Back in the 1960’s, Goldie Hawn was the giggly goofball on Laugh-In. Near the end of the decade she was being taken more seriously by winning an Academy Award. Over the years, she’s written a book and made dozens and dozens of movies. But in the last 10 years she hasn’t been seen much on the big or little screen. Instead, she has focused her energy on trying to equip children with social and emotional skills to lead better lives through her Hawn Foundation.
In fact, many of the tools that Goldie has incorporated have been adapted by the Salesmanship Club of Dallas‘ J. Erik Jonsson Community School. It’s been so successful that according to SCD Development of Development Kristen Howell, “At our school, 95% graduate on time versus 43% average in the area.”
So, it was no surprise that Goldie was the headliner for the club’s 2012 Changing the Odds Conference. And since she was in town, some smart person thought it might be a great opportunity to have her share her thoughts with major area influencers and donors as well as let them better understand the mission of the club.
So, a seated dinner for 200 was held Thursday night at Alan and Randy Engstrom‘s marvelous estate. As the Engstrom’s auto courtyard took on the look of a square dance of luxury vehicles, guests received their name tags (there was even one for Goldie. . . as if. . .) and made their way down the steps to the pool area for the cocktail reception. As the elite set of movers and shakers gathered around the pool at the base of the Engstrom mansion, even the most sophisticated could be seen raising an eye to check out the newest arrival at the top of the lantern lined stairway: Was it Goldie?
In the meantime, organizers worked on a game plan to have Goldie head to the walkway leading to the massive air-conditioned dinner tent for a grip-and-grin photo session.
Then without fanfare the blonde of the hour appeared. It was sorta endearing to see some locals sneak a look at her at the top of the stairs, while others lucked out and got a chat with her.
Ah, shoot! There went all the plans to maneuver her to the designated photo spot. She barely made it to the base of the steps. Local handlers soon realized Goldie did not have an egg timer limiting her conversation with new BFF’s. Each conversation was given full attention and time. But there were 200 people and only so many hours.
Most guests realized that their one-on-one session with Goldie just wasn’t going to happen, so they happily continued their chatting it up with friends and new acquaintances. Dallas Morning News columnist Steve Blow, who was to interview Goldie, had been given the caveat — “No questions about movies!” Really. That’s like interviewing a presidential candidate without involving anything political. But Goldie’s purpose was not to promote a movie. It was to promote children’s education and she was not going to be distracted by a minor item like 30 years of show biz.
Then Stephan Pyle’s Ben Brown started playing the chimes calling all to the tent. The parade of high rollers was rewarded with cooler temperatures inside the tent with chandeliers, wonderful fall-colored floral arrangements, a clear top to see the sky and neatly done cards (place, menu and program).
Soon all seats were filled except for a pair at one table. Nothing stands out like a no-show at a seated dinner, don’t you know.
SCD Development Committee Chairman Paul Whitman welcomed the group, saying that the 92-year-old club had only had a development committee for one year and admitted that most folks “know we wear red pants and support the Byron Nelson golf tournament. . . but we have so many more things we want to do.” Then he added that everyone should settle back for dinner and they’d get ’em out by 9:30 p.m.
During that time the crowd (Ralph Babb, Elaine and Neils Agather, Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne
with her mom Barbara Van Duyne, Lydia and Dan Novakov, Nancy Dedman with Brad Kelly, Mike Miles, Lynn and Allan McBee, Brent Christopher and Marianne Staubach with daughter Michelle Staubach Grimes) caught up. Norm Bagwell said his Bank of Texas had a record quarter, and last year was a record year. However, it will get tougher going forward, he added. Hmm, sounds like the same song that Comerica’s Ralph Babbsang at the Crystal Charity Ball Platinum Patron dinner.
