The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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Life!

May 6, 2012

food fight

Local restaurants serve a little friendly competition for 24th annual Celebrity Night

The amateur paparazzi are charging up their iPhones. The limos are polished to gleaming. And 11 local restaurants are readying their respective hash and star power to convince the most tips out of customers at Monday’s annual Celebrity Night to benefit United Way of Southern West Virginia and the Women’s Resource Center.

Celebrity Night is big. So big in fact, its feverish preparation may have lowered Executive Director Margaret O’Neal’s resistance in the process.

With a hint of a springtime cold in her voice, she previews the event expected to raise over $24,000 in a single night, saying even if she’s a tad under the weather, she’ll be Diggin’ the Weatha’ with the popular jazz band at Calacino’s and vying for Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.’s autograph at Bunkers.

Pasquale’s owner Brian Williams, who also operates Classic Limousine Service, has promised to chauffeur her, committee co-chair Sarah Abrams and the other celebrity organizers around town to monitor the night’s progress at each fundraising restaurant location.  

“We have 11 restaurants, and we’re trying to coordinate three hours (5:30 to 8:30 p.m.) of activity at each place. The scope of this is huge and the money is huge. Last year, we raised $30,000, smoking the $23,000 goal we had set,” says an optimistic O’Neal.

Newcomers and old hats to the grand-scale yet casual fun affair will map their night out by choosing any of the nearly dozen participating locations, where the tables are turned as dinner and drinks get served by VIPs. The restaurants have partnered with sponsoring businesses to each supply an A-list of local celebs for a host of recognizable wait staffers.

“You could be served by your personal banker, your favorite news anchor or reporter, a Methodist minister or chicken man Richard Jarrell. It could even be Landau Murphy Jr. (at Bunkers),” states O’Neal, reporting much fanning of the victory flame going on inside Glade Springs Resort’s Bunkers Sports Bar, which last year unseated longtime champion Pasquale’s with a $10,000 charity total.

The rematch should prove interesting, and there’s always the potential for a dark horse to rise to the platform, but the most serious competition is the battle for overall donations.

“The locations are very competitive. Every year, each restaurant wants to be the best at raising money,” adds O’Neal. The night’s proceeds will go to benefit both the Women’s Resource Center and the United Way of Southern West Virginia, which supports over 30 additional nonprofit organizations.

Etiquette for giving is easy. Simply have the desire to make a difference and donate/tip accordingly. If you’re also in it for the fun factor and can’t think of a clever server request to elevate you off your wallet, United Way is supplying each restaurant with table tents bearing suggested services for doling out extra Hamiltons and Jacksons. Like tips for requested songs sung. Or more tips to stop the caterwauling (assuming America’s Got Talent winner Landau wasn’t assigned to your table).

“I’m excited to have Chick-fil-A at Crossroads Mall participating,” O’Neal says.  “There are lots of busy families with kids playing soccer and Little League. They can go there and still participate, but leave more quickly and still know they’ve helped United Way.”

As for what might be hidden up the sleeves of the restaurateurs and their participating partners? “The restaurants typically don’t tell us a whole lot until that night. They do rely on their regular clientele to come out and support them.”

O’Neal also suggests spreading the spirit of giving and fun by making the night’s meal a progressive one, having appetizers at one location, and an entrée or dessert at another, to experience the different atmospheres and capitalize on the celebrity swag from auctions and giveaways scheduled throughout the evening.

“Enjoy the whole experience of the night,” says O’Neal. “We’re not asking people to step out and do something out of the ordinary. People ask themselves, ‘how can I help?’  It’s easy. They can help by having Monday night dinner out this week instead of on a Wednesday or Friday.”

All-In-Fun Celebrity Night Tipping Guide

Sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”    $5

Sing “Happy Birthday, Anniversary, etc.”  $5

STOP SINGING                $10

Tell a Joke... If the joke is funny, you tip     $5

If the joke is NOT FUNNY, servers tip  $5

Demonstrate the DANCE of your choice

For example:  Hula, Electric Slide, Twist            $10

Do an impression of your choice                $10

Your special request (AS LONG AS IT’S LEGAL)    $25

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