Monday, September 9, 2013

What You Missed: Twerking, the Limbo and Crooning at the 2013 Celebrity Waiter Luncheon

LeeAnne Locken and Candy Evans give Ron Corning a twerking for charity
photo Allyson Aynesworth

Celebrity Waiter Luncheon 2013
as recalled by Candace Evans of Candy's Dirt

Jamie Singer & Lindsay Jacaman
photo Shana Anderson
It’s Monday, and I am still trying to recuperate from this year’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon benefiting, as it always does, Family Gateway. Family Gateway is a wonderful local charity that breaks the generational cycle of homelessness by providing individualized care to homeless families with children, then restoring the dignity, stability and self-sufficiency of the family unit.

Did you know that families with children are the fastest-growing homeless group in our city? Celebrity Waiter is one of many events throughout the year that raises money for Family Gateway, now in its 27th year. At the kick-off party last spring, held in the penthouse of Museum Tower, Jill Herz, board chair of Family Gateway, talked about the agency’s dream of ending child homelessness in Dallas by 2017. After Friday’s event, I’d say they are well on their way!

This year’s luncheon took place on September 6, at the newly decked out Joule Hotel in the heart of downtown Dallas. The organization was beautiful, as guests were greeted as soon as they emerged from the endearing valets – mine told me, unsolicited, how nice I looked! (He got a HUGE tip!) Garry Potts directed and produced a super video and PSA spot for Gateway as a donation in kind, and talented Shane Walker, who is opening a fab new store down in Trinity Groves, created all of the centerpieces that were available for purchase.

Every single one found their way into some of the finest addresses in town, which only increased the dollars raised! New this year was the $100 Celebrity Waiter mystery bags, loaded with handbags, jewelry and other great surprises. Whole Food’s Karen Lukin nabbed a Judith Lieber snakeskin handbag in her’s, and other guests were tickled pink with their goodies (a few jewels, fab personal care products) as bags went on sale for $50 during the champagne hour before lunch.

Celebrity Waiters  2013
photo Shana Anderson

Last year, I was a celebrity waiter when the luncheon was held at The Ritz Carlton hotel. Trust me, though I was tired this year from all the laughing, crying and – twerking –yes, you heard me right, twerking -- last year I was totally catatonic and had to ice the tootsies for days. Event co-chairs Lindsay Jacaman and Jamie Singer this year planned for the luncheon to be a bit more tame than years past, more focused on Family Gateway’s mission amid the more intimate setting in the Joule ballroom, but every bit as fun. Unlike last year, when we were encouraged to aggravate our table “guests” by stealing their silverware and making them pay for spoons, napkins etc., this year’s celebrity waiters were simply paid to act out on stage. And act out they did!

First, the celebs: Michelle Anderson, Aubree-Anna, Nicole Barrett, Ashley Burghardt, Linda Cooper, Connie Dieb, Rich Emberlin, Lynae Fearing, Bernadette Fiaschetti, Julie Fine, Lea Fisher, Lisa Garza, Shay Geyer, Shona Gilbert, Tommy Habeeb, Deanna Johnson, Ray Johnston, Sarah Jones, Darren Kozelsky, LeeAnne Locken, Liz Mikel, JD Miller, Susan O’Brien, Susan Pielsticker, Tracy Rathbun, Shane Walker, and Akron Watson.

Nita Hudson, LeeAnne Locken, Allyson Aynesworth, Candy Evans and Regina Bruce
photo Allyson Aynesworth

Ron Corning from WFAA-TV’s Daybreak emceed the show, along with former Modern Luxury editor Stacy Girard, the luncheon’s “Celebrity Wrangler” (i.e. the gal responsible for lassoing all that talent). Jody Dean called in early to say he had to cancel his waiter gig since he got stuck working at CBS.  Ron introduced the celebrities and kept everything going like clockwork. How did the celebs act out on stage? Well, it started with a Limbo, which most of the celebs managed to squeeze under, some with a little help from friends... and we are so happy that Rich Emberlin made it under without losing his “piece”.  Linda Cooper, co-host of the new WFAA-TV lifestyle show, “Live Love Laugh Today with Linda Cooper and Susie McAuley,” which debuts on September 15th, jumped rope on stage. She’s married to luxury home builder Simmie Cooper, and learned the ropes from construction sites: Linda first removed her mile-high wedgies before twirling. Darren Kozelsky sang up a storm with the uber-inspiring Ray Johnston. Darren is a country-western singer extraordinaire also known as the owner of the strikingly modern white Lionel Morrison-designed home at 6645 Northaven. Lynae Fearing and biz restaurant partner Tracy Rathburn did cartwheels!

