Our Man IN KC: Celebrating Disney, BBQ with Chiefs Royalty, and More!

Damian Lair with Minnie Mouse at Union Station’s Disney 100: The Exhibition.

A Century of Magic
In the autumn of 1923, Walt Disney arrived in Hollywood—from Kansas City—and founded what is now known as The Walt Disney Company. In tribute to 100 years of stories, creativity, and make-believe, the company envisioned Disney 100: The Exhibition. Kansas City has the honor of being among the first three North American cities to host the exhibition (following Chicago and Philadelphia). It can be experienced exclusively at Union Station through November 30.

I was fortunate and honored to attend the premiere, held on the evening prior to the exhibition’s public opening. Following cocktails and live music, we gathered in Union Station’s Regnier Extreme Screen Theatre for introductions by George Guastello, Matt Linski, and Mayor Quinton Lucas. We also had the distinct pleasure of hearing from Becky Cline, the director of the Walt Disney Archives, which oversees more than 65 million artworks, from which roughly 250 select pieces made their way to Kansas City via 16 semi-trailers.

Interspersed between illuminating stories and remarks, the Heartland Men’s Chorus delivered a thrilling Disney medley created for its recent Disney-themed concert production. The Fountain City Quartet also dazzled. Following the overview presentation, we enjoyed more canapes and cocktails—and later, desserts with Mickey and Minnie Mouse. As if I were surprised, I proved that one is never too old for a Disney mouse pic.

Finally, it was time for a first glimpse of the exhibition. I will be returning for a more thorough, cocktail-free immersion, but my first impression is nudging me to return sooner rather than later.

Across ten themed galleries, the exhibit showcases rarely seen animation artworks, artifacts, and live-action film costumes and props from iconic Disney classics. There’s the “dinglehopper” from the live-action Little Mermaid, a wide array of Marvel character masks, the full Black Panther suit, a carousel horse from Mary Poppins, and numerous other impressive and familiar pieces. And for those who prefer to touch vs. look, there are 14 interactive displays and features.

For anyone who’s been, it’s practically undisputed that Disney’s parks are among the most magical places on Earth. When you walk through their gates, it’s as if the world’s problems and complexities disappear. Somehow, visiting this exhibit achieved a similar effect. Chaos and noise melted away for enough time to reflect on the wonder of storytelling and the power of dreams. They were humble dreams of a boy who grew up in Kansas City and ventured the halls of this very building—Union Station—while delivering newspapers. After time away, he returned to Kansas City and founded the precursor to Disney Inc.—Laugh-O-Gram Studio—before packing his bags for Hollywood. There could be no more fitting place—this building in this city—to celebrate a century of the immeasurable influence of those dreams.

Hot Gossip: What friend group’s table at Prime Social was sandwiched between Patrick & Brittany Mahomes and LeBron James?

All in the Golden Afternoon
Recently, I traded the predictable green liquid lunch at my desk for a more proper midday meal. It was the inaugural “Fleur-ette,” a luncheon benefit for Powell Gardens.

Powell Gardens is Kansas City’s 970-acre, nonprofit botanical garden that hosts themed display gardens, a three-mile nature trail, seasonal festivals, and rotating exhibitions that highlight the changing seasons and Midwest spirit of place.

I hopped over to the East Crossroads event space for some pre-lunch wandering through the Powell artisan marketplace. There, I caught up with Chuck Matney and Leslie Brett of The Little Flower Shop as they rang me up for a coffee table book that had been out of print until just recently. Book in hand, I hobnobbed with a rolling meadow of ladies in floral prints.

While seated for lunch, we were treated to a conversation by the notable designer and lampateur Christopher Spitzmiller. His classic ceramic lamps have graced the pages of every prominent design publication chronicling interiors as distinct as the White House (including the Oval Office). When not in his NYC studio, Christopher can be found at his farm in Millbrook, New York, gardening, beekeeping, cooking for friends, or tending to his chicken flock. These tales are captured in his book A Year at Clove Brook Farm. Given the charitable beneficiary at hand, Christopher walked us through the years-long process of building an extensive series of stunning gardens entirely from scratch—all featured in the book. It was a lively tale of missteps and successes, sprinkled with drop-ins from good friend and nosy neighbor, Martha (Stewart).

Our lunch, beautifully catered by Olive Events, was its own garden party. Pasta primavera with asparagus, cherry tomatoes, spring peas, squash, arugula, and grilled lemon chicken with pesto. All herbs for the meal and infused cocktails/mocktails were harvested at Powell Gardens, ditto for the honey. The tablescapes, complete with live florals and floral linens—in addition to guests’ floral wardrobes—created the perfect more-is-more floral explosion that felt positively perfect for a summertime lunch event. Salute!

Overheard: “I’m not taking fashion advice from a generation that grew up snacking on Tide pods.”

‘Que for a Cause
When I recently received a spontaneous, same-day invite to ‘Que for a Cause, I thought—why not? After all, you know I love checking out something new and reporting back here.

‘Que for a Cause is an annual event created and organized by now-former Chiefs offensive lineman Mitch Schwartz. The event benefits a rotating batch of charities, which this year included Midwest Animal ResQ, Always & Furever Midwest Animal Sanctuary, and Make-A-Wish (Missouri and Kansas). For this fifth iteration, current offensive lineman Creed Humphrey joined Mitch as a co-host.

The event itself is centered around two pretty swell things—the Chiefs and barbecue. Five top barbecue restaurants bring the ’cue (and lots of it), while a roster of aproned Chiefs players serve up piles of meat for hungry guests. There’s ample opportunity throughout to meet the players and snap photos. If you follow along on Instagram, my story included photo after photo of me cheesing with Chiefs royalty. My ultimate take-away: they are so much bigger in real life. For most players, my full height barely met their shoulders. On the plus side, I’ve never looked trimmer in photos. Winning . . .

