Poor Olivia and Jeff Kearney. The Fort Worth couple had the best of intentions to head east to Dallas in time for Luke’s FastBreaks’ (LFB) 2019 Blue Jean Ball on the evening of Saturday, September 21.
But first, they were waylaid by SMU fans leaving Fort Worth following the Ponies’ win over TCU at Cowtown’s Amon G. Carter Stadium. Then, after overcoming that slo-mo traffic jam, they finally made it to Gilley’s Dallas, only to find no Blue Jean Ball. That’s because it was being held down the block at Eddie Deen’s. Thanks to a little regrouping they headed to the right location, only to find a sea of tables with guests already chowing down on barbecue.
But then, the Kearneys weren’t the only ones who had had some challenges finding their way. Ashley and Ward Hunt had arrived at Eddie Dean’s earlier, but had searched and searched for their assigned table without success. There was no posted map of the tables, it seems, and there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the layout. Quipped another frustrated guest: “It was like a drunk had arranged the layout.”
As soon as the roughly 400 guests like Diana and Steve Hamilton, Tiffany Divis, Laura and Dennis Moon, Tanya and Pete Foster, Candace and John Winslow, Patti Flowers and Tom Swiley, Cara and Jim French, Mary Martha and John Pickens and Tia and Bedford Wynne did settle down to their vittles, they got caught up on their recent weeks and getaways. Designer Michael Faircloth, for example, was back after celebrating his big 6-0 in Italy. In addition to Milan and Florence, the birthday celebration took place at a 15th century villa in Lake Como.
Speaking of that Lake Como villa, jewelry designer Sue Gragg’s dazzling handiwork had been the centerpiece of an over-the-top surprise engagement party orchestrated by GRO’s Nathan Johnson. The Texas lass of the hour had thought the gathering was to celebrate her birthday. But then, following a fireworks display, a couple of Cirque de Soleil types and a hot-air balloon materialized, all aimed at presenting the b-day gal with an unexpected gift: an engagement ring by Sue.
Blue Jean Ball Co-Chair Lisa Cooley, upon hearing this tale, recalled that when husband Clay Cooley presented her with her engagement ring, it had cost $1,200 — because that’s all the money Clay had. Sue’s husband Jimmy Gragg topped that engaging tale, saying that it took the pair 10 years of dating before they tied the knot. Was he marriage-shy? Heck, no. He simply didn’t have the dough. Now, after 41 years of wedded and professional bliss, Jimmy still claims that Sue is his “trophy bride.”
Across the main room at Eddie Deen’s, Luke’s Fastbreak’s namesake Luke Lange and his sister Livy Lange had their own place of honor — “Luke’s and Livy’s Loft.” While Livy and her gals pal chowed down at a nearby table, Luke and his friends settled back in couches in the loft. And, why not. It was cancer-survivor Luke’s “FastBreaks” brainchild, after all, that had led to creation of the LFB nonprofit and the Blue Jean Ball and to the distribution of 12,000 FastBreak shirts, so far, to children, adolescent, and young-adult patients in six countries.
Co-Chair Gina Betts was a table away from Livy’s ladies, while husband Ken Betts fetched her dinner. Was Gina being a princess? Not at all. Seems this was her first night out without her “rehab boot” since suffering a painful low-ankle sprain. Meantime, Luke and Livy’s parents Tracy and Ben Lange were busy coordinating the evening’s agenda. It included a delicious buffet (think barbecued brisket, chicken, sausage and ribs; pinto beans and coleslaw; and fruit cobbler) and a live auction. The seven auction items, which included a vacation in Telluride, a Sea-Doo jet ski and an Argentina dove hunt, corralled nearly $80,000, and a “Paddle Up” sequence starting at $10K raked in even more.
Then it was time for the evening’s entertainment by country star Trace Adkins. Accompanied by several guitars, drums and a keyboard, the deep-voiced, black-clad, Louisiana-born singer opened the show with 1996’s “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” his first No. 1 hit. Soon enough the floor was packed with dancers, including Tracy and Ben as well as Lisa with her daughter Ciara Cooley and, later, Clay. As the night wore on, though, some guests could be heard muttering their disappointment with the “unfamiliar” music, its loud shrieking quality and a less-than-stellar sound system.