Birthday bash tradition continues for Shampain
Photos: Courtesy Richard Shampain
There have been many special guests at Richard Shampain’s annual birthday celebrations, including “Cher.”

By Deb Silverthorn

With a name like Shampain, it only makes sense that Dallasite Richard Shampain celebrates in a big way. Partying his way into his seventh decade with close to 150 guests he adores, the birthday boy once again blew out the candles with friends, with fun and with Luby’s Cafeteria’s finest.

“I am so blessed. So very blessed,” said Shampain, who turned 70 on March 10 and partied with his besties the week before. “My friends are my family and I’ve known most of these people since I was a kid. I can’t imagine a birthday, or most days, without them.”

Luby’s at Midway and LBJ was the site of this year’s party, held March 3; that’s where it all began 36 years ago. In 1986, Shampain, Karen Baskin and Ellen Nisenson Soule were neighbors who often ate out together. He, the gent of the group, enjoyed treating the then-single women. For his birthday, turning the tables, they invited Shampain out for a coat-and-tie fabulous birthday meal at the Mansion on Turtle Creek.

The dress-up was not so necessary. After picking up the guest of honor in a limousine  and taking a 30-minute detour, they ended up around the corner from their apartments at Luby’s on Central Expressway for a night to remember.

Remember and repeat 

And so began the tradition of Richard Shampain’s annual birthday bash, with a guest list and memory bank that keeps growing.

“Friends have come from around the world to roast, toast and celebrate Richard because he’s a one-in-a-million friend. He’s really just that special,” said Helene Abrams, who came on board as a hostess more than 35 years ago and is now a hostess with Cathy Korn Feldman for more than 30 years. “It’s more than his birthday; it’s really a reunion for all of us to come together. Now there are families with children and grandchildren showing up. It’s something we all circle the calendar for because no one wants to miss out.

“In March 2020 and then for two more years we skipped due to the pandemic but ‘the people have spoken’ and this year we were back,” said Abrams. “‘Uncle Richard’ is a people-gatherer and a good friend and his birthday is not to be missed.”

Abrams, Korn Feldman and now Mendy Rose Halstead are the party planners. Longtime friend Michael Cohen, too, has over the years brought spirit and smiles as the party’s master of ceremonies. Jeff Henderson, Shampain’s partner, helps coordinate and is the designer of each year’s invitation.

“The ladies are awesome and pull it together,” said Shampain, “and Jeff, he is creative and absolutely instrumental as he is in all of my life.”

Luby’s has been the spot year after year with the exception of Shampain’s 40th, 50th and 60th birthdays. Then the location varied — once to Shampain’s home with more than 125 guests and twice to the Dallas Aquarium with more than 250 sharing the night. Each year the theme carries the night; this year’s groovy ‘70s night was no different. Twice the Turtle Creek Chorale Encore Group has appeared, “Cher” and “Tarzan and Jane” have made appearances, a monkey performed a singing telegram and during an election year it was all about the red, white and blue.

A tribute to Shampain’s years as a commodities trader, the party at home in 1994 had additional “guests,” a herd of cattle and a pet pig. The honoree said that party was wonderful and the catering delicious. There was an unexpected flash flood and the odor left behind by the cattle’s “packages” continues to stir the memory pot decades later.

“It’s a great party for a great guy with friends from so many circles and yet now, after so many years, we all care about seeing one another,” said Korn Feldman.

“We always hang a banner and have balloons and there are always regular customers waiting for a little kid to show up to the party who are surprised by our birthday ‘boy,’” she said. “He’s special and so is the chance to honor him.”

There was the night the party coincided with the Academy Awards and as gussied-up guests arrived, they walked the red carpet. There was a Martha Stewart-themed night with cooking and gardening tools given out as party favors and, at 64, of course homage was paid to the Beatles.

The birthday “boy” graduated from Hillcrest High School; is an Alpha Epsilon Pi and University of Texas at Austin alumnus; and was raised at Temple Emanu-El.

Having spent more than half his special days among those most special to him, he is grateful for the best presents — the presence of those he adores.

“I’m just told the when and where and I know it’s going to be an incredible time,” said Shampain, “and again this year, it was that.”

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