Texas Trailblazer Keynote Speaker Gretchen Carlson Connects The Dots Between Domestic Violence And Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

Since being a little girl in Minnesota with a love of playing the violin, Gretchen Carlson has made the rounds. From being embarrassed … no, make that humiliated … when a sales clerk announced, “We need the biggest little girl bra for the chubby girl,” to taking on one of the country’s mega-media powerhouses, she’s not only rounded the track, she’s landed in the winner’s circle.

That was the feel for the Texas Trailblazer Awards Luncheon crowd on Friday, October 6, at the Anatole.

But first, the backstory. Gretchen, who had landed in Dallas back in the late 1990s as a reporter and anchor at KXAS, was the keynote speaker for The Family Place‘s annual fundraising luncheon that celebrated Elizabeth Grandell and Lamisa Mustafa as the 2017 Verizon Scholarship Recipients, TexProtects as Advocacy Awardee, and Lynn McBee as Trailblazer of the Year, who received a standing ovation.

Initially the day was sort low-key with the VIP meet-and-greet in the Peacock Terrace. Unlike last year’s line around the room for the grip-and-grin with Ronan Farrow, this year started off a bit slow. One guest, who arrived 10 minutes into the by-invitation event, had a touch of a shock in his/her voice, “Where are all the people?” This answer was, they were chatting it up in the opposite side of the room.

Cindy Stager, Lynn McBee, Gretchen Carlson and KJ Sanger

But Co-Chairs Kristen “KJ” Sanger and Cindy Stager and Lynn McBee as well as Nancy Gopez were on hand as well as Jan Miller in a new haircut and a touch of tear in her eye. It seems that the legendary Miller-Rich household beagle Schumacher had suffered a stroke a couple of weeks before and crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Jan Miller and Gretchen Carlson

In the meantime, the Chantilly Ballroom was being set up with an open feeling. As one person pointed out, there were generous aisles between the tables. Still, the count of 680 was down from the jam-packed TFP luncheon of 2016 with Ronan. On the screen were names of sponsors including Trammel (sic) S. Crow. That second “l” in Trammell is a tricky one.

At 11:46 a.m., a big voice announced that the program was going to start. He was a man of his word. The lights dimmed and a video was shown followed by Co-Chairs KJ and Cindy welcoming the group and Rev. Susan Robb providing the invocation.

Before Gretchen talked to the crowd including Connie O’Neill, Claire Emanuelson, Joanna Clarke, Paige Flink, Jill Tananbaum, Travis Hollman, Carol Seay, The Family Place CEO Paige Flink told of “Naomi,” who just the day before had met with her for a one-on-one. It seems that Naomi’s abusive situation had driven her to the breaking point. Her suicide note was written; she was going to take her five kids to the fire station and then she was going to a bridge from which to jump. After talking with Paige and understanding that the newly opened Ann Moody Place would provide shelter for her family, Naomi and Paige finished their chat, tearing up the suicide note.   

Paige added that had it not been for Ann Moody Place, Naomi might have become part of the statistics like the 194,000 violent acts and 158 murdered last year. That latter number was an increase over the year before. On a light noted she announced that the facility had received its first dog, Buddy, with his family. She finished her report on a positive note, saying that thanks to The Family Place, more than one-half million people had been saved thanks to the community’s support.

In addition to Paige’s celebrating her 26th anniversary with The Family Place, she had another 26-year Family Place vet, Betty Regard, join her on stage. Betty issued a $25,000 match challenge at 11:58 a.m. By 12:20 p.m., the challenge had already hauled in $15,948.

At 12:38 p.m., Gretchen arrived at the podium and showed her Stanford education smarts by telling the group of her days at KXAS back in 1998 when she did a 30-part series on domestic violence. While she admitted that a lot has changed, it hasn’t been enough.

Seamlessly, she transitioned into the eye-opening connection between domestic violence and sexual harassment in the workplace that she knew all too well from her 20s, when a man accosted her, to her headline-making split with the Fox News network. Both domestic violence and sexual harassment continue due to fear, embarrassment, and a lack of support, she said.

Highlights of her talk included:

  • Her mother suggested that she enter the Miss America pageant. Gretchen told her mother there was no way she would win because she was short, played a violin and “Minnesota is not a pageant state.” She entered anyway and won, despite pageant judge William Goldman’s describing her as Miss Piggy and admitting that he hated the violin.
  • After winning Miss America, she was interviewed by a reporter [Editor’s note: New York reporter Penny Crone], who quizzed her with such questions as which presidents were on the $5 and $20 bills. Ten years later, Gretchen spotted the reporter and asked if she recalled her when she was Miss America. Then Gretchen gave it to her, saying, “When I was Miss American, you tried to take me down. I just want you to know I’m a correspondent for CBS and you’re not.”
  • She was stalked for four years.
  • Her first encounter with sexual harassment was when she was in her 20s, when a TV cameraman asked her if she liked it when he put her mic on her breast.
  • 70% of women never report sexual harassment.
  • Misconceptions about sexual harassment include: women can just leave; women bring it on themselves; women make it up; women who do report it are after money or fame.
  • She has become an advocate about sexual harassment because of her children — “It’s all about the next generation.”
  • All proceeds from her book — “Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back,” which was coming out the following week, will go her “Gift of Courage” effort.
  • She pointed out three things that were needed to end such treatment:
    • Bystander support
    • Education
    • Government legislation

In closing, Gretchen made a surprise announcement: she was giving $10,000 to The Family Place.

