OOH, LA L.A. LOUVRE

OOH, LA L.A. LOUVRE

When Houstonian Becca Cason Thrash hosts an event, it is a happening. On par with few other galas in the world, the lady raised in Harlingen, Texas continues to raise the bar for not only herself, but also for other international organizations like the Musée du Louvre, who has benefitted from her latest largesse. Join us in this exclusive look at the party of the decade in Los Angeles, according to our very own social chronicler, Lance Avery Morgan.

 

Photography by Linda Posnick

ENTRE NOUS

The halo of a crisp, late spring evening in Los Angeles, with its bright blue satiny sky, hovered over the festivities like a sparkling jeweled tiara with freshly cut gems placed into it. The occasion? Another Becca Cason Thrash extravaganza, of course. The Texas-based philanthropist has a nearly perfect record of creating successful events. However, this was unlike any Thrash Bash before it.

 

No stranger to rolling up her shirtsleeves to help a cause she believes in, Thrash received the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2011 for her philanthropic talents at home and abroad in France…and certainly for her tireless fundraising for the Musée du Louvre. Also, her ongoing championing of Franco-American relations continues to support the Louvre and Notre-Dame de Pâris organizations. So, based on her experiences, she knows a thing, or more like it, several thousand things, about the nuisances of both France and fundraising.

 

The events Thrash has created in the past is a roster of hundreds of philanthropic causes far too long to list, yet they include a range from Best Buddies, on which she serves as a board member, to the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and more. Although those amply fill her fundraising dossier in Houston, in the late 2000s, she took her show on the road to Europe with the first Musée du Louvre event in Paris in 2007, when she was invited by then Louvre director Henri Loyrette to chair the first-ever fundraising gala for the Louvre…in the Louvre. That was followed by other substantial Louvre galas that she also helmed again in Paris, then Venice, and Palm Beach. Whether hosting an event in her Houston home, or in monumental internationally known venues, her events attract hundreds of guests who arrive to support five-star cultural institutions with every intention to also have fun. Her fundraising, in her and her husband John Thrash’s estimation, is likely well north of $110 million (so far and counting) …and that might well be a conservative assessment.

 

“Becca is the ultimate fun-lanthropist,” muses international style setter Cameron Silver who attended the recent festivities. “She is so passionate about supporting the world’s cultural institutions. The Louvre needs international support and Becca is so successful at raising funds from every corner of the planet. I have nearly twenty-five years of attending events hosted by her…from Paris to Houston to Los Angeles. When an invite comes from Becca, it is a guarantee of a memorable evening because she works her butt off as if she’s producing a 150-million-dollar action film. Truthfully, Becca is a super heroine.” 

 

CHERCHEZ LA FEMME 

Much like the Pied Piper, those who follow her lead to offering their support, comprise today’s current roster of Jet-Set names from Europe, Mexico, and throughout the U.S. When Thrash throws a party, people show up to support her and her causes. Her latest wildly successful venture had her taking the show stateside, this time to the City of Angels, where fundraising is a true sport. With a geyser of sociable names, all dressed to the nines, the three-day Los Angeles affair, La L.A. Louvre, consisted of private art collection visits, luncheons, and parties, each captivating those who would attend this latest incarnation to raise money to restore the Roman galleries in the Louvre. Thrash, in her usual accomplishment-driven manner, approached the event with confidence. Confident she would wow her guests with artful tours and tons of fun…and, all the while, raise boatloads of money for a cause so near to her heart.

 

Beyond relationships, the simple fact of the matter is Thrash’s hard work began well over a year ago to create this event. With the pandemic waning last November, I caught up with Thrash in L.A. to attend Houston’s Sir Mark Haukohl’s seated dinner party at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art honoring his photography collection exhibit. Thrash was also in town and up to her swan-like neck in arranging significant private art tours of some of the most important collections in the world that just also happened to be in the Los Angeles area.

 

The event, originally scheduled for mid-March, shifted to May, in hopes the pandemic would subside more, which it did. The pandemic also posed logistical problems and therefore, some collections were not able to be viewed because of the restrictions the city had imposed for over two years. “There is no city in the country with a more vibrant art scene, and architecturally iconic homes, than Los Angeles,” confides Becca Cason Thrash. “So, I dove into LA and began by contacting friends who had great homes, fabulous collections, or both. Asking if I could bring a hundred strangers in to see their private spaces was a different story. In the end, 14 said yes…with two I couldn’t get to budge.”

