TACA Custom Auction Gala’s Celebration Of 50 Years Of Funding The Arts “Tranformed” Into A Glistening Affair

The TACA Custom Auction Gala celebrating the art funding organization’s 50th anniversary was a time to glisten and shine. And on Friday, September 8, the first black-tie gala of the 2017 fall/winter fundraising season did just that. Only it wasn’t exactly for the reason some might have predicted.

Unlike years past, when it was held entirely inside the legendary Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, the guests discovered as they drove up to the auto courtyard that the gala had taken up more real estate. A large, see-thru tent complete with overhead lights and greenery, bars and a black stage surrounded by tables and chairs had been erected in the courtyard adjacent to the august hotel. Here the cocktail reception would be held, followed by the evening’s program. As for dinner, guests would saunter into the Mansion to dine and wine.

Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart

Linda and Bill Custard

Robyn Flatt and Wilson Tarver

Don and Carol Glendenning

TACA Custom Auction Gala Co-Chairs Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing reported that they were planning on wedding in summer 2018…Breast cancer survivor Linda Custard topped off in snow white hair reported that husband Bill Custard had teased her the year before that, for the first time, he had more hair than she did…Dallas Children’s Theater’s Robyn Flatt was thrilled about the theater’s new mega-sign lighting that took place on Wednesday, August 30. She also added that ticket sales for the annual Cabaret were going briskly…. After checking in outside the tent, guests like Carol and Don Glendenning, Wendy and Jeremy Strick, Laura and Dennis Moon, Lynn and Allan McBee, Lisa and Bill Ogle, Katherine Wynne and John Baer, Jan Barboglio, Barbara and Steve Durham, Stacie and Steve Adams and Mimi and Rich Sterling ambled on in for drinks and the evening’s festivities.

John Baer, Katherine Wynne and Laura and Dennis Moon

Jessica Chandler

Diane and Hal Brierley

When Dallas Theater Center Associate Artistic Director Joel Ferrell called the beautiful people to start the program, the veteran high rollers discovered that things had changed from the past. Instead of having front-row tables reserved for them to raise their bid paddles, it was a first-come, first-sit situation.

Then, as the body count for the sold-out event climbed past 275, the glamorous joint started getting pretty cozy. Thankfully it wasn’t a simmering August heat wave, and the  September evening’s outdoor temperature was still lingering in the upper 70’s. Still, the couple of occasionally open tent doors weren’t letting in much of a breeze. Like Ashley Wilkes, tuxedoed men in white buttoned-up shirts with ties smiled bravely, as their lady friends fanned themselves with their bid paddles like Scarlett O’Hara on the porch of Tara. It wasn’t a question of the portable A/C units not working up to snuff. Someone said there was an A/C unit trying its best in the back of the tent. But like the Titanic lifeboat count, there just weren’t enough of the little blowhards to meet the need as the festivities continued.

Joel got things started by introducing the evening’s Co-Chairs/lovebugs Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing. The former Mansion/current Ritz chef with headset in place kicked things off welcoming the group. But when Wanda tried to provide an added welcome, her handheld mic proved to be a silent stick. Panic on the sidelines kicked in, and event planner Randi Steinhart scrambled on stage handing Wanda another handheld mic. It proved to be suffering from the same “Silent Sam” ailment as the other mic. Giggles arose among the guests. After repeated exchanges of dead mics with similar results and pleading looks at the production table with no results, the laughter had been replaced with awkward smiles. Trooper Wanda saved the situation by simply talking into Dean’s headset.


With a working mic in hand, TACA Chair Donna Wilhelm introduced “Celebration,” a dance commissioned by TACA to celebrate TACA’s 50th anniversary and performed by Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Bruce Wood Dance, and Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Things were heating up. Now bid paddles were fanning at full pace, as the dancers performed flawlessly. But the icy cocktails were starting to wear off, and the body-heat temperatures table-side were rising.

Donna Wilhelm

Michelle Thomas

Katherine Bull and Jan Barboglio

Instead of going straight to the live auction, Donna returned to the stage and told of her roots in funding the New Works Fund going back to her childhood as the daughter of Polish immigrants. She was followed by incoming TACA Chair Michelle Thomas, who reported, “Did you know?” about TACA. On the front row was one of TACA’s original members Katherine Bull, who could have read chapter and verse about the days of Jane Murchison (Haber), Evelyn Lambert, Virginia Nick and the ladies getting together to raise funds for a new art group — Dallas Theater Center. But there was no mention of them or the TACA roots on this night.

