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Houston’s Heroes Light Up The Stage At $540,000 Red Hot Gala

CultureMap Houston By: Steven Devadanam

Very few, if any, Houston society events can elicit tears, laughter, and hoots and hollers — all in the same night. But, not every event is Elizabeth and Alan Stein’s “Red Hot Gala,” which for four years has uniquely honored Houston’s firefighters with solemn tributes, thrilling reenactments, and — perhaps the favorite — a shirtless runway show featuring muscle-bound studs.

Since 2018, the Steins have put on the red-hot show, in an effort to raise awareness and funds for equipment, training, and support for Houston’s firefighting heroes.

This year, the event raised a crucial $540,000, which will go directly to these brave first responders’ most basic and complex needs.

More than 400 guests packed the Royal Sonesta’s ballroom for this year’s Red Hot Gala IV, which kicked off with a rousing rendition of the National Anthem by firefighter Joe Rice. Quickly after, radio calls and fire alerts rang out (an eerie reminder of the firefighter existence), as Rescue 11 firefighters took to the stage and performed a dramatic simulation of breaking down a door, fighting through billowing smoke, and “rescuing” a damsel in distress, model Anyta Chen.

From drama to laughs: Emcee Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Charitable Foundation (HPFFA), took the stage and explained the previous demonstration, thanked the foundation for providing real-life props, and introduced the event chairs, Elizabeth and Alan Stein and Joanna and Brad Marks.

The two couples were presented with awards for their selfless and tireless work with the gala; Brad Marks joked that he couldn’t wait to go home and don his honorary firefighter hat.

Taking the podium, Elizabeth Stein extended a special thanks to this year’s returning presenting sponsors, Bobbie Nau and Hallie Vanderhider, and presented the duo with plaques that will be mounted on Houston fire stations in their honor. More plaques were presented to Five Alarm Supporters, Susan and Fayez Sarofim, and Four Alarm Supporter, Janice McNair.

A few tears were shed when Lancton introduced this year’s honorees, the Houston Firefighters Pipes and Drums and the Honor Guard, who performed during exceedingly difficult ceremonies for fallen firefighters. Accepting for the Honor Guard was Honor Guard Commander Oscar Pedraza and Pipe Major Hunter Schappaugh accepted on behalf of the Pipes and Drums.

Ah, and those hoots and hollers. The ballroom erupted in cheers as shirtless heroes — stars of the 2022 Houston Firefighter Calendar — strutted down the stage, carrying equipment and flexing their biceps, triceps, and killer smiles.

Joanna Marks engaged the audience when she took the silent auction runway, sporting IW Marks sliced pink sapphire and diamond earrings — which hauled in $10,500. Record bids poured in for active shooter training, a Costa Rica home, Ben Berg’s famous “Meet Our Meat,” and a last-minute, IW Marks addition of a custom Ernst Benz watch. Lucky winners scored a signature stuffed Dalmatian and a current Charitable Foundation decal.

The lively crowd joined the after-party, starring The Guzzlers and calendar models, as they grooved on the dance floor. A hot night for the books, indeed.

Red-hot guests included: Renee and Alan Helfman, Hallie Vanderhider and Glenn Reyez, Council Member Amy Peck,  Ellie and Michael Francisco, Van and David Greenberg, Carol and Bill Lawler, Denise Monteleone and Jim Martin, Fady Armanious, Linda and David Johnson, Jo Ann Petersen, Gaye Lynn and Stuart Zarrow, Councilman Mike Knox, Bill Miller, Joe Jaworski, Jackie and Monty Eubank, Cheryl Boblitt and Bill King, Dee and James Darby, Gary Petersen, John Poindexter, John Pearson, Lyndon Unger and Jacob Stein, Jenna Lindley and Louis Tronzo, Bruce Padilla and Shelby Kibodeaux, Alvin Abraham and Nicholas Nagurski, Julie and Alan Kent, Chris Hendel, Patti and Don Murphy, Jordan Seff, Robert Clay, Senator John Whitmire, Yanira and David Huntington, Janet and Tom Behanick, Alex Brennan-Martin, Tori and Ed DeCora, Constable Jerry Garcia, Karen and Tim Kelly and Lux, District Chief Jacob Sanders, Karen and Murry Penner, Lesha and Tom Elsenbrook, and State Representative Mary Ann Perez.

*Alan Stein, Elizabeth Stein, Joanna Marks, and Brad Marks. Photo by Catchlight Group