Happy New Year from ‘the party bunker!’

Richard Bryan, left, and Alan Carmichael pose in front of one of the tanks in the "party bunker."

Richard Bryan, left, and Alan Carmichael pose in front of one of the tanks in the “party bunker.”

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like heavy artillery and stacks of ammunition.

At least that’s how those of us felt who rang in 2017 in Richard and Bette Bryan’s fascinating (and fun!) “party bunker” — dubbed The Bunker Ballroom for the evening — at John H. Daniel. The Bryans hosted the party along with their daughter, Laura Bryan, and son, Benton Bryan and his wife, Brenda.

I have heard for years talk of the Bryans’ collection of vintage weaponry, but I have to say its sheer size surpassed my expectations. The dozens of meticulously restored and detailed tanks, Jeeps, troop carriers and machine guns were artfully lit and displayed in the Central Street warehouse, parts of which were set up to look like a World War II officers’ club.

The Jim O’Connor Combo performed, a dance floor was installed and Rex Bradford Jones catered a full sit-down dinner. Whereas some folks elsewhere were concerned about the safety of being in large holiday crowds on this high-profile evening, we felt as if we were in the safest possible place should World War III or another catastrophe have erupted! Continue reading

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Crush of events makes exciting year-end

Russ and Holly Watkins at the Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club.

Russ and Holly Watkins at the Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club. Russ is the incoming president of the Knoxville Symphony Board.

As 2016 hurtles to its conclusion, holiday and other kinds of special events literally have tumbled on top of one another. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a busier year-end season in Knoxville.

The Knoxville Symphony League threw its annual ball. The East Tennessee Historical Society honored a great East Tennessean. The downtown progressive dinner group opted for a brunch to avoid the crush of competing evening activities. And Congressman Jimmy Duncan and his wife, Lynn, honored an auction item they had donated and welcomed the lucky winners into their festively decorated getaway on Cherokee Lake.

Pour another cup of cocoa and check out some of the celebrations. Continue reading

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Holiday Homes Tour: elegant, inspiring and fun

Museum supporters Steve and Ann Bailey getting in the spirit at the cocktail buffet opening this year's Holiday Homes Tour.

Museum supporters Steve and Ann Bailey getting in the spirit at the cocktail buffet opening this year’s Holiday Homes Tour.

We sure do love looking inside other people’s homes, don’t we?

The smart folks in the Guild of the Knoxville Museum of Art took advantage of that proclivity earlier this month and sold out their 22nd annual Holiday Homes Tour to benefit the museum.

Festivities started at the Sequoyah Hills home of Jim and Melinda Ethier with a candlelight tour and cocktail buffet. That was to get everyone fortified for the next day’s activities — a tour of five homes decorated for the holidays and lunch at Cherokee Country Club.

Some folks opted to start touring the homes at 9 in the morning and ended with the luncheon. My group, however, opted for the more leisurely approach — we started with the lunch and toured the homes in the afternoon. Oh, and we hired a driver to take us on the tour. (I told you it was leisurely!) Continue reading

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Showing ‘big love’ to our mountain neighbors

Here's the Moxley Carmichael team celebrating the holidays in Bullfish, a convivial eatery in Pigeon Forge.

Here’s the Moxley Carmichael team (and some significant others) celebrating the holidays in Bullfish, a convivial eatery in Pigeon Forge.

Every year, Moxley Carmichael’s staff celebrates the holidays (and our year-end bonuses!) with a festive dinner in downtown Knoxville. This year, we had reserved the new private dining room at Babalu on Gay Street, a fun client of ours.

But, being intently focused on the plight of the people of Gatlinburg and Sevier County since the terrible wildfires, we made a change of plans. “The best thing you can do to help us is to keep coming to visit,” one of the officials said during a news conference. We took that to heart. Continue reading

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Cookies, camaraderie mark season’s commencement

Phyllis Nichols, left, and Shaun Fulco seem happy with their haul of cookies. (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

Phyllis Nichols, left, and Shaun Fulco seem happy with their haul of cookies. (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

It’s the craziest thing what a bunch of cookies and a few glasses of wine will do to adult women! After 14 years, I am no longer too surprised by the noise level and the enthusiasm with which my friends throw themselves into the annual rite that is our cookie exchange. But it still impresses me.

I know we say this every year, but I swear the cookies were the best EVER this time! So were the Bloody Marys. I switched from Zing Zang mix to V8 Bloody Mary mix and like it so much better. It’s lighter and easier to drink. (Maybe that’s not such a good thing!) Continue reading

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Urban League: A place for doers and dancers!

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, left, and Phyllis Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League at the Equal Opportunities Awards Gala at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, left, and Phyllis Nichols, CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League at the Equal Opportunity Awards Gala at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Right up there with the Knoxville Opera as a nonprofit that really knows how to throw a party, you’d have to put the Knoxville Area Urban League. And, like the Knoxville Opera, the Urban League stays true to its mission at its major fundraiser, ensuring that the evening truly is “a party with a purpose.”