The paddles kept paddling the air like a metronome at presto speed to fight off the feel of perspiration.

Louis Murad and Cyndi Phelps

Finally, it was time for auctioneer Louis Murad to lead the live auction. His aim, he’d said, was to haul in about $250,000. He said it was not going to be a repeat of the 2015 TACA Custom Auction Gala, when he had conducted the lackluster TACA auction in the cool Mansion Promenade. But as starting time neared, some, who knew they weren’t “players” or were starting to succumb to the heat, headed into the cool confines of the Mansion.

Auction sign holder

As Louis hopped on stage, he looked at the crowd of beauts and still felt confident. Two 21st century Austin Powers lovelies walked the stage like boxing ring girls holding signs designating the package for the crowd that was starting to look like a formally attired hot-yoga class. Flutes that had held champagne were drained. Makeup was starting to show premature signs of melting. Slender gals in gowns, who had stilettoed their way over the cobblestone courtyard, were now leaning against the tent’s walls, looking like wilted daisies. One woman at a front-row table stood. Louis asked if she was rising to bid. No, she was headed to the bar for a couple of drinks for friends. Items that had been described as “priceless,” were barely hitting the five-figure neighborhood.

Thanks to Diane and Hal Brierley, the evening’s bidding venture wasn’t a total loss, with their taking home dinner with Dean Fearing and Cowboy greats (Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnston and Emmitt Smith) for $32,500. Alas, Louis’ goal of a quarter of a million bucks didn’t hit its target. Including the post-auction, shout-out for funds, the evening’s take wasn’t too much more than $100,000.

One person commented, “Too sober. Too hot. This group is ready for church.”

As crass as this comment was, it was a Reader’s Digest critique. Usually, most fundraisers have the live auction preceded by a cocktail party and a well-quenched dinner. The true experts in the live auction world know that you don’t want the guests to be “too happy” that they don’t have the day-after blues. But you do want them to be lulled into feeling the lift of the paddles is painless. Not the case here. Between the heat and the grumbling tummies, these celebrants wanted to get out of the tent and onto dinner inside the air-conditioned Mansion.

According to one TACA organizer, the thinking was that people wanted the dinner to follow the live auction, so they could settle back and linger, as opposed to hustling to the auction. They also felt that the dance performance would rally the paddles into a frenzy high.

But this POA turned into a perfect storm for Monday morning quarterbacking. Had they held the live auction in the Mansion ballroom, the heat factor would not have kicked in. Had they held the live auction after the seated dinner, there would have been a more festive lifting of the paddles. Had the auction items been curated by a true luxury team like the 2017 Art Ball’s Jennifer Karol and Rajan Patel instead of parceling some items out to out-of-state AmFund, the paddles might have waved like the flags on the Fourth of July. Had the annual farm-to-table package been part of the lineup, even the poorest of the rich crowd would have had paddled up.

Editor’s comment: As the new regime of TACA gets underway for the next 50 years, it appears to still be a project in development. But on this night the celebration of TACA’s 50th anniversary wasn’t quite the bravo production that some had hoped for. MIA were some longtime TACA supporters. According to one source, past TACA chairs had been invited to join the host committee. When one “past TACA co-chair” had received the invite, she responded, “My husband and I don’t support the arts. We’ve never been to a TACA event, so I doubt we’ve ever chaired one.”

Organizers intimated that this would be the last TACA live auction. Perhaps it’s just as well, since the 2017 TACA Custom Auction Gala went out with a whimper, and not a bang.

MySweetCharity Opportunity: TACA 50th Anniversary Gala

Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing (File photo)

According to TACA 50th Anniversary Chair Wanda Gierhart,

Everyone chooses to have a 50th birthday celebration because it’s a milestone—a golden anniversary—and TACA has at least 50 reasons to have a party.

It is in this spirit that TACA has set Friday, September 8, for its 50th Anniversary Gala at Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, 2821 Turtle Creek Blvd. I’ve recruited my fiancé, Chef Dean Fearing, to co-chair the celebration with me. The evening, the kick-off to Dallas’ black-tie season, will begin at 6:30 p.m. with cocktails and music.

