It’s the final day of the media search for VIP encounters before the Super Bowl. After the Prince concert debacle, the media is a bit on edge on who is in town and who isn’t. Rumors are flying that Brad and Angelina are holed up in a Beverly Drive mansion. The thought of trick or treating along Beverly passes quickly. Am hearing that the big blowout events with mega stars are proving to be busts. Stars are showing up late and only staying for a scant few minutes, if they show at all. Makes Friday night’s Audi Forum all the more precious. But tonight’s roster is stellar. The first one is a private party given by PlainsCapital first couple Lee Ann and Alan White where no cameras are allowed. Second one is at Lillie and Phil Romanos’ estate in Preston Hollow hosted by Hilary Swank for The Giving Fund. It was ranked as #1 last Super Bowl by ESPN. The last official event of the evening is Maxim‘s Party Powered by Motorola which is considered the hot party that some media outlet claimed last year as THE party. If there are two seconds to rub together, will hit the Grey Goose Lounge where Jeremy “Entourage” Pivens is holding court. Celebrity hunting season is closing tonight with guaranteed WOW opportunities.
Follow the jump to find out how swell searching ended with frost-bitten fingers.
6 p.m. — Lee Ann and Alan White’s party at Victory Park
Driving down to Victory Park, it’s apparent that things are starting to pick up. More people are on the slush-covered street and parking lots extolling the value of $25 specials are popping up. The DirecTV Beachball tent doesn’t look very inviting, but tomorrow with a scorching 40 degrees, it might get more promising. Pulling up to PlainsCapital headquarters for Lee Ann and Alan White’s party, the valets smile and warn that it’s gonna be a great gathering of great people. Upon entering the lobby, there’s the University of North Texas Crossmen Drum Corp on the right, and UNT’s North Texas Dancers on the left. (The dance team had a pretty busy weekend. They performed with the Black Eyed Peas at halftime.) Adorable greeters are seated at a table in between all the NTSU kiddos. Before names can be offered to be compared to the list, the greeters say, “Oh, we’ve already got you checked off” indicating that they knew each guest on sight. Turning to the right is PlainsCapital President James Huffines who has recently returned from Austin to head up PC. Except for the gray hair, he has not changed over the years. Still has the all-American smile accented with twin dimples. He introduces guests to his wife, Patty, who is the perfect complement to James’ hospitality. Next in the lineup is Lee Ann’s son, Michael Fowler, with a big old hug and a smile. He welcomes all like family and then directs guests to venture through a colossal tunnel of blue and white balloons. Once through the tunnel, an elevator takes guests to the floor housing the PC headquarters. The doors open to a gathering of the boldest-faced who’s who of Dallas.
Whoa! There are only locals. . . very special locals. Unlike the visiting celebrities who look lost in Dallas party crowds, this group takes on the appearance of an All-American family reunion. But what are they all doing here? Shouldn’t they be at their stylists preparing for their Super Bowl suite appearances? Or, perhaps they should be in bed resting up since most will be heading for the Cowboys Stadium by 2 p.m. for the 5:30 kick off? Or, maybe they should be hanging out with Jennifer Aniston, Adam Sandler, P Diddy and Snoop Dog?
They’re here because they know this gathering is gonna be special. Like Christmas Eve, it’s a time to be with close friends before the big day gets underway. People are glad to see each other. There is crowding and, yet, the place is full. It’s not stuffy, not by a stretch. There’s plenty of food and the music of the Crawfish Band sets a nice rhythm for the night.
Dang it! Where is a camera? But Lee Ann’s demands of no photos overrule the urge to even whip out an iPhone for just one shot. There’s Alan at the door personally greeting each guest. No one is leaving.
Just inside the entrance, a very upbeat Gene and Jerry Jones are literally three-deep in friends recounting the past days of ice sliding off the stadium, storm of the century and VIP’s who have been in town. They both look so relaxed and fresh. People continue to gather around them as if they hope the Joneses’ vitality is contagious.
Over on the sidelines are Cowboys pr wizard Rich Dalrymple and wife Rosalind, who is decked out in icy silver leggings. How the heck does the mother of four maintain that figure? She laughs and simply says, “I’m a runner.” Rich adds that Rosalind doesn’t usually dress this way. She adds, “We’re going to the House of Blues (later), so I wanted to dress for it.”
Kay Hammond joins the Dalrymples and updates the couple on her daughter Kim Gatlin‘s Good Christian Bitches and a second book in the works.
