This weekend, I attended 2 galas, one for “Hollywood South” networking and the other a fundraiser for foster children. The first event was hosted by Louisiana Film & Video Magazine in the old Mardi Gras World across the river. We met up with Jeff “The Dude” Dowd (the inspiration for the Jeff Bridges character in The Big Lebowski) and took the ferry over to Algiers. It’s always beautiful to see the city from a distance, lights reflecting on the Mississippi’s surface. The Dude is in town to gear up for the first Louisiana International Film Festival in less than two weeks where I will be hosting 2 workshops so we were ready to do some serious networking.
The parade floats that once filled Mardi Gras World have moved to the other side of the river, leaving cavernous warehouses open for repurposing. It was easy to see the area morphing into another great place to film in New Orleans. The evening was festive with a caricature artist, pop-and-lock dancers, and the best face painting I’ve ever seen. Editor of the magazine, Andrew Vogel, was the perfect host for the “A Night in the French Quarter” themed party in his tux with Mardi Gras colored tie and vest.
It was wonderful reconnecting with local actors I’ve worked with like Escalante Lundy and Philip Fornah from Django Unchained, Billy Slaughter who I worked with on a commercial for Stoneville Cotton, Lance E. Nichols who stars on HBO’s Treme and Sam Medina who was in Never Back Down 2: The Beatdown (but who I was meeting for the first time). I also enjoyed meeting new people from many different segments of the local filmmaking community including marketing, producing and locations.
Saturday night was Raintree Children and Family Services annual gala with a “Paint the Town Green” theme. The Yat Pack kept the dance floor full all night with covers of Rat Pack songs as well as some favorites from Michael Bublé and a singalong version of Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. Food was provided through the generosity of local restaurants like Ruth’s Chris Steak House, ACME Oyster House, Drago’s, Antoine’s and GW Fins – who reprised their super-popular subtly flavored Lobster Dumplings. But the evening was really about raising money for this nearly-90 year old facility and the families and children it assists.
The event is held inside the theatre of Harrah’s Casino with a whole wall dedicated to the many items donated for the silent auction. Among the many treasures were a beaded pot from Guiness World Record holder Stephan Wanger of Galeria Alegria, handbags, jewelry, hotel stays, prints by Terrence Osborne and a toddler’s Mercedes. I donated a painting of Mardi Gras beads and was delighted to find it sold to someone who rides with 2 of the krewes whose medallions appear in the painting. He plans to hang it in the krewe den.
There’s also a live auction with truly grand donations like signed works by Michalopoulos and a Rodrigue “Blue Dog” wearing a fleur de lis sweater that brought in a small fortune. But the item I truly envied its winner was the evening provided by Bayona chef Susan Spicer. Readers of this blog already know my love for her food and that I’ve chosen her as my favorite chef in NOLA 2 years running. She ponied up dinner for 8 cooked in your home! What an experience that will be for the lucky patron who outlasted a paddle-happy room of bidders.
The evening raised quite a bit of money for the foster children of New Orleans. Having met so many of the teenage girls who’ve lived at Raintree’s on-site group home as well as some of the foster families who care for children with disabilities, I was thrilled to see how supportive the community was of these extraordinary people. One of the most clever ways to donate offered that night was a sushi-style menu where you could order “entrees” like a double stroller ($300) or therapeutic supplies ($100/month) for special needs families. One generous couple chose to paint Raintree House ($25,000). My favorite was one of the “dessert” items – movie night for the 12 girls living in the house ($120).
If you wish to donate to the very worthy cause of finding safe homes for our city’s children, CLICK HERE.