No Tie puts the fun in fundraising

After two years hiatus and a scaled back event, No Tie Dinner returns to full force

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer

Don Maison, who served as CEO of AIDS Services Dallas until his retirement in 2019, was pissed. Now, great things happened when Don got ticked off. And that was the beginning of No Tie Dinner.

Maison was pissed at Black Tie Dinner. Even when his organization was chosen as a beneficiary, he was pissed at Black Tie Dinner.

But the years when he wasn’t chosen or Maison decided not to apply, he was especially pissed. As Maison saw it, the time and work it would have taken him to qualify as a Black Tie beneficiary would be better spent working to keep his clients alive while keeping ASD’s mortgages paid and the doors open.

So he started kicking around the idea of doing his own dinner. And since he hated ties or any kind of formal wear, he’d require everyone to not wear a tie.

So Maison contacted Dennis Kershner and asked him to help create a signature event for ASD. Dennis and his husband John put together the first No Tie Dinner.

They quickly realized putting on a dinner was expensive and a lot of work. So they got the idea of making this no-tie event a dessert party. And No Tie Dinner became the end of a group of progressive dinners: Drinks and appetizers at a number of host houses, then moving to the next house for the main course and, finally, gathering at one central location for a big dessert party.

Frontiers of Flight Museum has been the home of No Tie Dinner since 2007

They quickly saw another advantage to a progressive dinner that concluded with a large party: The dinner hosts would encourage their guests to buy tickets to the main event, and that would increase attendance.

Kershner said the first No Tie Dinner took place in 2005 at Southside on Lamar and attracted about 250 people. But it was held right around the same time as Black Tie Dinner, and that caused confusion. So the next No Tie was scheduled for the spring of 2007 and moved to the Frontiers of Flight Museum, where it’s been held ever since.

Attendance quickly grew — from 250 at that first event to 750 expected this year. Proceeds grew quickly, too — from about $18,000 to $140,000 within five years, Kershner said.

Desserts at this year’s No Tie Dinner will be provided by Starbucks, Insomnia, Vee’s Bakeshoppe, Dallas Affaires Cake Co., Dolce, Linda Renee Sweets, Sweets by Cheeks and Sin Ful Treats. ASD’s own kitchen and staff will provide some of the baked goods as well, and they do a great job baking sweets for their residents every day.

Among this year’s silent auction items is a 1989 Keith Haring print. The piece just came in this week, and ASD staff is scrambling to determine a value. Haring originals have gone for more than $6 million on auction; whoever acquires this print is sure to get a bargain.

Quite a bit of art by local artists will be on display as well, including a canvas by Sal who recently sold a piece to Snoop Dogg.

Another featured silent auction item is a getaway package from Choctaw Casino.

Entertainment will be provided by the eight-piece band, Empire 6.

As always, No Tie Dinner features an open bar. Vegas Baby Vodka is the vodka sponsor. Ben E. Keith is the beer and wine sponsor.

But for something truly different, Dented Brick Distillery of Utah just launched Disco Nut coconut glitter rum that’s not only delicious, according to ASD staff whose job it was to sample it, it also sparkles under the lights.

To spotlight this year’s Hometown Heroes theme, the entrance to the event will feature a heroes wall to tell the story of AIDS Services Dallas. Featured among the heroes will be the drag queens who raised money, one dollar at a time, to help keep the lights on; city councilmen like Chad West and Omar Narvaez who ensure city funding is available to provide services to residents; the Kershners whose fundraising ideas have raised more than $1 million for the agency by now, and the Purple Foundation, which has been there since the beginning as a No Tie Dinner presenting sponsor.

After skipping two years because of the pandemic and staging a scaled back event in 2022, No Tie Dinner returns in full force this month to the Frontiers of Flight Museum, 6911 Lemmon Ave. from 7-11 p.m. on May 20. Tickets are $100 and available at

Kershner isn’t involved in staging this year’s No Tie Dinner, but he said he continues to be a dinner host. And to make things less rushed for his guests, he’s holding his dinner party this weekend and will join his guests at the main event next weekend.