But Gretchen isn’t gone. Come November, she’ll return to the area as part of the across-the-nation launch of workshops to empower women.

BTW, Gretchen didn’t talk about her headline-making situation with the late Roger Ailes. But just a few days later, women in the entertainment industry started following Gretchen’s lead, according to an article by Ronan about Harvey Weinstein‘s sexual harassment. They, like Gretchen, were not going to be silenced.

Kristen Sanger And Cindy Stager To Co-Chair The Family Place’s Texas Trailblazer Luncheon With Gretchen Carlson As Keynote Speaker

While all the recent headlines have been about The Family Place’s brick-and-mortar successes (the new Ann Moody Center and Texas’ first men’s shelter), behind the scenes work is continuing to raise funds for the organization’s various programs.

In addition to the Partners Card fall fundraiser celebrating its 25th anniversary from October 27-November 5, the annual Texas Trailblazer Luncheon has lined up a couple of tested fundraising co-chairs — Kristen Sanger and Cindy Stager.

Kristen Sanger (File photo)

Cindy Stager (File photo)

Between the two of ‘em, they’ve held various leadership roles for events benefiting Community Partners of Dallas, Housing Crisis Center, Heroes for Children, The Retina Foundation of the Southwest, Dallas Habitat for Humanity, American Heart Association, TACA and, of course, The Family Place, to name a few.

Interestingly, they both co-chaired the annual Cattle Baron’s Ball, but at different times. Kristen co-chaired the American Cancer Society fundraiser in 2012 and Cindy in 2014.

With all the expertise, it’s no surprise that the two ladies are co-chairing the 2017 Texas Trailblazer Luncheon on Friday, October 6, at the Hilton Anatole. For the keynote speaker, they’re having former FOX News Channel host Gretchen Carlson. In addition to being Miss America in 1989 and having recently made headlines about sexual harassment in the workplace, the 5’3” blonde used to work at KXAS-NBC from 1998-2000.

Also on the luncheon agenda will be the annual Trailblazer Awards that are presented to “those who create positive change and contribute to the quality of life in our community.” As for this year’s awardees, stay tuned.

PS — You might want to send Gretchen a birthday card on Wednesday.

Fashion Guru Tim Gunn, Who’s In ‘Awe’ Of Dallas Women, Attracts Huge Crowd To CPD’s 10th Anniversary Chick Lit Luncheon

Anyone doubting the popularity in Dallas of “Project Runway” co-host/producer Tim Gunn should have checked out the scene at the Friday, April 1, Chick Lit Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole. The event benefiting Community Partners of Dallas and featuring the author and TV star drew a crowd of 1,100—up from the annual luncheon’s 650 or so that it’s usually drawn at its longtime venue, Brook Hollow Country Club.

This was Chick Lit’s 10th anniversary luncheon, but surely the huge crowd wasn’t due only to that? “I give credit to our chairs—and to Tim,” CPD President and CEO Paige McDaniel said before the luncheon at the VIP reception in the Anatole’s Stemmons Ballroom. “All girls like fashion, and he’s just … well, when Joanna [Clarke, CPD’s development VP] and I used to talk about guests at our fantasy dinner party, we each had two people in common: Tim Gunn and Jesus!

“So, it was easy this year,” McDaniel went on. “Everybody wanted to come.”

Tim Gunn, Lara and Robert Tafel*

Tim Gunn, Lara and Robert Tafel*

At that moment, the star of the day was demonstrating his charisma across the room at the step-and-repeat, where guests were lined up to meet Gunn and have their photos taken with him. Among them were Elizabeth Gambrell (she’s a CPD director), Anne Stodghill, Dee Simmons, D’Andra Simmons, and Lara Tafel, who was once again the luncheon’s presenting sponsor along with her husband, Dr. Robert Tafel.

Megan Flannagan, Fasi Boltchi, Roz Colombo and Samantha Wortley*

Megan Flannagan, Fasi Boltchi, Roz Colombo and Samantha Wortley*

Jennifer Evans Morris, Krissy Turner and Lauren Reed*

Jennifer Evans Morris, Krissy Turner and Lauren Reed*

Soon Dr. Bob joined his wife for a photo with Gunn, who promptly remarked on the doctor’s colorful pocket square. The TV star pulled the handkerchief out of Tafel’s suit coat, demonstrated another way to fold such an adornment, and then stuffed it back into Bob’s breast pocket—much to Bob and Lara’s delight.