Perot Museum of Nature and Science fundraising wunderkind Forrest Hoglund was talking to Caroline Rose Hunt. Asked the secret of getting the $185M Perot Museum to open earlier than expected—Dec. 1—Forrest said, “The project absolutely has been blessed. On time, on budget. There was a tremendous outpouring of support in Dallas. Biggest problem was, people didn’t know at the start what a good museum is. But if they went to see the Houston Museum of Natural Science. . . that’s the fourth-best attended museum in country, after the Smithsonian, the Metropolitan in New York, etc.”
Forrest explained that getting the two museums at Fair Park to merge was as hard as getting Exxon to merge with Microsoft. “We raised $100M right off the bat. Got to $130M, then got a bunch of million-dollar-and-more matching gifts.” When asked if people cry when they hear that he’s phoning them, he said, “What’s the worst technological invention of the last 25 years? Caller ID!”
Seated nearby, Forrest’s wife Sally added with a twinkle in her eye: “He’ll flirt with anybody who will give him money.”
At the head table, Trevor Rees-Jones snapped a shot of Goldie seated next to his wife Jan on his iPhone.
After dinner (roasted balsamic portabella with shaved fennel and marinated cherry tomato on fresh baby greens, BBQ beef short rib with horseradish potato gratin, braid artichokes and picked red onions; and lemon pound cake with port-macerated blackberry and blackberry chicharron), the program was reminiscent of Todd Wagner’s event with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dan Rather and ZZ Top at Cowboys Stadium. The host had paid for the event and brought in celebs for the guests to hear the message.
Salesmanship Club President Charley Spradley thanked the Engstroms and recognized the many, including Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, who were “generous underwriters of the event.”
A video on the Salesmanship Club was shown about the SCD on two screens on both sides of the stage. The screens were big enough to handle a NFL football in most dens, but in this mammoth tent they reminded one guest of a 1950’s screen on which home movies were shown.
It was followed by Salesmanship Club Executive Director Designate Michelle Kinder, who explained in detail the past, present and future of the organization’s goals. While guests listened, it was obvious they wanted to hear from the “gold one.”
It might have been more productive if the talks had been cut in half and handouts had been provided for guests to find in their cars, or better yet mailed the day after.
But at this point, who cared. It was Goldie time.
In introducing the main event, Event Chair George Bramblett said interviewer Steve “is the reason we read the Dallas Morning News.”
Goldie and Steve took their places on stage. While Steve sat in his chair, Goldie with mic in hand talked to the crowd like a Sunday morning TV minister.
She recalled how on 9/11, she was staring up at a glass roof with rain coming down in a Vancouver hotel room. She had read about various school shootings, and was inspired then to pursue social and emotional learning. “We aren’t teaching children about their brains! One in three is medicated.” When she met with Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan, she asked, “Why are our kids dropping out?”
Goldie then told the crowd that she felt “we’re not looking at what’s really wrong. The kids’ hearts are breaking.”
It would be up to the private sector to make a difference by building a society that has empathy and toughness of spirit, she said.
Then, recalling her start as the lovable Laugh-In goofball, she said, “It is odd, because I started out as a dummy on Laugh-In.”
During a visit to the Jonsson school earlier in the day, a student had asked her why she was doing this. Goldie told the child, “I am doing this because I want you to find happiness.”
Then it was time for Steve to get to work. He opened by saying, “I’ve been a fan since Laugh-In. I dreamed that we might meet one day. Not like this, though.” He asked her about the present situation facing young people. To this issue, she answered that youngsters nowadays have no social and emotional skills. They’re too tech-oriented.
Breaking the rules, Steve asked Goldie about her show biz past. Heck, what was she gonna do? Walk off the stage?
What were her favorite movies? Answer: Sugarland Express, Private Benjamin and Overboard.
Is Kurt Russell (her longtime companion) still cute? “I think he is. . . He keeps me interested.” She met him when he was 16 and she was 21 on a Disney movie, The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.
What do you want to impart to your grandchildren? Steve finished up. Answer: “Empathy for others.”
Ironically, when some guests got home, what did they discover showing on their cable TV? Overboard. Now, how the heck did the Salesmanship Club pull that one off?