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)

Watch it on the Seattle Channel

Visit the photo album from Team Photogenic

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!

Visit the photo album from Team Photogenic

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Critics are wrong about Dale Chihuly’s fabulous glass art

David Brewster’s recent little blog on Crosscut.com, “Chihuly Conquers Boston” (Aug. 8) caught my eye because I saw the Chihuly exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in May. My wife and I spent several hours there. We both thought it was fabulous.

Brewster said the exhibit “drew large numbers…and mixed critical reviews.” He cited two such reviews, one from The Wall Street Journal and one from The Boston Globe. Both were snarky and supercilious. The Globe’s Sebastian Smee, Brewster rightly noted, was “condescending.” Smee called Chihuly’s works “tasteless.” Well, critics must be critical. That’s what they get paid to do.

However, the huge crowds (360,000 plus) that the exhibit attracted in Boston tend to prove the critics wrong. So do the big attendance numbers at the current “Dale Chihuly’s Northwest” exhibit at Tacoma Art Museum, which runs through Sept. 25. I’ve seen that too, and it’s terrific.

The self-anointed cognoscenti may pooh-pooh Chihuly, perhaps to reassure themselves of their own elite sensibilities. But most people genuinely like Chihuly’s extraordinary creations – and have for decades now. The man has quite simply revolutionized the glass art medium and is, justifiably, renowned worldwide.

By the way, Brewster should have disclosed the fact that he opposed the new Chihuly exhibit at Seattle Center, which will open in April 2012, and even testified against it last year.

Full disclosure: My organization, the Washington News Council, will “roast and toast” Chihuly at our 13th annual Gridiron West Dinner on December 15 at Fremont Studios. We have been working closely with the Chihuly team on plans for the event. It’s going to be lots of fun. We’ll do songs, comedy, videos, a slideshow and affectionate “toasts” of Dale.

Our confirmed “toasters” so far include Sally Bagshaw, John Buchanan (who heads the San Francisco Art Museum), Leslie Chihuly, Mimi Gardner Gates and Tom Skerritt. We have invited Jeff Bridges, Jeff Brotman and Quincy Jones, who are friends of Dale’s and collectors of his work. Pretty “tasteless” bunch, huh?

Tickets and tables for the event are going fast, and we’re certain to sell out.

Between now and then, several other events are also scheduled to honor Chihuly and his legacy in this region. Here’s a partial list:

Aug. 14 – Pilchuck Glass School 40th Anniversary Reunion, 12-5 pm, Stanwood (Chihuly was one of Pilchuck’s co-founders. Reservations required.)

Sept. 15 – Tacoma Art Museum “Inspired by Chihuly,” 5-8 pm, Tacoma Art Museum (Chihuly was born in Tacoma and has maintained close ties to TAM.)

Sept. 18 – “Tacoma Celebrates Dale Chihuly,” 3 pm, UW Tacoma’s Philip Hall (Chihuly will turn 70 on Sept. 20.)

Sept. 25 – “Chihuly’s Colleagues & Collaborators,” 1 pm, Tacoma Art Museum (Tributes from glass artists who worked with him.)

Oct. 12-15 – Pilchuck Glass School Auction Tour, Stanwood (Four days of events to showcase Pilchuck artists and their work.)

Oct. 14 – Pilchuck Glass School Annual Auction, 5 pm, The Westin Hotel, Seattle (The 33rd auction to support Pilchuck’s educational programs. Reservations required.)

Oct. 15 – Tacoma Art Museum’s “GALA Deconstructed” Dinner, 6 pm, TAM (Limited seating; reservations required.)

For the vast majority who are delighted and inspired by Chihuly’s work, these all might be of interest. Ignore the critics. They’ve got lousy taste.

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The 2011 Gridiron West Dinner is coming!

We’re pleased to announce the details of our 13th Annual Gridiron West Dinner

A “roast/toast” to the one and only DALE CHIHULY

The Gridiron Dinner is our signature fundraising event, which allows all our vital programs to continue, and is seriously a romping good time.

Last year we had the mayors in stitches, and this year we’ll be shattering a little glass, so come join us!

THURSDAY, DEC. 15, 2011
FREMONT STUDIOS, 155 North 35th Street, Seattle

RECEPTION: 5:30 p.m.
DINNER & ENTERTAINMENT: 6:30-9:30 p.m.
VIP CHAMPAGNE & CHOCOLATE AFTER PARTY: 9:30 to ???

In the Gridiron West Dinner tradition, the evening will feature songs, comedy, video, photos and “toasts/roasts” of our honoree, Dale Chihuly.

Master of Ceremonies: Mike Egan
Musical Tribute: The Nowhere Men
Plus a Host of Celebrity Toasters/Roasters including Sally Bagshaw, Jim Bianco, Jeff & Susan Brotman, John Buchanan, Leslie Chihuly, Mimi Gardner Gates, Allen Shoup, & Tom Skerritt

Festive Attire: Chihuly Colors Encouraged!

This event will sell out, so reserve your tickets and tables now!

