TNDC Celebrates Wet and Wild 20th Annual Celebrity Pool Toss

Written by Kat Anderson. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Education, Events, News, Opinion, Politics

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Published on October 11, 2012 with 2 Comments

An auctioned dunk of Michael Walker, Market President of U.S. Bank’s Northern California Commercial Banking Group, netted $30,000 last eve during TNDC’s 20th Celebrity Pool Toss event, an annual auction/fundraiser held at the Phoenix Hotel benefiting after-school programs for low-income families.  Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Kat Anderson

October 11, 2012

A banker, a model, a former mayoral candidate, Miss Yvonne from the Pee-Wee Herman show, and a guy in a Lou Seal costume – what could these folks have in common? They all participated in last night’s 20th annual Celebrity Pool Toss, an only-in-San Francisco fundraising/auction tradition started by the Tenderloin Housing Development Corporation with proceeds benefiting after school programs for low-income families.

Sited at the chic Phoenix Hotel in the Tenderloin, TNDC hosted as many as 600 guests who came out to see San Francisco community luminaries get dunked in the hotel’s kidney-shaped pool, lit up with random sixes and nines (hmm… not sure what that’s about).

More than a half-dozen intrepid San Franciscans put their clothing and hair on the line to help raise funds for a noble cause. Each “tossee” was introduced by a special friend and put up for auction. The highest biddee was Michael Walker, Market President of US Bank’s Northern California Commercial Banking Group. His dunk raised $30,000 (no doubt from another banking friend). Other dunkees included Todd Traina, SFO director John Martin, and bicycle-riding/architect David Baker (who went in bike and all).

My favorite dunkin’ darlin’ was former mayoral candidate, Joanna Rees, who was introduced by model and Sex in the City star, Jason Lewis. Before her poolside debut, I asked Joanna what she would wear for her tossing. “My gymnastic leotard from college,” she quipped. I marveled at what this might look like since I knew Joanna had a big birthday last year. Turns out, she is amazingly fit, as she proved with handstands, cartwheels and the splits. Her performance generated the quote of the night. “Just what you want in a mayor…flexible and available,” quipped hunky Lewis.

Venture capitalist and 2011 candidate for SF mayor, Joanna Rees, age 50, shows off her sporty blue “college” leotard, back stage at the 20th annual TNDC Celebrity Pool Toss.

Joanna Rees does the splits before taking the plunge.

Joanna Rees continues her gymnastic routine with a hand stand.

Over she goes! Joanna Rees is nudged into the pool from a hand-stand position.

Following her dunk, Joanna Rees generates admiring glances from a school of 20-something lifeguards.

Joanna Rees, dripping with half-century hotness..

I made it a point to greet Rees and the clever Lewis after she got all squeegeed off. Dare I say he kissed my hand? Yep, it’s not getting washed any time soon. (Thank you, Joanna!)

Joanna Rees and Sex in the City star Jason Lewis (left).

It was also big fun to see Harry Denton, Cheryl Jennings and Chuck Love all come out on stage together, as some of the first tossees from the 1992 inaugural event. Cheryl, ever the cheerful media professional, held up her iPhone and filmed us, declaring, “I’m tweeting this. This is what we’re down to with our resources in TV.”

Ubiquitous State Senator Mark Leno presented a commendation to TNDC for its good works — housing 3,000 people, providing community gardens and offering support to school-aged children. Leno also recounted his favorite “Toss,” which involved political consultant Jack Davis, grabbing the Borsolino fedora off of former Mayor Willie Brown’s head and threatening to throw it in the pool. Brown was visibly annoyed. The crowd, however, erupted in a bidding war over the hat. When the bidding reached $5,000, Brown yelled, “Throw the fucker in!”

TNDC Executive Director, Don Falk, was his usual glowing self. I asked him how he got involved with this strange cultural phenomenon of tossing the rich and famous into heated chlorine water. “I actually attended the first one when I was thinking about applying for a job,” he said. Falk had approached Brother Kelly and told him he’d like to come work with him. Even better, he told Brother Kelly he’d like to run his own department.

TNDC Executive Director Don Falk and California State Senator Mark Leno.

The rest is history and while Brother Kelly was alive, he and Falk had “the perfect business marriage,” as Falk put it. Brother Kelly was free to do his community work while Falk concentrated on building TNDC’s non-profit affordable housing portfolio.

Brother Kelly and Chip Conley, who presides over Joie de Vivre Hotels (owner of the Phoenix), came up with the Celebrity Pool Toss idea. It has proven to be a wildly successful auction and fundraiser, generating millions in funds for educational programs in marginalized communities.

Now, TNDC operates 30 properties around the city, providing what Rees calls “dignified housing” for some of San Francisco’s poorest. It also runs a popular after school program that serves over 200 children annually on a drop-in basis. The Celebrity Pool Toss’ proceeds go to fund that program, which includes services such as tutoring, college workshop series and tours for high school students, and art, science and cultural field trips.

Last night’s event raised $290,000 from the auctioning of the celebs, sponsorships and ticket sales, Falk said.  Not a bad haul for a night’s work in a Tenderloin hotel with lots of scantily clad bodies and free drinks.

More photos

Architect David Baker took the plunge on a bicycle (at the bottom of the pool).

Liam Mayclem, Host, Eye on the Bay and KCBS Foodie Chap.

Michael R. Walker, Market President, Northern California, Commercial Banking Group, U. S. Bank.

John Stewart and Jack Gardner, of John Stewart Company, took the plunge donning Stanford Cardinal and Cal Bear football garb. Lydia Tan of Related Capital of California at right.

Todd Traina, founder of Red Rover Films with Third Eye Blind guitarist, Steven Jenkins.

Todd Traina, who said he lives a “semi-charmed life,” donned ski apparel and boots for his plunge.

Celebrity Pool Toss wardrobe assistants, aka Don’s Angels, pose for a photo for FCJ.

John Mark Rogers, founder of Veritas Growth Companies, was an intern for Jubilee West, an affordable housing group, 30 years ago.

SF Chronicle editor Ward Bushee, Joanna Rees, Senator Mark Leno, and Sex in the City star Jason Lewis exchange pleasantries.

View of the pool and stage from the first floor of the Phoenix Hotel.

TNDC Celebrity Pool Toss lifeguards and Green Room assistants pose for a photo.

State Senator Mark Leno and Liam Mayclem.

The fabulous Bud E. Luv.

Celebrity Pool Toss publicist Denise Lamott and her assistant, Mackenzie Born.

Kat Anderson

Kat Anderson is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law and Stanford University. She has made San Francisco her home since 1988.

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Comments for TNDC Celebrates Wet and Wild 20th Annual Celebrity Pool Toss are now closed.

  1. Randy Shaw — one of the worst causes of misery for the people of San Francisco.

  2. Great shots as always,

       Nice account too, Kat.   Even God cooperated.    As the last tossee came out of the pool and started toweling themselves dry?

    The skies opened up and the first much-needed rain of the season began to pelt us.

    How refreshing.

    Or, was that the vodka?

    Rich people drink vodka, by the way.

    I asked for some bourbon and the barkeep looked puzzled.

    A wonderful event.   Bumped shoulders with Scott Wiener and told him if he’d give me his personal email I’d send him some great porn.

    He declined.

    These moderates have no passion.

    I’m not buying it when you say Posey’s human.