Lisa Garza tells how she went from homelessness to celebrity chef
photo Shana Anderson

Someone at our table decided that LeeAnne Locken and I should go up and twerk with Ron, and paid handsomely for it, so up I went to try out something I had just learned to do three days earlier for the sake of charity: twerk.  Then one table decided that was just too naughty, so we stopped, gave Ron a kiss, and LeeAnne just popped the cash into her bosom ‘till later. Not sure what act followed as I was laughing too much.  My personal favorite was Liz Mikel who belted out “Proud Mary” like a total pro – we literally thought Tina Turner had popped on stage. Everyone got up, danced and kept the rhythm going… “rolling down the rivah”.

You may also have heard that Lisa Garza, celebrity chef, restaurateur and television personality (Next Food, Food Network) hit the group pretty hard with a very touching, very personal revelation. In front of 300 people, for the very first time, Lisa told her own personal story about homelessness and despair. When she finished, there was not a dry eye in that room. “Homelessness exists in all classes, including middle class, upper middle clad and event affluent families,” she said, “for it exists where you’d least expect it.”

Jayne Herring, Parris Rigby and Billy Fulmer
She recalled, a few years ago, trying to raise funds from her clients for a child who wished to take violin lessons, and one client/customer was angered by her request. The client berated her, saying, “I pay taxes AND private school tuition, that’s enough. Everyone has choices and should take care of themselves.”

You could hear the murmurs in unison – wrong, lady: many of us don’t choose when hard times hit. “We do not always choose our circumstances,” Lisa said. She went on to share how homelessness and separation hits even seemingly “normal” families.

Lisa was the oldest of four children with a depressed, bipolar father and a mother who was emotionally distant. At age 7, she, LISA, was taking care of her brothers and sisters and cooking for them, which is when and WHY she first learned to cook. “I enjoyed it,” she said, “it was my release!” At age 14, she was sexually assaulted. By 18 she was escaping her emotions and emptiness with drugs, alcohol and sex. At 19 she OD’d on drugs after a party. In a blind rage, her father threw everything she owned into the yard, “Jerry Springer-style.” “I was so desperate for love,” she said.

Shane Walker plays Mad Hatter
photo Cathy Vieth
And then the unthinkable happened: she became homeless. “I was couch-surfing sofas,” she said, “and by age 20 I was pregnant.” What got her out of the desperate, self-destructive search to quell the emptiness literally devouring her? Kindness from strangers, and gumption. “I realized I could choose to be consumed by my past, or go on to achieve my dreams,” said Lisa. “I was told I had a 95% chance of not making it.”

But make it, she sure did, and is now committed to help others who, like Lisa, did not chose her circumstances, or the bumpy, ugly places where life sometimes takes us. Often compared to former Vogue editor Anna Wintour for her chiseled good looks and bangs, Lisa has said repeatedly “I will never forget where I came from. I will never forget what it feels like to be hopeless and in need of love. I don’t told throw spare change at the homeless, I hug them, I love them and I feed them.”

Well, that’s the great thing about Family Gateway’s Celebrity Waiter luncheon. You DO throw change, but at celebrities acting as waiters, to help those who cannot help their circumstances, who need a hand and some love from a friend. There was definitely a “moment” at Friday’s luncheon when I think we all realized that it wasn’t fashion or the food or frolicking, but the help, love and support we can all give 168 families living in Dallas in a warm, caring home… a second chance, really, thanks to Family Gateway.

To learn more about Family Gateway, visit