If you’re new to Baton Rouge, you may not have figured out that Thursdays are one of the busiest social days around. Coffees, luncheons and galas all seem to take place on Friday’s eve, and Sept. 12 was true to form, with two luncheons and Forum 35’s “Viva il Vino.”
The Friends of the LSU Costume & Textile Museum held its annual membership luncheon and meeting at the Governor’s Mansion to celebrate the donation of Gov. Bobby Jindal, wife Supriya and their children’s inaugural attire to the museum. Their clothes, along with those of Alice and Gov. Mike Foster and the late Dodie and Gov. Dave Treen, were on display in the rotunda of the mansion, where the first lady, Dean Ken Koonce, museum curator Pam Rabalais-Vinci and Friends President Jeanne Triche welcomed guests. Among those guests were “Project Runway All Stars” winner Anthony Ryan Auld and his ROAR Foundation director Mary Katherine Rodrigue.
Needless to say this is a very fashion-conscious group but Louisiana’s first lady was holding her own. She recently got a shout out from none other than Vanity Fair magazine in its prestigious fashion issue as one of the best dressed political wives.
Mid City Legacy
After a quick visit at the Governor’s Mansion, I scooted over to Boudreaux’s for the Mid City Redevelopment Alliance’s annual Rev. Mary Moody Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award Luncheon. This year’s honoree was Dee-Dee Culotta, owner of Victoria’s Toy Station — you know, that cute yellow house just past Bistro Byronz that has toys those of us over 50 fondly remember from our childhood.
“This humbles me,” said Culotta in her acceptance speech. “I’ve always lived in Mid City since Frank and I were married. It’s an area of the city that should always stay beautiful … progressive. We’re not there yet but we have a lot of success stories to be proud of.”
Presenting her award were former state Rep. Michael Jackson and Jacqui Vines, senior vice president of Cox Communications. After congratulating the Culottas on 53 years of marriage, Jacqui shocked the room when she shared that she and Leonard Wyatt tied the knot in Vegas over the Labor Day weekend.
Then Jacqui got a shock when Janice Pellar, chairwoman of the Baton Rouge General board of trustees, presented Cox Communications with the General’s first Community of Caring Award. “What an honor, what a surprise,” exclaimed Vines. “We (Cox Communications) are proud to call Mid City home.”
MCRA Executive Director Sam Samuels announced that its board had dedicated a permanent place on the board to Shiloh Baptist Church in memory of the late Rev. Charles Smith, a former recipient of the Moody award. Other recipients on hand were the Rev. Mary Moody, Boo Thomas, Buck Moyse, the Rev. Raymond Jetson, Mary Ann Caffery and Tom Sawyer.
Viva il Vino
Flappers and men attired in double-breasted, pinstripe suits … some even sporting spats, filled the Riverview Ballroom of the Hilton Capitol Center for Forum 35’s Viva il Vino “Bootleggers Ball,” a perfect venue since the group’s initial project of lighting the new Mississippi River Bridge provided a beautiful backdrop. The evening doubled as a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the organization of young men and women working to improve our city.
A video look back of Forum 35’s past 20 years was also a career flashback for me; I had the honor of doing the first feature story on the organization and of covering all of its major events.
Forum 35 also presented several awards that evening. Mignon Faget received the Art Melt Louisiana Art Legend Award, the Rev. Raymond Jetson received the Baton Rouge Original Award, and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation was honored as the Corporate Member of the Year.
It was good to see its second president, Fred Dent III, who was one of several past presidents in attendance. Former President Jonathan Greer met his wife, René, volunteering with Forum 35; Viva il Vino was her idea. Other past presidents showing their support were Jessica Boone, Peter Couhig, Heather Sewell Day, Chris Dupuy, Jeff English, Crissie Head Landry, Slater McKay, Erin Monroe Wesley and Luke Williamson.
Entertaining everyone during dinner were dancers from TC Dance International. Founding member Stevie Toups served as auctioneer for the night’s live auction, which included some fabulous wine lots, dinners, jewelry and trips.
Ruth Whitaker chaired the event with Megan Johnson serving as co-chairwoman.
‘Wine & Food Experience’
The wine continued to flow the following night when the Baton Rouge Irish Club held its sixth annual “Wine & Food Experience” at the Celtic Media Center. Special guest for the evening was Matt Murphy, executive chef of The Irish House in New Orleans and a champion of Food Network’s “Chopped.”
According to Irish lore, Friday is the most unlucky day to move a house, start a business or take a trip and having a wine tasting seemed to test the gods a bit, too, as the skies opened up with a deluge and lightning show that kept attendees in their vehicles for the first 15 to 30 minutes of the evening. However, it takes more than a little rain to stop Baton Rougeans from wine and food!
Providing that food along with Murphy were Mansurs on the Boulevard, Bonefish Grill, Uncle O’s, French Market Bistro, Beausoleil, Heather V’s Café, Café Du Jour, Room for Dessert and Harrington’s Café. Libations were provided by Republic National Distributing Co., Matherne’s Supermarket, Concanon, Crescent Crown, Cuban Liquor and Guinness.
