For months the question was who would have their way at the Saint Valentine’s Day Luncheon & Fashion Show. Would Mother Nature party poop with one of her annual ice storms, or would Stanley Korshak’s Crawford Brock charm and cajole her into playing nice?
It was well-known that Crawford was a keen supporter of the event and its beneficiary, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Why, Korshak had been providing the fashions and underwriting for the show for ages. But Crawford let it be known at the announcement party last year that change was in the wind. New venue — the Meyerson. Honorary chairs — vets Myrna and Bob Schlegel (they were honorary chairs of the recent February 2nd Dallas Symphony Orchestra League Deb Presentation at the Meyerson). Gangbuster fashions — Monique Lhuillier.
Tuesday he had his way. Well, at least, he had 90% of it.
Just 15 minutes before the 9:45 a.m. start, boxes were still being opened for last-minutes goodies to be distributed, and ushers were putting together programs. The weather tried to dampen the day with rain and fog causing a bit of a delay at the upper valet stand. A parade of umbrellas trekked into the lobby of the Meyerson. What frownie faces approached accompanied by umbrella-carrying escorts soon turned upside down once inside, where they were welcomed by trays carrying flutes of orange juice and champagne. One person innocently asked, “Is it too early for champagne?” A passerby laughed, “Never in Dallas.”
And who could be un-sunny when spying the sea of tables covered in pink tablecloths?
Backstage, steamers were blowing wrinkles out of the Korshak fashions like a Botox happy hour. Fashion producer Jan Strimple was juggling last-minute directions with the models with the grace of a ballerina. Where normally musicians would be warming up for their performances onstage, the willowy models calmly sat around in civvies checking their smartphones or reading magazines, just like gals in a sorority house. In minutes, they would be walking the catwalk with the elegance of royalty.
Back in the lobby, photos were being snapped left and right. At the top of the stairs leading to the McDermott Hall, key players–Crawford, the Schlegels, Co-chairs Angela Choquette, Maggie Kipp and Paige Slates —posed for photos. While Angela and Paige opted for leather, Maggie took the day to heart wearing a short, hot-pink dress, diamond necklace, diamond-and-pearl earrings and loads and loads of curls. She topped off the swirls of curls with a feather fascinator. Much lighter than a crown, don’t you know. Perhaps she was trying it out for her next gig, as co-chair of the Mad Hatter’s Tea.
Relatively new Dallas Symphony Orchestra President/CEO Jonathan Martin looked over the crowd with his wife Amy saying, “This is a younger crowd.”
And while pink (Muffin Lemak, Lisa Troutt, Kristi Bare, Karen Lukin, Tammy Duclow, Linda Ivy) and red (Pat Smith, Clarice Tinsley, Doris Jacobs, Mary Beth Conlon, Katherine Coker, Cathy Vieth, Phyllis Comu, Renee Rouleau, Patricia Thomson, Emily Lee, Holly Davis) may have been the colors du jour, black and leathers were very well represented (Pat McEvoy, Ruth Robinson, Kim Miller, Cara French, Kim Bannister) as well.
Jayne Chobot, who had been in charge of reservations, reported that her plan was to give hearts created to benefit the luncheon by jeweler Shona Che’re Gilbert to her bridesmaids. But the gems had proven too popular and had sold out.
Claire Emanuelson arrived in nose-bleed Louboutin stilettos. She said she had brought two pairs — sensible and un-sensible. “I left the sensible ones (YSL) in the car.” Her fashion strutting buddy DeeDee Lee couldn’t let that one go by without a follow up: “They’re both un-sensible!”
At 10:19 the chimes started calling the crowd of 800-plus to the McDermott Concert Hall. One usher upon greeting the guests said, “Good evening.” Couldn’t blame the fella. It was a bit early for the usual Meyerson crew.
To the amazement of many, the usual floor plan of the hall had been revised with a runway extending into the audience. Some had wondered if the fashions could indeed be seen by guests in the orchestra terrace’s back row. Ironically, those guests could easily see the Korshak clothes. It was the guests nearest the staging that had a little neck-craning to do to see over the elevated catwalk. Luckily for Kelly Green, who was seated at the corner of the stage, the aisle seat on the row was vacant, so she moved over for a better view.
