13th Annual Gridiron Dinner a smashing success!

Patti Payne gives Dale a personal serenade in front of the crowd. (Click the image to view the Team Photogenic photo album)

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The Washington News Council’s “Toast and Roast” of Dale Chihuly at our 13th Annual Gridiron West Dinner on December 15 at Fremont Studios was a smashing success.

About 400 people enjoyed a raucous and rollicking evening of comedy, songs, videos, slideshows and affectionate “toasts” of Dale by a distinguished array of “toasters.”

Guests gathered at a reception in Studio B, where a special “Chihulyni” cocktail was served, along with other adult beverages and tasty hors-d’oeuvres. Then they moved into Studio A where the Cyclorama wall displayed scenes of Chihuly’s many outdoor exhibits around the world.

The Nowhere Men, Seattle’s favorite Beatles cover band, played tunes by the Fab Four as people found their tables. The band also played throughout the evening, singing several parody versions of Beatles songs written for the occasion.

Dinner, catered by Kaspar’s Special Events & Catering began with a stacked vegetable salad followed by an entrée of roasted turkey with apple dressing. Dessert was a gingerbread spice cake. “Chihuly Label” wines from Dunham Cellars in Walla Walla were served at every table, thanks to Mike Dunham and Ron Sevart of the Space Needle Corporation.

Every guest also received a coffee tumbler with the Washington News Council logo on one side and the “TAO of Journalism – Transparent, Accountable, Open” logo on the other side. The tumblers were provided by the WNC Board.

Mike Egan, who has Emceed the Gridiron Dinners for more than 10 years, welcomed the crowd and introduced Father Stephen Sundborg, president of Seattle University, to deliver the invocation.

Sue Nixon, talented jazz singer and Seattle Rotarian, opened the evening with a moving rendition of “America the Beautiful,” followed by a parody version of “Yesterday” that ended with “We believe in Chihuly.”

Glass centerpieces on each table were made by students at Tacoma’s Hilltop Artists program, which Dale started in 1994. The centerpieces were underwritten by a generous donation from Jeff and Susan Brotman. A video was shown explaining how the program helps at-risk kids in Tacoma. Greg Piercy and Travis Johnson of Hilltop then talked about what the program has meant to them.

Suzie Burke, WNC Chair, and I, WNC President and Executive Director, also welcomed the crowd and thanked table sponsors. “Mille Fiori” sponsors (at the $10,000 level) included Boeing, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Premera, and Susan Hutchison/Charles Simonyi Fund. Sponsors at the “Macchia” ($7,500) level included Chihuly Studio and the Space Needle Corporation. At the “Venetian” ($5,000) level: Fremont Dock Company, Lynden Inc., Pemco and U-Park Systems. Plus more than a dozen table sponsors at the “Seaform” ($3,000) level.

Suzie and I also thanked a wide range of people who helped make the event possible with generous in-kind or other donations. I noted the event would not have been possible without the help of Kathy Schrier, my executive assistant, and Monica Tracey, our event planner. I also thanked Christine Kehoe, Janet Makela, Billy O’Neill and Michael Tobiason of Chihuly Studio for all their help arranging the event, along with Dale and Leslie.

Mike Egan did his traditional Gridiron Slideshow, starting with shots of his own two children followed by Chihuly baby pictures. He went through a series of early Chihuly photos with gonzo verbal captions, followed by a “Chihuly…or Not Chihuly?” segment that showed real Chihuly works and then photos of a giant lava lamp and a portrait of dogs playing poker.

An informative video of Dale’s history was shown, done by Mark McDonnell and Peter West of Chihuly Studio.

“Toasters” took the stage in pairs, led by Jeff & Susan Brotman, who were dressed in bright “Chihuly Colors.” Jeff went to high-school and college with Dale, and told stories of wild times in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house, which he said sometimes resembled “Animal House.” He gave Dale a multi-colored neon scarf that Dale wore the rest of the night.

Sally Bagshaw and Tom Skerritt presented contrasting stories. Bagshaw described how the “Seattle Process” had handled Chihuly’s proposal to build a “Garden and Glass” exhibit at Seattle Center. Skerritt described how he and Dale went to the movies together and ended up with melting handfuls of Milk Duds, which Dale blew like glass. (Dale said later that Skerritt made it all up.)

Allen Shoup, founder of Chateau Ste. Michelle, wore a “Team Chihuly” hat during his remarks. Jim Bianco, president of Cell Therapeutics, wore a vibrantly colored T-shirt under his jacket.

Mimi Gates, former director of the Seattle Art Museum, said: “People throng to museums to see Dale Chihuly glass, filled with joy and awe.” She added: “Your artistic creativity is marvelous and adds immensely to the prestige of the Pacific Northwest.”

Patti Payne, a longtime friend of Dale and Leslie’s, paid tribute to them in a song: “The Way You Look Tonight.” Using a handheld microphone, she walked down to their front-row table and sang directly to Dale, who stood up for a kiss on the forehead. The crowd loved it.

