Anita La Cava Swift, the eldest of John Wayne’s 27 grandchildren, stood at the podium at Sixty Five Hundred on Tuesday, September 27, and spoke wryly to a luncheon crowd of more than 300 about her friends Anne and Steve Stodghill. “It was just a matter of time before the Wayne family and the Stodghill family would cross paths,” Anita said. “And not just because of that big portrait” of The Duke in the Stodghills’ house!
Wayne’s granddaughter was talking about Steve and Anne’s leading role in the annual John Wayne Film Festival, which was moved at their behest to Dallas a few years ago from Snyder in West Texas. Anita’s recollections were apropos, because they came at the 10th Anniversary Luncheon of the Dallas Film Society (DFS) honoring Anne and Steve—huge DFS supporters and big-time movie buffs. The couple co-chaired the DFS’ 2009 Dallas International Film Festival, and Steve owns a sizeable collection of movie memorabilia, including many Batman and John Wayne items.
In her luncheon talk, Anita told how the Stodghills had determined to bring the Wayne film festival to North Texas and to LOOK Cinemas. (LOOK’s Tom Stephenson and wife Blake were in the crowd.) “Everything we license, a portion goes to find a cure for cancer,” Anita went on. “The two festivals that Anne and Steve did raised over $450,000 for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. So, there will always be a place at the Wayne family table for Steve and Anne. We love you!”
Everybody seemed to have some love for the Stodghills at the DFS event, which was attended by the likes of Jennifer and Coley Clark, Harry Hunsicker, Michael Cain, Veletta Forsythe Lill, Holly and Stubbs Davis, Janis Burklund, Lynn McBee, Joanna Clarke and Paige McDaniel. As the guests chowed down on their grilled petit filet, oven-cured tomato, mixed greens, and salted caramel tart (it was adorned, appropriately enough, with a little Batman logo), they heard welcoming remarks by DFS officials Suzanne Bock Grishman (the event co-chair), Mark Denesuk (the board chair), and Lee Papert, the group’s president and CEO.
They were followed by Tom West, chief advancement officer for the American Film Institute, where Steve has served as vice chair of the AFI’s national council. Cracked Tom: “Hollywood is known for larger-than-life personalities, but Steve and Anne put La La Land to shame.”
Then West gave way to Dallas entrepreneur and philanthropist Todd Wagner, who was interviewed onstage by columnist Robert Wilonsky of The Dallas Morning News. After Wilonsky confessed that he enjoys “going to Steve’s house and raiding the liquor cabinet on occasion,” Wagner talked about his Todd Wagner Foundation, which focuses on at-risk youth, and his latest venture, called the Charity Network. The latter “harnesses the power of celebrity, technology and media” to raise money and awareness for nonprofits via three digital fundraising platforms: Charitybuzz, Prizeo, and Chideo. Asked how the venture had come about, Wagner replied, “What we’re doing now is the culmination of everything I’ve ever done. It’s entertainment and philanthropy … all rolled into one. My frustration had been that many of these organizations had been happy for me to write them a check. But I thought I could do much more.”
After Wagner delivered a humorous “Top 10 List” about Steve—it was payback for Steve having previously delivered a Top 10 List about Wagner—actress Peri Gilpin, a longtime friend of the Stodghills, was scheduled to speak. DFW Artistic Director James Faust closed out the bill in the same spirit of good humor, at one point even donning a Batman mask.
* Photos provided by the Dallas Film Society