Taking a moment to scan the room, it becomes obvious that there is no top dog in the room. This place is filled with a kennel of ’em like Sandy and Sen. John Cornyn, Laura and Mayor Tom Leppert, Madeleine and T. Boone Pickens (plus Boone kids — Tom, Pam, Liz and their better halves), Annette and Harold Simmons with daughter Amy, Peggy and Carl Sewell, Kelli and Jerry Ford, Nancy Dedman, Peggy and Dr. Leonard Riggs, Deborah and Dr. Jack Gunter, Sharon McCutchin and her bother Darnel with his wife Anita, Debbie and Jim Francis, Biddie and Lee Roy Jordan, Steve Bing, former Ambassador Jeanne Johnson Phillips and 280 others.
Across the crowded room, Lee Ann in a drop-dead black cocktail dress that showcases her legs perfectly is chatting with T. Boone. One guest, who followed invitation instructions for casual attire, smiled, “Leave it to Lee Ann to redefine casual?”
In another part of the front lobby, Dr. Bob Smith is pretty darn proud of himself. Realizing that DFW International is going to be as busy as NorthPark before Christmas, he’s thanking his lucky stars that he has arranged for a later flight on Monday to Boston.
Despite the high profile guest list, this party is comfortable with good food, friends and folks you’d like to have as friends, but “we have miles to go before we sleep.”
7:00 p.m. — The Giving Back Fund party/dinner at Lillie and Phil Romanos’ home
During the previous week, The Giving Back Fund party/dinner had started showing signs of not living up to its #1 status. Silly as it may sound, but the media alert had misspelled Emmitt Smith’s name on the VIP guest list. Little thing, but if little things were wrong what else lay ahead. But sponsors included Aston Martin and Dewar’s Signature. That was a good sign.
Further perusal of the celeb list indicated the A’s were starting to show signs of turning B. Yes, Hilary Swank was an A-lister thanks to her two Academy Awards, but others on the list seemed of lesser value than Friday night’s Audi crew. Still Mark “NCIS” Harmon was on the list. Perhaps he would give Hugh Jackman a run for his money. Let’s not count our celebrity status before we carpet ’em.
Then there were those media encounter options. Or, rather the lack options. No choice was offered in celeb visiting. The media was absolutely not allowed in the main house, dinner or party unless they were someone’s guest or paid the $1,000 fee. The only opportunity would be at a red carpet tete-a-tete. Realizing that the frigid outdoor conditions would continue through Saturday night, a handler was asked Friday night if the red carpet would still be in place. She smiled and said that it had indeed been moved indoors. . . to one of the estate’s garages. Better than being outdoors but still . . .
Arriving promptly at the front of the Romano property at 7 p.m., media are advised by the valet that it might be wise to take along a coat. No coat to take. Cute check-in chicks direct guests and media to waiting golf cart. Once on board the Charon-driver delivers guests to the main house and media to a two-car garage across the auto court from the main house. It’s a typical garage except for the white-draped walls, carpeted floor, stanchions, backdrop, blinding lights and it’s spotless. Outside is a lone patio heater under which stand three maidens dressed in silky black cocktail dress and high heels with trays of mojitos. Their goose bumps have goose bumps. The ice clinks in the glasses because they ladies are shivering in overdrive.
The media opts to stay in the garage hoping that the celebs will soon arrive for a red carpet stop before heading to dinner. On hearing this hope, a kind handler advises the media that Hilary and the super-duper guests are already inside having dinner. Others will be arriving for the party. Media is not dumb. They realize that it will be a while before anyone special appears in the garage. Someone grumbles about the confusion of how many parties are actually going on at the Romano estate. Oh, not good. Media needs a definite game plan. Left to their own devices, the media can get snarly if overly ignored or abused. This isn’t the only party on their schedules and they have editors to make happy.
After a while the serving girls are disappearing to thaw out. Perhaps it’s because no one is interested in the icy mojitos. Hopes of hot chocolate or coffee float around the media but none appears. Dallas Morning News‘ Christopher Wynn and Courtney Perry are smart enough to move their operation to the patio heater and warm their hands and cameras. They take on the appearance of worshippers raising their hands to the almighty source of heat.
Golf carts continue to deliver party guests including Nancy Nasher in cowboy boots. Hand holding Jennifer and John Eagle opt to stroll up the pave-stone driveway. The red soles of Jennifer’s Christian Louboutins can be seen from the media freezer.
A batch of guests arrive and look toward the media huddled around the patio heater. One is heard to ask, “What’s going on over there?” Someone answers, “Oh, it’s nothing. It’s the media.”
Laughter from the main house can be heard. It sounds like Rush Limbaugh, but he’s not on the list. Perhaps the cold is affecting ear drums.
