Society Confidential: Laila Ali KOs luncheon crowd

Susan Whitall and Chuck Bennett

Likeable Laila

The general consensus at the recent American Heart Association’s “Go Red” luncheon was that the keynote speaker, a very unpretentious Laila Ali, came off more like your sweet, pretty cousin, rather than an undefeated champion boxer. Stunning in a simple black top over a black pleated leather mini skirt, the statuesque beauty quickly won over the event’s chair, Janice Cosby Bridges of St. John Providence Health Systems.

“When I met her in her hotel room at the Detroit Marriott,” Cosby Bridges said, ‘Well, I know it’s ‘Go Red for Women’ and I have on an all-black outfit, but check out my red shoes. Aren’t they fabulous?’ We were good from then on.” And then there’s Laila Ali’s dad, Muhammad Ali, “The Greatest.” “I talk to him often,” she said. “He’s strong, alert, still has a sense of humor and a great spirit, and I love that he’s a national icon and still loved all over the world.” As a wife, and mother of two small children, Laila Ali doesn’t train intensely. “I only work out about 30 minutes a day, more on weekends,” she said. “I really concentrate on my diet. The great payoff of eating well and being healthy is that we can look really cute in our clothes and that’s really important, right?” She had a tough act to follow at the “Go Red” luncheon; last year’s keynote speaker, Rosie O’Donnell, had the audience laughing at her jokes and in tears when she told her personal heart attack story. Laila Ali isn’t an entertainer, and has no heart attack story, but she more than held her own on the podium. We heard several guests say “I like her” as they walked away.

Afternoon delight

Leave it to veteran party people Tom and Diane Schoenith to throw a Valentine’s Day cocktail party at 12:30 in the afternoon in frigid weather and still have over 400 people show up. “The idea was to have our guests arrive in cocktail attire, enjoy our event and then proceed with their evening plans, already dressed and in the mood to party,” Tom said. But after partaking in the delights of Tom and Diane’s party — champagne, beer and wine bars, comfort food and Hot Damn and Apple Pie shots — most folks didn’t want or need any more party activity in their day. The bash also featured a big-band orchestra and door prizes, including a two-carat diamond ring. In the house: former Detroit Mayor Roman Gribbs; Detroit Police Chief James Craig; society mavens Carol Minowitz,Maggie Allesee and Rosemary Bannon; Motown singer MarthaReeves; and lead guitarist Jason Krause from Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band.

Tune in alert

NBC correspondent/former Birmingham resident Jill Rappaport hosts “Best in Shelter” at 7 p.m. Saturday on WDIV-TV (Local 4) in Detroit. Rappaport, a Birmingham Seaholm grad and avid animal lover, will be joined by Betty White,Emmylou Harris, skier Lindsey Vonn and other celebrities as she goes around the country choosing the “best” shelter dogs ready for adoption. Rappaport chose not to focus on the dogs who find homes easily, such as puppies, but on senior dogs, pit bulls and tripods (three-legged dogs), to encourage viewers to give them a chance. The mutts are judged for cuteness and cuddleability, and the judges include Bryant Gumbel and singer Bernadette Peters. Jill’s sis, celeb photographer Linda Solomon, flew to New York to attend a private screening of the show hosted by Carin Zucker, wife of CNN (and former NBC) boss Jeff Zucker.