Coordinators of 25th annual fundraiser promise “‘empowering, exhilarating evening’ for guests
The 3,000-plus people expected to attend the 25th anniversary Black Tie Dinner on Saturday can look forward to an “empowering and exhilarating evening,” senior co-chair Tom Phipps promised this week.
Deiadra Burns is junior co-chair.
“We have a lot of extra-special things planned for this year as we mark the dinner’s 25th anniversary,” Phipps said. “We have a retrospective that will look back at the dinners over the previous 24 years, showing highlights from each year’s dinner the funny moments, the special remembrances of people no longer with us.”
Dinner committee members announced earlier this year that actress Geena Davis will be the keynote speaker for the event, and that actor Alan Cumming will attend to accept the 2006 Elizabeth Birch Award. And in a break from tradition, the committee released the name of the 2006 Kuchling Award winner Jay Oppenheimer instead of keeping the winner’s name secret until the night of the dinner.
But Phipps said there are still some secrets yet to be revealed.
“Of course there will be some surprises throughout the evening,” he said. “We always try to have a few things tucked away in our back pockets, and I would be remiss if I let any of those surprises out of the bag early.”
Phipps said that Davis has been on organizers’ list of possible Black Tie speakers for several years, and that the committee is thrilled to have her attending the 25th anniversary event.
“Geena Davis has exhibited a tremendous amount of passion for equality, in particular for women’s rights and, now, for lesbian and gay rights. And we believe she is going to be a dynamic speaker,” he said.
“She has made great strides in her career and in her ability to communicate her beliefs through the roles she has taken on,” he added. “We believe she uses these roles to make a statement about the importance of equality for all people.”
Cumming, who is openly bisexual, has worked for LGBT rights with organizations such as Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and has worked with some AIDS organizations. Phipps said the actor best known for his roles in films such as “GoldenEye” and “X2: X-Men United” and his Tony Award-winning performance as the Master of Ceremonies in the stage revival of “Cabaret was chosen to receive the Birch Award in recognition of his “dedication to ending discrimination against the LGBT community, particularly within his industry, the entertainment industry.”
“On top of that, he is a wonderful entertainer and a great comedian and an excellent speaker,” Phipps continued. “We are just so excited to have him join us. He is actually flying in from London, where he is currently performing on stage, just to be with us on Saturday night. Then he has to fly right back to London. It will be a real whirlwind trip for him, but he said he was willing to do that because he wants to be here for our event.”
The Black Tie Dinner weekend gets underway tonight with a reception honoring all former board members, co-chairs and Kuchling Award winners, followed by a preview of luxury auction items that will be up for sale at the dinner.
Phipps said the list of auction items is sure to excite bidders. It includes R Family Vacations packages, Silver Sea cruises, Eisman Jewelers gift certificates, a $10,000 shopping spree at the new Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams furniture store opening in Austin and a 2006 Yamaha WaveRunner with the trailer and accessories.
“We are also thrilled to have Classic BMW back with us this year, and that hot little Z4 Roadster they have donated for the raffle has generated a lot of interest,” Phipps said.
Phipps also said he expects the results of Tuesday’s midterm elections in which the usually more LGBT-friendly Democratic Party made big gains locally and nationally will lend an extra air of excitement to the Black Tie Dinner this year.
“Whatever a person’s political persuasion, you have to agree that great strides can be made for our community now,” Phipps said.
The theme for the 2006 Black Tie Dinner is “A Legacy of Giving, A History of Service and A Community of Heroes.” Phipps said that reflects the event’s history and its ongoing mission.
“Black Tie has donated a total of $9.1 million over the past 24 years, and our history of service has been in providing a wonderful, powerful, magical evening that benefits our beneficiaries who are truly the heroes of our community. They provide the services that enrich the quality of life for so many people and give people the help they need,” he said.
Proceeds from the 2006 dinner will be divided between the Human Rights Campaign and 18 local beneficiaries.
Phipps said credit for the dinner’s success each year “goes to our entire board who work so diligently throughout the year. Every single one of them is a volunteer, except for our director of development, Sheila Bryant, and she puts in many more hours on this event than she is paid for.”
He encouraged others to get involved as volunteers either by joining the board or by volunteering at the dinner next year. He said about 470 people are helping produce this year’s dinner and each one is a valuable asset.
Saturday’s events begin when the silent auction floor opens at 6 p.m. Cocktail hour also starts at 6 p.m. in the area outside the Adams Mark Hotel’s Lone Star Ballroom, where seating for the dinner and program begin at 7 p.m. The after-dinner Bombay Sapphire Lounge Dance Party, featuring entertainment by New York diva Veronica and several DJs underwritten by Bombay Sapphire begins about 10 p.m. and continues “into the early morning hours,” Phipps said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, November 10, 2006.