Photo courtesy of Farrah Fawcett Foundation

Hollywood icons and angels descended on Dallas for the second year, for the 2023 Farrah Fawcett Foundation Tex-Mex Fiesta.

Held at The Rustic on September 28, the star-studded benefit included a red carpet, Tex-Mex buffet dinner, award presentations, live auction, and margaritas that flowed all night long - all to raise money for the fight against cancer. Proceeds went to The American Cancer Society/Cattle Baron's Ball and Stand Up To Cancer.

Co-chairs Alana Stewart, Jaclyn Smith, and Linda Gray - the late Farrah Fawcett's bestie, Charlie's Angels co-star, and last year's Angel Award winner, respectively - welcomed guests. Then actor and famously tanned man George Hamilton took over to emcee the presentations with his signature charm, wit, and sweet banter with ex-wife Stewart.

Dr. Lawrence Piro, Fawcett’s former oncologist and Chief Medical Advisor for the Farrah Fawcett Foundation, underscored the importance of the evening’s fundraising efforts. Fawcett passed away from rectal cancer in 2009, at the age of 62. The foundation that bears her name and raises money for cancer-related causes is her greatest legacy, her friends agreed on stage.

A live auction led by Samantha Robinson of Heritage Auctions raised thousands of dollars with one-of-a-kind items like lunch with George Hamilton the following day at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek (sold for $10,000) and a "Hollywood Experience" including lunch with "The Fonz" Henry Winkler (sold for $14,000).

Country music star Brett Eldredge got the crowd on its feet with a quick set of his hits, and DJ 13lackbeard kept the party beats lively. Actress Dyan Cannon gave a heartfelt tribute, and Patrick Foley - Fawcett’s long time friend, make-up artist, and Neiman Marcus’ resident make-up artist - was recognized for his support of the Foundation.

But the emotional highlight of the evening was the presentation of the foundation's 2023 Angel Award to Katie Couric. The trailblazing journalist famously underwent a colonoscopy on air after her husband, Jay Monahan, died of colon cancer at age 42 in 1998. In September 2022, Couric revealed her own breast cancer diagnosis.

In her acceptance speech, Couric spoke poignantly about all the things the cancer took away from her two daughters, who were just 2 and 6 years old when their dad passed.

"I know what it's like to lose someone you love way before their time," she said. "In two words: It sucks ... devastating, life-shattering, horrific. No adjective sufficiently describes what that period of my life was like."

She encouraged people not to "get squeamish" about "cancers that occur below the belt" (referring specifically to rectal and colon cancers).

"I've always said, 'Don't die of embarrassment,'" she said. "You know, if we're lucky, we all have colons, we all have anuses, it's just part of our biology, so let's get real about that, people."

After Couric's colonoscopy on The Today Show, the number of people who got screened increased 20 percent, she said.

"But that statistic means so much more," she said. "It means that so many people got to watch their child score a goal at a soccer game, so many people got to watch their child graduate with honors, so many people got to watch their child walk down the aisle."

She said she often wonders what Farrah and Jay would be doing today.

"Honestly, I get so sad and so mad when I think about everything [her daughters] have missed," she said. "We couldn't save them, but we can use every ounce of our energy to spare others from a similar fate."

Among the patrons there to support the event were actress Donna Mills, designer Cynthia Rowley, John Tatum, Jim Foley, Christine Romeo, Jeffrey Lane, and hundreds of generous Dallasites.

Farrah Fawcett Foundation Tex-Mex Fiesta 2023

Photo courtesy of Farrah Fawcett Foundation

Jaclyn Smith, Alana Stewart, Katie Couric, Linda Gray

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Dallas-Fort Worth keeps winning streak with new movie filming in Granbury

Celebrity News

Everyone loves when a movie filming is in town, and there's one going down right now in Granbury, the quaint town 70 miles southwest of Dallas. Oh and it's a holiday movie, which makes it even fuzzier. According to a release, it's called A Christmas Heart, and is a drama about faith, family, and forgiveness. All the Fs! Well, not all the Fs.

The indie film stars Kevin Sorbo and Bill McAdams, Jr., who previously teamed up in the 2015 faith-based drama Gallows Road. McAdams Jr. also wrote and is directing the film.

Co-starring is Nashville recording artist and songwriter Sarah Reeves, who joined the cast on the heels of releasing her Christmas album More the Merrier earlier this month. She's definitely in holiday mode.

A Christmas Heart follows Jack Gilmore (McAdams, Jr.), a firefighter and man of faith whose wife and son are killed in a texting-and-driving crash three weeks before Christmas.

In the wake of his loss, Jack is charged with a DUI and required to complete community service, during which he meets a young girl with whom he shares a conflicted and painful past.

Meanwhile, as Detective Kent Powers (Sorbo) investigates the fatal accident, he uncovers a shocking revelation that personally ties him to the case.

Sorbo is known for roles in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1995-1999) and Andromeda (2000-2005), as well as Christian films such as God's Not Dead (2014) and Soul Surfer (2011).

McAdams' credits include Gallows Road (2015), Jose Canseco: The Truth Hurts (2016), and Bully High (2022).

In a statement, McAdams says, "I’m incredibly excited to have finally started making this film. This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while, and I’m so grateful to Kevin for agreeing to help me bring it to life."

Sorbo calls McAdams "an incredibly talented filmmaker," stating that "we've been friends for a long time, and we like to work together. I'm so glad to get this latest project started."

Jim Doss is executive producing alongside Sharon K. Campbell. Producers are Mary Jean Bentley and Therese Moncrief.

Dallas Zoo hires new female director formerly of Zoo Knoxville

Animal News

The Dallas Zoo has appointed a new executive director, replacing former Gregg Hudson who passed away in spring 2023.

