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Houston’s Tiger Ball Roars — $1.4 Million Gala Paints City Ruby Red, Celebrates Barbara Bush

The Dazzling Details Behind Texas' Most Diverse Black-Tie Party and a 40th to Remember

BY // 03.08.19

Tiger Ball’s crowd of nearly 700 was seeing ruby, a jewel tone appropriate for a 40-year anniversary — and breaking a record with its big-pocketed, philanthropic international set — that has stood for more than 25 years. So it was when Asia Society Texas Center unfurled its annual fundraiser, which is renowned as being among the most diverse black-tie bashes in all of Texas.

God was in the night’s details, and they were dazzling, beginning with the personages. Paying homage to the late founding member, the beloved Barbara Bush (memorialized in a poignant candle lighting ceremony), the evening honored one of Houston’s most munificent and making-a-difference couples: Phoebe and Bobby Tudor.

The handsome pair — whose causes embrace culture, arts, preservation, and parks — shone. Phoebe Tudor set the tone for the evening in her timeless Angel Sanchez gown, in a bold red hue — and crimson was everywhere this night in decor to dress. This honoree’s was accented by a pair of diamond earrings, chandelier-style, from Tenenbaum Jewelers.

In pre-dinner remarks, Miz Tudor eloquently praised Asia Society, as reflective of “the beauty of our multi-cultural city,” then proclaimed to great applause, “I’m proud to live in Houston.”

Kudos to the diverse lineup of co-chairs and honorary chairmen, beginning with Rice University’s first couple Y. Ping Sun and David Leebron, joined by fellow co-chairs Michelle and Hector Herrera, as well as honorary chairs The Honorable Hushang and Shahla Ansary, Maria and Neil Bush, and Molly and Jim Crownover. (Among the honorary chair couples, the Crownovers were in attendance.)

Always a festive evening of global good will and glamour, the orchestration of this year’s Tiger Ball departed from precedent. Instead of taking place entirely within its main building with guests divvied up for dinner in a series of rooms — the new iteration went for a single, impressive tented space.

The Allen

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That detail helped make it the most memorable fête at the Yoshio Taniguchi-designed museum jewel since its lavish grand-opening events in April 2012.

Guests exit the building for dinner in the tent at Tiger Ball 2019. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Guests promenade from the museum into the tented Chevron Gala Pavilion for the seated dinner at Tiger Ball 2019. (Photo by Daniel Ortiz)

A Global Evening in Three Acts 

Asia Society continued however with the tradition of red-carpet arrivals and performance art at the museum. Dancers from Huaxing Arts Group and Samskriti did the honors lending a touch of richness and ritual to the cocktail hour.

Act two unfurled with a promenade to the tent — titled the Chevron Gala Pavilion after the eve’s presenting sponsor. The pathway was lit with a phalanx of Asian lanterns. The pavilion’s design and decoration elicited exclamations of wonder for its dramatic decor scheme, beginning with buoyant oversized persimmon-colored wishing lanterns suspended from the ceiling.

Credit decor company Prashe for the enchanting environment, which was designed around 13 live oak and Shumard red oak trees that grow in the museum’s lawn, festooned in lights, making for nature’s best party props. The ikebana-inspired arrangements on the table tops were another beautiful bow to the East.

City Kitchen’s menu delivered on the promise of true Asian fusion cuisine. High points were the curried cauliflower-and-apple soup with poached shrimp and coriander oil, segueing into the main course — miso-glazed Chilean sea bass.

The dessert portion of the evening ensued in act three: coffee and sweets back at the museum, while guests grooved to a disco on the second floor, with beats spun by crowd fave DJ Senega of Karma DJs.

Besides the magnificent red palette of this Tiger Ball, the night was accented by plenty of green, as in dollars: $1.418 million was raised, topping every previous record, and even exceeding this night’s ambitious goal by more than $100,000.

Tiger Ball Auction Drama

Contributing to making this a million-plus night was the silent auction, which raked in $150,000 for the cultural cause. Luxe loot and coveted packages included a pair of United business first-class tickets to Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India, or the Middle East; a stay in Nantucket at the fabled House of Tudor (aka home of the honorees); and cool culinary packages for private cooking lessons from Chef Anita Jaisinghani of Pondicheri and dinner for eight by Chef Kaiser Lakhari of Himalaya. All were big-money bringers.

Artistic and couture offerings in the auction featured the woodblock print of Ayomi Yoshida and the pair of necklaces by Becky Hollands. One of the Hollands’ baubles was created as an ode to Barbara Bush (formed from 73 iridescent pearls in honor of the 73 years of the Bush marriage); and the other bijoux was inspired by Phoebe Tudor (a crisp statement piece bearing coral contrasted with cultured pearls, and swath of crimson chiffon).

Another auction goodie that drew brisk bidding was the dinner for 10 donated by co-chairs Sun and Leebron, at the  historic Wiess House, the 1920s-era mansion where Caroline Wiess Law grew up, and which is now home to Rice University’s President and First Lady.

Houston’s luxury jewelers also stepped up with bauble loot to line the auction coffers, including Tiffany & Co., Chopard, David Yurman, and Mariquita Masterson.

Lynn Wyatt, co-chairs David Leebron & Y. Ping Sun at Tiger Ball 2019. (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)
2020 Tiger Ball honoree Lynn Wyatt, co-chairs David Leebron & Y. Ping Sun at Tiger Ball 2019. (Photo by Jenny Antill Clifton)

Looking East

PC Seen: A full contingent of Houston’s consular corps in their ceremonial regalia representing China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, France, and Australia, joined by Asia Society’s grand patroness Nancy Allen, who was instrumental in coaxing Taniguchi to take on this architectural commission, his first free-standing museum in America; Allen’s son and board chair Eddie Allen and wife Chinhui Juhn; Asia Society Texas executive director Bonna Kol; Muffet Blake and Bob MurraySylvia and Gordon QuanCabrina and Steven Owsley; Lily and Charles FosterSultana and Moez MangaljiKathy and Glen GondoMarie and Vijay GoradiaMonjula and Ravi Chidambaram; art collector types gallerist Nancy Littlejohn and Erik Littlejohn, Leslie and Brad Bucher, and Leigh and Reggie Smith; City of Houston honchos beginning with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Controller Chris Brown and attorney/wife Divya BrownDuyen and Marc Nguyen, she in Valentino and he in Ralph Lauren; and Tiffany & Co’s Stella Yuan, and husband Yang Zha.

Also in the mix: Margaret Alkek Williams, Mary and Roger Wallace (he, founding chairman), Laurie and Milton Boniuk, Kristy and Chris Bradshaw, Anne and Charles Duncan, top heart doc Bud Frazier and wife RachelJo and Jim Furr, Emily Sing and Erick Ragni, Kevin Batchelor of Hines, Kathy and Marty GoossenAlison and Chris Porter, Leah Barton and David KimMilton Townsend escorting Lisa Tudor in from New Orleans, Diane Lokey Farb and pal Mark Sullivan, Sofia Adrogué and Sten Gustafson, Carol Isaak Barden, and Stephanie and Frank Tsuru.

Stay tuned: Tiger Ball 2020, which will have a tough act to follow, will honor the luminous Lynn Wyatt, who was at this gala’s head table, preparing for a big role come next spring.

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