The Galveston Island Convention Center rocked to the rafters Friday night as Tilman Fertitta proved once again that there's just no topping his annual San Luis Salute to Mardi Gras. Each year, he mixes it up, providing myriad surprises that this year included models in furs, which opened to reveal little more discretion than briefs and body paint.
Need we say that the camera phones blazed.
Even before the curtains opened on the ballroom, decorated as a sophisticated jazz club, the crowd of 1,400 revelers was well into a party mood. And why not, what with the free-flowing Veuve Cliquot served from an ice bar, the martini bar where a topless/painted model reclined in a bathtub filled with olives and the standard bar service where IDs were seriously checked for the younger crowd.
The partying throng honored the college-aged Knights of Momus duchesses, accompanied by their youthful friends and dates. Also honored was Dr. Ken Fujise, University of Texas Medical Branch chief of cardiology. Proceeds from the party support construction of UTMB's New Jennie Sealy Hospital.
Such was the energy level in this fast crowd that most of the partygoers hit the dance floor even before taking their seats for dinner.
As the Philadelphia Mummers arrived to launch the revelry, the curtains opened to reveal the stunning nightclub scene as envisioned by The Events Co.'s Richard Flowers and Kirksey Gregg. In addition to the glamorous tone set by the super-sized disco ball rotating overhead, the party landscape included a baby grand piano painstakingly covered in Swarovski crystals (an effort that required more than two months to complete).
Such was the energy level in this fast crowd that most of the partygoers hit the dance floor even before taking their seats for dinner. Credit for that early action goes to Big Blast and the Party Masters, a killer show band from Atlanta. Both the young crowd and veteran Mardi Gras fans found their music irresistible.
"This party gets better every year. I don't know how they do it," mused one guest. Another enthused, "It's always an incredible party, it really is! It has a life of its own."
Then there was Kool & the Gang providing an '80s vibe as the crowd rocked to familiar tunes such as "Celebrate" and "Ladies Night." The set concluded with a massive balloon drop as good as any New Year's Eve fete.
Kudos to San Luis VP Paul Schultz and executive chef Brian Robertson for a stellar dinner that had guests praising the three-course menu, surely a challenge when serving 1,400.
Grooving to the upbeat tempo of the San Luis Salute were Paige Fertitta, who with Tilman chairs the evening; Knights of Momus King Frivolous Thomas Perich and wife Debra, astronauts Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly, Maria and Neil Bush, State Rep. Craig Eiland and wife Melissa, State Sen. John Whitmire, Dancie and Jim Ware, Nicole and George Postolos, Laura and Dave Ward, Miya Shay and State Rep. Gene Wu, Ellie and Michael Francisco, Jordy Tollett, Doe and Henry Florsheim, Dianne and Ed McDonough and on and on.