With police choppers whirring overhead, a SWAT team shooting runaway prisoners on the lawn and an attempted hijacking complete with explosions, the scene at the Houston Police Foundation "True Blue Evening" was more NCIS than charity fundraiser.
No question, the 600 guests who turned out in support of the police loved it — including Mayor Annise Parker and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, both of whom who joined chairs Paige and Tilman Fertitta at their table. Who wouldn't love the fact that the dinner and the police action charade raised close to $600,000.
By now the Fertittas' neighbors are accustomed to the annual benefit that features a battalion of uniformed officers, who join the noisy fray to create police story-inspired entertainment. They are familiar with the dozens of police cars, lights blazing, that line the street. And they know to expect fireworks, explosions and the sounds of gunfire.
The neighbors know to expect fireworks, explosions and the sounds of gunfire.
Before the sun set on the vast Fertitta estate overlooking Buffalo Bayou, guests perused the silent auction offerings, visited with officers from various divisions and made contributions to the foundation. Silver Eagle Distributors CEO John Nau signed on to buy fuel for the police helicopters. Those various contributions were icing on the cake for dinner chair Laura Ward, evening honoree and HPF board member Paul Somerville and Charlene Floyd, foundation executive director.
Mayor Parker pointed out in her remarks that 94 percent of the police department budget goes to personnel, leaving little for supplies and equipment that are "crucial to operate the police department." The funds raised on this evening, she said, "ultimately go to helping make the job safer for the men and women who protect us . . . I wish I could thank each and every one of you for doing that."
Beyond the four police incidents that took place throughout the dinner hour, entertainment featured impersonators Frank Sinatra, who arrived by Tilman Fertitta's private helicopter, and Dean Martin who were both brought in from Las Vegas (think Tilman's Golden Nugget).
A major distraction on this balmy night was the swarm of mosquitos that feasted on guests who spent much of their time swatting, scratching and searching for Off. The mayor got in her play with the insects when she told the crowd that Harris County is responsible for spraying for mosquitos and not the city of Houston. Judge Emmett, hello?
Joining in support of the men and women in blue were Soraya and Scott McClelland, Elizabeth and Zack Fertitta (no relation to the hosts), Debbie and Roger Clemens, Barbara and Don Jordan, Emily and Holcombe Crosswell, Judge Mike McSpadden, Diane Lokey Farb, Maria and Neil Bush, Astrid and Gene Van Dyke, Sue and Lester Smith, Dancie and Jim Ware, Leisa Holland-Nelson, Frank DiMaria and Joanne and Welcome Wilson Sr. Add 60 police officers to the scene.
As Diane Connally, a newcomer to this action-packed party said "This is the best charity event I've ever been to. We loved it. So much fun."