Society / The Seen

Houston’s Most-Anticipated Parties: The Grandest Galas of Fall

BY Catherine D. Anspon and Anne Lee Phillips // 08.31.15

Unfurling The Gilded Pages In The Social Datebook, We Profile Our Pick Of Gala Chairs Who Preside Over A Half-Dozen Fabled Evenings That Define Our Fall.

Becca Cason Thrash by Jay Tovar. Hair and makeup by Tonya Riner.

Tri-Becca: Texas Contemporary Art Fair Opening Night (co-chair John Thrash); opening of the Tom Ford boutique at River Oaks District + Dinner at The Menil Collection (co-chairs Domenico De Sole and Josef Helfenstein); Best Buddies fund-raiser with Kevin Spacey (co-chair Anthony Kennedy Shriver).
When: Thursday, October 1, at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair; Monday, October 19, at the Tom Ford boutique, followed by dinner at The Menil Collection; Saturday, November 7, Best Buddies Benefit at a private home.
Why We’re Going: Walking the line between elegant formality and smoldering edge, Becca Cason Thrash has chaired such epic nights as trois Liaisons du Louvre in Paris, as well as innumerable fabled evenings with a Kennedy in the house for patron cause Best Buddies, and headliners from Marc Anthony to Prince Albert of Monaco. But this fall, Miz Thrash outshines with a trio of causes that encapsulate the most enticing components of our social season: art, fashion and drama (check); high society (indeed); and celebs (naturellement!). Let the glamour begin. Thursday, October 1, she and husband John Thrash chair Opening Night of the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, now in its fifth edition; attendance is de rigueur for every serious collector and raises funds for CAMH.

The calendar jumps to Monday, October 19, when Thrash teams with Domenico De Sole (the chairman of Tom Ford International, as well as the board chair of Sotheby’s) and The Menil Collection director Josef Helfenstein for a luxury retail and museum experience that pairs the much-awaited opening of the Tom Ford boutique at River Oaks District with the Menil, the world’s most vaunted private museum. Thrash, a long-time acquaintance and client of Tom Ford, reveals, “We go back 20-plus years … I was thrilled to be asked to host his opening. As Tom will be in the middle of filming his next movie in London, his longtime business partner Domenico De Sole and I will chair the opening along with Menil director Josef Helfenstein. Instinctively, I felt the Menil was a natural fit, and Tom and the museum agreed.”

A mere 120 will partake of cocktails at Tom Ford, followed by a seated dinner served in the serene Renzo Piano-designed space of the Menil.

Next, get your datebook and Black Amex ready: Three weeks later, the actor of our time, Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey, heads to town for a private, black-tie dinner party. Anthony Kennedy Shriver serves as Miz Thrash’s co-chair and fellow host, flying in on Saturday, November 7, for another signature evening for Best Buddies. (Shriver is founder of the nonprofit.) A lucky few, ponying up $3,000 per person, will savor the seated dinner while sharing a table with Spacey.

Why this particular leading man? “When you think about great actors — ones with epic roles, ones that can transfix an audience, convince the most skeptical, embody a character so chilling you forget it’s not real, one so conniving and powerful you are awed — that actor can only be Kevin Spacey,” Thrash says. Texas Contemporary Opening Night, tickets $100,; Tom Ford opening followed by dinner at The Menil Collection, $1,000, by invitation only; Kevin Spacey for Best Buddies, tickets from $1,500; Juliana Bruno, [email protected]. Catherine D. Anspon

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Lynn Wyatt by Max Burkhalter.
Lynn Wyatt by Max Burkhalter

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Grand Gala Ball
When: Friday, October 2, 7:30 pm, at MFAH Caroline Wiess Law Building.
Why We’re Going: Did we mention Lynn Wyatt? As part of her ongoing 80th birthday celebration (which she kicked off with a dinner hosted by Elton John and a stay at Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame), the international socialite/philanthropist agreed to chair the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Grand Gala for the first time. The MFAH has some celebrating to do, too, as it unveiled its impressive $450 million capital campaign earlier this year. Any time La Wyatt chairs an event, records are sure to be broken, and memories will be made. Wyatt opted for the theme “Black and White Ball,” inspired by a similar fête she once threw at her legendary home in the South of France, which “felt very Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The guests were like decoration,” she says.

