Houston’s Orange Show Gala Keeps It Wild With Creative Costumes Galore, $900,000 Raised and Art Power Players Everywhere

One Party Where You'd Better Not Wear a Designer Gown

BY Catherine D. Anspon // 12.04.23
photography Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos

Score one for the creative team. Orange Show Gala, the third of the mega art parties — following Art League’s iconic Texas Artist of the Year Gala and the fabulous experiential Houston Arts Alliance Add On Art Gala — made for a bold and wild finale to Houston’s art-centric fundraising scene in 2023.

This annual benefit is no staid, carefully choreographed black-tie night. Never. Orange Show Gala, as epitomized by this 42nd edition cleverly titled Where the Wild Things ART, fosters creativity and outrageous costumery. If you show up in a designer gown and expensive tux at the cavernous, fabulously decorated Orange Show World Headquarters, you’ve gone to the wrong party.

Will Robinson, Leah Robinson, Madeline and Dave Merrill (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)
Will Robinson, Leah Robinson, Madeline & Dave Merrill at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

This Orange Show Gala — a banner year for costumery, and one of the most inventive in recent memory — drew 400 revelers in support the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art’s arty important programming. This includes the upcoming Robott Opera by a true Texas original — the brilliant and idiosyncratic Harvey Bott — which is set for December 17.

Co-chair Luz Garcini at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by CDA)

Now back to the party scene. Kudos to the fun-living co-chair couples who went all out in their own attire, setting the exuberant tone of this shindig — Luz Garcini and Marc Melcher, and Debbie Greenbaum and Hance Myers. We caught up with Garcini and Melcher at evening’s end, and they revealed that their inventive ensembles, an ode to Aztec deity Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, were hand-painted creations from artisans in San Miguel, Mexico.

Co-chairs Hance Myers & Debbie Greenbaum at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Besides the costumes — think from wild and woolly to sleek and sexy — decor always defines this soirée. Tapping the talented Houston artist who is a master of epic pubic art Patrick Renner for a fantastical forest-inspired installation set the tone, alongside a flower-bedecked entrance by Falon Felscher, lush hand-painted leaves from YES Prep students, and clever community-designed table centerpieces. (More than one attendee committed an irreverent art heist, toting home a stuffed animal or two plucked from their table decor.)

Cameron Rahm, Brooklyn Weatherill, Tracy Levit Larner & Glen Larner at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Orange Show Gala Clever Deets

Other signatures touches that defined the night began with the musical headliners. Houston’s smoldering jazz chanteuse Raquel Cepeda opened for Karl Denson‘s Tiny Universe. (Its founder, saxophonist, flutist and singer Karl Denson, when not playing in his own band, tours with the Rolling Stones.) Keeping the vibe raucous and mystical were a strolling back of stilt walkers, belly dancing by Queenie de la Rosa, tarot readers and the appearance of a wild Bird Man.

Jackson & Company catered the opulent seated dinner, with everyone given a choice of striped bass, beef short rib, or grilled zucchini roulade, while a lavish dessert station kept the party goers roaming before and after the main course.

Orange Show founder Marilyn Oshman, Marilyn Lubetkin at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Libations, always a key component of this night, were curated and designed by Robin Berwick of Midtown haunt Double Trouble. Let’s just say the cocktail cart runneth over, beginning with welcome bubbly provided by Poggio Costa, segueing into plenty of mixology options from the well-stocked bar featuring Basil Hayden’s Old Fashioned, San Pellegrino, Ketel One, Highland Park Scotch, London Dry Gin No.3, 1800 Tequila and Brugal 1888 Run, topped off by Katz Coffee espresso martinis and Saint Arnold brews. JuiceLand proffered juices (and is also Orange Show’s annual sponsor fittingly providing fresh orange juice year round).

The Wild Bird Man at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Contributing to the hefty bottom line defined by plenty of green — $900,000 raised for the Orange Show’s creative, beloved and iconic mission, which includes producing Houston’s annual vehicular rite of spring, the Art Car Parade — were tons of silent auction goodies, from luxe trips (the Bahamas, San Miguel, Santa Barbara and even a Texas safari) to art, art and more art.