Soon enough, the 1,100 guests including CPD Board Chair Krissy Turner, Jocelyn White, Lee Bailey, Lisa Cooley, Faisal Halum, Holly Davis, Lori Williams, Alissa Gearing, Jennifer Evans Morris, Lauren Reed, Megan Flanagan, Fasi Boltchi, Roz Colombo, Samantha Wortley, Katherine Coker and Simona Beal began making their way into the Imperial Ballroom upstairs.

Kristi Hoyl*

Kristi Hoyl*

Nancy Rogers and Brian Bolke*

Nancy Rogers and Brian Bolke*

Luncheon Chair Kristi Hoyl made the welcoming remarks, thanking the Tafels, Honorary Chair Brian Bolke, Underwriting Chairs Cindy Stager and Jill Tananbaum, and Paige and Joanna (“they are angels walking on the earth”). Then Kristi brought up Rev. Elizabeth Moseley from Highland Park United Methodist Church, who delivered the invocation. (Rev. Moseley, BTW, was introduced as a “minister of discipline,” rather than with her actual title, “minister of discipleship.” Hmmmm. Maybe Queenie needs to hire a minister of discipline for misbehaving elves.)

Paige McDaniel and Jill Bee*

Paige McDaniel and Jill Bee*

After lunch was served—a delicious Mediterranean chicken salad and a strawberry “Happy Birthday” cupcake—videos were played honoring Jill C. Bee with the 2016 Partners for Children Award and the Tafels, who were presented with the 10th Anniversary Champions of Hope Award. Then Paige took the stage, telling how all the guests had “agonized over our outfits” trying to impress Gunn, before launching into a tearful talk about children who’d been helped by CPD, like two toddlers nicknamed Princess and King. Paige gave way to Bolke, who introduced the featured speaker as one of two people who’ve had a profound recent influence on the fashion world (the other, he said, was Sarah Jessica Parker of TV’s “Sex and the City”).

Kimberly Schlegel Whitman and Tim Gunn*

Kimberly Schlegel Whitman and Tim Gunn*

With that, Gunn—a former chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne Inc. who’s written four books—mounted the stage along with Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, who would interview him. Kim began by asking the fashion guru what led him to write books (his latest is titled “The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work!”). Gunn, the son of an FBI agent, grew up with words and books, he replied, and developed an interest in fashion history as an academic at the Parsons School of Design. “Most of the books [about fashion] are giant snoozefests,” he said. He set out to take a livelier approach, crediting the success of such works as “Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible and “Gunn’s Golden Rules in part to his editor and co-writer, Ava Calhoun.

Kim asked next what’s behind Gunn’s “kind but firm” approach to young designers on Lifetime’s “Project Runway,” now entering its 14th season. “I can’t want you to succeed more than you do,” Gunn said he tells the fledgling designers. In lieu of direct criticism he peppers them with questions about their design choices, hoping they’ll eventually see what he sees. What’s his favorite of Gunn’s “golden rules”? “The world owes you absolutely nothing!” he replied quickly. “Even though young people don’t like it. … We each have to make our own way and establish our value.” Gunn also explained his “TEACH” philosophy with students and mentees, using an explanation for each letter in the acronym: Truth-telling; Empathy; Asking lots of questions; Cheerleading; and Hoping for the best.

Tim Gunn*

Tim Gunn*

Prompted by his interviewer, Gunn said that when it comes to fashion, “I’d rather work with women than with men. Women are more open to experimentation, and men are so ridiculously intractable. I’ll tell them, ‘Good heavens, it’s a shirt. Put it on!’ ” He also complimented Dallas women on their fashion sense, adding, “I’m in awe of you! … I’d like to take you home with me!” Expanding on fashion in general, he said most people wear their clothes too big. (“Never use the phrase, ‘I only dress for comfort’ with me,” he said. “If you want to feel like you’re in your pajamas, don’t get out of bed.”) He also ripped the current “athleisure” trend including yoga pants, tights, and leggings worn as pants. “It’s an excuse to be a slob,” he said, calling leggings “a form of underwear.”

Wrapping up with a few questions from the audience, Gunn was asked his advice for budding designers. Since designers are barometric measures of our culture, he answered, they should watch TV and movies, read blogs and newspapers, and “assimilate it all” in order to “have a point of view and know who you are. [Knowledge of] construction is important, too,” Gunn said in conclusion, “as are perseverance and tenacity.”

The thunderous applause from the big crowd that followed was a testament to the fashion guru’s tremendous popularity, as mentioned by Paige at the VIP reception. But so, too, was the long wait for their cars that some in the huge crowd had to endure in the lengthy valet line. Although the luncheon wrapped up by about 1:15, some 50 guests were still standing outdoors in the cold breeze, scanning the horizon hopefully for their vehicles, nearly an hour later. There were just too darn many cars, it seems, for the valets to easily handle.

* Photos provided by Community Partners of Dallas