There was a reunion of sorts in Clear Lake last weekend. More than 200 film industry professionals, and those up-and-coming, overtook the NASA Hilton’s Marina ballroom to recognize and celebrate winners of the 11th Gulf Coast Film and Video Festival. While it may not be as big or famous as some film festivals, in Texas it surely has to be the one with the biggest heart.
Founding director Hal Wixon, an actor himself, says the fest has rightly been dubbed “the little festival that could.” Considering that it was literally wiped out last year due to the aftermath of Hurricane Ike (significant supporting sponsor businesses in Kemah and Seabrook were swept away by the storm), it’s a miracle that only one year had to be skipped. Now it’s back, strong as ever, and partiers at the sell-out awards event relished the return of the film community’s annual bash.
There were surprises and some definitely Texas twists. In true Academy Awards fashion, the winners were revealed by the ceremonial opening of envelopes —however, their trophies were presented by a real Texas stuntwoman, Jody Haselbarth. The petite blonde, dazzling in her emerald green dress and shoes, most recently worked in the seven-Emmy-winning HBO film Temple Grandin (shot in Texas). I’ve seen Jody’s stunt work first-hand – including a rough-and-tumble stint in the indie horror film, Mr. Hell, shot in Houston (and available on DVD). She’s one tough little cookie!
There was a brief hush when supermodel icon Cheryl Tiegs, the festival’s Cascade Excellence Award recipient, walked into the ballroom during the opening cocktail party. Like flies drawn to honey, guests gravitated to the tall, striking woman who graciously posed for photo after photo with admirers. She is perhaps the most famous American model of the 1970s-1980s and is renowned for her cover photos on Sports Illustrated magazine’s swimsuit issues.
Tiegs has long been more than a pretty face and enviable body. She is an author, businesswoman, clothing designer, public speaker, and avid spokesperson for health, fitness, the environment, and underprivileged children. Philanthropy is very important to her and she serves on two boards: C.O.A.C.H. for Kids and the Earth Conservation Corps.
Her signature Cheryl Tiegs clothing line for Sears sold nearly a billion dollars of merchandise in its 10-year span and is credited for helping turn the company around. That accomplishment landed her on the cover of Time magazine— a result of her brainpower and talent, not her physical beauty.
Currently, Tiegs’ attention has turned to the environment as she explored the effects of global warming while on an Arctic expedition. She is committed to “going green” and educating the public on indoor air quality, having completed a nationwide radio campaign to bring awareness to this issue. Recently, Access Hollywood named her their “Green Star of the Week.”