 

Thrash’s attention to the platinum-level event creation had been in the works for over six months by the time she arrived in Los Angeles in early May to oversee the happening of the festivities. “The Covid restrictions and mask mandates were still an issue, which affected the guest list quite a bit, but we got around those by May,” shared Thrash. “With the date being postponed to May, American graduations and European art fairs prevented several guests from attending. I was heartbroken but there is never a perfect date for everyone. Gratefully their contributions helped us raise over two million dollars.”

 

The dozens and dozens of hands-on meetings with Houston’s Richard Flowers, of The Events Company, and his team, as well as vendors in Los Angeles, was the only way the event could flawlessly occur. Whether the event is in the Louvre in Paris, or in a tent on the grounds of a historic Los Angeles estate, Thrash is 100% in. For the seasoned fundraising veteran, the challenge becomes…what next? As with this gala in L.A., anyone in the serious world of fundraising knows of Thrash’s abilities to lead the way in bringing serious money to organizations. The LA L.A. Louvre happened only due to the sponsorships of John and Becca Cason Thrash, Sotheby’s Fine Art and Auction, and fine jewelers Cartier, Vacheron Constantin, Kip Forbes, David Yurman, Tiffany & Co., and Bulgari. The wines and champagnes were provided by LVMH, as well as Kastra Elion vodka, and Casa Dragones Joven tequila for additional libations.  

 

Vibrant and full of stories about each guest she hand-picks to attend, Thrash is a captivating international hostess who is pretty peerless these days. Her style, charmingly precise and over-the-top at the same time, is in the mold of the great hostesses of the past like Pamela Harriman, Marella Agnelli, Babe Paley, or, on a more Texas playing field of yore, Martha Hyder and Baroness di Portanova. Few, if any, compare to her today. “When hosting an event, you really have to curate your guest list,” admits Thrash. “You want chic, like-minded people but need the occasional, or unexpected, controversial guest. That’s what stirs it up and keeps it from feeling like a night at the club. I am so fortunate to have cultivated so many friendships through the years from all over the world and that I can extend these opportunities to them.”

MISE EN SCÈNE

Thrash’s essence, like her hair, also now in the shade of pandemic platinum, has captivated a room with flair and finesse for decades, as she flawlessly sets the stage for every event. Philanthropy, at the highest level, takes ingenuity and brains, both of which Thrash has plenty. It was her goal that the Paris-meets-Los Angeles’ 72-hour whirlwind, a three day experience of private art collections, luncheons, dinners, and a gala offered guests something smart, exclusive and unique.

 

The private collection visits offered to the fortunate guests were some of the most important private collections in the world. It began with film and television producer Michael Phillips’ Asian art collection, T.V. show creator Darren Star’s art-filled collection at his Beverly Hills home, philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick’s collection at their Beverly Hills estate, real estate developer James Goldstein’s collection housed in his mid-century masterpiece, John Lautner-designed Beverly Hills home, prolific gallery owner and collector Larry Gagosian’s Holmby Hills home, the home and private art museum of entertainment executive Steve Tisch, the art foundation of Frederick R. Weisman in Bel Air, as well as opportunities to see the latest exhibits at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Museum, and the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

 

“There isn’t anyone who knows how to create memorable experiences the way Becca does,” shared Dallasite entertaining guru Kimberly Schlegel Whitman. “When her name is on an invitation, it is guaranteed to be filled with friends and fun and is sure to be a night you will remember. The LA L.A. Louvre event introduced us to private corners of Los Angeles that we often drive past and don’t even know. It was incredible treat to get to go inside their homes and see their collections with other art enthusiasts and hear the stories of the collectors and their remarkable collections.”

 

The event hosts included entrepreneur Ronnie Haft, with his husband Andrew Nagel, who had a welcome cocktail party at their Beverly Hills Forever home on Tuesday evening. Real estate developer Richard Weintraub, and his wife Liane, hosted the Malibu brunch on Wednesday in their historic, 1921 five-story beach front home, Villa Tramonto, while contemporary art collector and Jumex Collection owner Eugenio Lopez hosted a glorious al fresco seated dinner in his art-filled Beverly Hills home on Wednesday evening. In Lopez’s estate, one was as likely to see a Basquiat, Donald Judd, Cy Twombly, or a Warhol Brillo box, as an incredible Jeff Koons poolside sculpture among the other treasures that were feasts for the guest’s eyes.