PAST GRIDIRON WEST DINNER HONOREES:

2010 – Greg Nickels, Norm Rice, Charles Royer, Paul Schell, Wes Uhlman (see the review from Seattle Met)
2009 – Suzie Burke
2008 – Kemper Freeman Jr.
2007 – Bill & Jill Ruckelshaus
2006 – Tom Foley & Slade Gorton
2005 – Bill Gates Sr. & Mimi Gardner Gates
2004 – Jennifer Dunn & Gary Locke
2003 – Jim Ellis & John Ellis
2002 – Dan Evans, Booth Gardner, Mike Lowry, Al Rosellini, John Spellman
2001 – Jean Enersen, Kathi Goertzen, Susan Hutchison
2000 – Emmett Watson
1999 – Adele Ferguson, Dick Larsen, Mike Layton, Shelby Scates

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Gridiron West Dinner a Big Success

The Washington News Council’s 12th (!) annual Gridiron West Dinner, (video here, pics here) held on Friday, Nov. 12 at The Conference Center at Convention Place in Seattle brought 350 people together to “toast/roast” five former Mayors of Seattle: Wes Uhlman, Charles Royer, Norm Rice, Paul Schell and Greg Nickels. Current Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn was there to introduce his predecessors, and won some points for his good-natured remarks. To no one’s surprise, McGinn was the target of a few pointed shots himself.

It was a raucous, irreverent, edgy evening of songs, comedy, videos, slideshows and often caustic comments by “toasters/roasters” — with sharp retorts by the Mayors who were targets of the barbs. Emcee Mike Egan (who actually has a day job at Microsoft), ran the show with his usual zany aplomb, appearing in costume first as a Munchkin and later as Dorothy, as the evening’s theme was “Wizard of Oz.”  A radiant backdrop of “The Emerald City” hung behind the stage, where the five Mayors sat in soft armchairs while they took their hard medicine from various friends, colleagues, and journalists. There was even a video appearance of Mayor Gordon Clinton, who reigned during the Seattle World’s Fair (watch below).

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Four extremely talented singers, dressed in spot-on costumes as Dorothy, The Tin Man, The Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion, kicked off the program with a hilarious sketch about politically correct Seattle, written by Jim Anderson of Cabaret Productions. Anderson also wrote many of the lyrics (aided by former KING5-TV President Eric Bremner and WNC President John Hamer) and choreographed the show, as well as running the technical side including lighting, video, audio, costumes and props.

WNC Chair Suzie Burke and Hamer welcomed the crowd and gratefully thanked all the table sponsors (including Boeing, Gates Foundation, Microsoft, Simonyi Fund & Susan Hutchison, Premera, Space Needle Corporation, Chihuly Studio, PEMCO Insurance, Puget Sound Energy, and a dozen others). Carly Hunt Koczarski sang “America the Beautiful” beautifully. Our new promotional video, by WNC Communications Strategist Jacob Caggiano, was shown while dinner was being served, giving the audience a look at how the WNC has “reinvented” itself in the past few months with a redesigned website, a blog page, an online community, a TAO of Journalism site, and other innovative programs. After dinner, the musical tribute began with songs such as “Follow the Politics Road” and ”We’re Here to Toast the Mayors, These Wonderful Mayors of Ours,” with the audience joining in while lyrics were shown on the big screens.

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A video called “The Mayors,” (above) done by Ken Jones of KJ Video Productions (and a longtime KING5-TV videographer) brought down the house with its animated Jib-Jab scenes including the Mayors as Chippendale Dancers. Only Paul Schell was unable to attend in person, though he was “toasted” anyway as his cardboard cutout sat on stage and an “Anarchist from Eugene” ran out shouting pro-Schell slogans for the hospitality shown to radical demonstrators during the WTO convention. A mini-auction, raffle and “raise the paddle” segment led by Auctioneer Fred Granados featured several terrific items and fiercely competitive bidding. The evening concluded with a wry rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” followed by a Champagne & Chocolate After Party with Domaine Ste Michelle Brut (thanks to Carol Munro) and Theo’s Chocolates (thanks to Chuck Horne).

Special thanks to all those who sponsored tables or purchased tickets, for making this evening possible. Your generous (and tax-deductible) donations make the News Council’s important work possible. In addition, every dollar we receive this year will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, thanks to a special “challenge grant” arranged by Bill Gates Sr. We can’t thank Bill Sr. and the Foundation enough for their generous support of the WNC since our founding in 1998.

Our annual Gridiron West Dinners, almost always held in the aftermath of the November elections, always attract a thoroughly bipartisan crowd. The event provides a welcome opportunity for Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, Green Partiers and Tea Partiers, to come together for an evening of fun and frolic despite deep political and ideological differences. It is our hope that by enjoying a nice dinner, pouring a bottle (or two) of wine, and sharing a few laughs, people who may be deeply at odds on issues and policy will find some common ground and maybe find ways to work together better. Hey, that’s what everyone says they want these days, isn’t it?

[Also have a look at coverage of the event from Seattle Metropolitan]

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