Parking for the Salvation Army’s “2012 Annual Doing The Most Good Luncheon” on Thursday, November 15, at the Hilton Anatole is a caste system. There are two lanes near the Hilton Anatole’s entry and under the porte-cochere. There the Jack Boles boys and gals are relieving the “Benefactors” of their vehicles. In the exterior lanes near the grassy lawn with the jumbo-balloon SA logo, the “general valet” is available for Anatole parkers. For the more self-sufficient, who are a bit overwhelmed by the dividing of the Very VIPs and General VIPs, there is self-parking out in various lots.
But it is a beautiful day with a hint of fall in the air. And then as guests enter the hotel, there is the sound of bells. . . lots of bells being rung by dedicated SA workers in their blue uniforms and wearing welcoming smiles. Next to each is a red kettle in need of filling. But all of this is the purpose of this mega-fundraiser that officially kicks off the bell-ringing, kettle-filling season.
VVIP types like Gerald Turner, Shelle Sills, birthday girl Margot Perot, Underwriting Chair Lynn McBee, Merrie Ann and Frank King, Ruth Altshuler, Elaine Agather, Linda Custard and Connie and Denny Carreker head to the Carpenter Ballroom to meet and greet with the day’s keynote speaker Amy Grant.
As people queue up for a quick smile-and-snapshot with Amy, one man is heard explaining to his friend, “It’s Christian Contemporary.” A woman grabs Amy’s hands saying, “I’m such a fan. You’re my favorite.” Amy is gracious about this compliment and the many more that follow as she poses for photos with an endless line up.
DeeDee Lee and Claire Emanuelson are talking about the day before, when they attended the Victoria Beckham trunk show at Neiman Marcus Downtown. “She’s so nice and what a gorgeous smile,” DDL says of Victoria. Both gals seem mystified why she is always photographed “so seriously.” They asked the former Spice Girl if she was spending the night and she said, “No.” Seems she wanted to get home to tuck her children in for the night.
By 11:43 a.m., the reception is really crowded. Someone spots a guest who is notorious for crashing the VIP parties. Another vet of celebrity fundraisers is asked if they would like to have their pic taken with Amy. They startle friends by responding, “No. I’m starting to feel like a celebrity ego wh–e.”
At 11:45 a.m., the chimes promptly put out the call for lunch and guests start the march to the Khmer Room upstairs via the single-file escalator or the bank of elevators.
It’s obvious that the Khmer is filled to capacity, like a queen-size gal trying to fit into a petite pair of leggings, the hundreds and hundreds wedged their way to their seats. Pity the poor soul searching for their table without checking the floor plan at the check-in. Even Anatole staffers looked a little wide-eyed, realizing they were going to have to carry huge serving trays through the tight maze of tables. But a singing group on stage makes the “table, table, where’s our table?” game easier.
At 12:11 p.m. NBC5 Mark Hayes introduces himself, welcomes guests and thanks the McCampbells. Who are they? Silly, they’re the group that has been singing. A sentence or two later he again introduces himself as Mark Hayes from NBC5.
At 12:15 p.m. everything is going on schedule and SA Captain Michelle and Major Ward Matthews welcome everyone and tell the group that the day’s event has raised “more than $2.5M.” Then they introduce Bernice Washington, who does the invocation.
Lunch is served — Salad: Grilled apples, goat cheese and walnuts, local field greens with fig balsamic vinaigrette; Entree: Chicken breast stuffed with spinach, mushrooms and pancetta, wild mushroom saute, haricot vert and roasted grape tomatoes; Dessert: A multi-tier tray of chocolate truffles, maple pots de creme, chocolate icebox spoons and whoopie pies (chocolate with ganache, vanilla with strawberry and white chocolate mousse and raspberry stuffed butter cookie macaroons). Some tables have no dressing boat, so guests eat their salads dry. Doesn’t taste half bad and probably saves on calories. Others in need of a vinaigrette fix hijack servers to ladle on the dressing.
At 1:05 p.m., a video on Cassie Andrade brings to the forefront the whole purpose of the day. She suffered from drug and alcohol abuse, went to prison for forging prescriptions and has turned her life around thanks to SA. As the video ends Cassie is on stage with Michelle. Mark is back. He doesn’t introduce himself this time. Instead he introduces Amy.
As the singer arrives center stage with her guitar, the two drive-in-movie-size screens on either side of the stage show close-ups of Amy’s face, making her look Gulliver-like to the room full of Lilliputians. She tells stories in between songs. The stories are about friends, her life.
At 1:21 p.m. Amy tells about “Alice Faye.” Is that the movie star from the 40s? No. It turns out to be Amy’s former mother-in-law who is still close and inspirational. People are videotaping on their smartphones. Some are starting to check their watches.
Amy tells how she’s turning 52 at the end of the month.
At 1:34 p.m. Amy tells how she was with her sister Mimi, who was finishing cancer treatment. Acapella she sings Hebrews Chapter XI that’s “kind of like Cliff Notes of the Old Testament.”
It’s now 1:46 p.m. and people are trying to sneak out. A minute later, Amy finishes to applause, but it’s not over yet. The Matthews thank everyone for coming.
At 1:49 p.m., the luncheon is over and the season of giving, sharing and bell ringing is well underway.