GALVESTON — Everybody wants to party with Tilman Fertitta. Not because of his mega-yacht (but that does play a role), not because of his Golden Nugget casinos or his private jet. Rather everyone who's anyone wants to be in the rollicking crowd that packs the Galveston Convention Center each Mardi Gras for the San Luis Salute.
Friday night, 1,600 black-tie attired, ready-to-party guests poured into the convention center ready to rock and roll with the Galveston-born billionaire entrepreneur. It was tough luck for the 400 on the wait list scrambling to get a seat at the most coveted tables of the season. The Mardi Gras-savvy crowd had booked all the tables before invitations were even printed. It was the largest gala in island history.
As is tradition, Mr. Mardi Gras threw one of the best parties of the year — a little naughty and a lot nice. Consider the intoxicating decor — 70,000 yards of 6-inch wide, boldly-colored ribbons soaring from ceiling to tabletop and massive pop images Andy Warhol-style lining ballroom walls. Add wicked entertainment as in topless and bootie shaking, and two bands — KC and the Sunshine Band and the rocking show band Simply Irresistible.
Two willowy, yet buxom, beauties, wearing nothing more than panties and paint posed for photos.
"It's magical," said one guest as he surveyed the ballroom. "Tell me, why is it that no one else can create this?" The answer to that question: Because no one else has Fertitta's unlimited resources and the talented hands of Richard Flowers and Kirksey Gregg of The Events Co. on the payroll.
"Nobody gives a party like this," observed Jim Daniel, who has seen more than a few black-tie galas as steady escort for Margaret Williams. That comment was made just after the Philadelphia Mummers strutted through in their glittering costumes and before the scantilly-clad aerial acrobats gyrated around a pole in the center of the vast party space.
Two willowy yet buxom beauties, wearing nothing more than panties and paint posed for photos with a line-up of, dare we say, dirty old men. Disco dancers in cheek-skiming shorts churned away on the performance dance floor before the crowd took over. For the ladies, a crew of topless bartenders a la Chippendales contributed beefcake notes to the party. Add a hula hoop diva and roller skaters to the endless flow of diversions.
The main dance floor was packed with the likes of Diane Lokey Farb and Mark Sullivan, Anne and Noble Carl, Ellie and Michael Francisco and Joan and Doug McLeod as well as the Krewe of Momus duchesses and their dates, special guests on this evening.
The VIP guest list — those joining Paige Fertitta and Tilman at the head table — included Jefferies CEO Richard Handler in from New York with his daughter Skylar, Amber and Steve Mostyn, Sheridan and John Eddie Williams, Dancie and Jim Ware, Maria Bush and Faith and Lee Majors.
This raucous evening that inspires dancing all night long has a brief serious side — that of recognizing the honoree, this year Dr. Eric M. Walser, chairman and professor of radiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Proceeds from the gala will support the purchase of new radiology equipment for the new Jennie Sealy Hospital, scheduled to open in 2016.
The partying throng included emcees Tom Koch and Bob Slovak of KTRK Channel 13, president of Texas A&M at Galveston Rear Admiral Robert Smith III, president of UTMB David Callender, astronaut Scott Kelly, Lori and Allen Matthews, Ross Moody, Frances Moody-Dahlberg and Kevin Dahlberg, Brian Teichman and Andrew Cordes, Ann and Robert Moody, and a host of elected officials including State Sen. Larry Taylor, State Rep. Craig Eiland and wife Melissa and State Rep. Gene Wu and wife Miya Shay.
Now about that yacht — Tilman Fertitta hosted the Knights of Momus royalty and VIP friends from both Galveston and Houston to a pre-San Luis Salute party in a lavish tent (red Venetian chandeliers overhead, carpet underneath) on the pier next to The Boardwalk, open for tours and photos. Champagne flowed as this merry crew ginned up for the remainder of the really big night.