The three R’s were being redefined Friday at the Ritz-Carlton. For 300+ guests they no longer meant reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Nope. They stood for rowdy, riotous and rambunctious. For newcomers to the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon benefiting Family Gateway, it would be a routine fundraising luncheon with some local VIPs serving. Ho-hum. . . or so they thought. On the other hand, those who had attended the inaugural venture recalled such highlights as polo-loving-Vaughn Miller riding Brendan Higgins around the ballroom, and cutie pie Kim Fischer doing a mean Baby Bump. Why, there were even those who claimed that the 2010 luncheon was a lot more off-the-wall than the annual Celebrity Waiter Dinner. Really?
But back to last Friday. As the sell-out crowd was well into reception mode by 11 a.m. and sipping grown-up drinks and checking out the silent auction, the Celebrity Waiters (CWs) were holed up in a side room. They’d been there since 9 a.m. getting to know each other and warming up with libations. For WFAA-CH. 8’s morning co-anchor Ron Corning it was practically time to go to bed, since he’d been up since 3 a.m.
Event emcee Scott Murray found himself splitting his time between the CWs’ bullpen and the ballroom that was filled to the max with tables, except for a mini-stage in the center of the room. Scott looked a little concerned, knowing that some of the celebrity antics required some space. And after monitoring the CWs loosening up, he knew this crew of 30 was going to bolt for action. Like a box of puppies, the CWs were just busting to break out and have fun.
As the guests started making their way slowly into the ballroom, Scott gave the CWs some tips. Veterans nodded knowingly and newcomers either tried to take it in or blew it off, thinking it was just going to be putting plates on the table.
Just as guests finally settled into their seats at 12:16, the parade of CWs entered the room. Some lined up against the wall; others gathered around the stage. Guests hollered; CWs hollered back. Event co-chair Shay Geyer started to talk, but even with mic in hand she couldn’t be heard over the noise. Scott, like a principal at a pep rally, got the crowd’s attention, so Shay and her
co-chair Maggie Cooke Kipp could be heard. But that didn’t dampen the cheering. As certain sponsors were announced, cheers emanated from certain areas of the room.
Then the CWs were introduced: Notah Begay, Steve Blow, Kris Clinton, Ron Corning, Rich Emberlin, Lynae Fearing, Kim Fischer, Lisa Garza, Melani Ismail, Rocket Ismail, Steve Kemble, Daniel Lewis, LeeAnne Locken, Pamela Martin-Durate, Gina Miller, Dan Pritchett, Tracy Rathbun, Marco Rivera, Candice Romo, Penny Sadler, Rhonda Sargent Chambers, D’Andra Simmons, Victoria Snee, Grant Stinchfield, Hunter Sullivan and Ty Treadway. Some of the CWs brought along assistants to handle their multiple tables.
A group of businessmen at one table gave each other looks. Perhaps this luncheon wasn’t going to be an hour of videos, respectable speeches and polite luncheon conversation. That was like expecting ice cubes and getting an iceberg.
As the Ritz professional servers brought out the courses of food, the Marx Brothers version of waiters started to roll out. On the outskirts of the room newbies like Steve Blow and Ron Corning were sizing up the situation. They were trying to work their tables while watching people they had been with since 9 suddenly become wilder than spring break at Padre Island. It wasn’t quite a toga party, but it certainly wasn’t afternoon tea at the Dallas Woman’s Club.
In his role as emcee/referee, Scott was trying to keep some kind of decorum as the three-ring circus was becoming a 30-ringer. One matron told her server that she’d pay $100 if they would bring her a scotch and water. They said they would, but it would take some time. No problem, they replied. When they returned minutes later, she ordered another round.
Four of the male waiters (Notah, Kris, Marco and Ty) hopped up on stage and performed like La Bare dancers to the cheers of the ladies, who were standing, hollering and cheering. Actress LeeAnneLocken saw the perfect opportunity and joined the boys. . . Tracy Rathbun and Lynae
Fearing managed to do full splits on stage. Lynae in a bare-back, full-length gown discovered
that getting up was harder than going down. Luckily, Scott was on hand to lend a hand. . . Kim Fischer, the so-called-Queen of CWs Antics because of her Baby Bump performance and egg rolling with Kris Clinton at the recent Celebrity Waiter Dinner, was not going to let the other ladies
have the last word. Positioning two chairs facing each other, she “planked” as guests looked on in disbelief.
And then there were the more sedate members of the CWs. Gina Miller’s guests weren’t too demanding, since the talented sports reporter is eight months pregnant and always beautiful. . . Hunter Sullivan sang to his wife Maria. . . Pamela Martin-Duarte and Candice Romo were accompanied by Rhonda Sargent
Chambers’ husband, Kit, on guitar. . . D’Andra Simmons sang to her fiancée, Colin Duchin, lounging on the side of the stage. Then, in a turnabout move, Colin serenaded D’Andra.
But the act that was the piece de resistance was Steve Kemble’s performance. He had been pulling things — peacock-feathered masks, wings, all kinds of things — out of his bag of tricks for his guests to wear. He figured his timing was just right as the thunder meter was starting to aim for the breaking point. In addition to conducting a limbo dance off-stage using the microphone stand, he took mic in hand and led the room full of guests in the Village People’s YMCA. Think John Travolta‘s Michael on speed. Louboutins bounced up and down on the ballroom floor; manicured hands with gell-ed nails clapped over heads; arms on cue formed the letters Y-M-C-A, just at the right times. Spontaneously feathered and non-feathered gals joined Steve onstage.
Along the walls of the ballroom, Ritz and Gateway staffers looked like chaperones at an orgy. Some guests who were a tad bit overwhelmed headed for the door looking like green freshmen coeds escaping a fraternity kegger.
Exaggerating? Nope. According to the Dallas Observer‘s Brantley Hargrove, who was covering Mike Modano‘s retirement press conference being held in the next room, “Though women at a ‘celebrity waiters luncheon’ screamed in a conference room next door, and the bass line of YMCA throbbed through the walls, Modano was wistful.”
Actually, Mike may have sorta wish he’d been at the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon. Maybe next year?