Door prizes included five fabulous items. Winners’ names were drawn by Travis Johnson of Hilltop Artists. Lucky winners were Tara Ashton, Jane & David Davis, Robert Simon, Scott Shapiro and Virginia Larsen. They won, respectively, a “Bonfire Baskets” piece made by Chihuly; a Fremont Studios movie night for 30 people; two Alaska Airlines unrestricted round-trip tickets; dinner for eight at Kaspar’s with wines, and an overnight “Hot Glass” package at Hotel Murano in Tacoma, which includes a glass-blowing lesson.

The evening concluded with a tribute to Dale from Leslie, which featured a series of slides showing them together, often with their son Jackson. Leslie also brought their dog, Kobe, onstage along with a statue of a bulldog, Dale’s favorite breed.

Dale stood for some gracious closing remarks, inviting all dinner attendees to the opening of the new Garden and Glass exhibit in April. Slides of the current site were shown along with an artist’s rendition of the final exhibit.

When the program was over, VIP guests gathered for an After Party back in Studio B with sparkling champagne from Chateau Ste. Michelle and delicious chocolates donated by Theo Chocolate. Many people, including the Chihulys, lingered until almost midnight. A good time was had by all!

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WNC’s 5th Annual Gridiron Dinner “toasts” Jim Ellis and John Ellis

The Washington News Council “toasted” Jim Ellis and John Ellis at our 5th Annual Gridiron West Dinner on Friday, Nov. 7, 2003, in the Skybridge at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. Nearly 400 people attended the gala event to honor the Ellis brothers, who have been civic leaders in the Puget Sound region for decades.

The event was a fun-filled evening of comedy, song parodies and affectionate toasts. This year’s “toasters” were (for Jim) Charley Bingham, Slade Gorton, Ken Hatch, Sally Jewell, Gerry Johnson, and Phyllis Lamphere and (for John) Doug Beighle, Phyllis Campbell, Don Covey, Howard Lincoln, Bob Myers and Patti Payne.

In response to their “toasters,” Jim and John and Patti Payne teamed up for a surprise musical song-and-dance routine. The audience was delighted by seeing Jim and Patti singing and dancing, accompanied by John on the piano. The evening also featured comedy by Master of Ceremonies Mike Egan, and Frank Sinatra song parodies sung by David Koch and David Scully of Cabaret Productions, with Scott Warrender on the piano. A video tribute done by Larry Cali and Ken Jones was another highlight.

News Council Chairman Bob Utter and Past President Eddie Reed welcomed the crowd. WNC Treasurer Carver Gayton and Executive Director John Hamer thanked table sponsors. For the fifth year in a row, members of the Washington News Council took the stage to sing a song: “High Hopes.”

Guests were encouraged to fill out membership envelopes and two were drawn at the end of the evening for prizes: 1) lunch for 10 with Jim Ellis at the Convention Center and 2) dinner for 4 with John Ellis in the owner’s suite at Safeco Field during a Mariners’ game next season. The two prizes were won by Bob Carlile of KPMG and Jim Warjone of Port Blakely Tree Farms. The winning envelopes were drawn by Kerri and Daniel Ellis, John’s grandchildren.

Table sponsors at the “Visionaries” ($5,000) level were: Boeing, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Microsoft, King County Journal, Seattle Mariners, and PEMCO. Tables sponsors at the “Movers” ($2,500) level were: The Gallatin Group, Premera Blue Cross, Preston Gates & Ellis, Puget Sound Energy, Sandy Schoolfield & Jon Kechejian, Washington State Convention & Trade Center, and Weyerhaeuser. Table sponsors at the “Shakers” ($1,000) level were Dr. Richard Baxter, The Benaroya Company, Carolyn Duncan, Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs, Fremont Dock Company, Gorton Legacy Group, Merriman Capital Management, Barry Mitzman, Mountains-to-Sound Greenway, Chuck Nordhoff, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Patti Payne, Bill & Jill Ruckelshaus, Wes Uhlman & Associates, Robert Utter, William Van Valkenberg, and the Washington Farm Bureau.

Chateau Ste. Michelle provided wines and Creative Ice Sculptures did the spectacular centerpieces, which featured a Seattle Mariners baseball and an evergreen branch inside each ice globe. One lucky person at each table won the ice globe and got to take it home.

The King County Journal provided reprints of a front-page article on the Ellis brothers that ran on Sunday, Nov. 2. David Horsey of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer did the drawing that appeared on the invitations and the programs, and presented framed copies to Jim and John at the end of the evening.

Jim Ellis is founding partner of Preston Gates and Ellis, founder of Metro and the Lake Washington clean-up campaign, father of the Forward Thrust public-works program, chairman of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and past president of the state Convention and Trade Center. He is also a Founding Board member of the Washington News Council.

John Ellis is chairman emeritus and a member of the board of directors of the Seattle Mariners, former top executive of what is now Puget Sound Energy, a partner in the Seattle-based law firm of Perkins Coie, and has served on the boards of numerous community organizations, including Seattle University.

The Honorary Advisory Committee for the event included: Doug Beighle, Phyllis Campbell, Don Covey, Dan Evans, Bob Flennaugh, Bill Gates Sr., Slade Gorton, Peter Horvitz, Sally Jewell, Phyllis Lamphere, Howard Lincoln, Bob Myers, Patti Payne, Norm Rice, Charles Royer, Bill Ruckelshaus, Frank Shrontz, and John Spellman.

Videotapes of the event are available. Call our office for details.

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