Some came to the Junior League of Dallas’ Milestones Luncheon on Friday, November 1, expecting Felicity with her swirls of curls; some just knew that they were going to have the hardened Elizabeth Jennings of “The Americans;” and old-timers thought a Mickey Mouse Club alumnae would be in the spotlight at the Hilton Anatole.
None of ’em showed up. Instead, they got to see Keri Russell, the embodiment of all three characters with long, sleek brown hair, white t-shirt, blue blazer, nosebleed stilettos and faded-blue, knee-ripped jeans. She wasn’t hard like Elizabeth; she’d outgrown the Mouseketeer trappings; and Felicity was a decade or two ago. Instead, this was a 43-year-old working mom with three kids in an adult relationship with former co-star Matthew Rhys.
It may not have been your great-grandmother’s idea of a Milestones keynote speaker, but the tut-tuts were hardly heard, even when … but more about that later.
Before the Chantilly Ballroom doors opened for the 900+ guests, a lengthy meet-and-greet got underway in the Wedgwood Room. Unlike other grip-and-grins, this one ran very smoothly despite the never-ending lineup of guests. The Leaguers were old pros at this exercise. Guests would hand over their sign-up cards as they entered the lineup. Then, as they got closer to meeting Keri, they turned over their purses, coats and phones to a JLD-er, who returned the belongings to the guests after the photo was taken.
While Keri greeted each one like a sorority girl greeting the top pledge with a Crest 3D Whitestrips smile and a toss of the hair, something appeared from the sidelines that didn’t quite fit with the routine and raised some eyebrows — a Shiner Bock beer bottle was seen being delivered to the photo session.
The crowd included legendary JLD oldtimers (like Karen Shuford, Debbie Robinson, Pat Schiff, Dedie Leahy and Linda Custard) celebrating Bess Enloe’s being the Sustainer of the Year, as well as the next generation (like Joanna Clarke, Meredith Camp, Paige McDaniel, Leigh Ann Haugh, Lara Tafel, AT&T Performing Arts Center Chair Matrice Ellis-Kirk in a photo opp with Bess.and Nancy Gopez). And there were also the gents who supported the JLD, like Brent Christopher, Ruben Esquivel and Greg Nieberding, who told how he and his mother usually ate at Fish City Grill in Preston Royal on Sunday nights. But on the night that the tornado swept through the area, they had attended a neighborhood picnic just eight blocks away from the ravaged shopping center… While Luncheon Co-Chair Alli Eagan was testing the arrangements in the Chantilly Ballroom, her Co-Chair Connie O’Neill was joining
At 11:33 the ballroom doors opened and the program got underway, with emcee Shelly Slater introducing Rev. Sherron Patterson, who provided the invocation, followed by JLD President Brooke Bailey, who welcomed the group, Co-Chairs Alli and Connie and JLD Sustainer President Ellen Bryant, who presented the Sustainer of the Year Award to Bess for her years of supporting the JLD and the arts of North Texas. The arts advocate took the opportunity to rally the cause in support of the arts.
As soon as Bess finished, JLD Centennial Legacy Co-Chairs Andrea Cheek and Margo Goodwin reported that the group’s goal of $20M for the JLD Centennial Endowment Foundation culminating in 2022 was being helped immensely by Sustainer Lyda Hill, who had gotten the project off the year before with a gift of $10M. Of that amount, Lyda had designated that $5M would be used as a two-year challenge. The hopeful end result would be $15M.
Margo then recognized a group of women — The Legacy Leaders, who had been with the JLD for at least 50 years. The newest members would be presented with Legacy pins at the luncheon.
As Alli and Margo stepped down from the stage, the program briefly went silent. Then a voice came over the PA announcing that guests should enjoy their lunch and the program would commence in a few minutes. Three minutes later, Shelly appeared on stage joined by Keri for a conversation. Right off the top, Shelly reported that earlier in the morning she had mentioned a mimosa to Keri, who responded that she could use a beer — a Shiner Bock, “my beer of choice.”
While the conversation may not have represented the JLD’s mission of instilling leadership in women, it proved to be lighthearted, with Keri tossing her head back with multiple outbursts of laughter. Guests learned that Keri:
- Doesn’t have Instagram. She does have an AOL account. “Me and my grandmother have AOL.”
- Gave her 12-year-old son a phone yesterday.
- Mickey Mouse Club — Shelly had tried out for the Mickey Mouse Club, but didn’t make it. Keri provided an update on fellow Mouseketeers (Illana Miller is a “bigtime lawyer,” while Lindsey Alley is “doing cabaret and that kind of stuff.”)
- Has three kids.
- Hopes that appearing in the upcoming “Star Wars” movie will give her “street cred” with her kids.
- Has two favorite thing about motherhood: “When they all get along” and “When you get to witness a small kindness.”
- “Sam (the youngest) is pushing my limit. He is intense. The first two were easy.”
- “You guys talk about mentoring. I didn’t ever grow up thinking about being an actress.” Her mentors were characters in books, like Amelia Earhart and Margaret Mead. “I guess that’s why I’m an adventurer. Those adventurers were my mentors.”
- “I got to go with the Sierra Club to the Wildlife Arctic Refuge. It was just me and six others (strangers).”
- Guilty pleasure — “Guilty pleasure is the wrong word, but girlfriends are so important to me. First there is family and then you get a job and make sure you can pay your rent and all those things. But then my friends… I feel like friends and wine are important… I don’t have many famous friends.”
- How do you stay grounded? — “Do what interests you. Red carpets are so stressful. I tend to not gravitate to those things.”
- Who has helped you? —”You’ve got to have an inner compass.” After Felicity, she took a year and rented an apartment in New York City reading books and “being a kid.” Being around friends, she knew what she had to do to be herself.
- “You can have everything, but you can’t have it all at the same time.”
- Advice to women — “Don’t listen to me. 1. Social media — everything appears so perfect. It’s rare. I yell at my kids all the time. It’s (social media) is not good. 2. Take one day at a time. 3. Let yourself off the hook.”