What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but that philosophy didn’t apply to the 38th Annual Cattle Baron’s Ball at Southfork. CBB Chair Jennifer Dix led dreamed up the theme, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” and let event designer Tom Addis create a glittering-but-never-gaudy Strip where 3,000 guests partied. With her corps of committee members working tirelessly, Jennifer was proud that $3 million was already in the bank for the American Cancer Society, making this the most successful CBB ever.
Jennifer was so organized that she had her “ball gown” already picked out in August — a Pucci dress that had been custom-crystallized with matching crystallized boots. Not only was it a standout outfit, it held up through the night as Jennifer seemed to be everywhere, making sure that all was as perfect as the October evening and that more money was coming in for the night’s take.
For 1,000 guests, the start time took place before sunset. Instead of holding the traditional VIP party at the Ewing mansion, they headed to the almost-airplane-hangar-sized Oil Baron’s Ballroom for the SoftLayer Technologies, Inc. VIP Baron Party. Out of this crowd a privileged two dozen were asked to arrive before the rest. The reason? A meet-and-greet with
event entertainers Clint Black, Dierks Bentley and Darius Rucker. Everything was so prepared in advance, the photo session was over before you knew it. Even the boys’ managers got in the spirit of the shoot and asked to have their photo taken together. After all, it’s not every day that these three C/W musical teams get together.
Back in the ballroom, the Tyler Junior College Apache Belles were greeting one and all with servers everywhere offering food and grownup libations. It was a wise move, because check-in for 1,000 in a limited amount of time can be challenging. One $25,000-sponsor practically had to show her canceled check to get clearance. Not to worry. She and her entourage were later seen with smiles on their faces and wristbands alongside their diamond bracelets.
And then there was the transition from daylight to darker-than-Clint-Black’s-Stetson. What may have been a visual challenge adjusting to the barely-lit hall was helped along by the twinkling from ladies’ sequined outfits, and the all-Texas smiles on the Belles as they helped folks see their way around. But that changed once Clint Black took to the stage. Despite the mammoth spotlight on Clint, the room seemed to get darker than ever. Time and time again the comment, “Oh, I didn’t see you,” was heard as people “felt” their way through the crowd. Didn’t matter, though. Who needs light if you’re listening to Clint croon? A couple of daring guests took to an open spot on the dance floor to prove that Clint’s music was just right for listening or dancing in the dark.
Word was passed through the crowd that despite being diagnosed with cancer the day before, Larry Hagman was in attendance and posing with folks for pictures. In the dim light, it did look like “J.R. Ewing,” only a little heavier and younger. On being queried, he turned out to be a faux J.R. In real life he is Dr. Gregg Dickerson of Denver, who’s been mistaken for Hagman since 1982, the year of the “Who Shot J.R.” storyline. He went “professional” five or six years ago, and even got a voice coach who taught him to talk like J.R. Dr. Gregg had a passel of stories to go with his Ewing look.
- He once had a surgical patient who, coming out of anesthesia, spotted Gregg and pulled the sheets up over her head, saying, “Don’t hurt me, J.R.!”
- On Hagman: “He’s very loved. When I’m here at the ranch, the reaction is so overwhelming.”
- Gregg’s wife gets pushed out of the way a lot, as people rush him. “One woman propositioned me, so my wife keeps a close eye on things.”
As Clint kept playing and guests kept arriving, Jennifer was preparing for the first auction test of the night — a Gibson guitar to be autographed by Clint in his trailer.
Almost the moment that Clint ended his performance, the guitar was put up for bid. Just at the base of the stage, Jennifer closed her eyes, hoping the item would bring $5,000. As the numbers kept growing, Jennifer’s eyes opened wider and wider. Then, when auctioneer Louis Murad closed the bidding at $18,000, the CBB chair gave a “Yahoo!” that could have been heard all over Parker County. It was a sign. . . a definite sign … of good things to come.
The only ones happier than Jennifer and live auction Chair Kim Bannister were Ellen and Steve Sterin of Southlake, who won the prize and were immediately escorted back to Clint’s trailer.
