Two years ago the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon was a cute little affair with a dozen local celebs working for tips. Kim Fischer led a group of gals in a spontaneous “Baby Bump,” and polo-playing Vaughn Miller rode Brendan Higgins around one of the Ritz-Carlton ballrooms with 150 guests looking on. Luncheon Chair Kristi Bare was thrilled that this first-time venture earned $55,000 for Family Gateway.
Last year Co-chairs Maggie Cooke Kipp and Shay Geyer more than doubled the guest and waiter count. Instead of ramping up the activity one or two cautious steps, the luncheon was the topic du jour for weeks and months to come. Why, there were those who claimed they could hear Steve Kemble leading the guests in “YMCA” during poor old Mike Modano‘s farewell press conference in the next ballroom. The walls shook and a legend was created.
The only problem with a legend is keeping up the legend. That was the issue facing returning Co-chairs Maggie and Shay. Could they actually top last year? Or, would it be a snore in comparison?
The twosome were taking on the challenge without hesitation. They combined all three Ritz ballrooms, arranged for around 50 waiters, upped the guest count to more than 450, and had one lengthy main stage in the middle of the room and four mini-stages in the corners of the ballroom.
Veteran waiters dressed up their tables with all types of goodies. They just knew that in order to get tips, they had to impress. Rhonda Sargent Chambers draped pashminas around chairs and had gift bags filled with Laura Mercier makeup products and jewelry.
In keeping with the tradition of the past, the waiters arrived around 9:30 to prep with makeup artists and camaraderie in a meeting room. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, by the time all the waiters arrived, the room seemed like a size six sausage-wrap dressed for a full-figured gal. Any wallflower or sorta-shy-type didn’t stand a chance in this crowd.
One of the waiters had even had a banner made to add to the decor, but the Ritz folks wouldn’t allow them to hang it. However, for $75 the Ritz staff would post it on poles. The fee was paid and the sign was displayed.
As Maggie, Shay and emcees Scott Murray and Steve Kemble started to explain the POA, someone announced that Honorary Chair Faye Briggs had arrived. The applauding crowd made way for the petite patron saint of celebrity waiters. All wanted their picture taken with her.
But then it was time for the annual celeb group photo and there was no room in the prep area, so an adjacent empty room was opened up. Like college kids at Padre Island, the crowd partied their way from room to room. With Faye seated in the very middle, photos were taken.
Then the celebs’ official cocktail hour was underway. D’Andra Simmons was introducing her new boyfriend, Master Sergeant Jeremy Lock to one and all. He’s a six-time winner of the Military Photographer of the Year. . . Matt Nordgren was in the hallway getting friendly with Sydney Kaplan. . . Jane McGarry was catching up with old buddy Brendan Higgins. . . It got so loud in the room that you couldn’t even hear Dee Lincoln laugh!
In the meantime, the guests were checking out the silent auction items and each other in the lobby outside the ballroom. Some were comparing notes on Thursday’s overload of fashion experiences (Crystal Charity Ball Fashion Show & Luncheon and Fashion’s Night Out); others were looking forward to the formal launch of the social season with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra gala Saturday night.
But as soon as the ballroom doors opened, the guests quickly made their way to their tables like children to a Christmas tree on the 25th. They all knew surprises were in store.
On the main stage, Scott welcomed all saying that “this is one of the most fun, exciting events. We’re here to have fun.” After a brief summary of Family Gateway’s program including the fact that on any night, 3,000 children are on the streets of Dallas, the first cannon blast exploded in the room with the arrival of Steve K.
Running up on the stage, he pointed out Faye Briggs seated at a front row table, saying, “She’s such a special person. Thank you so much for everything you do.”
The ballroom lights then dimmed for a video to be shown explaining how waiters earned tips from guests. Beyond the ballroom doors, cheers from the waiting waiters were heard. Following the video, with the lights still turned down, slides of the waiters appeared on the screen. Hardly a dozen pictures had been shown when two doors at the far end of the ballroom opened to a nonstop flow of manic celebs. Some headed to their tables, but the multitude seemed to go straight to a stage, dancing to “Call Me Maybe” and then “Celebrate.” Rhonda, Courtney Kerr and Maria Sullivan danced on one of the mini-stages near their tables. Jewel Shona Gilbert joined them, waving her boa around.
Even guests got into the action. Or, rather, were drafted. Realtor Doris Jacobs found herself dancing on the main stage between Karen Lukin and LeeAnne Locken. Courtney left the mini-stage and headed to the big-time main stage. She waved a sign reading “Courtney Loves Family Gateway” as if she were a presidential candidate looking for votes.
Great! The luncheon started where the last one left off, with raucous singing and dancing. Now it was time for the waiters to sell silverware for tips and perform requested acts of embarrassment. Well, that’s not exactly what happened. There were savvy veteran guests like Lynn Dealey, who brought their own knives and forks. But throughout the rest of the day there were flashmobs of celeb waiters back on stage, dancing wildly. It was starting to take on the appearance of a Celebrity Entertainers Luncheon.
Instead of past luncheons, where the emcee would announce the next stunt to be performed for a tip, the developments seemed more like a three-ring circus with no rings. The roof was being raised along with the much-needed funds.
According to Family Gateway Executive Director Rob Alberts, last year’s event netted “right under $100,000,” but the demand for Family Gateway services had increased 500% in the last two years in terms of the number of families served. This day’s luncheon was the organization’s major single event. But Rob also admitted that the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon was not the norm. As he stood in the back of the room watching the over-the-top antics, he admitted that he had earlier told his staff, “The train just left the station. All we can do now is hold on.”
Benny Black did a lap dance for a female guest on stage. . .Crooner Hunter Sullivan earned $150 serenading Janet Ivy. . . One of the guy waiters did an impression of Ethel Merman singing Happy Birthday. . . A fully-clothed Teresa Frosini belly danced. . . Dallas police celebrity Rich Emberlin made a thong out of yellow caution tape, when he wasn’t handcuffing people including a major law firm partner . . . Brendan chop-chopped a board with his hand. . . Reality TV
personality Connie Dieb and her Fifty Shades of Fabulous entourage commandeered the mini-stage near the screen. . . Marco Rivera and Ashanti Blaize did 15 pushups on stage. . . Hamilton Sneed, Dawn Neufeld and Yolanda Banks hip-hop danced on stage. . . NFL types Marc Colombo and Ryan Neufeld did whatever they wanted. . . Dan Pritchett sans his usual hat
brought his guitar for strumming. . . Ty Treadway, who had donned pink rabbit ears and a matching hula skirt, got on stage and slowly started stripping items off. To the disappointment of many of the ladies at his table, he stopped at opening his shirt. New mom Jackie Pittman immediately jumped up on stage for a photo with the bare-chested hunk. . . Jody Dean started to do the Centipede Dance and ended up being wheelbarrowed by LeeAnne Locken. Afterwards, Jody grabbed his stomach, confessing, “You don’t do that if you’re wearing a belt buckle.”
First-time waiter Terri Provencal admitted to being overwhelmed, saying, “Next year I’ll be a guest. I’m not good at being a waiter.”
Unfortunately, Honorary Chair Faye, who had been applauded by the celebs and treated like a princess during the lunch, was met with reality at the valet stand. She found herself among those waiting for more than half an hour for her car. Ah, how fleeting the place of honorary chair can be.