 

The coup de grâce was Thursday evening’s culmination of the tremendous effort, a seated dinner for over 250 at the home of Colleen and Bradley Bell, high above the City of Angels in Holmby Hills. Longtime friends of Thrash through their mutual support of Anthony Kennedy Shriver’s Best Buddies organization, she’s the former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary and a T.V. producer, and he’s a seasoned television executive who has won over 20 Daytime EmmyÓ Awards. Their home, formerly the residence of Rod Stewart, and before that, Gregory Peck, served as the perfect backdrop for the Le Grand Nuit.

 

LA VIE EST BELLE

Many of the guests upon arrival at the Bell’s estate, entered the Mediterranean-style villa and were captivated by the impressive contemporary and classic art collection the Bells have assembled. Friendly, charming, and outgoing, the Bells are the perfect hosts for this kind of event. Never one to miss an opportunity to incorporate the French theme, a rendition of The Ritz Paris’ Hemingway Bar was recreated in the oak-paneled library of the residence. “The Bells are such lovely people, and their home was perfect for this event. The Hotel Ritz barkeep Colin Fields, who was flown in to create the pop-up, lost his mind when he saw the facsimile,” noted Thrash. As the Old Fashioned, Martini and signature Serendipity (nicknamed France in a glass) cocktails flowed, so did the guests who greeted longtime friends and eagerly made new ones.

 

In fact, as the event spilled onto the estate, with a magnificent view of the city, guests were so entranced by each other that dinner was served over an hour later than planned. After all, it isn’t always easy gathering guests to be seated. The gigantic tent was festooned with vibrantly pink lighting. With an abundance of one-story high greenery perched on the tables, it was the perfect counterbalance to the fuchsia pink carpet. Much of decorative elements and rentals were driven directly from Houston to Los Angeles. “We incorporated the natural beauty of Southern California with palms, elephant ear leaves and banana trees to add to the gradations of green,” offered Thrash. “The chandeliers dripped in long, cascading ivy, while the shapes of the plants were projected onto the ceiling, adding to the tropical theme.”

 

Creative, sublime, yet extremely elegant was Thrash’s goal in creating the décor. Never one to miss an opportunity, Becca Cason Thrash’s dress of glittering olive green sequins, designed by her close friend, designer-to-the-stars Naaem Khan, who also attended, matched the environment perfectly. “I find inspiration everywhere in creating a gala’s theme. Naaem sent me the dress he designed for me, and we built the evening around that,” revealed Thrash.

 

The synergy between the olive beaded gown and her pink kunzite and diamond jewels that punctuated the green and pink theme wasn’t lost on anyone. “It was so appropriate that Becca’s Naeem Khan gown had a cape attached,” shares Austinite philanthropist Carla McDonald. “She is a philanthropic superhero, and her superpower is bringing the world’s most interesting people together to advance the work of the world’s most important organizations.”

 

Guests raved over the entirely green table palette, highlighted with Yves Klein French blue tableware accents, that graced the silk table coverings on the many Continental and square tables, as guests were perched on green Chiavari chairs. In fact, every place setting was a feast for the eyes, and shortly thereafter, the cuisine palette. Guests dined on elegant French fare of filet mignon, asparagus in a light Bearnaise sauce, as well as pears in Champagne with crème fraiche. To pair with the meal, bottle upon bottle of Baron de Rothschild Champagne’s Chateau de Meusault 2016 and Le Petit Haut Lafitte 2015 were poured. For après dinner, Casa Dragones Joeven sipping tequila, Kastra Elion expresso martinis, and an array of French chocolates was served.

 

While dining, and as the evening progressed, the live auction, deftly helmed by Michael Macauley of Sotheby’s Fine Art and Auction, raised the pulse of the evening even more. As Becca Cason Thrash shared a few moving words about the importance of fundraising for the cause, with a video greeting by the Louvre President Laurence des Cars, the auction was off to a flying start. Some of the artists who donated works and who also attended the event were Chris Levine of London, California-based artist James Verbicky, Niki Haas of the Haas Brothers duo who grew up in Austin, to name a few. The Impressionist collector Lionel Sauvage (and longtime Louvre’s International Friends’ board member) was spotted huddling with the current American Friends Of The Louvre board chairman, Kip Forbes of New York (Becca Cason Thrash serves as the vice-chairman), while collector Mary Ellen Marziale flew in from Italy for the gala and was accompanied by her actor/director son, Antonio Marziale. 

