Thursday, February 13, 2020

Gene Phillips, Swedish Jam Factory, Caritas Dinner, Incognito!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 3:37 PM

click to enlarge Gene Phillips has been raising money for St. Jude Children's Hospital at his birthday parties for more than 40 years. This  was taken in the late 1990s or early 2000s with me, sporting a different color hair, and Willie Bland, wife of the late Bobby Blue Bland.
  • Gene Phillips has been raising money for St. Jude Children's Hospital at his birthday parties for more than 40 years. This was taken in the late 1990s or early 2000s with me, sporting a different color hair, and Willie Bland, wife of the late Bobby Blue Bland.

Gene Phillips celebrated his birthday — and the birthday of every guest who is an Aquarian — at his Germantown home. The party, which was held February 10th, included a red-and-white iced cake bearing the words “Happy Aquarius Birthdays!” Since my birthday is February 1st, I qualified for a big slice.


Originally, the parties honored the birthday of the late Rufus Thomas. Thomas was a regular at the event.

Just about every room in Phillips’ house is dedicated to a celebrity friend or just a friend. He’s got the Rufus Thomas music room, Bobby Blue Bland media room, and the Anita “Ring My Bell” Ward wall, to name a few.

This year, Phillips dedicated a wall to me — the “Michael Donahue Wall,” where a photo of me, Gene, and Willie Bland hangs.

Phillips, who asks guests to make donations to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital instead of giving gifts to him, has raised about $100,000 since he began throwing the event more than 40 years ago.


click to enlarge Gene Phillips and Dr. Greg Hanissian at this year's birthday party - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gene Phillips and Dr. Greg Hanissian at this year's birthday party

click to enlarge Spencer McMillin and Rick Farmer at the Chef's Partnership Dinner - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Spencer McMillin and Rick Farmer at the Chef's Partnership Dinner

Spencer McMillin, Rick Farmer, and Andrew Saunders teamed up for the Chef’s Partnership Dinner, which was held January 20th at Caritas Community Center & Cafe.

The dinner, which included courses prepared by each chef, was a special one for McMillin. “Rick and Barbara Farmer's restaurant — Jarrett’s — was a Memphis institution,” he says. “When it closed suddenly in 2008, for me personally, it felt a little like the passing of a family member. Rick and I had been passing friends before my stint in the Jarrett’s kitchen in 2005, but after it I considered Rick — like a lot of us in the life do — a father figure. Without getting into lurid detail, Rick helped me get through a rough patch that year. His kindness and patience with me, together with an insistence that I put my own menu items on the Jarrett’s menu, left an indelible mark.

“Working side by side with Rick at L’ecole Culinaire (2009-2012) subsequent to our time together at Jarrett’s was incredible. I never thought I’d get the opportunity again. Being cubicle mates with Rick was beyond fun.”

Saunders, who worked with McMillin and Farmer at L’ecole Culinaire, now works at Meal MD.

Also in the kitchen were Matt Crone, Duncan Aiken, and Patrick Gilbert. “Bringing the old 2005 Jarrett’s crew together for the January Chef’s Partnership Dinner at Caritas was a hospitality family reunion of the highest order and the fulfillment of a Memphis restaurant legacy. And I have to say, it was the most fun I’ve had cooking on the line in years.”




click to enlarge Matt Crone, Spencer McMillin, Rick Farmer, Duncan Aiken, Patrick Gilbert and Andrew Saunders at Chef's Partnership Dinner - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Matt Crone, Spencer McMillin, Rick Farmer, Duncan Aiken, Patrick Gilbert and Andrew Saunders at Chef's Partnership Dinner

click to enlarge Swedish Jam Factory performed its debut theatrical performance January 31st at Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center. - The duo features Thomas Bergstig on piano, guitar, taps, vocals, spoons, accordion, and kazoo; and Isaac Middleton on mandolin, guitar, taps, vocals, piano, kazoo. “Taps,” of course, means they tap dance while they play musical instruments. - Prior to the show, audience members could view art by Frederique Zindy and Marilyn League in the Levy Gallery outside the auditorium. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Swedish Jam Factory performed its debut theatrical performance January 31st at Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center. The duo features Thomas Bergstig on piano, guitar, taps, vocals, spoons, accordion, and kazoo; and Isaac Middleton on mandolin, guitar, taps, vocals, piano, kazoo. “Taps,” of course, means they tap dance while they play musical instruments.Prior to the show, audience members could view art by Frederique Zindy and Marilyn League in the Levy Gallery outside the auditorium.
click to enlarge Alexis Grace (left) attended the Swedish Jam Factory performance featuring her husband, Thomas Bergstig, and Isaac Middleton. With her are Lucy Sterling, Ryan Zabielski, and Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center director Cindi Younker. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Alexis Grace (left) attended the Swedish Jam Factory performance featuring her husband, Thomas Bergstig, and Isaac Middleton. With her are Lucy Sterling, Ryan Zabielski, and Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center director Cindi Younker.


click to enlarge Memphis filmmaker Kevin Brooks, who won the Memphis Film Prize two years in a row, with  Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner Linn Sitler at the 20 Under 30 reception, which was held January 30th at Central Station Ballroom. Sitler nominated Brooks, who was one of the 20 Under 30 recipients. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis filmmaker Kevin Brooks, who won the Memphis Film Prize two years in a row, with Memphis & Shelby County Film Commissioner Linn Sitler at the 20 Under 30 reception, which was held January 30th at Central Station Ballroom. Sitler nominated Brooks, who was one of the 20 Under 30 recipients.

click to enlarge Gopal Murti, who exhibited art at the Incognito! Art Soiree and Silent Auction, won first prize in the costume contest at the show, where guests bid on artwork not knowing who actually did the artwork. All the work in the show, held January 31st at Memphis Botanic Garden, was unsigned; guests learned who the artist was after they bought the work. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gopal Murti, who exhibited art at the Incognito! Art Soiree and Silent Auction, won first prize in the costume contest at the show, where guests bid on artwork not knowing who actually did the artwork. All the work in the show, held January 31st at Memphis Botanic Garden, was unsigned; guests learned who the artist was after they bought the work.

click to enlarge ...and, of course, this photo had to be taken.
  • ...and, of course, this photo had to be taken.


click to enlarge HARBINGER OF SPRING NUMBER 1: A sure sign of spring is when the crabapple trees bloom on Belvedere. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • HARBINGER OF SPRING NUMBER 1: A sure sign of spring is when the crabapple trees bloom on Belvedere.


                                       WE SAW YOU AROUND TOWN
 

click to enlarge Attending “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Orpheum were Charlene Honeycutt and Kacky Walton. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Attending “The Play That Goes Wrong” at the Orpheum were Charlene Honeycutt and Kacky Walton.
click to enlarge Meghan Stuthard and Holly Whitfield at “The Play That Goes Wrong” - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Meghan Stuthard and Holly Whitfield at “The Play That Goes Wrong”
click to enlarge Marty Brooks and Ashley Calhoun at “The Play That Goes Wrong” - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Marty Brooks and Ashley Calhoun at “The Play That Goes Wrong”

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