They All Masked for View
The 10th anniversary of the UNCF Mayor’s Masked Ball amassed scores to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, the presenting sponsor, for an evening that started with a VIP reception in the Strand Ballroom. A simultaneous general reception occurred in the foyer of the Empire Ballroom, the gala’s site. Billed as the hosts were UNCF CEO Dr. Michael Lomax; Therese Badon, senior vice president, Development and Special Events Divisions; and Bridget Fleury, area development director, New Orleans. New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson and Michael O. Smith, the host hotel’s general manager, were the ball chairs; and Coaxum Enterprises Inc. President Henry L. Coaxum Jr. and Woodward Design+Build CEO Paul Flower were the honorees.
Others headlining the gallivanting — and most were noted — included masters of ceremonies Norman Robinson, former WDSU-TV news anchor, and Julius Feltus, senior advisor to (in absentia) Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Also, HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) presidents Dr. C. Reynold Verret, Xavier, and Dr. Rochelle Ford, Dillard; Shaylyn Cothron for the invocation; and representatives from such Marquis Sponsors as the Saints and Pelicans (Gayle Benson), Vue Orleans, Entergy, Ochsner Health, encore, MGP, WDSU, and the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences: Karen and Henry Coaxum, Donna and Paul Flower, Sherry and Alan Leventhal and the New Orleans development team. Spencer Jones and Shenitria Myles gave testimonials and five radio personalities spearheaded the paddle raise for scholarships. More than 7,000 scholarships are awarded annually through more than 400 UNCF programs.
For the opening entertainment, Dr. Cortheal Clark directed a production by the Dillard University Theatre Ensemble, and Mark Raymond produced a video, composed and arranged by Kevin Tillman. T-Ray the Violinist performed during the four-course dinner by chef Milan Smith. On the tables, which were covered with midnight-blue linens, pre-set salads and centerpieces of white flowers, roses and hydrangeas, were placed. Near the gala’s closure, the Parade of Masks generated a lot of excitement, as did entertainment force Chris Walker and the spotlighting of recording artist Regina Belle.
All the while, the focus was on advocacy for minority colleges and minority students, and the fundraising to make it possible. As Dr. Lomax said to the crowd during the VIP reception, “Your commitment is transforming the lives of young people.”
Hall of Distinction
The University of New Orleans held its Hall of Distinction, a black-tie gala, at NOPSI Hotel with Crescent Bank as the presenting sponsors. Honored were Donald T. “Boysie” Bollinger, Ruby Bridges, Dr. Raphael Cassimere Jr., Dr. Robert A. and Lori Savoie, and posthumously, Ellis Marsalis (accepted by son Jason) and Norma Jane Sabiston (accepted by sister Dottie Belletto). University president John Nicklow extended the welcome and Norman Robinson emceed. Tapped as music makers were the UNO Jazz Masters for the cocktail hour and the Jason Marsalis Quintet for the musical tribute to his father.
The stage’s UNO blue uplighting, silver and white floral arrangements by Tracy Henry-Lewis, and a menu of poached pear salad, short ribs and fried oysters, and chocolate flourless cake were further attractions. Enjoying them were Vincent Sylvain, Tom and Connie Kitchen, Nick Mueller, Eric Bosch, Flozell Daniels, Ben and Barbara Johnson, state Rep. Matthew Willard, Margo and Clancy DuBos, Joanne and Bill Chauvin, Sonny Lee, Don and Mary Pat Landry, David and Jane Sherman, Bob Fabacher, Jamie and Tim Couvillion, Juan LaFonta and DeAudrea Horne and countless others, who congratulated the laureled lot and relished UNO unity.
Let’s Hear It for the Kids
“Welcome to the Celebration” headed the printed program for the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights fundraiser at The Building. A support system for children in the legal system, the organization banners Aaron Clark-Rizzio and Kristen Rome as co-executive directors. They opened the event program that featured client speaker Terrance Simon and the presentation of the Pascal Calogero Champion of Justice Award to state Sen. Royce Duplessis “for his tremendous impact on youth justice.” He was joined by spouse Krystle Ferbos and parents Wilfred Duplessis Jr. and Hedy. Aroma Catering fed the flock, Crescent Crown Distributing and Martin Wine & Spirits provided libations, and Charles Leche Photography chronicled the party.
As guests milled about, they eyed the vibrant African American art that lined The Building’s walls; filled their plates with the buffet offerings; and took chances on the raffle, a 12-person whiskey tasting donated by Steve Wilshire of Heaven Hill Brands and won by LCCR board member Greg Browne. Also noted were board chair Ava Rogers, new board members Mary Okoth and Irving Warshauer with wife Lynda, former City Council member Susan Guidry with Hervin, Paul and Laurie Sterbcow, George Denegre Jr., Donna and Jack Little, George Young, and the host committee’s Carlos Luis Zervigon, Miles Thomas with Rebecca, Bo Farrell with Conway, Sarah Omojola, and Margaux Krane with Stew. To mention a number of the 200 attendees, who helped LCCR raise $82,000-plus at the rallying.
The French Quarter Business Association gala occurred in the Royal Sonesta. The party’s entrance had a large “FQBA” marquee by Calfree Productions and a balloon installation by Marcelle in the association’s signature blue. Carl Mack Presents provided the Champagne Lady (who had flutes of the bubbly in her tiered “skirt") and Shelley Pigeon of Pigeon Catering did the sparkly, fairy-lights centerpieces. The host hotel and Messina’s Catering purveyed; Meg Baird organized a king cake station; and 50 items lured one and FQBA all to the silent auction for area attractions. The Tim Laughlin Trio delighted with music.
Current FQBA president Stephanie Cantrell and emeritus Tony Viloria, with Chris and Bridget, made social rounds. So did Christine Bondio, City Council member Freddie King, NOPD Chief Deputy Superintendent Hans Ganthier, NOPD Eighth District Captain Lejon Roberts, David Bilbe, Jessica Dietz, Ann Kessler, Jodi Lafranca, Maggie Matlak, Brian Miguez, Christine Paxton, Gina Raby, Robert Rizzuto, Anna Sumas, Taylor and Tommy Stephens, Suzette Toledano, Lindsey Wands, Gary Wollerman and lots more, who mixed business and party pleasure.