Eventually, the 1,000 made their way to the main Strip. Some took the tram and others just took a leisurely stroll as the moon began to rise. The big white orb was probably hedging its bets after spotting the American Airlines Silent Auction tent. This year, instead of a plump white down pillow, Tom Addis had a see-through tent installed. It had faux Chihuly as the center chandelier hovering over DJ Andre on an elevated stage playing just the right music to bid by. It looked like a crystal palace.
Wandering in the tent checking out the children’s area were CBB committee members/moms-to-be Leigh Bailey and Brooke Hortenstine. In another part of the tent, Leigh’s husband Vinny Carrizales was explaining the cast on his arm that was going to prevent him from taking part in the Iron Man Triathalon. BTW, Leigh and Vinnie already know the baby is going to be a girl and have named her “Sophia,” while Brooke and husband Blake have opted to wait for the baby’s delivery in May to learn whether it will be bows or bowties in the newborn’s wardrobe.
Among those in the tent not glittering but still show-stopping in more natural fabrics were Melissa Kath in Louboutin “Pucks” (made of pony hair), Jacqueline Cavender with a fur tossed over her shoulder and Doris Jacobs in a hot turquoise leather skirt with a cute slit.
Speaking of turquoise, the theme may have been “rhinestone-oriented,” but many decided turquoise was the diamond of the night. And it wasn’t just the ladies in squash-blossom necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Men, like Jack Jacobs, were wearing turquoise bolo ties, belt buckles and rings. JB Hayes decided to cash in on all gems wearing a turquoise necklace and a rhinestone tiara on her stetson.
While the silent auction was stroll-and-bid, the live auction way across the compound at the Bank of America Live Auction Stage was a sit-and-spend for the really big bank-rollers. It was definitely not for the faint of heart, as committee members rang cowbells like Salvation Army workers during Christmas. Everything from a one-of-a-kind music box valued at $55,000 to a $200,000 2012 Mercedes SRS (“You’ll take delivery in the spring of 2012, while others will have to wait two more years”) went up for grabs.
When the annual dinner by “The Supremes” (chefs Richard Chamberlain, Dean Fearing, Kevin Garvin, David Holben, Kent Rathbun, Kevin Rathbun and Jim Severson) in Napa was in the spotlight, it was noted that Dean had finally returned to the fold. The last time he was part of the action was back in 1988. Kent told the crowd about the three-day, two-night trip to Napa and the participating wineries, “They treat us like rock stars, and they’ll treat you the same way, so you gotta bid high!” As the bidding was passing the $55,000 mark, Kent reminded the audience that this package alone had raised $1.6 million for CBB since its start, so “you need to raise this bid!” The dinner for six ended up going for $57,500.
As the cheers from the AT&T Sports Lounge, where the Rangers were capturing the ACLS title, were heard over the cowbells, two World Series tickets between third base and home were placed on the block. It was a last-minute addition to the list, but the bidding heated up as the cheers continued across the Strip. On the front row, Ashlee Kleinert with her buddies Victoria Snee and Robin Skinner by her side gave the sign to the auctioneer that she was a force to be reckoned with. It worked, with her winning bid in the five-figure area. Afterwards, she admitted that being a season ticket-holder, she and husband Chris already had Series tickets. Solution: auction tickets might find a home via Ebay.
While all this fundraising was ca-chinking, some guests were standing in lines for the Ferris wheel or the food stations. Luckily, the lines moved quickly. One couple got downright cute taking more than one, two, three rides on the wheel as the moon rose. Still another was raving about the service. Even guests in the “cheap seats” at the back of the Dr Pepper Main Stage were treated royally with servers popping by every few minutes to refresh drinks, bring seconds and thirds of peach cobbler with ice cream, and pamper them.
A new development at the Main Stage setting this year was the barrier that separated the VIP’s from the IP’s. Seems there had been problems in the past with the overly popular “mosh pit” blocking the view of folks seated close to the stage. To cut down on the moshers, only guests with the infamous wristbands made it past bouncers Mary Gill and Nancy Gopez. Nice try. Still, the mosh pit jammed with front-row guests appearing to enjoy the entertainment on stage and upfront.
Well, except for one female guest who found walking the terrain a little oopsie as she approached two Collin County officers and fell into the arms of one of them. She then raised her left foot, perhaps to show the sheriff her pedicure or her bootie (i.e. shoe). Being a gentleman, he quickly helped her get her footing back on the ground and back on the path to other parts.