by: Alese & Morton Pechter
| Calling all Palm Beach visitors and residents .. do we have an event for you! ! ... an absolutely fantastic weekend! The Chris Evert Pro-Celeb experience seems to get better and better each year. The 1997 charity event had a superb roster of professionals and celebrities ... packed with loads of excitement, laughter, glamour and the realization that it was all for a good cause. Can you believe ... President George Bush, Mike Wallace, Chuck Norris, Chevy Chase and a host of others all on hand for Chris Evert's special weekend? |
Chris and her husband, Andy Mill are everywhere ... meeting, greeting and being sure that everyone is having a great time and that the event goes smoothly. If you were lucky enough to get your bid in to be part of the Pro-Am tennis tournament that takes place Friday afternoon ... you had the chance to play .. round-robin style at the Boca Raton Hotel and Resort's beautiful tennis courts, with Chris, Gigi Fernandez, Eric Braedon ... (the heart-throb of the soaps..Vincent Newman), Roy Emerson, Glare Evert & Jon Frankel among others.
One of the stars on the court was Mary Howard, whose husband Allan is head of New York Life Insurance ... the sponsor for the afternoon activities.
All we can say is .. if you have ever dreamt of playing tennis with the pros .. this is the chance to do it. We get photos of everyone...so each one present gets photos with Chris and the other celebs.
Quite an exciting afternoon, but that is just the beginning of the weekend. Following on Friday evening is an elaborate cocktail party. Held at the Boca Raton Hotel & Resort, the ice-sculptures of tennis players, the magnificently displayed food buffets holding a delicious repast plus the drinks makes for a festive evening. To top it off, most of the celebrity and professional players are present and it is possible to obtain several autographs and personal photos. The dress ranges from comfortable to slightly dressy, just no tennis shorts.
We are tempted to say .. bright and early next day ... but in reality everyone likes to relax a little on weekend mornings so play begins at 11am on Saturday ... giving everyone plenty of time to arrive without any rushing....that is everyone but those of us who are working! This year the matches were held at the Boca Country Club. A special stadium court was constructed with plenty of seats for everyone .. all with great visibility. There were an ample number of vendors selling their wares and food and drink could be purchased.
Again the National Anthem became a "happening". Chris held a contest during the year to select two people to sing the anthem at the opening of the matches on Saturday and Sunday prior to the start of play. We had been to the finals of this contest. There were 26 finalists ... and each one sang the anthem, on a tennis court, in front of a panel of 12 judges from the various South Florida publications ... and People Magazine! When you hear the anthem sung over and over again ... each time by magnificent voices with a great deal of emotion and feeling ... it is extremely moving. We do not know how the judges could make a decision. To us, they were all great.
However, two did emerge and at the event, a youngster, Kassidy Lee Strickland and a gentleman, Kimm Gent did the honors. It is wonderful and heartwarming to see and feel the entire crowd really intent on listening to the rendition of our anthem ... and the applause afterward was deafening. These two really gave our anthem a special meaning. Announcing the beginning of each match was a local TV or radio personality with the ability to give the big hype to each player as he or she is heralded onto the court. Tony Segreto, the familiar South Florida television personality, opened the proceedings and was followed by the group of illustrious mellifluous voices. The four players and the umpire are all wired for sound so that each and every comment they make on the court can be heard throughout the stadium. Fun and games follow .. The tennis is of the "giggle and hit" variety with some very exciting points, some surprisingly great plays from the celeb guests, some miraculous plays from the pros, and a constant ...... of smiles, laughs, heckling, applause, cheers and jeers from the players and the crowds in the stands.
This year's umpires included .. Chevy Chase, Bud Collins and Lee Jackson who did a great job carrying on the pleasantries and quite hilariously "controlling" the matches. Once the players are on the court, the real fun begins. The celebs this year included: President George Bush, 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace, Chevy Chase, Don Shula, Alan Thicke, Gina Tolleson, race car driver Danny Sullivan, soaps star Eric Braedon, former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Franco Harris, Jon Frankel, Major League Baseball shortstop Alex Rodriquez, Andy Mill and tennis broadcaster/writer Bud Collins.
