Thursday, April 4
The Chick Lit-ter patrons gathered for evening cocktails at Eiseman’s Jewels in NorthPark. The reason may have been to meet luncheon speaker New York Times bestselling authoress Gigi Levangie, but it also provided the perfect opportunity to test drive some Eiseman jewels like the nifty pair of earrings that Luncheon Chair Lisa Singleton did.
When asked which one was Gigi, someone smiled, “She’s the tall drink of champagne with no cellulite.” OK, so maybe Gigi had the longest legs and shortest skirt, but she also sported the biggest smile greeting one and all.
Just as Community Partners of Dallas President Paige McDaniel was officially recognizing and thanking folks, Partners for Children Awardee Mersina Stubbs tried to quietly slip in. But that would not do. She was greeted and congratulated by all on sight.
Friday, April 5
10:30 a.m. — The champagne reception was taking place in one of Brook Hollow Golf Club’s private dining rooms. These guests even scored an exclusive VIP parking entrance.
When teased about having an itty-bitty derriere, Gigi said she sure had one once and one day discovered it was gone.
As the champagne continued to flow, gents Richard Eiseman and Marvin Singleton were loving the fact that they were minority members of the gathering.
But two gals who stayed a bit to themselves had good reason. They had more in common than the rest of the crowd realized. They were Jaklin Kaden and Cashell Taylor and they were unsung heroes, who would be applauded at the luncheon. Why? They had both fostered munchkins, who had not had the best starts in life. But fostering proved to not enough for Jaklin and Cashell. They ended up adopting their little wards.
11:20 a.m. — In the main ballroom, patio and Oak Room, the rest of the 600+ guests were gathering. One gal admitted, “I didn’t know what to wear.” The reason? There was indeed a chill in the air, but the need for spring fashion was a high priority with this crowd. Wool just seemed so yesterday and silk after Easter more appropriate. Smart fashion vets, like Mersina, wore their lightweights and brought along pashminas and shawls. Leigh Anne Haugh’s sizzling pink Tibi sleeveless frock was getting second looks. She said, “Feel it.” It was made of neoprene scuba material.
The place was now rocking as the music was vibrating throughout the place.
11:26 a.m. — Honorary Chair Allie Beth Allman arrived via too late for the champagne reception but just in time to locate her table before the chimes started calling all to their places.
Gigi ducked into the powder room before the luncheon began. Paige and her trusty sidekick Joanna Clarke seemed to hug every one of the 600. Cheek bumping was rampant. Happiness was in the air. All the rooms were packed to the max. Getting through the forest of tables without chairs being occupied was tough enough. Now, it’s tighter than a petite girdle on a queen-size figure.
11:33 a.m. — Guests kept coming as the waiters tried to make their way to tables with plates of food. Ah, good. The menu included a Brook Hollow chef Dave Sokol fav (pecan-crusted chicken on mesculin greens, dried cherries and apricots with maple-balsamic dressing, ciabatta bread with goat cheese and chocolate mousse with fresh whipped cream and raspberries).
One “older” woman got her entrance messed up and came through the club’s front door. Her challenge was to get by the elevated stage that was blocking the ballroom’s doorway. With the help of a couple of gentlemen, mission accomplished.
11:41 a.m. — Lisa was at the podium calling the group to order. She was all smiles and rightly so. This was the largest gathering ever for a Chick Lit Luncheon. She aimed special thanks to Presenting Sponsors Lara and Dr. Robert Tafel, Allie Beth and Lynn McBee.
11:44 a.m. — Rev. Elizabeth Moseley gave the invocation. As soon as “Amen” was said, the room filled with the sound of 600+ chattering throughout the club.
12:04 p.m. — Lisa returned to announced that Mersina was the Partners for Children Award recipient. A video recognizing Mersina was shown featuring friends like Ronald McDonald House of Dallas’s Jill Cumnock and Paige. Typical of Mersina, she played down her importance by simply silently accepting the award and returning to her chair.
12:08 p.m. — Paige recognized Lisa and Allie Beth, the CPD Women’s Auxiliary, the sponsors, and all who had supported CPD.
Then Paige shared her TV watching habits including “The Voice.” She recalled how one of her favs had been “Murphy Brown,” in which Candice Bergen’s boss was a younger chap by the name of Miles Silverberg. Paige said that in her case, her boss’s name was Graham, who went on to have an amazing life with his family. She read his recent Christmas card to her emphasizing the importance of his children. She started tearing up as she read it.
Paige recovered to report that “something exciting has been happening at CPD.” It seems that foster parents had ended up adopting their foster children. She told of Jacklin’s adopting Olive, an adorable baby. Then there was Cashell, who had adopted twins years ago. During her work as a caseworker, Cashell met foster child Nella when she was in the fifth grade. Over the years they bonded. But one night Cachael received a call at 2 a.m. from Nella that resulted in Cachael’s bringing her home. After Nella and Cachael’s daughter met and talked that night, her daughter told her mom that she needed to adopt Nella. Cachael said because she was a caseworker, she couldn’t. Her daughter didn’t hesitate and told her mom to quit her job. That wasn’t necessary and Cachael is in the final stages of adopting Nella.