 

The bevy of guests who attended the event also included Michael Chow, founder of Mr. Chow restaurants, who bought the custom Tiffany watch for $85,000 at the auction, and Former Ambassador to Great Britain, the Honorable Robert Tuttle and his wife, Maria. Since the event occurred in Los Angeles, some local star power added to the guest list including Jacqueline Bisset, Chris O’Donnell, Jennifer Tilley, a few Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast members, producer Mark Burnett and his actor wife, Roma Downey, to name a few. Paris was also well represented with Parisian residents Ina Giscard d’Estaing (her father-in-law was Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the former President of France), Baroness Rose Anne de Pampelonne,  Ritz Paris Director Mark Raffray, Fabrice Pasqual of Air France, and Parisian Lucas Somoza, among many other dear Paris-based friends of Thrash’s. The creative clout of the guests included designers like Juicy Couture co-founder Gela Taylor, and Monique Lhullier. Many other notables comprised of investor Francois Schramek, German technologist Patrick Hessler, philanthropists such as Sydney Holland, Carolyn Powers, and Orange County-based Elizabeth Segerstrom.

 

In fact, philanthropists Gregory Annenberg Weingarten and his wife, Regina, were overheard marveling about the vast turnout and enthusiastic support from so many Texans, too. The laundry list of Thrash’s Texas fans and supporters who would show up to support her for anything, anywhere would be too long to list here, yet we were all there. “Most were eager to show up to make a contribution to the event by doing their part: looking as glamorous as possible, donning fashionable new ensembles and jewels, and bringing their irreplaceable Texas exuberance by bidding vigorously…and to show the international guests how to let their hair down.” laughed Thrash.

COUP DE GRÂCE

As with previous Louvre galas, the dinner and auction ended, and with the attendees ready for more action, Sinatra-esque singer Chris North took to the stage in a white dinner jacket, ready to rumble with the crowd. “He tore the ceiling off the roof with his 35-minute, non-stop set of mega superstar hits of the last 50 years,” enthused Thrash, who was referred to North’s talents by their mutual pal, event producer Colin Cowie. “Chris had the guests dancing on their seats and in the aisles. It was a fabulous, high-octane performance that left people begging for more.”

 

“The events hosted by Becca Cason Thrash are legendary, as I have read about them in BrilliantThe Society Diaries, and Society Texas for years,” confided Texan-turned-Angeleno Natalie Bond Bloomingdale. “How cool that my first party to attend helmed by Becca was in Los Angeles, and for such a wonderful cause. It was a meticulously orchestrated, very well-planned, with a well-organized itinerary, and incredible access to the best private art collections Los Angeles has to offer. Her grand vision was beautifully executed, and I am hopeful the funds raised will do a great deal for the restoration of the Roman Galleries at The Louvre.

 

With the evening raising over a whopping two million dollars, we will all have to stay tuned to learn of Thrash’s next fundraising adventures…here and across the globe. “I have been contacted by so many wonderful organizations,” confides Thrash. “I’ll probably take on an entirely different project next, so stay tuned.”

LARGESSE OBLIGE

LARGESSE OBLIGE

There’s just something about a gala…with so much work that goes into celebrating and supporting an organization for just one night. No gala is perfect mind you, yet I have seen many that have come quite close. I’ll never forget when I donated my time to raise funds as a dancer for the Center For Child Protection’s very first Dancing With The Stars in the mid-2000s. None of my fellow dancers who terpsichored on stage for the maiden voyage of the gala (that now regularly raises well over a million dollars in one evening) knew what to expect while dancing in a ballroom of over a thousand contemporaries.

 

There was one life lesson I acquired in the arduous final days of the months of rehearsing a dance production number that I still think would rival the scope of work of anything you might see on an episode of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars hit series. The lesson was so simple and shared with me by my professional dance partner, who helmed our competitive dance duo. Go out there and do your best. No one in the audience will see you’ve made a mistake…because they don’t know your choreography. It was a pivotal moment that I absorbed and have often applied to life since, and certainly life while chronicling the social scene.

