There were 1,500 expected for the Junior League of Dallas’s Milestone Luncheon on Thursday, April 21, at the Anatole. It was an especially big deal as the JLD Dallas approached its 100 birthday on Wednesday, May 4, for the organization of volunteers. The luncheon was sort of a warm-up leading to Saturday’s gala at the Anatole.
But by 10:45 a.m., it looked like all 1,500 had been invited to the 11 a.m. VIP reception in the Wedgwood Room and were waiting in the packed Wedgwood lobby. It turned out that only the perimeter of the Wedgwood Room was going to be used for the step-and-repeat with the day’s featured speaker. The center of the room was empty except for a couple of lonely high-top tables.
That organized situation wasn’t the case out in the lobby, where guests waited for the doors to open. Even those bodies in industrial strength Spanx were so tightly crammed together, a Purex wipes couldn’t squeeze in. One guest shook her head, saying she was worried about a pregnant woman in the crush who looked as if she were about to pass out. Another guest, surprised at the crowd’s size, quipped, “You would think Queen Elizabeth was the draw.”
Instead, the magnet for the turnout was blonde lifestyle doyenne Martha Stewart.
Before the doors broke open for the lineup to flow in, Luncheon Co-Chairs Isabell Novakov Higginbotham and Lydia Novakov, JLD Sustainer of the Year Veletta Forsythe Lill, JLD Centennial Co-Chairs Andrea Cheek and Margo Goodwin and Luncheon emcee Meredith Land had their photos taken with Martha. Why, Kim Schlegel Whitman even had hers taken with Martha holding up Kim’s latest book, “A Loving Table.”
Wearing a moss green duster and platform wedges, one couldn’t help but wonder if Martha had suffered from the COVID weight gain. Moments later, as the doors opened for the rest of the guests to begin winding around the room, she doffed the coat to a handler and, much to the surprise of the naysayers, 80-year-old Martha proved to be svelte in brown-sugar leather leggings and a teal pullover blouse.
Unlike the earlier, more intimate meet-and-greet, the arrangement called for Martha to stand on the left zero of the intersecting 100’s double zeroes standup sign, and for the guest to stand in the right zero. While the protocol was to prevent up-close-and-personal opportunities, some didn’t get the message and just couldn’t resist getting a side-by-side moment.
At 11:20 guests like Louise Griffeth, Mary Martha Pickens, Angie Kadesky, Anne Stodghill, Kristina Wrenn, Dallas CASA’s Kathleen LaValle and Becca Leonard, Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation’s Jen Huntsberry and Christina Goodman, Children’s Medical Center Foundation’s Tim Moore and The Family Place’s Mary Catherine Benavides started heading to the Chantilly Ballroom. In the crowd, some grumbling was heard. One $10,000 table sponsor emerged from the Wedgwood Room and was asked, “How was Martha?” With a Debbie Downer look on her face, the sponsor answered, “I don’t know. I didn’t get to meet her.” It seems that the photo session had ended leaving even the five-figure sponsors wanting.
To make the situation still more confusing, one of the sponsor’s guests did get her photo taken with Martha. Even so she was a little disappointed, saying, “I had hoped it would have been Laura (Bush, who was receiving the JLD’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award).”
Lynn McBee’s pre-teen niece did get her picture taken with Martha, who asked her, “Are you playing hooky?”
In the ballroom, people scanned the mass of tables for their assigned spot. Unlike other events, there was no signage at the ballroom entrances with a layout of the room’s tables.
At 11:45 the program got underway seamlessly with Meredith welcoming the group, Rev. Richie Butler providing the invocation, Isabell and Lydia talking about the JLD’s past 100 years, 2021-2022 JLD President Christa Sanford and Patti Flowers talking about today’s JLD and introducing a video about Veletta.
In accepting this recognition, Veletta eloquently closed with, “The room is better with the League in it. Thank you for letting me be in the room.” The response was a standing ovation.
Patti then introduced a video on Laura, who received a standing ovation before she even had a chance to acknowledge the honor. She shared how she had literally taken the JLD lessons with her as First Lady during husband George W. Bush’s terms. Upon her departure from Washington, she provided the JLD books for future First Ladies’ reference.
Christa then asked all JLD members both past and present to stand and gave a forecast of what lies in the future for the organization.
At 12:16 Margo and Andrea announced that more than 300 League members had earned the Legacy Leaders pin designating that they had served JLD for more than 50 years. Among the newest members was Laura Bush.
Since the JLD’s 100th birthday was rapidly approaching (Wednesday, May 4), they announced that at each table the person with the birthday closest to May 4 would take home the table’s centerpiece.
After a brief break for lunch, Meredith and Martha took their places on two chairs on the stage. Despite being all miked up with lavalier microphones, the conversation was one-sided for most. While Meredith could be heard and Martha could be seen on screen talking, nothing could be heard through most of the room for the first five minutes. As one part of the room reacted to a Martha comment with laughter, guests in other parts of the room looked mystified. Being JLD-ers, though, they weren’t about to sit back and accept the situation. Soon JLD-ers of all ages were quietly lodging their concerns … not complaints … about the situation. In the meantime, the production platform was scrambling to discover the problem and get it fixed.
As a hand mike was presented to Martha, big sighs of relief were heard from the tables in the hard-of-hearing zone as well as from the production crew. Highlights of the conversation included:
- Martha connected her friend Snoop Dog with Skechers. “He’s very entrepreneurial.”
- She was an early adapter of the tech world and had already posted about the day’s event on social media.
- She moved from her six-acre place in Connecticut to a 153-acre farm in New York that had 22 white-faced heifers “that went to another place.” In addition to Friesian horses and chickens, she has 12 people to maintain the place. “I have more than a thousand Boxwoods that need a lot of care.” (There was no mention of the recent loss of her cat Princess Peony, that her four dogs had mistakenly killed just days before.)
- Martha’s absolutely involved in all of her own events.
- Her company is 32 years old.
- Loyalty — “I like to think that the people I work with are like-minded.”
- When explaining that her work is her main focus, she added, “That’s why I’m not married. No time for that.” Meredith asked, “No time for a man?” Martha immediately responded, “No, I have time for that.”
- “I’m very nosy. I don’t want any surprises.”
- “My aim is to teach and inspire.”
- British topiary specialist James Todman is her favorite person to follow on social media.
- “Influencers need to be authentic and know what they’re doing.”
- Visited Kris Jenner and reported that upon arriving at the estate, the drive was lined with lemon trees that had been planted just that morning. “I could tell.”
- The Kardashians — “I don’t fault them anything … but maybe their figures and hair. They are geniuses on how they market themselves. They’re the modern day ‘Brady Bunch.'”
- Any regrets? — “I should have hired better lawyers.”
- “My life is my work and my work is my life.”
- Kylie Jenner sent her line of makeup to Martha’s granddaughter Jude Stewart for her 11th birthday.