Live, silent auctions put money in Black Tie Dinner beneficiaries’ pockets


Comedian Dana Goldberg auctions off the U.S. flag, donated by Mark Phariss, right, and his husband Vic Holmes, that flew over the U.S. Supreme Court building on the day the court handed down its landmark marriage equality ruling in June 2015. Phariss and Holmes were two of the four plaintiffs in the lawsuit that successfully challenged the Texas law banning same-sex marriage. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)




Tammye Nash  |  Managing Editor

For years now, each December the Black Tie Dinner Committee has distributed $1 million or to beneficiaries of the Black Tie Dinner. And each year, a significant chunk of that money comes from the auctions held at the dinner.

“Our biggest income each year [for the dinner] comes from our sponsorships and table sales,” said Scott Collen, a Black Tie board member and chair of the auction committee. “I would say about 25 percent of the money we are able to distribute each year comes from our auctions.”

And, he said, that can add up quickly.

“The thing is, it doesn’t cost a lot, really, to put on an auction,” Collen said. “Because of that, about 95 percent of what we make with the auctions goes to our beneficiaries.”


A two-night stay at the Banff Fairmont Hotel is part of the most expensive auction item package in Black Tie Dinner history.

This year for the first time, even if you can’t make it to the dinner, you can still get in on the auction action, Collen said, by registering online and bidding online. That’s likely to help increase the income from the auctions.

“You can be sitting at home the night of the dinner, and use your phone or your tablet or your computer to bid on and win auctions items. Everybody can participate,” he said.

A link to the list of auction items and the bidding site is available at the Black Tie website,

The auction segment of the Black Tie Dinner began with a silent auction. Then came the live auction of luxury items. This year, Collen said, they are adding the premier silent auction, which will include items of a bit higher value than the silent auction items, but don’t quite reach the level of the luxury items.

This years silent auction items — which include “tons of art,” restaurant gift certificates, local hotel packages, gift certificates to local service providers, home décor and furniture, tableware and more — add up to about $140,000 in retail value, Collen said.

The premier silent auction items add up to “probably about $50,000” in retail value, and the seven luxury auction items, Collen said, all together are worth about $120,000. Of that $120,000, an estimated $50,000 is courtesy of one auction package, the single most expensive package ever donated to Black Tie Dinner.

“The Ultimate Wedding Package,” donated by Fairmount Dallas Hotel, includes a wedding at the hotel in Dallas, a four-hour reception for 150 guests; a one-hour welcome reception with hors doers, champagne and wine service; a seated dinner with wine service; a three-hour hosted bar; a suite for the wedding couple with rose pedal turn-down service plus champagne and strawberries; two rooms for their parents; $3,000 toward the wedding rings donated by J. Pacetti Precious Jewels; a wedding cake by Frosted Art ; and a six-night honeymoon at three different Fairmount hotels in Canada plus American Airlines miles to get there.

“It is just a phenomenal package,” Collen said. “And it’s a fantastic story, how it came to be donated.”

Like many other corporations these days, Collen said, the Fairmount hotel chain was looking for ways to get more involved with the LGBT community, for ways to be more open and inclusive. At first, he said, hotel officials put together a package and were going to give it away through a contest in which couples would submit essays telling why they deserved to win the package.

But then, Ed Oakley — the gay former Dallas City Councilman, LGBT advocate and developer — stepped in to the picture. He knew someone with Fairmount and that person told him about the proposed essay contest. Oakley, obviously familiar with Black Tie Dinner, suggested the hotel instead donate the package to the fundraising gala. The jewelry allowance from J. Pacetti and the airline miles from American added value to an already-valuable package.

“That’s the way it happens with a lot of these donations we get,” Collen said. “Somebody knows somebody who knows Black Tie, and we just start making those asks. And the board members — wherever we go, whatever we are doing, we are talking about the dinner.”

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams are longtime supporters of Black Tie and have been very generous with their donations to the auctions over the years, Collen said. And of course, American Airlines makes a lot of the packages possible by donating airline miles.

“American is just fantastic,” Collen said. “We couldn’t have the packages we have that bring in such high prices without American Airlines.”

Other items in the live luxury auction will be eight nights at any Hilton Hotel anywhere plus American Airlines miles; a $10,000 shopping spree at Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams; a “ring in the new year” package for two people to spend five nights over New Year’s Eve in San Francisco; a one-week stay in a three-bedroom condo in Costa Rica plus American Airlines miles; a private dinner with Chef Kent Rathburn; and “The Golden Ticket” — the 20th and final ticket in the final drawing for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 or CLA 250 donated by Park Place Motor Cars.

“Those are the ones we have so far, but there could be some last-minute donations,” Collen said. Some of those last-minute auction donations, he continued, are planned to some degree, like last year when Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes donated the U.S. flag that had been flying over the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26, 2015, when the court issued its marriage equality ruling.

But others surprise even auction committee members. “One year, several years ago, Sharon Stone was there, and she took off the diamond earrings she was wearing and auctioned them off right then and there,” he said.

The luxury auction items are expected to bring in top dollar, just as they are supposed to. But those items, of course, will be out of some people’s price range. Not to worry, though. There’s plenty to go around.

“The items in the premier silent auction and the silent auction run the gamut,” Collen said. “Art, apparel, the bowties designed by our beneficiaries which are all one of a kind and very wearable, entertainment options like tickets to the Lexus Broadway Center at the AT&T Performing Arts Center and Broadway at The Bass, health club gift certificates.

“With 2,800 people attending the dinner, there’s a market for everything. And we have some of everything.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2016.