When the late Annette Strauss introduced the idea of the TACA Silver Cup Award Luncheon, the purpose was to “recognize one man and one woman annually for outstanding volunteer leadership and contributions to the performing arts in our community.” Perhaps that was the mission, but it wasn’t the outcome. For the past 33 years the luncheon has done far more that honor two people. Not only has it been a celebration bringing together all parts of the North Texas community for the sake of the arts, it has also helped to provide vital fund raising for TACA’s support of the arts.
Last Friday’s event organizers dedicated the remarkable luncheon to Annette “in celebration of her vision and numerous contributions to the arts in Dallas.” For those in the Chantilly Ballroom at the Anatole who knew Annette, it was so appropriately done. Not a lot of hoopla–just a page in the program and a few words from the podium.
No, Annette would have insisted that the spotlight be focused on the recipients, Sarah Perot and John Eagle. Interesting to note that when the first Silver Cup in 1979 was given to Margaret McDermott and the late Henry S. Miller Jr., Sarah was just 18 and John was 26.
But back to the 2011 celebration that kicked off with a pre-lunch reception in the Wedgwood Room. Like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in ages, hugs, smiles and slaps on the back were everywhere.
Recipient John arrived looking like homecoming king with wife Jennifer on his arm. When one guest approached him and called him, “Mr. Eagle,” he quickly told the guest with a smile, “I’m just John.” Shaking his head and looking just a little embarrassed, he went on to say that he was humbled by the whole day realizing the people who had preceded him.
And talk about homecoming royalty, Sarah entered the room glowing like any top-notch homecoming queen would. Looking around the room, it appeared to be a Perot family reunion with three generations of Perots in attendance. Usually Mr. Proper, Sarah’s husband Ross Jr. was rather endearing as he took photos of Sarah and John surrounded by past Silver Cup recipients. Proud as punch he was. . . like a proud pop taking photos of his kid at graduation. And, no, he was not using a multi-gillion-dollar, 3-D camera. It was a compact point-and-shoot type.
In the adjacent room WRR was live broadcasting interviews with luncheon VIP’s, while Sarah and John opened the gift boxes containing their silver cups.
Then all too soon it was time to head to the Chantilly for the luncheon and a delicious meal of grilled asparagus salad, chicken breast filled with boursin and spinach and chocolate caramel tart.
While the guests ate, they were entertained by members of the James Gilyard Ensemble, Orchestra of New Spain, Voices of Change, Dallas Bach Society, Lone Star Wind Orchestra and Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Mistress of ceremonies Lee Cullum once again scored with her “state-of-the-arts” review. Leading off with Bill Lively‘s return to the arts community as head of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Lee might not have noticed a couple of the guests exchanging nervous looks of, “Oh, dear, we’re going up against Bill again in fund raising.”
Another highlight of Lee’s talk was her encouraging the application of part of the hotel tax to the arts. That got a nice endorsement of applause. Unlike many emcees, Lee knows how to keep her audience’s attention by making her remarks interesting and not too long. She then introduced Luncheon Chair Heather Esping and TACA Board of Directors Chair Andy Teller who welcomed the group and reported on TACA. Then Neiman Marcus Senior VP/Chief Marketing Officer Wanda Gierhart introduced the NM Performing Arts Scholarship at SMU — violinist Jaewon Ahn, who performed “Adagio and Rondo” accompanied by Elena Zyl.
Once again, the performance, like all the preceding talks, was just long enough and performed perfectly.
Following Jaewon, 2010 Silver Cup recipient John Cody introduced Sarah. Admitting that he “didn’t know her very well,” he had done some research on her by talking to people who did. “So I’m going to summarize them under two categories — one, leadership, and, second, Sarah the person.” He reported that he had learned that she’s a strategic thinker, a committed civic leader and a “stickler for details.” Then he paused and continued, “She not only works hard, she works smart. Once she signs on to a job, she is committed.”
Regarding Sarah the person: “She’s extraordinarily honest. She is gracious and lovely to be with. People seek her opinion and she’s hard to say ‘no’ to.”
That last one got a ripple of chuckling through the room.
“A reccurring theme in my visits was, ‘Sarah gets it when you discuss the importance of arts in our city,'” John continued.
John concluded by saying, “Each time I mentioned her name, they would light up. Everyone wanted to tell the special qualities of this lady that is so highly respected and deeply cherished.”
Taking the podium Sarah proved John accurate saying right off the top, “I thought I was fine until that introduction.”
She went on to thank all involved in the day’s luncheon, recognized TACA’s impact on the city and congratulated her fellow recipient John Eagle.
Focusing the rest of her talk on the importance of the AT&T Performing Arts Center for the future of Dallas, Sarah again proved John right. In addition to her family, the fifth-generation Texan then recognized the people who have impacted her efforts to support the arts — Bess Enloe, Howard Halam, Caren Prothro and Deedie Rose, all Silver Cup winners. “It is because of you and your years of work that we now have the complete Arts District. This is your legacy to the successive generations of Dallas.”
Next up was 2010 Silver Cup recipient Cindy Rachofsky to introduce John Eagle. Unlike John Cody, Cindy admitted that she and John Eagle were longtime friends. “I cannot think of a more deserving person in the world than my dear friend John Eagle to receive the TACA Silver Cup award today. I’ve known John for a very long time. Our daughters are great friends, so we had the distinct pleasure of going through the teenage years together. But we do other things together, too. . .We travel together looking at weird and crazy art. And I even drive one of his cars. And since I’m married to Howard, we support John through the John Eagle Collision Center.”
That last one got a great round of laughter especially from Howard.
Cindy then went on to list just a smidgen of John’s many accomplishments. Ending her talk she said, “Now it is my distinct honor to introduce you to a man who I’ve always said could sell socks to a rooster.”
With the audiences laughing and applauding at Cindy’s introduction, John and Cindy hugged.
Eloquently John thanked Cindy, congratulated Sarah and thanked everyone from past recipients to the day’s organizers. As he launched into his remarks, one couldn’t help but wonder if he and Cindy had the same speechwriter.
“So I guess you all are asking yourself this question, ‘Why is a used car dealer interested in the arts?'”
He went on to tell how his dad, who collected western art, “would drag” John and his brother to museums all around the country looking at art. “I can remember one time asking him about a contemporary painting that was on view in the museum we were touring. And he said something very profound that I carry with me today. He said, ‘Son, I don’t know what that art is about, but don’t discount it. That artist is trying to tell you something in a very different way.’
“He was right. Art makes us think in new ways. It is more than entertainment. Art is fuel for the human spirit and the language of humanity. Art is about our past; it is about our present; and it is a look into our future. It is so important in the development of our children. This is why I am so proud of what the Dallas Museum of Art is doing with the education program by engaging people with the power of art.”
John, like Sarah, emphasized the importance that art will play in the future development of Dallas and the need to use the art facilities to their fullest extent.
He closed by recognizing his partners, his father (‘he’s always been my hero”), his daughters (“who inspire me every day and are living art”) and “last but not least my lovely wife Jennifer, who is the most important person in my life and without whom I would not be standing here today. I love you. Thank you.” John just barely made that last recognition as tears started forming in his eyes and his voice slightly choked.
Annette would have loved it.