A handful of those players I had the opportunity to meet included Xavier Worthy, McKade Mettauer, Trey Smith, Kingsley Suamataia, Ethan Driskell, Mike Caliendo, Irv Smith Jr., and fave linebacker, Nick Bolton. Aside from the celebrity factor—which was completely cool—the food was anything but an afterthought. It was the real-deal KC barbecue, sharing an equal spotlight with the football stars serving it. This year’s dynamite participants included: Q39, Blind Box, Char Bar, Meat Mitch, and Joe’s Kansas City. Pulled pork, brisket, ribs, cheesy corn, baked beans—they had it all and then some. I also loved the jalapeño margaritas and the mini cupcakes from Nakia’s Sweet Sinsations.

In addition to the food and other goings on, there was a robust silent auction, primarily focused on sports memorabilia, such as framed Super Bowl rings and signed jerseys. I also spotted a beautifully framed page of handwritten lyrics by Taylor Swift (not in attendance, btw). The event wound down with a live auction for each player’s signed apron. Friends Stacie & Garret Syler added even more to their growing collection, amassed over the years.

In sum, I had an absolute blast (on a sudden whim) and will be adding this event to my annual not-to-miss list—still leaving room for other summer spontaneity, naturally.

Hot Gossip: Who jumped on a gala celebrity guest-of-honor’s back, requesting a photo (backpack-style)?

Androgyny, Etc.
Coinciding with Pride month, the latest installment of the pop-up Heidmann Art Salon was themed and titled Androgyny, Etc. I joined on the pre-opening night, amidst a gallery of guests as engaging and diverse as the art temporarily gracing the walls of the Crossroads Hotel. Scott Heidmann and Ken Petti had once again assembled a sublime collection of people and art.

Guests sipped on champagne, caught up with one another, and absorbed the spectacle around us. Ambient models wove through the crowd (androgynously dressed, of course). When ready for an ensemble change, they slid to an open corner and redressed in plain sight. The vulnerable act washed the room in intimacy.

Jessica Dressler made a guest appearance as Judy Garland, performing The Man That Got Away. Between that and the pulsating beats from SirQueen, it all felt delicately prideful. Singing, DJing, fashion, painting, photography, sculpture—every spectrum of the arts prism was reflected.

Held on roughly half a dozen occasions a year, I look forward to these salons. Though I did not make a purchase on this occasion, I noted several photographic works by Zack Petot. I need time to mull where one might live, and what I’d inevitably have to part with to create space. Scott and Ken—I know how to reach you.

Spotted: Linda Lighton, JoAnne Northrup, Pam DiCapo, Holly Post, Alissa Wehmueller, Lisa Lala, Luis Mortera, Josh Dampf, Lorece Chanelle, Wolfe Brack

Overheard “I think I just saw Ciley Myrus.”

A Day at the Lake
When approached by some wonderful people at Jackson County Parks + Rec about spending a day at Lake Jacomo on one of their new pontoon boat rentals, I (perhaps surprisingly) accepted the invitation with glee.

Lake Jacomo is a picturesque lake (I’m told it’s the county’s prettiest, and I have no basis to argue) that’s roughly 20 minutes from downtown—near Blue Springs. At 970 acres, it is also Jackson County’s largest lake.

So, on a recent Saturday, I organized a group of ten friends for a day outside the city proper, to float in the middle of what blissfully felt like nowhere. As I was packing coolers, towels, etc. it occurred to me how “heading to the lake” had always mentally equated to a dreaded hours-long, winding drive. What a paradoxical delight to be at our pre-lake lunch stop in mere minutes!

We all met at Jacomo’s Hunger Shack, on the recommendation of a friend in-the-know. Admittedly, I’d pictured. . . a shack. . . that probably sold live bait alongside deli meat sandwiches. What we found instead was a practically new restaurant that managed to conjure an old, diner-like charm. Amongst us we had the insanely large pork tenderloin sandwich, hot chicken, BBQ bacon burger, fries, onion rings, cheese tater tots—and pie. Key lime pie, peanut butter pie, chocolate cream, pecan—there were coolers full of pie. Hardly the ideal choice for anyone concerned about a svelte boat-bod, but we lived for all of it. Chef’s kiss!

After a lunch for champions, we headed for the marina to retrieve our boat. Ours was a sparkling new ten-person pontoon, but they also have four-person Jon boats available for rent. I’ll note that a full-day rental on weekends is a modest $325, which struck me as rather economical for an entire day of fun, split among friends. And an outright steal vs. owning a boat!

Once we were off (btw, much easier to drive than imagined), we leisurely puttered around the perimeter of this surprisingly tranquil lake. Despite the beautiful summer Saturday, it never felt busy. The lake was primarily occupied by graceful sailboats, serenely gliding along, minding their own business. Motorboats permitted are capped at 25 horsepower, meaning you won’t experience any boats blazing by. What makes Lake Jacomo particularly unique, though, took me some time to discern. The lake lies within Fleming Park—essentially an undeveloped area. Unlike most large lakes, where shorelines are solidly lined with homes and private docks—there are none here. Where the water ends, a lush green woodland begins. It felt more like we were in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere in Missouri. As it turned out, Jacomo was not only a respite from the city, but from the commotion on other lakes.

Occasionally, we’d spot a little cove surrounded by wilderness and drop anchor for some swimming. We had our music, our bevs, and plenty of leftover pie. Before we knew it, the day had swiftly evaporated. We spent more time boating than I expected anyone to desire, but it felt like no time had passed at all. The truest sign of a good time came amidst conversations on the drive home. “Maybe we could do this again?”—they asked. Yes, I think we could.