The lobby of the Chantilly Ballroom’s Wedgwood Room was jammed to the max for the Junior League of Dallas‘ Milestones Luncheon on Friday, November 16. While second-generation actress/advocate Laura Dern had ’em lined up at one end of the room for a photo meet-and-greet, JLD legend (she’d just hate to be called that, but it’s true) Lyda Hill was entering with hugs from oldtime friends and looks of a bit of awe by younger JLD-ers. But more about that later.
Luncheon Co-Chairs/real-life-sisters Nicole Metzger Brewer and Natalie Metzger Lesiker were grabbed for a quick photo with Nicole’s kids/best pals Natalie Ann Brewer and Charles Brewer.
Around noontime, as about 950 guests made their way into the Chantilly Ballroom, the air was filled with a true sister-fest feel with a few fellas (Greg Nieberding, Brent Christopher, Brad Cheves) on hand.
Legions of folks like Connie O’Neill, Louise Griffeth, Peggy Sewell, Kristi Hoyl, Melissa Sherrill and Debbie Francis congratulated Sustainer of the Year Jeanne L. Phillips for the honor. Topping all was Regen Horchow Fearon, who wore a necklace boasting a photo of Jeanne from her Washingtonian days.
In addition to the Junior League of Dallas members, there were mother-daughter JLD-ers like Gail Thomas with Tori Mannes, Prissy Gravely and Cara French, Nancy Ann Hunt and Ashlee Kleinert, and Jeanne Phillips with daughter Margaret “Maggie” Phillips in from New York City for the occasion.
Once the program got underway, the chatter ended and emcee Shelly Slater introduced Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata for the invocation, followed by Luncheon Co-Chairs Nicole and Natalie and Sustaining Luncheon Chair Pam Busbee.
JLD President Alicia Hall and JLD Sustainer President Peggy Meyer presented Jeanne with her award.
Following Jeanne’s comments, Centennial Legacy Leaders Andrea Cheek and Margo Goodwin saluted Lyda Hill for her $10M kickstart in October of the JLD’s Centennial Endowment to fully fund the group’s extensive leadership and volunteer training efforts.
It was after the applause simmered down that the words were heard more clearly at the front of the ballroom, where the row of speakers hung. For those in the back of the Chantilly, it was a stretch of the neck just to hear.
That problem proved even more obvious during the chat between Shelly and Laura Dern. Not only was the position of the hanging speakers problematic, but Laura’s mic had been attached to the right side of her jacket. That meant that, unfortunately, as the very animated Dern turned her head from left to right, her comments ranged from clear-as-a-bell to barely audible, similarly to a scene from “Singin In the Rain.”
Another logistical problem was the center doors. Usually a sign is posted on the doors once the luncheon starts warning guests to use the side doors to exit during the event. Due to no sign being posted, however, a parade of gals in stilettos as well as AARP types was seen vainly tugging at the no-way doors.
Highlights from Laura’s talk were:
- Just the day before, she had been shooting a new version of “Little Women” in which she plays Marmee March. When shooting ended at 1 a.m., she discovered a snowstorm had taken place, making the journey to Dallas a bit of a challenge.
- She learned about the acting profession by watching her parents (Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern). For instance, when she was seven, her mother was making a movie (“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”) with Martin Scorsese and her father was making a movie (“Family Plot”) with Alfred Hitchcock.
- She was in the diner scene in “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” where Ellen Burstyn and Kris Kristofferson kissed. For the scene, Laura was to eat an ice cream cone. It ended up taking 19 takes. “It was amazing for 25 minutes, but after hour two it was less intriguing. And then he came up to my mother and said, ‘Your daughter did all of this without vomiting. She’s going to be an actress.'”
- In discussing why people would go into acting, “the word that always came up was empathy.”
- “My grandmother taught me a lot about empathy. One of my favorite memories of her was during the race riots in Los Angeles. The first calls were ‘Stay where you are,’ ‘Don’t go downtown.’ My little grandma [who was 5’2″] got in her car and she went down there and set up a table and started making sandwiches to feed people, because that is what you do.”
- Jonathan Demme — “He would get on a plane and the first thing he would do once the plane was in the air, he would go to the back restroom and spend the entire flight going up and down the aisle, seeing who would want to talk, and wanting to hear their story.”
- She has been thrown just twice in filming. Once when, as “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi”’s Vice Admiral Holdo, she was preparing to deliver a big speech and “there was C-P3O staring at me.” The other time was years earlier in 1993, when she was 24 and filming “A Perfect World” in Austin. It was the first day and she was “seated in the back of a cop car.” When they called action, she was supposed to look to her left and a voice was heard on the right saying, “Well, Sally…” Her response: “Oh my God, you’re Clint Eastwood!”
- Throughout her talk, Laura repeatedly praised the work that the JLD was doing.
- She admitted to enjoying being over 40. An example was when she was in high school and told a joke, people would say, ‘That’s dumb.’ Now, when she tells a joke and thinks it’s so hilarious, “people will look you the same way they did in ninth grade, [but] I don’t care because I’m hilarious.”
- When asked if there was ever anything that she regretted turning down, Dern paused and said, “Sure … money. Lesson to learn for the younger generation: Women should make money. Women should be ambitious. Women should have pay parity. Women should fight to be heard in this world.”