We’ve all attended so many wonderful galas, and some that, well, had the potential to be wonderful. Our cover story feature this month shares an insider’s look at one of the grandest galas in years, Houstonian Becca Cason Thrash’s series of events to support the Musée du Louvre. It has previously occurred mostly in Europe, yet due to the pandemic, she brought the action closer to home, in Los Angeles. “What is so majestic about an event hosted by Becca is that you have the most wonderful mix of familiar faces and interesting people you would never meet otherwise,” noted Society Texas COO Rob Giardinelli, who was in attendance. “The combination of these two elements creates fabulous, unforgettable experiences you will remember for the rest of your life.” It was a three day tour de force of parties and unforgettable rare, private art collection viewings to remember, as you’ll read about and see, which might inspire your own gala planning.

Along with that story, we catch up with another Texas luminary, legendary media professional Neal Spelce. He witnessed and reported on, as much as anyone, many events that have shaped our world. His new book, With The Bark Off, is a true page turner for true Texans. And don’t forget to enjoy our one-of-a-kind feature on fall shoes to set you on the path to fun.

 

Along with our wildly talented lifestyle experts, writers, editors, designers, and publishing teams, we love all things Texan as we continue to celebrate and elevate the finer things in life for you to also enjoy. Now that we’re all back in the saddle this fall season, let’s get out there and be as spectacular as always. Until then, see you in the ballroom.

 

Lance Avery Morgan

Editor-In-Chief &

Creative Director

Lance@SocietyTexas.com

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Portrait photography by Romy Suskin

A WOMAN’S EYE

A WOMAN’S EYE

Fêtes For Houstonian Sir Mark Haukohl’s World Class Photography Exhibition

By Lance Avery Morgan    Photography courtesy of LACMA

Recently, on a chilly autumn night, both international and Texas-based guests flocked to the opening night soirée of the exhibit in Los Angeles, In the Now: Gender and Nation in Europe, Selections from the Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl Photography Collection. It features a selection of two hundred contemporary photographs by women artists from seventeen countries in Western and Eastern Europe. The collaboration between Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and The Brooklyn Museum is a partnership that enables each institution to significantly augment and diversify its photography holdings over the next ten years as well as advance curatorial research, travel, and scholarship, signaling an innovative and financially sustainable new approach for museums to expand their collections.
A seated dinner was held to celebrate the debut of the images at Ray’s, the restaurant that is a part of LACMA. The glamorous guests, from around the world, and of course, Texas, were on hand to fete Haukohl’s artistic collection achievement. On hand to share toasts were LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg, Director Michael Govan, as well as Shelby White and Leon Levy Director Anne Pasternak of The Brooklyn Museum. Beyond the wine and champagne that flowed freely, guests dined on a selection of seafood, as well as being tempted by wonderfully sugary desserts as the evening progressed. The week of Los Angeles events included a distinguished trustee’s reception at the residence of venture capitalist, David Bohnett. The celebration continued at the new Pendry Hotel on Sunset Boulevard.
Both LACMA and The Brooklyn Museum, exemplary institutions representing both coasts, benefit from the generous gift from Houston-based collector Sir Mark Fehrs Haukohl, whose expansive collection has been built over the course of twenty years and showcases an impressive range of styles and approaches to photography from that period. The collection features works by nearly ninety emerging and established women artists, including Yto Barrada, Carolle Bénitah, Melanie Bonajo, Natalie Czech, Eva Koť á tková, Vera Lutter, Josephine Pryde, and Shirana Shahbazi.
The gift will be made in installments over the next ten years, with the first including twenty works selected by Haukohl. The two museums will also receive a donation of ten additional works purchased by him. Both museums will each individually acquire an additional ten works chosen in concert with the curators, expanding the initial gift. Furthermore, his gift includes the Haukohl Travel Grant, which provides resources to advance curatorial travel, research, and scholarship each year for the next decade. These funds will allow curators to attend European photography fairs and exhibitions such as Les Rencontres d’Arles, ARCOmadrid, and Unseen Amsterdam, further enabling targeted additions to the collection by all three parties. The exhibit runs at LACMA through February 13, 2022, with a 2023 exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. A sensational Los Angeles and New York triumph.

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LARGER THAN LIFE

LARGER THAN LIFE

Tireless fundraiser and society style icon, Houstonian Becca Cason Thrash, is known for many things, with being a legendary hostess for a myriad of regional and international causes topping the list of her many talents.

Elegant, ebullient, and always successful, she ensures these events are illustrious for not only doing good for so many, but also as memorable adventures. Join OUR Lance AVery Morgan as we venture to Mexico City, by way of Paris, for the decade’s latest Thrash Bash.