According to a statement from the zoo, Lisa New has been named the new Chief Executive Officer, following a national executive search. New comes from Zoo Knoxville, where she was president and CEO for the past 10 years.

As the release notes, she will be the Dallas Zoo's first female head.

“Our search committee felt we had an enormous task in front of us back in May when we began a national search for the Dallas Zoo’s next leader," says Chair of the Dallas Zoo Board of Directors Dawn Moore in a statement. "Lisa quickly rose to the top of our list given her impressive career accomplishments that represent everything we were seeking in our new CEO. We found ourselves with the opportunity to bring in a well-respected and recognized leader with the ideal mix of skills to propel our Dallas Zoo to the next level, and we jumped at the chance. We can’t wait to see what Lisa and our talented Dallas Zoo team will achieve!”

New graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1995, which is where she says she discovered an interest in wildlife biology, including internships researching spinner dolphins and humpback whales.

Like many zoo employees, she started as a volunteer at Zoo Knoxville, and was eventually hired. During her tenure, she hand-raised two chimpanzees, Mugsy and Lu and then shifted her focus to great apes "and how they might thrive under our care."

Continuing her rise from volunteer to employee, she became the fifth director of Zoo Knoxville in 2013.

New helped oversee the relocation of Jana, an aging African elephant in declining health, to the Elephant Sanctuary in May 2023. Unfortunately, Jana died in October. Zoo Knoxville is also relocating two other aging elephants, Edie and a male named Tonka, to the same sanctuary.

Zoo Knoxville is a 53-acre zoo east of downtown Knoxville which is home to approximately 800 animals. By comparison, the Dallas Zoo claims to have more than 2,000 animals. Zoo Knoxville's operating model is similar to the Dallas Zoo in that it's funded by taxpayers but run by a non-profit contracted by the city of Knoxville.

While Zoo Knoxville has not suffered the string of careless animal deaths that has beleaguered the Dallas Zoo, they did experience one mass death of 34 reptiles in 2017, who were mysteriously killed by an unexplained "toxic agent." The death toll included snakes and other reptiles, including several endangered species.

“It is a great honor and responsibility to be entrusted with the legacy that is Dallas Zoo,” New says. “During my initial meetings with the search committee, it quickly became apparent that the Dallas team and I shared the same values. That is, a strong commitment to the wellbeing of our animals, our staff, and our guests to foster a culture that engages our community and protects wildlife. Several years ago, my friend and mentor, the late Gregg Hudson, inspired me to align my passion, profession, vocation and mission; if you are good at it, if the world needs it, and you get paid for it, that’s not a livelihood, that is your purpose. It has guided me ever since, and I am excited to begin this chapter with an iconic institution that has a long history of setting the standard that others follow.”

Get immersed in Hallmark Channel Christmas at Texas hotel holiday suite

like a hallmark movie

It's that time of year again, when the airwaves are flooded with that holiday staple known as the Hallmark Channel Christmas movie.

Legions of fans know the plots by heart. Big-city gal returns to her small town, finds love and saves Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Two colleagues who can't stand each other discover they have more in common than ever imagined and find love. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten. Three generations of family at loggerheads re-connect after finding themselves stranded in a cozy cabin in the woods. And save Christmas. Or the family business. Or a lost kitten.

Hilton-Americas Houston

Photo by Christy Radecic

Stay inside a Hallmark holiday movie.

Now, fans who love the genre for its uplifting messages and smiles-through-tears can experience the movies in a whole new way. The Hilton Americas-Houston is offering a limited-time Hallmark Channel “Countdown to Christmas” Holiday Suite by Hilton, available starting November 1 and running through January 1, 2024. The hotel is one of only three Hilton properties across the country to offer this one-of-a-kind festive dreamscape.

In H-Town, guests can book the Hilton Americas-Houston's "Haul Out the Holly" suite, which offers a cascade of seasonal cheer, and is based on the all-new, original Hallmark holiday movie of the same name. Look for jaw-dropping holiday designs and light treatments throughout the suite, including enchanting light pillows, a light-up holiday village that will dazzle the world’s biggest Christmas enthusiasts, a custom holiday light decorating station, a gingerbread bar, and more.

Expect special surprise-and-delight moments like a festive oversized game, a custom Hallmark Channel light-up marquee, and even a twinkling Christmas light ceiling. This exceptional stay will allow guests to embrace the essence of the sequel film, starring beloved Hallmark star Lacey Chabert and centering on the iconic residents and ongoing HOA decorating competitions – and infamous citations – of the ever-festive Evergreen Lane.

"We're thrilled to partner with Hallmark for a collaboration that embodies the joy of the holiday season and brings to life the light and warmth of hospitality we show our guests every day,” said Matt Schuyler, chief brand officer, Hilton in a press release announcing the initiative. “This is a great representation of Hilton’s commitment to delivering immersive and unforgettable experiences during every stay. Our collaboration with Hallmark allows us to leverage timeless storytelling to bring an added level of excitement during the holidays.”

The "Haul Out the Holly" suite, like its counterparts the “Hallmark’s Holiday Sweetest Suite” at the Hilton New York Times Square and the “Santa Summit” at the Hilton Chicago, includes a custom-decorated Christmas tree and complimentary hot cocoa station.

To keep the holiday cheer going all season long, each of these special guest suites also include Hallmark Channel-branded takeaways that guests can enjoy with their loved ones during or after their holiday stay. Think Hallmark Channel Wine, Bissinger’s cocoa mix and hot cocoa bombs, Republic of Tea products, wine glasses, mugs, and more.

Rates start at $1,050 per night. Reservations can be made online.