Directly following, we’ve asked TITAS’ Charles Santos and Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Bridget Moore to produce and direct an exclusive TACA-commissioned celebratory performance featuring dancers from several TACA’s grantees including Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance and Bruce Wood Dance Project.

Front Row At The Bruce Wood Dance Gallery*

Did you know that TACA brought the concept of the luxury live auction to Dallas when it was founded 50 years ago? This year’s auction, which follows the performance, promises to be our best ever. Those of you who know me know when it comes to auction packages, I don’t play around, so you can expect my “A”-game.

After the auction, guests will enjoy a delectable seated dinner throughout the Mansion’s many beautiful rooms. For a high level donor, the wine cellar will be available for an intimate dinner with your favorite people. Following dinner, there will be a lively after-party with music and dancing.

Since this will be the last gala of its type, we’re planning it to be extra special and lots of fun. To this end, we’ve described the attire as “black tie by decade – 1970 to present,” which will give our guests plenty of latitude to interpret their sartorial selections with the same creativity TACA brings to its work on behalf of the arts. Whether it’s a vintage Halston from the 1970s or a brand new creation by your favorite designer, you’ll look smashing on September 8.

TACA believes in the power of art to transform lives, and it has been unfaltering in its commitment to the arts for five decades. Our 50th anniversary gala is a celebration of the past as well as a commitment to the arts community for the next fifty years.

Joining me in planning this festive gala are the co-chairs, who are the entire TACA 50th Anniversary Committee members.

Tickets start at $500, and sponsorships are available. Contact Cassidy Pinkston  [email protected] or 214.520.3926, or visit  http://www.taca-arts.org/.

* Photo provided by TACA

JUST IN: Wanda Gierhart And Dean Fearing To Co-Chair TACA 50th Anniversary Gala

Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart (File photo)

Former Neiman Marcus exec Wanda Gierhart and her fiancé/chef extraordinaire “Dean of Food” Fearing are quite a twosome. Back in 2014, their official joint-project debut was the TACA Custom Auction and what a night it was. The front row was filled with art-loving philanthropists with names like Carlson, Hobson and Brierley.

So, when Wanda, who is chairing TACA’s 50th anniversary year celebration, decided that she would roll up her silk sleeves and chair the black-tie TACA 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday, September 8, at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, she sorta got nostalgic and brilliant. She drafted Dean to co-chair it with her.

As for the auction itself, don’t expect dozens of items up for bid. Word has it that it’s going to a very limited number and they’ll be very special.

BTW, the years that Wanda was in charge of curating the auction items were years that brought some very platinum paddles competing for the final bids. ‘Twas great sightseeing!

Nonprofit Supporters/Beauts Former Neiman’s Taste Guru Wanda Gierhart And Primo Chef Dean Fearing Announce Their Engagement

Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing (File photo)

Christmas love was definitely in the air! Way too adorable nonprofit supporters former Neiman Marcus arbiter-of-good-taste Wanda Gierhart and man-of-legendary-taste Chef Dean Fearing got engaged Christmas Day.

While we’re still waiting to hear when the two will get hitched, you just know it’s gonna be a catered affair.

According to the bridegroom-to-be, “No date yet – Wanda is enjoying the ring first!!!!”

One of the first hurdles facing the newly engageds is telling Queenie she can’t be the flower girl.

2016 TACA Custom Auction Gala Co-Chairs Dianne And Mark LaRoe Host Kick-Off Party With Cool Jazz, Patron Tequila And Big Swan

Dianne and Mark Laroe

Dianne and Mark Laroe

It was a first for TACA. The performing arts organization held a kick-off party for its annual TACA Custom Auction Gala on Thursday, June 2. The location for the KO, attended by about 60 guests, was 2016 Custom Auction Gala Co-Chairs Dianne and Mark Laroe’s ultra-cool Bluffview home.

With the Eric Willis Trio performing equally cool music, Dianne recalled that when she and Mark hardly had two coins to rub together, they started collecting art. There was only one caveat. If one of the twosome wasn’t thrilled about a piece, it was a deal killer.

Eric Willis

Eric Willis

One piece that was a standout was the huge white inflatable swan floating in the pool. No, it wasn’t one of the Laroes’ pieces of art. It was a gift from the Laroes’ daughter-in-law. Dianne loved it so much, she asked for a black swan for her birthday.