Photography by Alejandro Celez and Iván de la Luz

THE FUN IN FUNDRAISING

It was destined to be. Becca Cason Thrash’s heart was deeply affected when she saw Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris burning in April of 2019. Within the flames of her own heart, as she viewed the tragedy, she reacted immediately and committed to helping fundraise for the re-building of one of the most significant architectural landmarks in the world. She had been approached before the tragedy to help raise much- needed funds for the restoration, and after the fire, that motion was fast-forwarded. Thrash, like the rest of the world, viewed it as a catastrophe that anyone who knows Paris can confirm: it rattled the soul of the City of Love. Never believing in borders, Thrash sprang into immediate action and did what she does best: she hosted an astonishing weekend of events for the fabled structure, outside of France, in Mexico City, to encourage high-level donations for the restoration of the Cathedral.

“To replicate those medieval materials, some of them almost 900-years old, and to re-create the manufacturing of such stones, metals, and patina would be cost-prohibitive after the fire,” confides Becca Cason Thrash. “So, the Notre-Dame team called and asked, ‘Please, we really need your help.’” She continues, “I said, ‘I’ll do it, but under one condition.’ I’m not bringing everybody back to France because I’ve hosted five fundraising events there for the Louvre, and I’ve always wanted to do something in Mexico City. So, if you’ll allow me to create a fundraiser, I’ll do it my own way, in my own style, and with my list. They said yes, and we were off to the races.”

Thrash is certainly no novice to fundraising and is absolutely not a stranger to hosting epic fundraising events on an international level. After all, she continues to raise millions and millions for the Musée de Louvre and Venetian Heritage organizations. Never one to rest on her own successful fundraising laurels, Harlingen native and Houston resident, Thrash, was inspired to create a multitude of new experiences for the latest Notre-Dame gala endeavor. The 12th-century Gothic structure would rise again, thanks in part to Thrash’s gala expertise.

It’s that point of view that earned Thrash the Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2011 for her philanthropic talents at home and abroad, her tireless fundraising for the Louvre, and her ongoing championing of Franco-American relations. Becca Cason Thrash has a natural affinity for international culture, including Latin culture. She was raised in South Texas and lived in Mexico City while working for Vogue En Español, as she started her career in marketing. These experiences prepared her for a very public life both in Houston and across the globe.

Perhaps Thrash’s most important secret to entertaining at a high-level is the energy of the room she encourages based on the invitation list. Highly curated, like Thrash’s couture wardrobe, her secret sauce is having a mix of guests. She always schedules time to focus on the laborious task of creating a seating chart for the coterie of international jetsetters, philanthropists, business leaders, contemporary art collectors, and social swells. Preparation, preparation, preparation.

Thrash readily admits she’s hosted countless more events in Houston for a plethora of her passionate causes, ranging from Best Buddies, on which she serves as a board member, to the Houston Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, The Menil Collection, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston, and many, many more charitable and civic organizations of all kinds. Whether hosting at her home, or in monumental international venues, her events attract hundreds of guests who arrive to support five-star cultural institutions with an intention to also have fun. Her fundraising, by the Thrash’s estimation, is likely north of $100 million so far, and that might be a conservative assessment. “People support people. It’s that simple,” shares Thrash about her hard-won fundraising success. “Plus, to me, it’s so important to have a uniquely, hand-selected, and eclectic mix of guests. I know everyone who is walking in the door that evening. They must be fun, interesting, generous, and bring their own brands of enthusiasm to the party. It doesn’t matter if they are moguls or not. They know why they are there…to have a one-of-a-kind time…and to raise money. People support the charity, of course, but people really support people.”

 

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THE BEST OF EVERYTHING

The planning, like all of Thrash’s previous social triumphs, begins early, with months and months of advance preparation…and doesn’t end until the last guest has successfully departed. Mexico, a favorite locale of Thrash’s, is known for its colorful celebrations, and these, with Thrash’s own colorful personality, are a perfect combination of elements. Only the best will do. “I made seven trips to Mexico City to prepare all the details and met with many people including the six hosts and dear friends who opened their homes and collections for the special weekend,” Thrash confides. As in galas past, fellow Houstonian Richard Flowers, and his event design team of five, were enlisted to bring Thrash’s vision to life. Locally in Mexico, Diego Del Río Zepeda and his team were on hand to collaborate for the events’ success. The best tableware, flatware, linens, and flowers, thousands upon thousands of flowers, would need to be implemented to create the regal setting for this triumphant to-do.

