One of the team putting on this year’s Celebrating Women smiled Thursday. Not only were they having the largest attendance ever (1,400+), they were predicted to break records in the money-raising arena for the 12-year-old fundraiser against breast cancer. She wondered aloud — “Is it because we’re having a male speaker? Or, is it because the speaker is Rob Lowe?” Really? The Lowe-mentum officially got underway Wednesday.
The usually sedate street in front of Claire and Dwight Emanuelson‘s mansion was cordoned off into a one-way street. Just 15 minutes into the cocktail reception for the Celebrating Women patrons, it seemed like all 175 guests were Johnny-on-the-spot. Valets had lined the street and the adjoining ones with all types of luxury vehicles. It was obvious that no one was going to be late for this one, except perhaps the guest of honor. While a handful of guests (mostly men) stood in the marvelous backyard, the majority (mostly female) stayed inside to greet the star/author/breast cancer activist.
While waiting for him, stories and sightings were revealed regarding Rob and his jewelry-designing wife, Sheryl. Earlier in the day she’d lunched with the Lowes’ Santa Barbara neighbors Annette Simmons and Bea Wallace at the downtown Neiman’s Zodiac Room, following a personal appearance downstairs with her collection. The Sheryl Lowe Designs was slated to be at the downtown store until 2013, but since they were in town. . . why not? One of the categories is called “Maria,” after Sheryl’s good buddy Maria Shriver.
And guess who dropped by to join the gals for lunch. Yup! Mr. Blue Eyes.
A touch of trivia: While Rob is quite adorable — blue eyes fringed with legions of brown eyelashes — he’s also totally gray follicle-wise. Has been since he was 24. Ah, shoot, who cares? Cary Grant, Anderson Cooper, George Clooney and so many painfully gorgeous men have gotten better and better looking as they grayed.
Barbara Stuart and dotter Melissa Macatee, who chaired the luncheon when the late Rue McClanahan spoke, were chatting with Emilynn and Claude Wilson. Seems Melissa’s 17-year-old son loves “Parks & Recreation” in which Rob has appeared. . . Mary Anne Cree, who was one of the recipients of this year’s Circle of Care Award, sat near Dan Busbee, and said she just hoped she wasn’t in the way as the crowds grew and grew in the living room, where the microphone was stationed. It was obvious from the placement of the mic that this was the most likely place to guarantee a look at Rob.
Finally at 6:44, the guest of honor arrived in the doorway with his wife Sheryl and friend Jan Miller. At least it looked like he walked in. From the sudden explosion of people filling the entry hall, it was hard to see exactly what was going on. But then the smile and blue eyes appeared surrounded by a gaggle of very happy ladies.
As he slowly . . . very slowly made his way down a couple of steps to the living room, he was introduced to Baylor Health Care System President/CEO Joel Allison and Baylor Health Care System Foundation President Rowland “Robin” Robinson. Being the smart gentlemen they are, they immediately made sure that Rob met the right women — luncheon Co-chairs Pam Busbee and Pam Perella and Lindalyn Adams.
As Joel pointed out, Lindalyn was the “visionary and soul and integrity of this luncheon. . . I said to her, ‘Let’s own October’ — and we have.”
But before the very short program had a chance to use the mic, Rob was led to the backyard by host Dwight through a gauntlet of guests, who just wanted a quick smartphone photo with him. Dwight wanted to show the Emanuelsons’ outdoor entertainment area to Rob. Looking around the pool, outdoor kitchen and game room, Rob was pretty well impressed with the surroundings.
Talking with some of the guys, Rob asked about the Cowboys chances. The feedback was unanimously not favorable.
Then out of nowhere came the Emanuelson son, Hillis. and his bud Michael Crow, with hockey sticks for a photo with Rob, who played a hockey player in “Youngblood.” On the way back to the main house, Rob told Dwight about his own sons. It seems that one of them was applying to Washington and Lee. Dwight looked startled. Did Rob know that Dwight not only graduated from W&L (he didn’t mention that he was a magna cum laude grad with a double major in economics and French), but he is also on the W&L board of trustees.
Then it was back to the house and the short program in which Joel told the group, “You know, (this luncheon) is getting like Six Flags. It just gets better and better each year.”
Then Robin admitted to the room overflowing with guests that he and Joel were pretty aware that the man of the hour was indeed Rob. All eyes didn’t turn to Rob. They were already focused on him. Then Robin added that Rob was here with his lovely wife, who had disappeared in the mob. Looking into the mass, Rob immediately found her and pointed her out.
Since the next day was full of activities, the Baylor folks kept the remarks short and the program ended. Arriving just as the program ended were Annette and Harold Simmons, who took the Lowes to dinner at Cafe Pacific. The rest of the herd descended upon the NM buffet in the dining room.
Never has a VIP reception had so many guests show up so early. The infatuation with Rob Lowe was now in its second day and it was showing no signs of dimming. Even the most sophisticated socialite made no excuses for wanting to meet him. His book signing at Jan Miller’s and Jeff Rich’s had confirmed Rob’s youthful good looks and genial personality were cosmic.
At one end of the Wedgwood Room was a small stage for Joel, Robin and representatives from Plains Capital and Tom Thumb to speak. At the opposite end of the room was a backdrop for photos to be taken with Rob. It was four across and longer than the lineup for Santa at NorthPark.
Just as the speakers started to talk, Rob entered via the service entrance in the back of the room. Without a word said, eyes went from the stage to the back of the room, where he tried to blend in. No way. They ushered him to the foot of the stage.
As soon as the speaker finished, the photo session started. One veteran mumbled, “There’s no way they’re going to finish taking pictures of all these people. Maybe they should just do a group photo.” Ain’t no lens big enough.