At 8:00 the handlers start scurrying around. Hilary is coming. The media is prepared to receive her. Then out of nowhere a herd of predominantly male guests land in the garage to have their photos taken. Did a touring bus just arrive? This is not following the POA. Handlers exchange looks of “Shoot! Now what?”
Seamlessly the herd disappears and Hilary arrives in “Don’t Mess With Texas” T-shirt, skin-tight dark jeans and high heels. She is followed by Lillie and Phil, Giving Fund President Marc Pollick and Dallas Morning News‘ Alan Peppard. Someone smiles at Alan and establishes, “You’re a guest, right?” He smiles back and nods. Unlike the frost-bitten journalists, the Swank quintet looks so happy, charming and warm.
Standing behind the stanchions at a distance, the media has a long-distance chat with Hilary. She’s refreshingly honest and interested in each question despite the fact that most have been asked many times before. Regarding her outfit, she tells how she had landed in Dallas without luggage. She found the T-shirt in a gift shop. As for the jeans and heels, they were sent over from Tory Burch.
Then it’s posing for photos solo, with the Romanos, with the Romanos and Marc. Alan The Guest whips out his compact camera and snaps a shot. Hilary is told that it’s time to head back to the main house. As she leaves the garage, she looks over her shoulder at the shivering media. Showing genuine concern, she says to a couple of them, “Try to stay warm.”
It’s 8:20 p.m. and someone indicates another celebrity is available for photos. It’s Julie Ingram, local chanteuse. She strips off her jacket, accommodates the photographers and heads to the main house.
A question is asked of a local handler, “So when can we expect the next celebrities? Like the ones on the list?” Handler smiles and says there is no telling, but it could be a while.
Some media stay put. Others hijack a golf cart and head to the front gate.
9:00 p.m. — Maxim‘s party at Centennial Hall at Fair Park
Among the gents the Maxim Party Powered by Motorola Xoom is a much-hoped-for promise. Yes, the “lad” rag’s event is a mix of State Fair theme and now-standard Super Bowl party accouterments with red carpet walk and gathering of top-notch celebs and ordinary folks.
Maxim editor-in-chief Joe Levy humbly says, “The Super Bowl is the ultimate guy event, and Maxim is the ultimate guy’s magazine. They go together like burgers and fries, and we’re proud to be the fries in this equation—the side dish that makes the main course shine.”
Looking around the crowded midway, the highly-touted celebs aren’t exactly the Oscar crowd. Rather they’re the Maxim-type special folk like Ryan Kwanten of True Blood, Entourage’s Kevin Connolly, pro footballer Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, a dozen Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Melanie Iglesias, the magazine’s “Hometown Hotties” winner. Somehow they fit in with the carnival atmosphere. Mixed in are a generous number of high-heeled, mini-skirted gals in packs cruising the area. The gentlemen guests opt for comfort with shirts untucked but always with a bottle in hand. That’s okay. It goes with the cute cigarette-gal types walking among the crowd stuffing Armani Code samplers into men’s coat pockets.
But wait some celebs are strolling the red carpet. It’s Rebecca “Red Fox” Mader, who has a photo spread in the February issue of Maxim. Then there’s Food Network chef Guy Fieri, who’s also in the magazine. Wait! There’s Pauly D from The Jersey Shores. Is he in Maxim, too? Doesn’t matter he’s nice to one and all.
Looking around for assigned photographer to shoot red carpet. He’s nowhere in sight. Seems he arrived early and was told “the designated press entrance had been changed” to the opposite side of the building. Since he was early, he was told by security to return in 30 to 40 minutes. When he returned with his credentials in hand, he was “declined access because some of the celebrities had already showed up.”
Over in the hangar-sized party arena is a face that just doesn’t fit in with the scantily dressed gals and ogling guys — Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. What the heck is she doing here? Why isn’t she at the Romanos’ or at Al Biernat’s? She looks a tad bit tired, but then she’s got a lot on her plate. Little does anyone suspect she’s doing a deal with AOL that will break Monday.
“This is my first Super Bowl,” Huffington admits. “I wanted an all-American experience.” When asked which team she’s “rooting for” in Super Bowl, she looks a bit lost and turns to an assistant. “Who are we rooting for?” Without missing a beat, the assistant replies: “The winners.” “We’re rooting for the winners,” Arianna repeats with her Greek accent. “That’s a good line.”
11:00 p.m. — Grey Goose Lounge on Dragon Street
Understand that the action really starts late in the evening at the Grey Goose Lounge. Heading over to see Jeremy Pivens and chat about life as a member of Entourage. Pull up to the lounge and see about 200 people with the same POA. Am too tired to fight the crowds and don’t relish the idea of standing out in the cold once again. Besides there is no patio heater in sight.