Before the Mexican soirées, the fundraising efforts actually began in Houston, with a preview dinner event hosted by Steak 48, the hot Houston eatery that could accommodate the 160-plus guest list. Thrash proudly donned her favorite Zara sequined dress, instead of couture, and added a million dollars of Van Cleef & Arpels jewels to complete her hosting ensemble. The grand total raised for the kick-off night was $100,000.

 

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ONWARD TO MEXICO CITY

One hundred and fifteen guests, paying $6,000 per ticket, began arriving in Mexico City from Paris, Vienna, Milan, London, NYC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC, and an equal number of glamorous, enthusiastic Texans from across the state, and especially from Thrash’s hometown turf of Houston.

Now, where to place each of the guests attending the soirée? No problem. Thrash arranges seating charts like an eminent chess expert at a championship match: play to win as if it was the most important thing to accomplish. Having attended and chronicled many Thrash Bashes, I can attest she will place a guest next to a fellow participant that the guest will invariably find interesting and remarkable in their life’s pursuits. This cadre of attendees at the Mexico affair would be no different.

The three-day series of events began with an intimate dinner hosted by the French Ambassador to Mexico, Anne Grillo, at her residence in Mexico. Her Excellency greeted the internationally-based guests upon their arrival. The Embassy of Mexico in France, based out of Paris, is the primary diplomatic mission from the United Mexican States to France. It also represents Mexico to the Principality of Monaco, as well as to the Council of Europe. The palace itself is resplendent with a abundance of both French and Latin culture.

The next day an alfresco afternoon luncheon was held in the exquisite home of megawatt art collectors Tato and Gaby Garza. Guests chatted and mingled, admiring the art everywhere they turned in the residence. Chapultepec castle, the Frida Kahlo home, Casa Azul, the Diego Rivera collection at Anahuacalli, and the home of famed artist Pedro Friedberg were just a few of the stops made by the well-heeled crowd. Additional visits, cocktail receptions, and other dinners were arranged in the homes of Mexican entrepreneur Sergio Berger, along with Rodman Primack, and Rudy Weissenberg.  Stopping by the Barragan stables, designed by renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragan, was also a delightful treat for the attendees.

 

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VIVA BECCA

The last evening’s fête was widely anticipated. Hosted by Eugenio Lopez, the sole heir to the Jumex fruit-juice fortune, he is considered to be one of the world’s top 200 art collectors. In his extraordinary, art-filled mansion, cocktails and canapes were served as guests chatted and greeted each other. The attendees were dazzled by the white glove-served, five-course seated dinner, but most especially by the extraordinary design and architecture.

These ancillary events bookended the high point of the weekend, La Grande Nuit, as Thrash titled it. Held in the Casino Español–a 19th century building in the Districo Histórico, complete with a 60-foot Tiffany ceiling and a Grand Salon rivaled only by Versailles itself. The venue was decorated as a million-dollar raising gala should be: over the top. Guests descended a grand staircase upon their arrival, fitting for both the venue and the occasion. Following the lavish, multi-course dinner, Becca Cason Thrash took center stage, donned in a beaded Naeem Khan gown, topped with a fuchsia Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda full-length coat and plenty of her own, favorite jewels, and presided over the live auction like the pro she is.

For those who have never seen Thrash in action, as she passionately raises funds for events dear to her heart, it’s a tour de force to behold. A financial goal always in mind, Thrash knows how to read an audience. Part of that special skill is to understand what guests would be interested in buying at a live auction, from art to fashion, to experiences. Then, she goes about acquiring them with supporting brands she knows well, thus promoting these brands with this elevated exposure. Uber collector Eugenio Lopez prevailed on the final bid for a five-night cruise in Egypt on the private yacht owned and donated by Parisian designer Christian Louboutin. Houstonian Lynn Mathre bid the highest on a Naeem Khan bespoke gown and Buccellati necklace. British artist Chris Levine’s limited edition of a gold-dusted portrait of Queen Elizabeth, along with ten lots of art, trips, and jewelry, took in more than $700,000 in less than, yes, fifteen minutes. Talk about light speed for a live auction that can often exhaust audiences at other galas for an hour or more. To make the weekend even more special, Thrash was surprised with a mini birthday celebration amidst the revelry.

