And so it begins — the post-Labor Day marathon, 15 weeks of the fundraising blitz known as the fall social season. Take your vitamins. Get the diamonds out of the vault and practice your struts in stilettos. It's party time, Houston.
CultureMap has surveyed the frenzied social landscape now through mid-December and while we had intended to limit our list to 10 top fundraisers, we were hard put to keep it to even a dozen. So here we go, a dozen good reasons to go out on the town.
We're going to assume that you've already made your plans for this week. And we know you've started filling in your dance card with next month's Fashion Houston Presented by Audi and Houston Ballet's Nutcracker Market in November. And if you don't already know all about the duo of art fairs headed our way, stay tuned to CM for details.
Best Cellars Celebrity Dinner
If you enjoy fine food served with great wines, River Oaks Country Club is the place to be on Sept. 13. Master chefs Robert Del Grande, Dean Fearing of Dallas and Tim Keating of Orlando, Fla., will man the kitchen while various table hosts raid their wine lockers to offer splendid vintages to guests at their table. Once dinner is served, the chef trio will reprise their Barbed Wires musical group for late evening entertainment. Music is a traditional highlight of the Best Cellars Celebrity Dinners.
Bonus: You'll get to rub elbows with our dashing Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and his glam wife Tricia, presenting sponsors of the evening along with MorganStanley.
The evening benefits the Nashville-based T.J. Martell Foundation, which will use proceeds for the Physician-Scientist Program at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Details and reservations are available here.
Legacy Community Health Services Luncheon
The mere cachet of the powerhouse chairs — Phoebe Tudor and Cerón — make this Sept. 20 event a hot ticket. Add the charm and community involvement of the honoree — Jackson Hicks — and you have a not-to-be-missed midday happening in the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center. The social butterflies will swoop down in droves for this popular, fast-paced, no-long-speeches event. It's a fun time for a worthy cause.
And you can't go wrong in supporting Legacy, which just opened its new center in the heart of Montrose, where it provides comprehensive primary health care to an underserved, uninsured community.
Who doesn't love a a party centered around martinis — gin or vodka! That's just one of the reasons we wouldn't miss Houston Center for Contemporary Craft's 10th birthday bash on Sept. 22. Add the fabulous martini glassware created for the evening by local artists, the endless flow of juice and the hip crowd that dresses Mad Men style.
Heading up the Martini Madness gang are chairs PR whiz Alton LaDay, artist Libbie Masterson and collector Judy Nyquist, a trio sure to stir up a load of mid-century fun.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Grand Gala Ball
This is it baby. This is where you'll find the city's reigning fat cats, your opportunity to rub shoulders with the people who run the corporations, who head the foundations and who make things happen in the city. The museum ball is the premier gala of the fall season for which the swans don their best designer gowns and jewels from the vault. The gents employ their diamond studs for the Zegna tuxes. And socializing reaches a seasonal high.
Bonus: Chairs Michelle and Frank Hevrdejs have taken the museum's upcoming blockbuster Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs and translated it into their gala theme, "An Egyptian Fantasy" on Oct. 1. Expect impressive decor in the museum's Caroline Weiss Law Building.
Bayou Preservation Association Gala
Don't let the "gala" fool you. The Bayou Preservation Association event is always a casual, stellar evening under the stars in the gardens of a private home overlooking Buffalo Bayou. What's not to enjoy on Oct. 12 when strolling a beautiful landscape on what is typically a beautiful fall evening?
This year's theme, "Welcome to the Jungle," adds a playful note with an invitation that encourages guests to wear safari/jungle chic attire. Me Tarzan, you Jane? Well, not that far down the jungle path but we bet there will be plenty of this season's stylish jungle prints in the party mix.
Penny and Paul Loyd will generously open their gardens to the partying throng which will be led by chairs Jessica and Peto Meyer and Kristen and Lee Nix.
