Always one to light up a room, country music megastar Reba McEntire shined as she dished to KPRC2’s Frank Billingsley and a crowd of more than 650 at Memorial Hermann’s Razzle Dazzle Luncheon. The three-time Grammy award winner, actress, and entrepreneur offered refreshingly frank takes on her 43-year career, her love of Houston, and her favorite subject, Kelly Clarkson.
McEntire was in town as the headliner of the venerable luncheon, now in its tenth year, which raised more than $850,000 for early detection and outreach programs at the Bobetta C. Lindig Breast Care Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.
The bustling and colorful event, held at the Post Oak Hotel, was chaired by Whitney Crane, wife of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane (he dutifully attended in support), who urged the ladies and men in the audience to wear orange and blue in support of the Astros playoff run.
Tony Bradfield, of Tenenbaum Jewelers, wore plush robe onstage — the same robe given to visiting patients at the breast cancer center. While the fashionable attendees were spotted in every shade of pink imaginable in support of women’s breast cancer, Lindig, who called the luncheon a “fairy godmother” for the center, wore blue in support of men’s breast cancer.
KPRC2 news anchor Christine Noël served as the emcee, while local restaurateur Donna Vallone (herself a breast cancer survivor) provided the invocation before remarks by Memorial Hermann Foundation CEO and executive vice president Anne E. Neeson. Witty auctioneer Stephen Lewis led the bidding on the opportunity to throw out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game with front row Diamond Club seats, a work of art by well-known painter Ashley Longshore, and a pair of $15,000 Buccellati earrings.
Then, it was on to Reba and interviewer Billingsley — himself a cancer survivor. “I wanted to be a world-champion barrel racer,” quipped McEntire, who grew up in southeastern Oklahoma. She shared her memories of a humble start singing the National Anthem at a rodeo, then winning a contract with Polygram Records, and ultimately sharing the spotlight with country legends.
“I want to project to young people that when you say you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it,” she told Billingsley. McEntire delighted the crowd with memories of performing 18 gigs at RodeoHouston (“I love this part of the country”) and vacationing with President George H.W. Bush and wife, Barbara (who, according to McEntire, was quite the accomplished and sturdy swimmer).
McEntire then allowed a few lines of her smash hit, “Fancy,” before the conversation turned to her former daughter-in-law, the oft-chatty Kelly Clarkson. “She can carry on a conversation,” McEntire said in obvious understatement. “She’s a big-hearted person.”
The country star’s sister is a breast cancer survivor, so the singer advised that when dealing with cancer, people should not only support the patient, “but support the caregiver.” Asked about regrets, McEntire thought back to the few times she was too busy to sign an autograph.
And how about a biopic, a la Bohemian Rhapsody or Rocketman? “I couldn’t,” she joked. “My memory is different than my siblings.”
Fresh faces in the crowd included: Kate Upton, Ann and Clarence Cazalot, Lisa Holthouse, Tonya and Dr. David Callender, Ting Bresnahan, Janet Gurwitch, Philamena Baird, Regina Garcia, Christine Falgout, Lacey Dalcour-Salas, Kimberly Scheele, Julie Roberts, Marcy Taub Wessel, Susan Sarofim, Hallie Vanderhider, Fady Armanious, and Rachel and Jeff Bagwell.