Canada

Tall in the saddle, high off the hog

Suzanne Zwarun April 9 1979
Canada

Tall in the saddle, high off the hog

Suzanne Zwarun April 9 1979

Tall in the saddle, high off the hog

The Calgary Foundation has included among its members such prominent Albertans as former lieutenant-governor Grant MacEwan and Premier Peter Lougheed. But the foundation's bank account has never matched the glitter of its board of directors. Now, the churchmouse-poor foundation is set to change that over a single dinner. Dinner, in this case, is going to cost $1,000 a plate (entrée—tenderloin steak Carmen, stuffed with goose liver and served with brandy sauce) and will raise, the foundation hopes, $1 million at one sitting, the night of May 10.

The Calgary Foundation was formed in 1955 by 20 Calgarians who contributed $5,000 each. Unfortunately for the foundation, no one has contributed much since. Its current assets are only $190,000 and the ■ interest on that doesn’t do many good deeds beyond a few donations to groups such as the United Appeal.

The brainstorm for "Canada’s first $1million dinner” came from Hayden Smith, foundation vice-president and Calgary lifeinsurance marketing executive. The fasttalking Smith gave a speech to the foundation’s directors last year and told them where they had gone wrong. "The founda■j tion was in limbo ... it had not been

marketed ... it was a silent organization,” he said, proposing a high-profile solution— a dinner that would set people to talking and contributing.

Calgary, however, doesn’t operate on quite the scale Smith does. He wanted to lug $1 million cash into a press conference announcing the dinner, but the Royal Bank in Calgary didn’t happen to have $1 million on hand. That didn't faze Smith. He borrowed 100 packages of $1 bills, topped each with a $100 bill and displayed them instead. His next problem was with the Calgary Convention Centre which can’t seat 1,000. Nothing daunted, Smith plans to feed 850 and make the remainder up in absentee donations. And for the sartorially uncertain, there will be a fashion show prior to the dinner. The theme? How to dress for a $ 1 -million dinner.

It might seem natural for someone putting out $1,000 for a pair of dinner tickets to ask how much goes for good works and just what are they, but Smith is enthusiastically vague on these points. The money will be devoted to "the humanities, the improved quality of life.” Smith feels the dinner will give Calgarians the opportunity to return to the city some of the benefits they have gained from it. Within five days of sending out 1,020 invitations to corporations, the foundation had sold more than 200 tickets. Ironically, though, the first $5,000 table was sold to an insurance company in . . . Toronto.

Suzanne Zwarun