The professional players included: Martina Navratilova, Roy Emerson, Gabriela Sabatini, Gigi Fernandez, Virginia Wade, Carling Bassett Seguso, Robert Seguso and MaliVai Washington. Also present for mixing, mingling and autograph signing were Chuck Norris and Mary Joe Fernandez.
Saturday evening was the big festive Black Tie formal dinner. Chairpersons for the evening were H. Wayne & Marti Huizenga, John O'Neil, Patti Carpenter and Carole & Dick Siemens. And what a glamorous evening this was. Everyone was bedecked in his finest attire. A cocktail party precedes the dinner .. and there is an auction of lots and lots of memorabilia that can be "purchased" for a price. The first part of the auction is silent but during the dinner several of the bigger items are auctioned live and that is fun to watch as the bids go higher and higher. Wayne & Marti Huizenga watched and applauded as the bidding for an autographed baseball from their team ... the new World Series Champs ... the Florida Marlins ... was awarded to the highest bidder. There are always many bargains as several of the items are purchased below cost. Of course, everything is donated so all the money collected goes to the charities to fight drug abuse, child neglect ... and to give former drug dependent mothers a second chance. .. great causes. ... What a wonderful feeling for those whose bids were successful.
The ballroom at the Boca Hotel is always decorated magnificently. As it was Halloween time, festive masks were in place for each guest, several "goodies" adorn the tables and the food presentation was not only elegant but extremely tasteful. This year the entertainment was Gladys Knight! She was bedecked colorfully on the stage, pranced, sang and had such a fabulous beat and rhythm that the crowds could not resist moving to the music. The dance floor was crowded into the wee hours as she continued to belt out those numbers.
Sunday, the matches again began at 11am, with clouds and not a very good forecast for the weather. The crowds did arrive and the stands were full. Regardless of weather, everyone wanted to watch THE Martina, Mike Wallace, Bud Collins, Virginia Wade, Danny Sullivan, Robbie Seguso, Carling Bassett Seguso, France Harris, Alan Thicke, Chevy Chase and Chris battle it out on the courts. They all did get a chance to play and the crowds were delighted. But a couple of the later matches had to be canceled as the heavens opened up and the rains poured down. There was enough warning though, so everyone was able to get into the clubhouse before the deluge, without getting drenched. In the eight years of the event, this was the first time that any matches had to be canceled but those who were present were delighted with what they did get to see. Chris presented a check for $800,000 to the charities!!!! Everyone had so much fun and they raised a fortune. Over the years, Chris has raised more than 6 million dollars with this tennis event. Though there are many "big givers" that add to this total, there are also many who do their share ... and it is also a big part of the total dollars raised ... by buying and attending the day sessions. Daily tickets for the matches are reasonably priced so everyone can attend.
Chris has stated: "I always get excited this time of the year. This never gets old or stale for me because we continue to have a great lineup of celebrities and pros ....but I also feel that year after year what gets overshadowed is the real reason we're all here ... to help women and children get back into the mainstream of life by getting them off drugs, getting them jobs, getting them an education and getting them off welfare.
Money from Chris Evert Charities is funneled to a number of South Florida organizations whose aim is to help drug-dependent women.
What can we tell you ... WE LOVE THIS EVENT! ... and we know you will too. If you can possibly be in south Florida the end of October, you will want to put this weekend on your "must see" list. It is more than "seeing" and watching name personalities on a tennis court. Of course, you are contributing to a good cause but you will have a ball. It is one of the few events where you really feel a part of what is going on. For the celebs and the pros, winning or losing does not take over, everyone is relaxed and enjoying. They have the time and they give the time to sign autographs, pose for photos and just chat with the crowds. Even President Bush was signing autographs!
We really hope we shall see you there next year.
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