As Paige put it, Jacqueline and Cachael were the “Celebrity Moms.”
Paige then told of Felipe, who had suffered a rough . . . very rough beginning. His mother died of cancer when he was 4 years old. Eventually his father married and his stepmother verbally and emotionally abused him. She made him wear female clothes on the front porch to embarrass him. She would make him stand naked in the kitchen basin and force him to drink water until he urinated with his stepsisters watching. His father was killed in a car wreck. Three days after the funeral, the stepmother left him at Child Protective Services. Immediately he was taken to CPD’s Onsite Rainbow Room, where he was provided with “emergency clothing, a stuffed animal to hug and a book to inspire his imagination.” He was taken to a foster home. Eventually his mother’s cousin was located in Irving and she was approved to make him hers with the assistance of CPD. Results? He was now going into the second grade, had a closet filled with little boy clothes and a dog named Jace.
While each of these cases is totally different — an abandoned baby, a teenage girl at a turning point and an abused boy — CPD provided the human compassion and resources to help make their transition to their present lives. For 24 years, CPD has been so successful that it’s been copied throughout the nation, resulting in a domino effect of goodness for children who have known very little of a good life.
At that point Paige started asking for a show of those who would support CPD at certain financial levels starting at $5,000. The result was hands sprouting like flowers at the Arboretum.
12:28 p.m. — Lisa introduce Gigi. Ah, but this was when the surprise started to take place. For vet guests, past authors have regaled guests with Hollywood gossip and name-dropping tales. In other words, the plates on the tables weren’t the only dishing expected.
Some expected Gigi to really unload. She had been married to film producer Brian Glazer, who “used her acid powers of observation and scathing satire of L.A. society to produce bestselling books and screenplays.”
The intro made it sound like this was going to definitely be a diva-delicious talk. Gigi had asked Lisa to introduce her as a “general goddess.” As she brought her laptop to the stage, guests prepared for a show-and-shell-out on the movie kingdom. But it didn’t work out that way.
Oh, sure, she provided much laughter about her subject, but it was the subject that threw some guests. It was about her life and how it could have turned out totally differently.
She admitted that she wasn’t much a cool kid growing up. “I was born with a foot in my mouth.” Unlike her older sister Mimi, who was a typical California blonde, Gigi recalled how she failed the President’s Fitness test and boys refused to sit next to her because “they were afraid they’d catch something.”
It was her dad who told her three things:
- What other people think of you, is none of your business.
- What’s the worst they can do — kill you?
- Who’s got the last punch?
Fast forward to high school. Mimi got into drugs. Gigi went from LeConte Junior High “Class Clown” to Hollywood High School’s “Class Legs.” Instead of playing the violin, she became a cheerleader. But she added the warning: “Fat kids have minds like steel traps.”
Continuing forward: Mimi met and married a Columbian drug dealer. Gigi decided to become an entertainment attorney. That didn’t work out but she took on a number of film industry entry-level jobs before getting her dream job of working for “TV guru” Fred Silverman for eight years. It was during this time that she realized that her talents lay in writing. So, each day she would get up at 5:30 and write before going to work.
In her spare time, she married a blues musician and acquired four dogs and a shotgun. But eventually she decided the marriage was slowing her down, so a divorce solved that problem. It also “eats up a lot of calories.”
As for Mimi, she was shot in the stomach by her husband in their penthouse surrounded by drug paraphernalia. She recovered and got pregnant with a baby boy, then a second and a third. Gigi found herself working like a “baby daddy” to help her older sister.
It was about this time that she met and married Hollywood wunderkind Brian Grazer. “I was the only person at my wedding that I didn’t recognize.”
Throughout their marriage, she wrote screenplays and books (“Step-mom,” “Rescue Me,” “Maneater,” “The Starter Wife,” etc.) and learned a great deal about the mechanics of film producing. It was just as “The Starter Wife” was adapted to TV that the Grazers divorced. As Gigi put it, “I gained a series and lost a husband.”
Their home ended up being sold. “Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner bought our home. . . Ben is sleeping in my bed.”
Mimi, on the other hand, wasn’t faring well. She went to prison. Her children were taken away and Gigi didn’t know where they were. Eventually, Gigi and the kids found each other and all were doing well. Alas, Gigi didn’t mention the current status of the “typical California blonde.”
12:57 p.m. — Gigi tied her talk up by quoting Audrey Hepburn, “I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.”
What Gigi didn’t add was what happened to her nephew Frankie during her divorce with Brian. But that’s another story for another day.
One problem in the talk was the screen presentation. Instead of enhancing her talk, it was difficult to read for many. The graphics were too light to be seen. Not to worry too much. Gigi was the one to watch.
And while some were disappointed not to have a National Enquirer talkathon, others were reminded that Gigi’s life proved that one’s fate is not cast in stone. It can take different directions through the help of others and one’s own determination.