Rainy night in Memphis, African-Print Design

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What Michael Donahue might have looked like if he didn't have an umbrella while covering seven parties in a row. - JON SPARKS
  • Jon Sparks
  • What Michael Donahue might have looked like if he didn't have an umbrella while covering seven parties in a row.

I broke my record for covering parties. I attended seven parties Feb. 24. I went from Memphis Botanic Garden to 409 South Main.

Lots going on that night. And it was raining.

I began with the Les Passees Cabaret, the annual event featuring the Living Ads. When I was growing up and even after I began covering parties at the Memphis Press-Scimitar, Les Passees Cabaret was the place to be on New Year’s Eve. It was one of the social events of the year, as I recall. It was held at The Peabody. If I remember the story correctly, people didn’t want to travel Downtown to the event anymore and the party moved to other venues and other dates.



This year’s Living Ads were Kelsey Douglas, Katelyn Elmore, Anne-Elizabeth Matheny, Kaitlyn Keppen and Regan Lee.

“A Venetian Masquerade Ball” was the theme.

Shannon and Ryan Ito and Cindy Pena at Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shannon and Ryan Ito and Cindy Pena at Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction

I then zipped over to the Hilton Memphis for the Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction. “A Night of Reel Fun!” was the theme of the event, which featured live and silent auctions. The Soul Shockers performed. Joe Birch was master of ceremonies.

Mix-Odyssey, a fundraiser for Volunteer Odyssey, was next. This was at a new venue for me: Propceller on Summer.

About 300 attended, said Caroline Borron, who coordinated the event.


Emily Oppenheimer and Vincent Hale at Mix-Odyssey - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Emily Oppenheimer and Vincent Hale at Mix-Odyssey

Vincent Hale, a bartender at Bari Ristorante, and Josh Conley won the People’s Choice award for his ‘35 and 90” punch. The numbers stand for “the two latitudes of Memphis,” Hale said. “It was a 19th-Century style punch.”

The drink included dried fig, dried pear, lemongrass and orange peel, which were steeped in rum for about eight days, Hale said. “Then I added Copper & Kings aged brandy, an American brandy out of Kentucky.”

He then added Cocchi Americano, an aperitif, and Falernum - “an almond syrup with lime and star anise and allspice. So, it kind of has that rum spice feel to it. And a little lemon juice. It was really good.”

He garnished the punch with grated nutmeg and dried lemon peel.

Describing his “old school punch,” Hale said, “A long time ago punches weren’t a bunch of fruit juice added to the rum. It was a very long process. Very boozy. The end product was sweet and free, but more in the realm of a Manhattan. All the spirits balanced together as opposed to a bunch of fruit juice.”

Colby Jones came in first place with "285 Foxwood" and Aaron Hanna came in second place for "Faith Healer."

I then headed over to the Bodine School’s “Sapphires & Blue Suede Shoes” gala at Children’s Museum of Memphis. This was the first time I’ve seen “Silent Auction, Dinner & Carousel” on the program. The Memphis Grand Carousel, one of the greatest attractions to return to Memphis, was available for guests to take a whirl. Jim and Kathryn Gilliland and Kirby and Windy May chaired the event.

Next up was the Exchange Club’s Hands of Hope Auction Party at Ballet Memphis. “The Heart of It All” was the theme of the fundraiser for the Exchange Club Family Center. Hunter Morris conducted the live auction. Peabody Rocket performed. Brittney and Sam Haynie and Cara and Justin Grinder were the chairs.

Mid-South Heart Ball gathering. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mid-South Heart Ball gathering.

“Rockin’ the Blues” was the theme of the Mid-South Heart Ball, an American Heart Association fundraiser. I have to say, Memphis Jones and his band’s renditions of Elvis standards, including “Hound Dog,” were the best I’ve heard since the King recorded them. Excellent stuff.

Except for some cheese and grapes I ate at Mix-Odyssey, the seared filet mignon with port wine sauce and flax seed crusted salmon was the first food I’d eaten all night. Dr. Purvisha Patel, who chaired the Heart Ball with her husband, Dr. Dharmesh Patel, had a plate fixed for me. It was close to 10 p.m.

I quickly ate and then dashed out the door - only to remember I didn’t have my notebook with all the info from the parties I attended. They already cleared the table, so a server and I went to the hallway to search the racks of trays of dirty dishes from each table. No notebook.

We returned to the ballroom and the server looked under the table where I ate and found my notebook! I was so happy. On to the next party.

By this time my cowboy boots and socks were soaked, but I managed to park and walk a few blocks (needlessly because there were closer parking spaces) to Merge Memphis Presents Winter Festival of Lights at 409 South Main before the event was over.

I got there late, but Lisa Ortosecco, who attended, was ecstatic. In her text, she wrote, “It was absolutely flipping gorgeous. I can honestly say it’s one of the top three (parties) I’ve ever been to in my life.”

“We just called it the Winter Festival of Lights - helping you to turn on the lights for homeless women in our community,” said Sherry McClure, who, along with her husband, Keith, founded Merge Memphis, a non-profit with the mission to “feed the hungry in Memphis, clothe those that need clothes and to shelter women from the streets.”

This was their first major fundraiser, Sherry said. “We had a small chili cookoff back in the fall, but this was our inaugural gala. It was great. We had local restaurants donate all the food.”

They also had live and silent auctions and music.

About 260 attended, she said. And they exceeded their goal for money raised, she said.

Sherry was impressed that “everyone came out on a rainy, stormy night for it.”

Merge Memphis’s next event will be Hats & Horses, a Kentucky Derby watch party, which will be held May 5 at the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Union.


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Danielle Tyson and Alphone Muhubiri at African-Print Fashion Now! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Danielle Tyson and Alphone Muhubiri at African-Print Fashion Now!


Jocelyn Sengiyumva, Yope Kwangaba and Emilienn Yope at African-Print Fashion Now! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jocelyn Sengiyumva, Yope Kwangaba and Emilienn Yope at African-Print Fashion Now!

I really enjoyed the preview party for African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style, which was held Feb. 23 at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

The energy and electricity in the gallery was dynamic and fun. The Memphis Fashion Week pop-up fashion show featured designs by Mbabazi House of Style, Tanganika by Tangie Seay, and ROYALTY by Christina Westbrook.

Memphis Fashion Design Network director Abby Phillips coordinated the show. She contacted the local designers to represent Memphis designers who incorporate African print into their designs. “Each designer brings their own take on design, but all use the vibrant print that can be seen during the current Brooks museum exhibit. The exhibit is inspirational and the local designers make it attainable.”

Entertainment was by DJ Siphne Aaye. Paradox Catering provided the food and drink.

The exhibit includes 60 tailored fashions, 100 archival and contemporary cloths, 20 black-and-white studio portraits from the ‘60s and ‘70s, runway videos and, finally, works by contemporary visual artists.

About 500 attended the preview party.


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