Another eye catcher grabbing attention was the display of Patron in the dining room. Patron State Manager Justin Erickson explained that tequila was expanding its use by being included in Starlight Sangria and Silver Sling. In other words, tequila is no longer just for margaritas and shot glasses. And Patron is going to make its presence known at TACA’s black tie event at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek on Friday, September 23. Makes sense since Patron Spirits Company and Mark’s Deutsche Bank Wealth Management will be the presenting sponsors.

Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing (File photo)

Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing (File photo)

Other news revealed that Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing will be the honorary co-chairs and Rachel Michell will be auction chair.

Hal and Diane Brierley (File photo)

Hal and Diane Brierley (File photo)

Lee Cobb and Lucilo Pena (File photo)

Lee Cobb and Lucilo Pena (File photo)

The host committee will be made up Purvi and Bill Albers, Heather and Scott Alexander, Laura and Michael Bashour, Diane and Hal Brierley, Faye C. Briggs, Marsha Cameron and Michael Halloran, Nancy and Clint Carlson, Connie and Denny Carreker, Lee Cobb and Lucilo Peña, Garry Cox and Don McDermett, Barbara and Don Daseke, Barbara and Steven Durham, Gwen and Leldon Echols, Claire and Dwight Emanuelson, Nicholas Even, Cindy and Charles Feld, Carmaleta and Otis Felton, Tracy Fitz, Andrea Gates, Carol and Don Glendenning, Dawn and Tobin Grove, Gayle and Jim Halperin, Robert Hernandez, Laree Hulshoff and Ben Fischer, Linda and Steve Ivy, Joe and Louise LaManna, Tara Lewis and John Swords, Holly and Tom Mayer, Lynn and Allan McBee, Rachel and John Michell, Geraldine “Tincy,” Miller, Deborah and Jim Nugent, Leah and Jim Pasant, Carrie and Anthony Scotti, Peggy and Carl Sewell Jr., Marlene and John Sughrue, Courtney and Ed Tauriac, Zannie and Glenn Voss, Karen and Jim Wiley, Donna Wilhelm and Katherine Wynne.

Tara Lewis (File photo)

Tara Lewis (File photo)

Nick Even (File photo)

Nick Even (File photo)

Katherine Wynn (File photo)

Katherine Wynne (File photo)


Co-Chairs Wanda Gierhart And Dean Fearing Give A Sneak Preview Of Some TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction Items

On the Dallas nonprofit circuit, there are certain people who could talk a vegetarian into buying a meat packing plant. Dean Fearing is one of ‘em.

Friday, September 12, he was in fine fiddle at the Ritz Carlton. No, he wasn’t just cheffing. He was at the TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction preview party with his Co-Chair/NM Arbitror of Magnificent Taste Wanda Gierhart.

Don Daseke, Nick Even, Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing

Don Daseke, Nick Even, Wanda Gierhart and Dean Fearing

Wand and Dean are the perfect team. She’s elegant, understated and cool like champagne. He’s a little bit country, outgoing and as understated as an Aggie yell leader. The two had gathered the group to hint at the treasures they had collected for the Friday, September 26th black-tie auction.

Joey Wilkensen, Megan Bowdon and Andy Teller

Joey Wilkensen, Megan Bowdon and Andy Teller

Sipping a special Patron laced drink and sampling Dean’s fare like friend goat cheese pops, the crowd included Shelle and Michael Sills, Lisa and Bill Ogle, Kevin Hurst, Jeff Byron, Nick Even, Don and Barbara Daseke, Laree Hulshoff, Joey Wilkensen, Megan Bowdon, former TACA Chair Andy Teller and TACA Chair Nancy Carlson and husband Clint.

Bill and Lisa Ogle

Bill and Lisa Ogle

Nancy Carlson

Nancy Carlson

Then Dean with a longer hairstyle that he attributed to Wanda’s influence, kicked the announcements off with a trip to Mexico. He recalled years ago when he was working at the Mansion and he was told that a guest had just ordered a bottle of wine priced at more than $300. It turned out to be Sammy Hagar. The chef and rocker bonded over music and food. So when it came to an auction item at Cabo San Lucas, Sammy offered dinner at his fabulous estate overlooking the Pacific. Of course, Dean will prepare the meal. Perhaps Wanda will be the sommelier. Afterwards, Dean and Sammy will entertain the guests at Sammy’s Cabo Wabo. As for where to stay, the winning bidders will call the over-the-top, luxurious Capella Pedregal* home.

