Imagine you’re attending a birthday for a successful friend – a very successful friend at that – and yourself being the one pleasantly surprised.
That’s what happened to this writer Friday night, April 12, when I went to my close friend Wallace Davis’ 50th birthday celebration at Life HTX, a large, modern and elegant event venue near downtown Houston, TX.
Except this was no ordinary friend – and it certainly was no ordinary party! Straight from the black society pages, this was the kind of party that you might see on one of those reality TV shows, or on a sitcom where the main characters – who are otherwise ordinary people – inexplicably have this connection to a famous musical celebrity and the celebrity makes an appearance performing on the show – to boost ratings, of course.
But this was no reality TV show or sitcom, it was real. The guests – who numbered in the hundreds – were immaculately dressed, especially the women who were “on fleek” as they say, and the musical celebrities in attendance performed their asses off!
And the friend? Well, let’s just say he’s an entrepreneur – a former military man and self-made multi-millionaire who only 18 years ago (on his 32nd birthday) was jobless with no career prospects here in America. In 2001, Wallace, a black man who hails from Virginia, had to go all the way to Southeastern Europe – to war-torn Kosovo – just to get work contracting for the U.S. government. It was while he was overseas that he and a friend pooled together some money and started an Internet-providing company that delivered worldwide web access to places in developing countries that previously didn’t have it.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Now his company, Davis Hartless International Telecom or DHI, of which he is the co-founder and CEO, is making major corporate acquisitions and is on the verge of opening a 41,000 sq-ft headquarters facility in Houston. It’s an event that will no doubt be met with much fanfare when it happens in two weeks.
But back to last night, and this party!
After being served hors d’oeuvres and admiring the “shady ladies” (ladies donning huge, lit lampshade hats) serving cocktails at the lounge in the entryway, we witnessed the curtains opening to reveal a large elegant party room with stage, large dance floor, bars, a huge 14-ft gallery wall that transformed with high-tech lighting and projector systems, an amazing light show and sound system, and dancing ladies – including one especially limber woman whose skills were on display inside of a large rotating champagne glass.
The open bar kept the champagne and cocktails flowing and the deejay kept the jams pumping. He first got us amped up by playing old-school ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s fare, mixing the songs perfectly and warming up the guests to the idea of getting their butts out of their seats and onto the dance floor.
But it was when the DJ summoned us to the floor for the first of the night’s three surprise musical guests that, much to our astonishment, things really got going.
First up was ‘90s R&B quartet Dru Hill, complete with key original members Sisqó and Nokio, plus new additions “Smoke” and “Black” and two of Sisqó’s dancers. They took us through a medley of their big hits and remixes, the most pleasing of which were “Tell Me,” “In My Bed” and “Beauty,” before Sisqó took a solo turn with his dancers on songs like the No. 1 Hot 100 hit, “Incomplete” and his signature tune “Thong Song.”
After what everyone agreed was a highly energetic performance, including one very impressive full cartwheel by the 45-year-old, Sisqó introduced his group mates and wished birthday boy Wallace a happy one before the ‘90s collective exited the stage to a loud round of applause by revelers who were only just beginning to experience what party planners had in store for us.
With the crowd now juiced and ready, and the dance floor abuzz with updated jams from the current century, we were once again called to the front for yet another surprise musical guest.
This time it was none other than Faith Evans – another ‘90s R&B superstar who introduced herself as Faith Evans Jordan (hubby Stevie J, a renowned record producer and reality TV personality, was also on hand).
Aside from sounding really good and looking even better (as the birthday guest-of-honor pointed out many, many times – though he likely won’t remember), Faith, 45, appeared to be especially happy – far removed from the impression this writer had of a forlorn singer who was once troubled by a turbulent marriage (or two), several legal woes and a career that never matched its fullest potential (IMHO).
All of that seemed like a distant memory as Faith enthusiastically poured through five of her biggest hits, including “Burnin’ Up,” “All Night Long,” “You Gets No Love,” the wistful early 1995 tune that started it all, “You Used To Love Me,” and her signature smash, “Love Like This” (the one that samples the disco group Chic’s “Chic Cheer” – although many Faith fans probably don’t know or remember that).
The crowd went bonkers!
Several partygoers in front of the stage drew Faith’s attention and she eventually invited them onstage to perform and dance with her. The bond she had with the crowd was instant and endearing, and people who’d likely forgotten they were Faith Evans fans became so once again last night.
Perhaps none were more so than the birthday boy himself, Wallace, who was clearly mesmerized when he appeared onstage with the R&B star to receive a personal birthday greeting. So amorous was he, that even hubby Stevie J had to inject at one point, appearing onstage to blot the sweat from his wife’s brow as the birthday boy continually admired Faith’s beauty.
It was all love though, and the crowd went back to dancing, drinking and partying before the third and final surprise guest was introduced.
It was the original human beat box himself, ‘80s hip-hop legend Doug E. Fresh.
Yep, that Doug E. Fresh, whose two-sided biggest hit “The Show” backed with “La Di Da Di” (the latter with vocals by Slick Rick) is still among the most iconic 12” singles in hip-hop history.
It was the same Doug E. Fresh whose dance moves inspired the 2010 song by Cali Swag District that “taught us how to Dougie” (which Doug E. did for us onstage last night). It was the Doug E. Fresh whose beatboxing skills are unmatched in hip-hop history, skills that were very much on display – and on point – at this 50th birthday gala.
At one point, Fresh, who is 52 but looks 20 years younger, put on a five-minute continuous beatboxing segment that had the crowd in awe. Beatboxing is a lost art in hip-hop that today’s fans have little interest in, but if there’s anyone who could bring it back, it’s this legend who infused his version of it at times with a handy harmonica that only added to the marvel.
Words can’t do justice to the performances by Doug E. Fresh, Faith Evans, or Dru Hill or to the party in general. A fun time was indeed had by all, but especially by the birthday boy, whose success afforded us this magnanimous event.
As he himself acknowledged while standing next to Faith onstage, if someone had told him 20 years ago that he would be here next to her…
Well, just wow!
It was definitely a party to remember, which I’m guessing the birthday boy surely will. I know I won’t forget it!
Happy 50th Wallace! And thanks for allowing me to be a part of your grand celebration!
Oh, and as Wallace might say, no matter who you are or from what walk of life you come, we all should just celebrate life, love each other and, just “do you, Boo!”
DJRob is a freelance blogger who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.
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