Among the decidedly stylish notables were the French Ambassador, Anne Grillo, the Former Minister of Culture, Sari Bermundez, along with Sergio Berger, Christine Holzer, Alejandra Redo, Rodman Primack, Rudy Weissenberg, Lucas Somoza, Ben Aguilar, Andres Carretero, and Guillermo Ordorica. Other bold-faced names in the crowd included Duran Duran’s John Taylor and his fashion icon wife, Gela Taylor, who jetted in from London, blue-chip art collector Tracey Amon from Paris, Christopher Forbes from New York,  collector Eva Dichand from Vienna, Kathleen von Alvenslebenn from Berlin, and philanthropist Joseph Blount from Palm Beach. Amin Jaffer, who is one of the world’s foremost experts on jewels in from Paris, to name a few. The world’s foremost expert on royal jewels was joined by notables hailing from Texas, including collectors Christen and Derek Wilson from Dallas. Sixty of the more than 115 guests supported the Thrashes from Houston, including Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Reggie and Leigh Smith, Leslie and Russ Robinson, Barbara and Michael Gamson, and many more, along with John Thrash, Becca’s beloved husband, and thirty Mexico City notables.

The action always seems to move to the dance floor to keep the party going. Songstress and ingénue Jane Fontaine, from Los Angeles, entertained guests at the after party that went into the wee hours of the next morning. Seen on the dance floor were Randy Powers and Greggory Burk, Rose and Dave Capobianco, Tony Bradfield, Marc and Duyen Nguyen, Fred Heredia and Cassidy York, Elizabeth and Will Galtney, Valerie Fuller and Andree Aboolian, while the Mexican artist Denise de las Rue was spotted in deep conversation with Ford Hubbard.

By the end of the action-packed weekend, more than $1.3 million had been raised for the restoration efforts of Notre-Dame de Paris, the venerable 850-year-old symbol of French culture. “If you create a once-in-a- lifetime experience for guests that they are happy to support, then its win for them and the charity,” confides Becca Cason Thrash. “So that is what I’ve always tried to do:  focus on the experience. Like my events that have had Tom Brady, George Clooney, Cindy Crawford, Prince Albert, Duran Duran, Marc Anthony, and many other similar honorary guests and celebrities, not to mention Willie Nelson playing in her great room to benefit Best Buddies one evening…people will show up. Let’s face it…people want the experience of being a part of something special, and so I try to give that to them.”

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HEAVENLY INFLUENCE

HEAVENLY INFLUENCE

Houston Grand Opera Ball’s Cielito Lindo Gala Shines

By Jennifer Roosth Photography by Jenny Antill, Priscilla Dickson, Wilson Parrish

 

THE SETTING: The Houston Grand Opera hosted its annual white-tie fundraiser, this year titled Opera Ball: Cielito Lindo. Cielito Lindo—loosely translated to pretty darling or heavenly one—is a traditional Mexican song written by Quirino Mendoza y Cortes in 1882 and beloved throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond as a symbol of love and unity. The evening had over 450 guests gather at The Revaire for an evening of celebration inspired by Mexico’s rich, vibrant culture and an extraordinary mix of creative influences.

THE STYLE: The décor, by Mandarin Design Lab in Austin, included a towering butterfly diva seemingly summoning guests, cocktails served by a 20-foot-high sombrero-laden wall, and a ballroom framed by a custom 60’ long calla lily chandelier and Talavera blue tile and climbing bougainvillea. The tastes of the evening included traditional Mexican cuisine by A Fare Extraordinaire, and the sounds of Mexico were also center stage with a special performance of Besame Mucho by guest artist soprano Ailyn Pérez. One of the evening’s highlights was the Mariachi los Camperos musical performance of the night’s theme, Cielito Lindo, bringing the crowd to their feet in a spirited sing-along worthy of a grand opera.

THE PURPOSE: Chaired by Marcia and Alfredo Vilas, with Monica Fulton and Hector Villarreal, and Sara and Gabriel Loperena chairing the auctions, the gala raised over $1.2 million to support the internationally renowned performances and community programs that distinguishes the Houston Grand Opera as one of America’s greatest opera companies. Following the gala, guests carried on with a festive, late-night celebration at the Encore After Party chaired by Lady Stephanie Kimbrell and Joshua Allison and featured dancing, a proper taco station, passed frozen mangonadas, and churros with chocolate sauce for dipping.

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