Emcees for the evening were Whitney Vann and Allen Kinney. Committee members included chairwoman JoAnn Guidry, Laura McDavitt, Kinney, Denise Aymond, Mike Murphy, Jim McHugh, Roxanne Leachman, Aaron Bayham, Marcie Shepherd, Charles Teddlie, Christine Derham, Barbara Odom, Brooke Laney, Sylvia O’Connor, Liz Walker, Rex Fortenberry, Julia Lockwood and Gil Leachman.
The week started with a very special event remembering a very special man, the late Derek Gordon, who served as executive director of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge until his untimely death on Sept. 10 of last year. A group of his friends from the jazz community came to Baton Rouge for an amazing concert at the Manship Theatre on the anniversary of his death to benefit the Arts Council’s Derek E. Gordon Arts Fund. They included vocalist Kurt Elling, pianist Fred Hersch, classical guitarist Berta Rojas and vocalist Vanessa Rubin.
Prior to the performance, Derek’s local friends gathered in the Manship Theatre Gallery for a reception and exhibition of several pieces from his extensive personal art collection. Not only did we get to see these amazing works, but we got to see them displayed exactly as Derek had grouped them in his home. Kudos to Rodolfo Ramirez-Rodriguez, Ann Connelly, Renée Chatelain and their committee for a truly memorable experience.
Rites of Passage
Dressed head-to-toe in African attire, 23 high school seniors were introduced by the Nu Gamma Omega chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority at its 32nd Rites of Passage Ceremony Aug. 25 at the Mount Pilgrim Family Life Center. Featured speakers for the evening were Rosemary Ngemi, associate minister of Shiloh Baptist Church; and Lois Holden, wife of Mayor Kip Holden and assistant vice president for finance and business affairs at Southern University.
The debutantes included Ke’Aira Anderson, daughter of Suzanne and Lee Anderson, of Zachary; Tiyana Roykel Brackins, daughter of Tiffany Quiett and Roy Brackins Jr.; Kirstin Brooks, daughter of Vinette and Dr. Derrick Brooks Sr.; Chelsee Q. Eubanks, daughter of Natasha and Troy Eubanks, of Zachary; Lauren Elayna Hall, daughter of Tammy and Curtis Hall; Jadyn Alexis Hasley, daughter of Adriana and Earl T. Hasley Jr.; Taylor Marie Hutchinson, daughter of Valancia and Frank Johnson, of Zachary; Shannon Alexandria London, daughter of Tywanda and Michael Barrow, of Zachary, and Reginald London, of Clinton; Kacey C. Moore, daughter of Cynthia Miller-Moore and Irving Moore Jr., both of Baker; Jade Newell, daughter of Crystal and Eric Patterson, of Baton Rouge, and Anthony Newell, of Denham Springs; and Jasmine Kelli Odom, daughter of Hazel and Lawrence Odom, of Baker.
Also Savasia Afiya Sanders, daughter of Kimberly and Willie Sanders Jr.; Jordan Paige Simmons, daughter of Shannon and Jason Simmons, of Prairieville; Catherine E. Singleton, daughter of Toni and Percy Singleton, of Baker; KéGan Semonne Taylor, daughter of April Hawthorne, of Zachary, and Roderick A. Taylor, of Bogalusa; Chaneyra D. Valentine, daughter of Penny and Steven Valentine; Kierra De’Shay Washington, daughter of D’Sean and Troy Washington; Nadia Amaris Whitfield, daughter of Cheryl Whitfield and Lionel Roach, both of St. Francisville; Asia Natrese and India Charlese Williams, daughters of Natalie Evans and Frank Franklin Jr.; Maya Lauren Marie Williams, daughter of Rosalyn and Michael Williams, of Zachary; Doniesha R`hael Young, daughter of Sheneakie C. Young, of Baker, and Donald Ray Young Sr., of Baton Rouge; and Kyia Bernice Young, daughter of Jacqueline Cosey Young and Kirt Bernard.
Marjorie McClinton is general chairwoman for the debutante program; Cynthia Godfrey is the Rites of Passage chairwoman.
Brush with fame
With the movie business picking up in the area, spotting celebrities is becoming a regular occurrence.
Recently wedding coordinator Allie Wester was wrapping up a wedding reception at the Hilton Capitol Center when she bumped into chef Curtis Stone of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters” at the elevators.
“He was awesome! He’s beautiful in person,” shared Allie. “I just had to tell him I was a huge fan of ‘Top Chef Masters’ and he shook my hand and gave me a hug.”
We’re still new enough at this that it causes us to catch our breath and, so far, we’ve been able to maintain our cool and penchant for Southern hospitality. Let’s hope we keep this reputation so our visiting celebs remain “awesome” and available for a snapshot and a hug.
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