But the Baylor team knows how to run a tidy ship, and the photo session ended with a couple of minutes to spare.
Quickly the group joined the rest of the 1,400 in the Chantilly Ballroom as the doors opened at 12:32 p.m. Eithin 11 minutes, the guests were in their chairs and the Pams were at the podium. Pam Busbee had been worried about the two teleprompters. Last year they had stopped, causing a bit of frustration for the speakers. This time Pam had a backup plan in hand. . . literally. She had vowed to write notes down on her hand. Smart gal.
After introducing Honorary Chair Caren Prothro, the Pams had Pat Smith, who lost her mother when Pat was 22, give the invocation. Of course, the beautiful wife of Emmitt Smith was not going to let this gathering of 1,400 potential voters go without a pitch for her husband in the “Dancing With The Stars” competition. Then she proceeded with the invocation.
The Pams weren’t about to let guests just start chowing down on parsnip-apple soup en croute, panko crusted breast of chicken served with assorted fall greens, candied pecan goat cheese wafer and spicy cheese straw with sherry Dijon vinaigrette and a chocolate hazelnut cake with praline chocolate crunch. Nope, they asked guests to look at their programs, or rather the back of the program. The ones with a butterfly appliqué were the lucky ones who would receive a “Go Girl” ring designed by Dian Malouf.
While everyone ate and chatted, Rob opted just to chat. Smart fella. When your face is going to be on three mega screens, you don’t want to worry about the possibility of a stray piece of lettuce or something lodging among your ivories.
After lunch Joel announced that Baylor had been selected as not only the location of the newest Hope Lodge but also as the regional headquarters for the American Cancer Society. This remarkable announcement was greeted with applause. Baylor has indeed been busy this past month with the official naming of the Baylor T. Boone Pickens Cancer Center across from the Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center.
Speaking of the Sammons, Robin presented the Circle of Care Awards to Mary Anne and the Men and Women of Sammons Enterprises, Inc., represented by David Bratton and Heather Kreager. For newbies, breast cancer survivor Mary Anne is the daughter of the late Charles Sammons, who was a truly remarkable man. Ironically, Mary Anne learned that she had cancer in the diagnosis suite that she and her husband dedicated in the name of his late wife, who died of breast cancer.
Then Robin shifted gears with a video on 25-year-old Crystal Griffith, who is going through treatments for breast cancer. Following a video on a very articulate Crystal, Robin seemed to tear up as she updated the audience that she had spoken with her the day before and she was facing still more treatments. Mary Ann claimed that her father would have teased her that just because you provided the funding for such an effort, you didn’t have to try it out.
Once again, Robin changed gears again and introduced Rob. During his 18-minute talk, he told how he had lost his great-grandmother, his grandmother and even his mother to breast cancer. His grandmother Peg Hepler, had been “a big influence in my life” He told how they would read Peter Rabbit and she would serve him a drop of Sanka in his milk, so it looked like they were having coffee together. “That dates me. I’m 100 years old. (Laughter) . . . Today I’m still a fan of Peter Rabbit but a bigger fan of caffeine. Grandma, Starbucks thanks you.” And yet when she was diagnosed with cancer in the 70’s, the whole family was scared because in those days it was “considered a death sentence.” Her example of how she handled the grueling treatments (a radical double mastectomy and countless rounds of chemo), inspired him to take on the battle of creating awareness of the disease. “She and her doctors were early warriors in the cause that brings us together today,” he said.
In honor of Peggy, Rob became the first male spokesperson for the National Breast Cancer Awareness Day in 2001. In one single day $7.5M was raised for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
But he was frustrated in trying to get the word out about the importance of getting mammograms. He thought the message was “a no brainer.” He wondered if the message was really needed anymore. After all it was so obvious.
And, yet despite his efforts, he was shocked to learn “in 2006 my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. She’d never had a mammogram.. . . How did this happen? It was devastating.”
[Editor’s note: Barbara was actually diagnosed in early 2003.]
When she died just eight months later just after Thanksgiving in 2003, it broke the hearts of her entire family. So much so that Rob’s eight-year-old son, John Owen, cried so much he threw a rib out.
Rob summed it up by saying, “Today we know that a cancer diagnosis is not the end. It is the beginning of a journey that has the potential to be transformative, enlightened and heroic.”
By transformative, he said that so often when he meets cancer survivors, they admit that they are different people and that they see life from a different perspective.
Despite his initial anger at his mother’s not being diagnosed earlier, he learned that the quality of time was more important that the quantity of time.
He finished by embracing the guests saying, “All of us here today are family. We are joined by a common experience, our shared humanity and the daily we face in the war on cancer. . . . We celebrate our loved ones who have given us so much and sometimes leave us with so much. We celebrate the doctors, the nurses, the health care providers of all stripes, as well as the unsung heroes that keep our big hospitals running, for those who clean and cook. We honor those who tirelessly work and look for funds like all of you here today to keep the lights on and to keep the labs running. . . . There’s so much to be done for so many. And for some time is truly of the essence. But we are a nation that has always been capable of leading the way of great accomplishments. The tools for tremendous achievement are in our DNA. The powerful strands of intertwined sacrifice, commitment, hope and love all shared friend to friend are handed down family to family. . . Together we can make miracles.”
No, his talk was not long, but it was personal, thoughtful, articulate and to the point — much to the relief of veteran luncheoners, who too often feel like they’re being lectured.
By 1:21 the valets were being hit by hundreds and hundreds of guests trying to depart. The problem with such a luncheon is that patrons usually come solo, unlike evening events where each car has two people. If only it had been announced that anyone who stayed might have a chance to talk with Rob, it would have slowed things down immensely. . . but then Rob would have never been able to return to Cafe Pacific for lunch.