Once the program emceed by KDFW’s Clarice Tinsley got underway, things went swimmingly. The presentation of the Lynda Adleta Heart of Gold Award did create a moment of laughter. To help itty-bitty presenter Ellen Terry “rise to the occasion” to speak into the microphone, a stagehand placed a wooden box in front of the podium. After presenting Crawford with the award and Ellen’s and Crawford exiting the stage, the stagehand quickly removed the box.
Next the Spirit of Tom Landry Character Award was presented by Alicia Landry to Joshua Cobler, who provided bone marrow for his little brother Jude. Each year Alicia’s escort is a different VIP. This year it was her son Tom Landry Jr. Joshua made a heartfelt plea for guests to sign up as bone-marrow donors.
Then it was time for The Best of Stanley Korshak presentation of spring fashions. On either sides of the stage were tiers with “ghost chairs” positioned as if waiting for musicians to take their places. But they went empty until the very end of the show. Just as Jan had promised — the finale was indeed grandiose. A faux conductor in tails took his place center-stage and started waving his arms as if conducting the DSO.
Instead of musicians, each model in a dazzling Lhuillier gown walked the runway and then took her place in one of the chairs. The final result was a stage of glorious colors that would have put Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny to shame. Little did the audience know this arrangement wasn’t happenstance. Jan had strategically placed each model to create such an array of colors. Like a little girl playing paper dolls, she had created a poster board with the photos of each of the gowns. On it she tested and tested the final arrangement until she had it just right. And right it was. From a distance or up close, it had all the appearance of the world’s best Crayola box.
As guests left the hall at 11:32, Crawford received rave reviews like a first-time daddy. Suzanne Palmlund, Jennifer Houser and others didn’t hesitate saying it was the best show they had seen in ages.
It was now time for the luncheon. Everything had been pretty much perfection in overdrive until this point. Unfortunately, early perfection can slip in an “Oops” situation. In this case, it was the result of being too successful. Guests couldn’t help themselves. There was so much to chat about. The show was being praised and the clothes reviewed. But the marble floors, limestone walls and glass windows of the Meyerson lobby turned the massive room into a never-ending echo chamber. Despite tall speakers being stationed around the luncheon, the chatter drowned out the speakers on the small stage. The crescendo only grew as guests asked each other what the speakers were saying. To make matters worse, some of the key organizers were adding to the problem by table-hopping to visit. A few guests tried the standard clinking of silverware against water glasses to silence the crowd. While it wasn’t like prisoners sweeping metal cups against jail bars, and it did provide a lyrical accompaniment to the a capella factor, it did little if any good. Even guests close to the stage couldn’t hear the speakers. It got downright frustrating when model/stylist Dawn Mellon tried to tell her story about surviving leukemia. So many wanted to hear her story, but there was just no way as, “Can you hear what she’s saying?” became the chant. Valiantly, Dawn carried on.
After Dawn took her seat, the luncheon continued with no speakers for a while. Emmitt Smith strolled into the lobby. He had just been at Mayor Mike Rawlings‘ announcement at City Hall regarding domestic violence. Now Emmitt was looking for wife Pat in a sea of women. Ironically, Pat was looking for Emmitt. Not to worry. They found each other within minutes. . . . 2012 Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala Co-chair Jennifer Clark was delighted to report that Anne and Steve Stodghill had just agreed to co-chair the 2013 gala. . . . Paige Slate’s mom, Dorothy Davis, found herself at a table with Cattle Baron’s types like Skye Brewer, Kristen Johnston, Kim Bannister and Nancy Gopez . . . Carmaleta Whiteley surprised friends by announcing that a wedding was in her future. Before providing deets, she was off to NYC to spend February 14 with her fiancée, Otis Felton.
Luckily, the rain was past tense just as the luncheon was ending, so the ladies could drive on over to Korshak to shop the runway goodies for their own closets.