Yes, there’s a reception and good food and excellent music. But there is also some important business at the Urban League’s Equal Opportunity Awards Gala. This year, Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero received the Corporate Leadership Award for her efforts in promoting equality.  And longtime civil rights activists Gordon and Judy Gibson received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for their body of work in the movement. Gordon Gibson, at the time a newly ordained 25-year-old Unitarian minister, was arrested during the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 — and he and his wife have been working for the cause ever since. Continue reading

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Auction ‘prize drawer’ yields feast for the ages

From left, Eddie Mannis, chef Matt Gallaher and Caroline Farris. When you see these three, you are in for a good time!

From left, Eddie Mannis, Chef Matt Gallaher and Caroline Farris. When you see these three, you are in for a good time! Read on!

I am as guilty as anyone of not redeeming auction items for which I have paid dearly at many a charity event. So, determined to remedy that situation, I recently visited my “prize drawer” where I keep the certificates for these items. Many were expired.

But I swallowed my pride and called nearly every donor who had provided them to the charity and guess what — each one said he or she would honor the gift even though they had long passed their expiration date. (There was one exception. I just couldn’t make myself call one donor whose gift had expired in 2010!)

Boy am I glad I did that — if only to redeem this stunningly delicious and interesting dinner experience. The certificate did not say at what charity I purchased this. But here’s the important thing. It was a dinner cooked by Chef Matt Gallaher and served at the elegant Kingston Pike home of my friend Eddie Mannis. I am not sure what I paid for this. But I am sure I got my money’s worth! Continue reading

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Picture perfect patio for a party!

Everyone loves props! Danielle Hemsley of Johnson Architecture with her husband, Jim, behind the Butch Jones picture, at the Moxley Carmichael tailgate.

Everyone loves props! Danielle Hemsley of Johnson Architecture with her husband, Jim, behind the Butch Jones picture, at the Moxley Carmichael tailgate. Neyland Stadium provides a nice backdrop! (Photo by Pam Rhoades)

Here’s some welcome news for party and event planners.

The University of Tennessee’s College of Communication and Information has just opened a spacious new patio with an interesting view of Neyland Stadium and the Tennessee River. Moxley Carmichael used it for a tailgate prior to the Missouri game this past Saturday, but it would be appropriate for many other occasions, as well.

Picture this. Three thousand square feet of raised outdoor space plus access to a large indoor lobby with big screen TVs for viewing other games of the day. Another plus on game days: private access to restrooms. Continue reading

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All aboard for the Streamliner Ball!

Knoxville Opera's Maestro Brian Salesky, center, visits with Pilot Flying J's Ken Parent and his wife, Leslie. Pilot Flying J was the title sponsor of this year's opera ball.

Knoxville Opera’s Maestro Brian Salesky, center, visits with Pilot Flying J’s Ken Parent and his wife, Leslie. Pilot Flying J was the title sponsor of this year’s opera ball.

The Knoxville Opera Guild’s Streamliner Ball once again proved that the folks at Knoxville Opera know how to throw a heck of a party. Sure, there were the usual silent and live auctions and great music, as one would expect. But the opera folks always seem to come up with a “hook” to make their big charity event particularly memorable.

This year, the hook was the food. They enlisted the services of one of Knoxville’s hottest young chefs, Matt Gallaher of Knox Mason and Emilia, to provide the victuals at the event held at the Knoxville Museum of Art. In keeping with the Streamliner theme — honoring the glamorous days of train travel on the great Streamliners, the Super Chief, the 20th Century Limited and the Tennessean — Gallaher based his bill of fare on original dining car menus. The concept was a stunning success.

The whole evening, in fact, was a quick-moving blast. (These things can tend to drag.) Kudos to ball co-chairs Peter Acly and Kim Henry and all the hard-working volunteers and opera supporters who made it happen. All aboard! Continue reading

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‘Great’ Lyle Lovett charms Tocqueville Society

Country singer Lyle Lovett performing at the Mill & Mine in October. If you are not a country music fan, you may know him for being married to actress Julia Roberts for two years.

Country singer Lyle Lovett performing at the Mill & Mine in October. If you are not a country music fan, you may know him for being married to actress Julia Roberts for two years.

Country singer Lyle Lovett was in Knoxville the other day providing a concert for a small gathering of Knoxvillians at the Mill & Mine on Depot Avenue. The occasion was the annual Alexis de Tocqueville Society dinner, a “reward” for those who give $10,000 or more to the United Way of Greater Knoxville in any given year.

Jim Haslam, the chair of the Tocqueville Society, loves several of the French philosopher’s famous quotes. But one he most often cites is this one: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” As you probably know from a civics or government or world history class, Tocqueville is most famous for his seminal work, “Democracy in America,” published in 1835.

It was a treat seeing Lovett in such an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. His kind of country music really is a fusion of country and swing and jazz. He played with just two accompanists: a bass player and a fiddle player. He was chatty and funny. At one point, he called Knoxville “one of the prettiest cities in the country.” (I like that description much better than “scruffy,” of which I am growing weary.)

Dinner was catered by chef Tim Love, who earlier this year opened the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in the Old City. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Food, Knoxville, Music | 4 Comments