One of the perks for the authors who volunteer their time as readers at the annual Celebration of Reading is an intimate luncheon with Barbara and George H.W. Bush and major donors. So it was midday on Thursday only hours before the record-breaking fundraiser that a coterie of the authors and 40 heavy-hitters gathered in the French-inspired chateau of Terri and John Havens.
Before sitting down for lunch in the party room of a new addition to the vast River Oaks home, guests toured the gardens and visited the 18th century French chapel that the Havens imported to Houston. The magnificent estate backing up to River Oaks Country Club and Buffalo Bayou was a brilliant setting for impressive gathering of best-selling authors, a Pulitzer Prize winner and business moguls.
Best-selling author Jackie Collins, who had arrived early for a tour of the house (most of the interiors imported from France), noted, "I have a big house but this is really big. I can't imagine how much staff it requires." On visiting the library, she told the Havenses that she sensed a ghost in the room. John Havens acknowledged that, indeed, they believed a ghost did inhabit the space.
After socializing and photos and glasses of a divine lavender iced-tea, guests sat down to tasty summer lunch from Jackson and Co. including a seafood cocktail, barbecued chicken and the best strawberry shortcake ever. One of the guests admitted that she loved this event as much for the face time with the authors as for the special dessert that is served each year at the luncheon.
The brief program included comments from John Havens; Neil Bush, who chairs the Celebration of Reading with his wife Maria; and ABC Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts. The newsman/author shared a few comments on his early educational difficulties and remarked that he and Neil Bush have a lot in common as both had mothers who were "tough women, women who have changed the world."
Much of the Bush clan was on hand for the luncheon including Barbara and former president George H.W. Bush, Lauren Bush Lauren, Pierce Bush, Doro Bush Koch, Ellie LeBlond Soro and Lizzie Andrews.
Among those going home with Lauren Bush Lauren Feed bags containing a bottle of wine from the Havens' Cal-A-Vie spa were two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough and wife Rosalee, president of the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy foundation Julie Baker Finck, Shahla and Ambassador Hushang Ansary, Cathy and Joe Cleary, Limor and Stuart Smith and Sue and Greg Maxwell.
Another special guest was singer-songwriter, 20-year-old Olivia Somerlyn, who would perform during the evening's program.