The seated dinner is served by City Kitchen, and The Events Company transforms Cullinan Hall into a Art Deco-inspired black-and-white dream. David Caceres’ Orchestra will provide the melodious soundtrack to the evening, while DJ Mad Marj (aka socialite Marjorie Gubelmann) flies in from New York to spin for the socials après dinner. Wyatt continues the birthday festivities with an auction of 14 of her extraordinary couture gowns on Paddle8 to benefit the Rothko Chapel, date to be announced, and serves as honorary chairman of Trees of Hope Friday, November 13, for the 25th year. MFAH Grand Gala Ball tickets from $750; tables from $10,000; contact 713.639.7523, [email protected]Anne Lee Phillips

Molly & Ford Hubbard by Clay Rodriguez.
Molly & Ford Hubbard by Clay Rodriguez

Saturday, September 19, 7 pm, at the Alley Theatre
Why We’re Going: The third Saturday in September promises to be the biggest night in Houston theater since Edward Albee’s The Goat graced an Alley Theatre stage. Ford Hubbard, scion of one of the Alley’s most philanthropic first families (his mom Patty Hubbard is past Alley board president and life trustee), and his wife, Molly, step up this month to chair a new act — one that will pull back the curtain on the grandly revamped Alley Theatre, which has been restored and tweaked for the next century thanks to a year-long $46.5 million reconstruction that took Ulrich Franzen’s 1968 Brutalist structure down to the studs and raised its roof. The Hubbards sought inspiration in the imaginatively staged Alley galas of decades past, which were enacted throughout the levels of the theater building, to salute the renovations.

The chair lady says, “For the reopening celebration, the star of the show is the renovated Alley Theatre building in its entirety. The evening begins with roving cocktails and informal tours. We’ve extended the cocktail hour to 1.5 hours so everyone has time to chat and tour the spectacular new spaces, including the new Patron Green Room and the Alley’s new bar in the Skyline Lobby. Dinner [catered by Jackson and Company] follows in the new Margaret Alkek Williams Terrace Level. After dinner, guests move to the main stage in the renovated Hubbard Theatre for dessert and dancing to Good Question Band from Dallas below a canopy of light, sound, and theatrical surprise.”

This hard-working professional couple — she heads all public art on the Rice University campus; he’s a VP at Jacobs Engineering — were actually married on a 14th-floor balcony of the Alley Theatre Center a decade ago. Tickets $1,000; tables from $10,000; Laura Woods, 713.315.3370, [email protected]. Catherine D. Anspon

Allie Fields and Lisa Oren by Clay Rodriguez. Hair and makeup by Linette Rivas and Chad Landry.
Allie Fields and Lisa Oren by Clay Rodriguez; Hair and makeup by Linette Rivas and Chad Landry

Thursday, November 5, 7 pm, at The Astorian
Photographed at The Astorian
Why We’re Going: Saks Fifth Avenue Catwalk for a Cure is moving to a dashing new venue, The Astorian, where glittering vistas of downtown enthrall. Fall’s coveted event among bright young things promises to be as chic as ever, thanks to two effervescent socials at the helm. Taking a nod from the clubby feel of the space, event chairmen Allie Fields and Lisa Oren, with husbands Jay and Josh, offer personal tableside servers and unlimited bottle service to big spenders. Designer Monique Lhuillier will fly in from L.A. to show her fall collection — her stylish confections will float down the runway in an expertly orchestrated show produced by Saks Fifth Avenue. Following the smashing success of last year’s Ice Bar, Tenenbaum & Co. returns as bauble sponsor. Once again, guests can purchase a glass of bubbly in the champagne pull for the chance to win a diamond — we’ve heard some generous table hosts are buying rounds in advance for their invitees.

Tenenbaum also offers a stunning platinum and diamond Art Deco ring with 65 old-mine-cut diamonds, totaling almost four carats and valued at $16,900, along with another starry statement piece to be announced; both will be up for grabs in the live auction. The silent auction is filled with fashionable goods, too: a year of Alexandra Knight leather goods times two (one for the ladies and one for the gents) and a Monique Lhuillier gown. The evening’s efforts benefit the Houston-based Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation founded by Missy Bellinger, which funds research projects aimed at finding a cure for sarcoma and offers free housing to out-of-town families seeking treatment in Houston. The Freddie Steinmark Family and Dr. Keila Torres are to be honored, and the story of Sarcoma Survivor of the Year Kristin Elliott will be shared. Tickets $400; tables from $5,000; contact Missy Bellinger, 713.256.4250, [email protected]. Anne Lee Phillips

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