Julia Robinson at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Texas’ best made for some contested bidding and high-dollar acquisitions for a cornucopia of works by these talents. Those bold-faced we spotted or chatted up included McKay Otto, Patrick Renner, Moon Papas, Myke Venable, Kelly Moran, Claire Cusack, Sharon Kopriva, Angelbert Metoyer, Lance Letscher (his collage won by Stephanie and Mark Hamilton), Lonnie Holley, Eduardo Portillo, Paul Fleming, James Magee, Jack Massing with wife Star Massing, Paul Kittelson, Carter Ernst, Sherry Owens, Daniel Anguilu, Martin Bernstein, Guadalupe Hernandez (nabbed by Calia Alvarado Pettigrew), Susan Budge, Michael Crawford, Bob Wink (whose skeleton driving car sculpture was nabbed by John Mason Walker), Katy Anderson, and Patrick Medrano.

Additionally, The deBoulle Diamond & Jewelry raffle — a chance to score a gorgeous pair of 18K yellow gold, turquoise, blue topaz and diamond earrings — sparked plenty of bijoux action.

Ingrid Bond, Don Mafrige Jr., Karen Desenberg at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

PC Seen: Orange Show royals, family, and stalwart supporters including famed founder and collector Marilyn Oshman and Alvin Lubetkin; board prez Paige Johnson (daughter of Smither Park founder the late Stephanie Smither) and husband Todd Johnson; board VP Karen Desenberg (daughter of Orange Show founder Miz Oshman); Don Mafrige Jr.; gallerist Franny Koelsch Jeffries and John Jeffries in fabulous rock-star threads; Victor Juarez and Wayne Blosat, Ashley Langley (daughter of Smither Park founder the late Stephanie Smither) and Curt Langley; art car movement founder the late Ann Harithas’ family Julia and Will Robinson, Madeline and Dave Merrill, and Molly Kemp; art car creator and OS board member Rickey F. Polidore Jr.; Anne and Noble CarlErica and Benjy Levit; Tracy Levit Larner and Glen Larner; Kim and John Bonner;  Susan Bruch; Melissa and Paul Dobrowski; Valerie and Lance Rosmarin; Rosie Meyers and  Tony Gonzalez; Susan and Brad Patt; Celine and Jay Gershon; Karen and Marty Skolnik; and big Art Car Parade angels Katherine and Chris Gillman.

Chris & Katherine Gillman at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

More cool art and/or social titans including Mary Elizabeth Hahnfeld, City Council member Sallie Alcorn, Menil board prez Doug Lawing, CAMH deputy director Melissa McDonnell Luján; Carmela and Richard Lummis, Holly Waltrip, Kathy and Harry Masterson, Elyse Cokinos, and Francy Fondren; collector types including Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen III, Penelope and Lester Marks, Jereann Chaney and daughter Holland Chaney Horton, Barbara and Tom Solis, Christy and Lou Cushman, Elizabeth and Barry Young, Lynn Goode and Harrison Williams, and Karen and Cameron Rezai.

Rickey F. Polidore Jr. at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by CDA)

Scene makers in outrageous costumery included Claire Cusack (very Aztec princess), Cathy and Steven Frietsch, Kathy Frietsch, wolfish Dennis Nance and James Hays, artists Alton DuLaney and Christopher Paul, Mathis Walker of Houston’s own Stomp Down rap label, designer/auction donor Debra Linse, and Stuart Rosenberg and Jose Ocque; power gallerists Barbara Davis, Janice Bond, and Heidi Vaughan; and Orange Show stalwart team led by executive director Tommy Ralph Pace, curator Pete Gershon, and inventive gala-makers Elaine Dillard, Jonathan Beitler and Claudia Solis.

James Hays & Dennis Nance at Orange Show Gala Where the Wild Things ART (Photo by Emily Jaschke and David DeHoyos)

Scroll through the photo slideshow above this and see why this night wins my vote for Houston’s 2023 Party of the Year.

You can reserve a free ticket to the Orange Show’s production of Houston artist Harvey Bott’s Robott Opera revisited, set for Sunday, December 17 from 4 pm to 5:30 pm, at Orange Show World HQ, here.

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