Society / Featured Parties

Hunky Houston Firefighters Turn a Topless Parade Into a Red Hot Night With Feeling

Having Fun and Celebrating True Heroes

BY // 11.18.20

The Houston firefighters “Red Hot Gala” was a night filled with surprises and, no, I don’t mean the display of fabulous six packs, biceps and pecs courtesy of the hunky first responders. We’re talking a story of life and death and unexpected honors delivered to a handful of fire department supporters in the ballroom of the Royal Sonesta Hotel.

But let’s deal with the eye candy first. As is tradition with this evening benefiting the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Charitable Foundation, the dreamy firefighter calendar men made their obligatory topless parade down the catwalk to the hoots and hollers of the admiring fans. Walking in pairs and carrying heavy fire fighting equipment, the few that did wear  T-shirts tossed them into the sparse sea of guests.

Though the ballroom could host many more, the protocols of social distancing prohibited a crowd larger than the 210 in attendance. Temperatures were taken on entry and face shields and hand sanitizer dressed every table.

The most compelling moment of the fundraiser came with introduction of honorary chairs Kelley and Stephen Lubanko. Their story of the EMS team reviving Stephen after his heart had stopped beating on an evening at home crescendoed when he said, “I was dead.” On stage, he was reunited in a moving, tear-filled moment with the team that saved his life. Kelley shared her family’s own experience with the complete loss of their home due to fire.

The surprises came when Janet and Tom Behanick, Benjamin Berg, Troy Blakeney, Joanna and Brad Marks, and Bobbie Nau, stellar supporters of the gala since its inception in 2018, were presented plaques in their honor that will be mounted in fire stations across the city. None had expected the special honor.

On the other hand, lead honorees Community Advocate Hallie Vanderhider and Corporate Advocates Renee and Alan Helfman were announced in the program and invitations. They were welcomed on stage for presentation of commemorative plaques and firefighter helmets and congratulations by gala chairs Elizabeth and Alan Stein and emcee Patrick “Marty” Lancton, president of Local 341 and president of the foundation.

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Commemoration was given for the six firefighters who have lost their lives in 2020 either to the pandemic or in the line of duty: Senior Captain Kevin Leago, Captain Leroy Lucio, Firefighter/Paramedic Jerry Pacheco, HFD Arson Investigator Lemuel (DJ) Bruce, Captain Tommy Searcy and Firefighter Kenneth Stavinoha.

On a happy note, the event raised a commendable $400,000 which will aid in the fire department‘s equipment and training needs.

PC Seen: Ed Kelly, Cyndy Garza Roberts and Thomas Roberts, Donna and Norman Lewis, Robin and Alex Brennan-Martin, DeeDee and Wallis Marsh, Gaye Lynn and Stuart Zarrow, Lou Saverese, Tony Bradfield and Kevin Black, Laura Elizabeth Stein, Dan D’Armond, Patti and Don Murphy, and Carol and Bill Lawler.

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Exclusively offered by Erin Cluley Gallery on Culture Place. Left to right: Nic Nicosia, Nathan Green, and René Treviño

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