March of Dimes Signature Chefs Gala
Chairs Rosemary Schatzman and Vanessa Sendukas have kicked this baby up a notch, moving it to the Hilton Americas-Houston, adding a magical theme "La Cage aux Folles" and bringing in the city's top restaurants/chefs to cook up a storm for more than 800 black-tie attired guests. It's grazing through a field of gourmet delights on Oct. 13.
Tony Vallone, who is one of the night's stellar honorees, is pulling out the stops for those buying tables at the $25,000 level. Seated in a special section, these guests will receive the Tony's treatment via a four-course tasting menu prepared and served by Tony's staff.
Houston Grand Opera Opening Night
Is there anything more glamorous than Houston Grand Opera's season opener? The glitz, the excitement, the music! Opera patrons will begin the evening of Oct. 21 with HGO's colorful new production of The Barber of Seville and then carry the merriment on to an ornately-decorated party tent on Fish Plaza for the soirée and robust dinner in the hands of Tony's catering staff.
Bonus: The opera's major performers will join patrons for dinner, which means that the lovely soprano Ana Maria Martinez, a Houston favorite, will be seated with a group of high-ticket supporters. Also joining the festivities will be the new HGO leadership team: artistic and music direcor Patrick Summers and managing director Perryn Leech. It's prime time for meeting and greeting.
Una Notte in Italia
Too much fun! How else to describe this annual men's fashion bash that brings out the inner beefcake in local sports celebs and business moguls. Family Services of Greater Houston is the beneficiary when the gents don the latest fashions from Festari and head down the catwalk on Nov. 4.
You never know what will greet the manly parade. We've seen lacy thongs thrown at them, big bills tucked into their belts and roses tossed at their feet. All the while, the crowd goes crazy with hoots, hollers and whistles of approval.
With the electric duo of Elizabeth Petersen and Melissa Mithoff in charge and Debbie and Rudy Festari trying to maintain order as honorary chairs, this promises to be one hot night.
Houston Children's Charity Gala
If you loved Jersey Boys, you're going to really love this black-tie gala on Nov. 5 at the Hyatt Regency. The one and only Frankie Valli headlines and you're invited to jump out of your seat and sing and dance like it was your high school prom.
Newcomers to the charitable social scene trial lawyer Steve Mostyn and wife Amber chair the Houston Children's Charity gala that honors Soraya and Scott McClelland.
HGO's Singing with the Idols
Okay, we wouldn't typically single out two Houston Grand Opera events in such a highly-edited list but CultureMap's own Shelby Hodge is one of the songbirds (the term is used very loosely in this case) to lay it all out there on Nov. 8 for your amusement.
We're pretty sure that contestant Bobby Tudor knows his way around the musical scales and surely Tony Mandola (cousin to Steve Tyrell) does. Also joining the playful competition in which anything goes are Lynn Wyatt, Robin Angly, Mike Plank and Harlan Stai.
Bonus: The fun takes place at the home of John and Becca Cason Thrash, always a great place for a party. Dinner, cocktails and voting on your favorite talent. What could be better?
The Orange Show Gala
Who needs Halloween when you have the Orange Show Gala, the most wicked party of the year? It's the one time that your alter-egos, evil twins and inner sluts are welcome in public. Costuming is a must for the dinner evening on Nov. 5 that this year will feature Dr. John & the Lower 911.
Orange Show founder Marilyn Oshman has pulled together what she's calling "The Gang of 30" (early supporters and patrons) to orchestrate what is guaranteed to be one of the most talked-about fundraisers of the season.
Angels of Hope Luncheon
There simply isn't a more worthy cause than that of helping children who are victims of abuse. And how fortunate for Friends of Child Advocates that it has such a loyal following of fashionable, charitable women. Case in point, the Dec. 6 luncheon and Neiman Marcus fashion presentation of Rena Lange spring designs. It's a great group that you'll be happy you joined for this midday social.
Lucinda Loya and Stephanie Perkins chair the inspirational luncheon that honors Linda Messner.