

As you drove through the gate with the mammoth wreaths (pictured) Wednesday, you just knew you weren’t attending an every day tea with the gals.

Nope, neither A.W.A.R.E. nor hostess Karen Seanor does anything on a ordinary basis.

The festive mansion was full of food, news and a touching relationship that was revealed to the 100 guests in attendance including Santa Claus.

If anyone thinks a tea at Karen’s is sparrow food, rethink that. The dining room table (pictured) had a spread on it that defied the finest hotels. And the guests knew it and took full advantage of it.

Midway through the event, AWARE President Carmaleta Whiteley addressed the ladies briefly about the March 31st luncheon at Hilton Anatole.

Since the theme of the luncheon will be “A Dallas Love Story — A Tribute to Juanita and Henry S. Miller Jr.,” the featured speaker will be actress Shelley Fabares accompanied by her husband of 26 years Mike “M*A*S*H” Farrell.

Some might wonder why the angel of the 1950’s “The Donna Reed Show” and later Craig T. Nelson’s girlfriend in the 1990’s “Coach” would be a champion in the battle against Alzheimer’s. It seems that Shelley’s mother died from the dreaded disease and Shelley is no sweetheart when it comes to the topic.

An especially touching moment followed the speaker announcement when Carmaleta revealed the reason that Karen had opened up her lavish home for the tea. Karen requested that the tea honor her friend Pat Burford (pictured center with, from the left, Karen Seanor and Carmaleta Whiteley), a longtime AWARE member, a supporter of the luncheon and an Alzheimer patient.

Without a nano-second of hesitation, all agreed that the request was a great idea. Pat’s work for Alzheimer’s is known throughout the organization.

On hand for the tea were Ramona Jones looking right in style with her peppermint-styled walking cane, Carol Seay back with tales of her trip to Israel, Kay Hammond sporting a new short haircut and comparing notes with Faye Briggs and Leigh Lombardi trading dossiers with Katy Menges (pictured right with Leigh Lombardi).

A.W.A.R.E. was Dandy-less but Still Memorable

Since it was announced that this year’s A.WA.R.E. luncheon would honor Don Meredith, anticipation was in overdrive. It had been quite a while since the lovable, legendary Dallas Cowboys quarterback/ABC sports commentator had been seen in these parts. It had even taken the very persuasive team of former teammate Lee Roy Jordan and his wife Biddy to personally fly to Santa Fe to talk Don and his wife Susan into accepting the honor.

But behind the scenes there was always the concern that 72-year old Dandy’s health might trump all the planning and hopes.

Unfortunately, it did. Susan admitted that he was just not well enough to make the trip to Dallas and stood in for him. With this in mind, this post is being written, so Don will know what happened. Like Don, it was an event that was endearing, full of fun and legendary.

It seemed that nearly all the 1,110+ crowd attending the luncheon Wednesday at the Fairmont had some sort of personal connection to the man who led the Dallas Cowboys from 1960-1968 at the Cotton Bowl for coach Tom Landry under the ownership of Clint Murchison.

Besides videos about the Don, a celebrity panel of “Dandy Don’s” friends and colleagues at times mistook the event for a roast. But what else would you expect from the likes of football legends Walt Garrison, Bob Lilly (pictured) and Roger Staubach; Frank Gifford, one of Meredith’s broadcast partners on ABC’s Monday Night Football; and emcee Phyllis George, the Denton-born former Miss America (1971)/former CBS sportscaster.

The celebrity panelists described the Mount Vernon native as a fiercely competitive leader with a rowdy, down-home sense of humor. In a video tribute, for instance, Lee Roy said he once asked Meredith why he chose to attend SMU. Don’s reply: “It was close to home, and I could spell it.” [Read more…]