Word was passed at the VIP reception for the 11th annual Billiard Ball at the Ritz-Carlton that keynote speaker retired four-star Gen. Wesley Clark didn’t want to do a grip-and-grin with guests at the Saturday, October 19th fundraiser for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Dallas. When this situation occurs where the celeb type doesn’t want to pose for that keepsake photo with big-buck sponsors, the celeb ends up getting cornered by a small group the entire time. At one such event, a very well-meaning activist buttonholed the speaker for three-quarters of the reception, despite organizers giving her every hint under the sun. At one point a handler suggested having someone bump into the non-stop-talker and spill their water on her.
Luckily, The Billiard Ball situation turned out without spilled water. A handler managed to ease in Robert H. Dedman Lifetime Achievement Awardees Lee Ann and Alan White, Ball Chair Gina Betts and Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dallas’ President/CEO Charles English for howdy moments with the general as photographers snapped away.
Most guests didn’t care about the missed opportunity. One person quipped, “What would I say to him?”
As the chimes rang, the VIP types joined the rest of the 400 who had been checking the silent auction in the lobby and into the ballroom, where tables boasted the likes of Nancy Dedman with daughter Patty Dedman Nail and her husband Bobby Nail, Jane and Bud Smith, Isabell Novakov and her folks Lydia and Dan Novakov, Rachel and Chris Trowbridge, Kelli and Jerry Ford and Lana and Barry Andrews.
Among the crowd was one couple who truly appreciated the date night opportunity — Elizabeth and Mario Alcala. He was one of the Wounded Warriors who was invited to attend the ball. Having served in Iraq four times, the native Dallasite served in the Marines for nine years after playing football at Southern Oregon University. During his tour, he was in Fallujah in 2004. During his fourth tour, he was on a ship that captured one of the Somali pirates who overtook the Maersk Alabama. In 2010 he was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury requiring 15 hours of surgery. In addition to being treated at the VA, he is studying sports management at Dallas Baptist University. And as you may have guessed, his recovery, both physically and professionally, is being supported by “WOWW” (Wife Of Wounded Warrior) Elizabeth.
At one point in the program, an award was presented to PwC for its corporate sponsorship of the Boys & Girls Club. As the award was presented, emcee Scott Murray noted over the PA that no photographer was recording the moment. With that, a photographer was Johnny-on-the-spot with flash blasting.
Later Scott admitted that while he didn’t “mean to throw anyone under the bus,” it was an opportunity that he felt shouldn’t be missed.
Following dinner, Clark was introduced and provided a talk that seemed to cover a lot of bases, from his childhood humiliation in Little Rock, Ark., to the U.S.’s place in today’s world.
He started off by telling of his joining the swim team as a boy. After missing his time, his coach swatted him 10 times on the rear end. Adding to the boy’s humiliation and pain, the coach announced: “Your problem is you. You don’t believe in yourself.” Clark said that comment made him a stronger person. Some eyebrows were raised at that suggestion. The Boys & Girls Club is renowned for supporting youngster via positive reinforcement. But the general’s era was a different period and mindset. He was raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s, when joining the B&GC cost just 75 cents.
Later, while serving in Vietnam, Clark recalled how his unit went on patrol on February 18, 1970. Most of his company had been drafted. They moved into an “awful position” facing a firefight. Thanks to his soldiers, who hardly knew him, he survived the battle. It also taught him a lesson: “The secret of America is the people at the bottom.”
Then the retired general moved into the world theater of today, saying people in other parts of the world don’t believe in us anymore. The U.S. is seen as a declining superpower, one that fails to emphasize the education of children. However, thanks to the shale gas boom and fracking in Texas, the country can do well thanks to private enterprise, not the government, Clark said: “Because of energy, all these claims about America being in decline are wrong.”
Eventually, the Dedman Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Patty Dedman Nail to Lee Ann and Alan. In accepting the award, Alan was brief in his comments: “Lee Ann has taught me a lot. But tonight’s not about us, but about the Boys & Girls Club – it’s so important.”
This moment was the reason for so many like Peggy and Carl Sewell and Patty and James Huffines to be at the Ritz, despite numerous other events taking place that night, including the St. Paul Medical Foundation’s “Legends 2013” at House of Blues, Leukemia Texas’s “Concert for A Cure” at Klyde Warren Park, Evening of Hope Gala at Hotel InterContinental, Halloween at the Heard, A Feathered Affair at the Trinity River Audubon Center and the Bone Bash at the Perot.