By the time Dean was finished with the description of the package, couples were already nudging each other on how high to bid.

Wanda admitted that she didn’t know how to top that. However, she did with two packages — an around-the-world with Rosewood and a Paris adventure ala Chanel.

Then Dean finished the preview with the annual Farm-to-Table package. What’s new about that? A lovely meal out in a pasture? Well, this one will be the teaming up of Dean and Stephan Pyles. The two chefs who gave birth to southwestern cuisine haven’t partnered up on a meal in 20 years. This meal should be historic and histrionic.

There are still more items that will be up for bid. They been posted on MySweetCharity in the past days and next few leading up to the black-tie auction.

If you were too late getting your reservation for the dinner/auction, see if you can get some buddy to bid for you.

* Since the preview party, Cabo San Lucas was hit by Hurricane Odile. Not to worry. The town, Capella Pedregal and Sammy are taking the opportunity to improve on the resort’s renowned perfection.

TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction Item #8: Rock Out In Cabo San Lucas

Just dining with RBC Wealth Management TACA Custom Auction Co-Chairs Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart would be a treat for the palate and the company. But these two don’t do anything like most blokes. This package for two couples is designed with such creativity and Wow! factor that even your bestest friends will doubt it happened.

Rock Out In Cabo San Lucas* (Value: Priceless)

Most folks arrive at the world-fabulous Capella Pedregal and swear it’s a slice of heaven and don’t want to budge. Each room is palatial with fireplace, private pool, perfect view of the ocean and a staff that lives to set a new standard for service.

During the three night stay, one dinner will be held at Capella Pedregal’s signature restaurant Don Manuel.

Capella Pedregal spa pool (File photo)

Capella Pedregal spa pool (File photo)

But Wanda and Dean arranged for a dinner in the seaside estate of a local, and not just any local — former lead singer for Van Halen, The Red Rocker Sammy Hagar. It has a marvelous view of the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Cabos San Lucas Los Arches. Naturally, no ordinary cook would do for this occasion, so Dean will commandeer the kitchen.

And one more stop during the trip will have Wanda and Dean taking the foursome for a “special excursion to Cabo Wabo Cantina, Sammy’s famous cantina and restaurant,” where the 1999 video for “Mas Tequila” was filmed. Who knows? Maybe Dean will play his guitar?

* Courtesy of Dean Fearing, Wanda Gierhart, Capella Pedregal and American Airlines

JUST IN: TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction Leadership And Deets Revealed

Just in case you’re having your snail mail forwarded to your summer digs, you won’t get word for a few days about the TACA RBC Wealth Management Custom Auction news.

Never fear. You won’t have to worry one iota. Here’s the info that will be hitting mailboxes.

The black-tie fundraiser will take place the Friday, September 26, black tie dinner at the Mansion once again with less than a dozen luxury items up for bid.

That’s all nice and good, but you already sorta suspected that. So mark it down on your calendar. But did you know who the co-chairs and honorary co-chairs will be? If so, skip the next three paragraphs. If not, read on and smile.

The honorary co-chairs will be Ann and Lee Hobson.

Wanda Gierhart (File photo)

Wanda Gierhart (File photo)

Dean Fearing (File photo)

Dean Fearing (File photo)

As for the gala chairs, one half of the team will be Neiman Marcus Senior VP/Chief Marketing Officer Wanda Gierhart, whose magical touch has been seen time and time again in some of the best TACA auction packages.

The other half will be Dean Fearing, who is cooking up a storm at the Ritz-Carlton. It will be literally a homecoming for Dean, since he introduced tortilla soup and cowboy boots in the Mansion kitchen for 20 years starting back in the 1980’s.

But Dean had better be prepared. This part isn’t in the letter, but you should know that this summer, the Mansion is doing a redo of its ballroom with TACA being one of the very first black-tie events to enjoy the refreshening.

And to spiff up the new look, Tom Addis is going to add his “Addis touch” for the evening.

As for the items on the bloc, you can expect “one-of-a-kind trips to exotic locales, exclusive invitation to events like Fashion Week and the Grammys, and special access to the best of the performing arts in Dallas.

Better hop to it and reserve your tables. Yipes! The Wine Cellar and the Library are already sold out. Talk about going, going, gone!