Former President Bill Clinton swept into town well under the radar on Tuesday for a chichi benefit dinner at the palatial River Oaks home of Sheridan and John Williams, Texas tobacco attorney and long-time Clinton supporter. The little dinner party raised $250,000 for The Clinton Foundation.
Among the 52 guests parting with serious dollars for the privilege of dining and a photo with the former president were billionaire Tilman Fertitta and wife Paige, tobacco attorney Cary Patterson of Texarkana and former Ambassador to the Bahamas Arthur Schechter and wife Joyce. The Fertittas and Schechters were among the couples paying $25,000 to dine at the table with Clinton. The tariff for the remaining dinner guests was $5,000 per person.
John Eddie then had the president sample a Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka, to which Clinton gave a thumbs up.
On his arrival at the Williams' new 26,000-square-foot home, Clinton joined the dinner hosts and their daughter, Kristen Nix, in the family room for a private visit. He graciously agreed to do a "Happy Birthday" video for John Eddie, who turns 60 in May.
Feedback from the dinner was that the former president "was in great spirits and seemed not to have missed a beat on keeping an incredibly full schedule." Earlier in the day, Clinton was the draw at a Democratic fundraising luncheon in Louisville, attended by 1,200 and raising more than $600,000 for Democratic campaigns.
The intimate dinner at the Williams home was catered by Elizabeth Swift, who prepared vegan dishes for the president and for plaintiff's attorneys Amber and Steve Mostyn. They dined on a green salad starter with apple, eggplant parmesan, spaghetti squash with grilled vegetables and ice cream. Non-vegan heavy hitters including former Mayor Bill White, Zeina and Nijad Fares and Barbara Gamson were served quail, sweet potato gratin and blueberry cobbler.
Following dinner, Clinton spoke to the gathering on topics including preventive healthcare, nutrition and Africa.
While most guests departed around 10 p.m., Clinton and a handful of insiders remained to gather in the Williams' spacious bar where they exchanged stories in a relaxed atmosphere. On eyeing a bottle of Grey Goose Vodka on the bar, Clinton picked it up and relayed the story of his close friend Sidney Frank, who founded the brand and made $1.75 billion when he sold it to Bacardi. John Eddie then had the president sample a Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka, to which Clinton gave a thumbs up.
By 11:30, Clinton and his Secret Service entourage were headed back to their lodgings at the St. Regis Hotel.