Iris Gordy

Iris Gordy on the Red Carpet at “Strikefest”

*The Fuller B. Gordy Foundation presented its Sixth Annual “Friends of Fuller Strikefest” on November 14th at Jillian’s Billiards and Bowling in Universal City on the popular Universal Citywalk. It was a grand time!

To borrow a title from a song recorded by Berry Gordy’s younger brother, Robert (aka Bob Kayli), “Everyone Was There!” At the entrance, guests were greeted on the Red Carpet, where many “Motowners” reunited at the Step & Repeat Banner.

There were appearances by many illustrious celebrities, including Motown founder Berry Gordy himself. Also joining the festivities were Claudette Robinson (The Miracles), Scherrie Payne (The Supremes), Betty Kelly (Martha & The Vandellas), Janie Bradford (songwriter), Louis Price (The Temptations), Willie Tyler & Lester (Ventriloquist), and singer Thelma Houston, who headlined the evening’s entertainment with a smashing medley of Motown hits that included her signature song, “Don’t Leave Me This Way.”

Additional entertainment was provided by the fabulous Hayman & Sako with their unique sound.

Claudette Robinson on the Red Carpet

Claudette Robinson on the Red Carpet

Marilyn McCoo, Thelma Houston, Billy Davis

Marilyn McCoo, Thelma Houston, Billy Davis Jr.

The house was filled with other notable celebrities and luminaries including Debbie Allen, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr., (former LA city councilwoman) Jan Perry, Beverly Todd, Judy Pace, Congresswoman Diane Watson (retired), famed guitarist Wah Wah Watson, and Shadoe & Beverly Stevens.

From left: Ian Foxx, Terry Gordy, Louis Price, Iris Gordy. Berry Gordy, Edna Owens, Thelma Houston, Debbie Allen, and Larry Ball

From left: Ian Foxx, Terry Gordy, Louis Price, Iris Gordy. Berry Gordy, Edna Anders Owens, Thelma Houston, Debbie Allen, and Larry Ball

The late Fuller B. Gordy, the eldest Gordy brother, was a professional bowler and a member of the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA). To honor his amazing legacy and his love for the game, his daughter Iris Gordy, and granddaughter Karla Gordy Bristol, founded the Strikefest as an integral part of the Fuller B. Gordy Foundation and their philanthropic efforts on behalf of Fuller’s memory. This year, the PBA sent a letter of appreciation acknowledging Fuller as a founding member of the PBA, and as one of the first professional bowlers in the state of Michigan.

Strikefest bowlers competed for Top Lane Score, Most Strikes (Male and Female), and Overall Scoring Champion. This year’s champion was Dr. Daryl Houston (not pictured in group photo as he had to leave before awards were handed out). There was also an incredible auction, with one of the prizes being a one-of-a-kind poster of “Motown: The Musical,” signed by the director, all of the actors, and Berry Gordy. I was assigned to lane number nine along with Robert Gordy Sr. (his lovely wife Theresa at his side), Rodney Gordy, and Berry Gordy IV (“Bear”). On lane ten was Berry Gordy himself. Of course, everyone gravitated to where we were and we had a ball (no pun intended)! Tamla Robinson (Smokey & Claudette Robinson’s daughter) was next door on lane eight – she’s so adorable!

Strikefest 2013 winners!

Strikefest 2013 winners!

With a backdrop of Motown’s greatest hits blaring and a slide show of Motown memories and “Strikefests-past,” the atmosphere was filled with excitement and anticipation. You never know who you’ll see and what to expect. When I saw Debbie Allen, I told her  I had just seen her on the new Queen Latifah talk show. She said, “How was it? I haven’t seen it yet.” I replied, “You looked FAB…did a great job!” She just laughed that great laugh of hers. I met Billy Davis Jr. for the first time. I had told myself if I ever got the chance to meet him, I’d tell him how much I loved the song, “River Witch.” It was so long ago that when I mentioned it, he was surprised, saying, “What? ‘River Witch’? You remember that?” I told him it was one of my favorites. I had him laughing too.

Then…there was Berry. As many awards as he’s received, when I mentioned that I saw the photos of him and Smokey being honored by the Grammy Awards Foundation as “Architects of Sound” just three days prior, he seemed just as excited as if it were his first award. He was really into the festivities, happily doing a little victory dance each time he got a mark.

Iris and Karla worked tirelessly with their team, which included bowling coordinator Brenda Boyce and her assistant Rainelle Saunders, the greeters, auction coordinators, and reception staff. The mother/daughter partners also shared stage duties acknowledging attendees and handing out awards. Each year the foundation recognizes and honors organizations that are making a positive difference in the community. This year, the honoree was Marcus Farrow, president of The Manformation Project, which received an award and a substantial monetary donation.

Karla, Marcus Farrow, and Iris

Karla, Marcus Farrow, and Iris

Iris was gracious and sincere when she said, “Thanks to everyone who came out and enjoyed our sixth annual Friends of Fuller B. Gordy Strikefest!!! We love that so many of you returned and do so each year. Some of those serious, hardcore bowlers really crack me up vying so intensely for trophies and annual ‘bragging rights!’ It was, as always, especially great to see all the first-timers smiling broadly and expressing that while they thought they knew what to expect, they ‘really had noooo idea’ what a super time they’d be having! It never surprises me, because the ‘Friends of Fuller Strikefest’ is an evening that can’t quite be described. It simply must be experienced!” On the comments and feedback, Karla added, “We’ve heard things like, ‘outstanding,’ ‘first class,’ ‘food was excellent,’ ‘like an incredibly fun house party,’ ‘fun for the whole family’ and ‘sooo different than any ordinary bowling event’.” See you next year!

For more details and photos please go to the website at www.friendsoffuller.org

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.  www.larrybuford.com  (213) 220-8101