For more than two decades, CultureMap editor-at-large Shelby Hodge has closely covered Houston's social scene, writing about the many generous individuals whose contributions to the arts, medicine and philanthropy have made the city the envy of the nation.
On Wednesday night, the tables were turned at the Houston Ballet Ball as Hodge was the guest of honor and center of attention. The ball raised an astonishing $1.4 million — a record figure for a Ballet Ball — as a who's who of Houston's social set turned out in full force to thank Hodge for all of her work.
The evening's theme was "Aubergine," in tribute to Hodge's favorite color, and guests marveled at how event planners Richard Flowers and Kirksey Gregg transformed the cavernous lobby of the Wortham Theater Center into a warm room.
Greggory Burk and Becca Cason Thrash, who co-chaired the ball with their husbands, Pat Burk and John Thrash, noted that Hodge has done more to raise the profile of Houston non-profits than anyone in this city. Greggory Burk also reminded the audience of Hodge's high journalistic standards.
"She'a a journalist first and a society writer second," Burk said.
The evening's theme was "Aubergine," in tribute to Hodge's favorite color, and guests marveled at how event planners Richard Flowers and Kirksey Gregg transformed the cavernous lobby of the Wortham Theater Center into a warm drawing room, using shades of purple. Flowers covered the massive walls with purple fabric, placed a gigantic chandelier in the center of the lobby and created table centerpieces of candelabras overflowing with flowers of varying shades of purple.
Greggory Burk wore a smashing aubergine gown by Lanvin while Becca Cason Thrash wore a show-stopping light purple gown with a long train that designer Zac Posen had shipped to her from New York. Hodge looked resplendent in a reddish purple gown by British designer Helen Morley.
Houston Ballet general manager Jim Nelson also got into the act with a purple bow tie — which he hand-tied himself.
City Kitchen stayed true to theme with a delectable dinner that included baby white eggplant with jumbo lump crabmeat as first course.
The outpouring of affection for Hodge came from all corners of the room throughout the evening.
"She is the dearest friend any woman could ever have," said Patsy Fourticq. "There's no kinder, loyal friend than Shelby. She's energetic. She's smart. She's just a lot of fun."
"She is just wonderful to be with. And she's quite a dancer," Pat Breen said, noting a birthday party that Hodge recently attended where she and husband, Shafik Rifaat, wowed partygoers with their dancing prowess.
The couple had the opportunity again when they joined a large crowd on the dance floor after dinner, when America's Got Talent winner Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. entertained with a 30-minute set in which he sang such Frank Sinatra standards "Fly Me to the Moon" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."
Among those saluting Hodge were Sue and Lester Smith, Diane Lokey Farb, Margaret Alkek Williams, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Cora Sue and Harry Mach, Linda McReynolds, Lynn Wyatt, Lynne and Joe Hudson, Molly and Jim Crownover and Elizabeth and Gary Petersen. Hodge's close friend, Susanne Dawley Byram and husband John Byram came in from Austin for the evening.