When New York City’s Robert A.M. Stern Architects designed Dallas’ Ritz-Carlton, they must have had the idea that mass transit and SmartCars were the only modes of transportation in Texas. What does this thought have to do with Wednesday’s Child‘s “Belonging Luncheon” Friday at the Ritz? More later, but first let’s get to the luncheon.
VIP types were told that their reception for the luncheon started at 10:30. With expectations that they would meet featured speaker Leigh Anne Tuohy of The Blind Side fame, they arrived to find sponsor backdrop in place, photographer ready to shoot and notables like Event Chairs Janelle (pictured) and Larry Friedman, emcee Gloria Campos, award recipients Myrna Schlegel and Julie and Lance Brennan. But, alas, no Leigh Anne.
As the minutes ticked away, the VIP reception melted into the pre-luncheon reception with 402 getting very cozy. Any long-haired blonde was given a second look. Say, wait! Was that Leigh Anne? Yes, but not the Leigh Anne you suspected. It was Junior League of Dallas President Leigh Anne Haugh, who had brought a copy of a magazine with a story about Leigh Anne Tuohy’s daughter Collins when she spoke to the Junior League. “I just thought she might like to have a copy,” Leigh Anne H. said. Eventually, she would seek help getting the publication to Leigh Anne T. via awardee Myrna.
But that was not to say the VIPs weren’t a part of the crowd. Media types like WFAA’s Debbie Denmon and media personality Jocelyn White were mixing with guests. Plus the Schlegel clan of beauties including patriarch Bob Schlegel and sisters Kari Schlegel and Kimberly Whitman (pictured left with Bob Schlegel) were there to cheer on Myrna.
To help while away the time, Ritz staff made sure everyone had something to drink, and adorable male models encouraged guests to sign up for the raffle — more tickets to the Super Bowl and a nice piece of jewelry by Naomi. Over to the side was a collection of art by local celebs for sale.
As the doors to the ballroom opened at noon, still no Leigh Anne T was in sight. Someone said she was on property but was in a private room just waiting to speak.
Immediately upon entering the ballroom, guests were welcomed to songs performed by the Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas on risers at the back of the room. Looking quite magnificent, the room was filled with round tables easily seating 10 people, except for the table directly in front of the podium. This table was an extended long head table with Janelle and Larry seated at the head along with friends like Craig Watkins (pictured left with Larry Friedman).
Promptly at 12:05 p.m. a video was presented with Wednesday’s Child President/CEO Pat Lockerd and others telling the organization’s story and asking guests to “Step Up” with donations.
Following the video at 12:10 p.m., one of the young people from the video named Mickey was introduced to the crowd by Pat. Mickey addressed the crowd like a seasoned veteran–until she asked everyone in the room to hold up the pledge cards at their tables. With that a forest of white cards grew. Then Mickey said, “Now, who is going to be the first to pledge $5,000?” The forest was toppled. Then she asked for a $1,000 pledge. Not a card went up. She continued not giving up and finished her talk at 12:17 p.m. with “Dig deep.”
By this time, a parade of servers with salad plates had made its way to the tables and Gloria was at the podium again encouraging people to pledge.
Just as the Children’s Chorus was exiting the ballroom at 12:18 p.m., four Grinches arrived on the scene asking for pledge cards.
In typical Ritz serving style, the servers like precision Rockettes removed the salad plates as guests chatter. But instead of immediately being replaced by entres, the tables remained empty. No problem. It allowed folks to table hop, while the male models wandered the room promoting raffle ticket sales.
Someone in the know claimed that the event was scheduled with the Ritz to be over by 1. But a guest reading the program said, “No, the lunch ends at 1:30.” Who says people don’t read programs?
One guest admitted that she was starting to feel uncomfortable with all the pressure to pledge and buy raffle tickets. “Do you think they’re going to have a toll booth when we leave?”
At 12:38 p.m., the parade of servers reappeared with entre plates. A female voice was heard over the PA system. Some eyes looked to the podium, but no one was there. Expressions of confusion were exchanged. “Did you hear what she said?” No, but it must not have been important because no one was rushing for the doors.
At 1 p.m., the voice was heard again but still not understood. Someone pointed out the source of the voice was a woman at the production table in the back of the room. She didn’t seem upset, so again it wasn’t that big a deal.
The male models continued to wander the room with signs held high.
At 1:02 Gloria was back at the podium but people were hardly listening. They had settled into a pleasant chat session. Putting on her glasses, Gloria carried on and finally got the groups’ attention as she introduced Janelle and Larry, who were a nice combination of sincerity and chuckles.
One of their first duties was to present Julie and Lance Brennan (pictured left with Julie Brennan) with “The Gloria” named after guess who? The owners of The Turtle Creek News were brief and grateful.
While all these announcements and acceptances were going on, the Ritz staff started removing the floral centerpieces. Maybe they were rentals and had to get to the next event? But wait. The staff returned to the tables with big, square white platters with white mounds. From a distance they looked like Japanese hot hand towels. Strange. On closer inspection the mound wasn’t a clump of towels at all, but a cloud of “white stuff.”
Before guests could trade ideas on what to do with the new centerpiece, a slick video announced that Leigh Anne Tuohy was going to speak. For those who had been holding their breath since 10:30, the 1:20 appearance was long anticipated.
Leigh Anne talked about
- attending the Academy Awards and being seated with Sandi (Bullock) and Jesse (James)
- Daughter Collins standing up in the moon roof of the limo on the way to Academy
- Adopted son Michael’s scaring a beggar by chasing after him to give him some money
- How their family shot into the national spotlight and
- The need for people to make a difference in the lives of others by getting involved.
By the time she finished her talk at 1:48 p.m. with “I’m gonna be checking on you,” even the most frustrated guest was a member of the Tuohy fan club and rewarded her with a standing ovation. However, that standing ovation quickly became a rush to the valet. Poor Janelle and Larry tried to get the guests to stay for the raffle drawing, but the herd was headed to their cars. Or at least that’s what they had planned.
Little did they know that they were rushing to wait. As more than 300 people turned in their blue valet tickets and cooled their heels, they made observations about the Ritz’s itty bitty porte-cochere that was strangling the delivery of cars. On the other hand, the Ritz staff must have been used to the “it’s nothing new” situation. With cups of coffee on trays, they were gracious hosts trying to soothe the frustrated guests.
Soon it became a bunker mentality with veterans advising newcomers to settle back and just wait. This cooling of heels resulted in all types of activities. Some cell phoned to explain their delayed arrival at appointments. Others started texting their inner feelings about the Ritz’s parking nightmare ala social media. But some made discoveries. For instance, one woman, who had her hands full, dropped her program. Without hesitation the gentleman next to her moved quickly to retrieve the program for her. In handing the program to the woman, she noted his hand, “That’s a huge ring! What does it stand for?” To which 6’1″, former Dallas Cowboy defensive tackle Russell Maryland (pictured) humbly said, “The Super Bowl.”