Oilpatch brat pack hosts epic birthday bash Execs raise $3M for prostate cancer awareness MARTIN CALGARY’S EYE ON NATIONAL POLITICS DON OTTAWA Not just any old 50th birthday bash attracts 1,600 friends, features a performance by the Guess Who and raises $3 million for prostate cancer awareness by simply passing the hat. But when the birthday boys belong to the next generation of blue-eyed sheiks in Calgary, well, bigger is essential and wallet size always matters. The 13 hosts of an epic party Saturday derive from a startling new demographic of energy sector executives entering their 50s with a mid-life crisis under way, a legacy search on their minds and petrodollars by the hundreds of millions to their names. They’re the faces atop the oilpatch pyramids, the sort who buy 10-yearold castles in ultra-posh Mount Royal, demolish them before moving in and replace them with massive palaces on the priciest real estate lots in western Canada. But they’re not the sort to sip singlemalt in the Petroleum Club and merely contemplate donations to add their names to University of Calgary buildings. And they don’t want to will the wealth to their kids which, they argue, causes inter-generational grief from too much easy money. Which brings us to Brett Wilson, chairman of First Energy Capital Corp., who turned back time with his dozen buddies in Calgary’s Jubilee Auditorium, transforming the lobby into a 1957 musical and culinary extravaganza to celebrate the year of his birth and raise a hefty pile of cash for a cause close to his heart. The food was celery and peanut butter, meatloaf and french fries — the staples of the era’s stay-at-home moms. The music was vintage 1970s, the soundtrack of their teens. And when the co-hosts entered the auditorium, they were riding a 1957 Thunderbird and sipping from a bottle of 50-year-old Scotch to the live sounds of Herman’s Hermits singer Peter Noone and country singer Beverly Mahood just before the Guess Who’s lead singers hit the stage. But it’s symbolic of more than nouveau riche boys celebrating themselves. It’s the sign that a golden age of philanthropy is rising in the still-wild West. This particular party took root when the baby barons were celebrating their 40th birthdays, determined to enter their 50s in style. As their wealth expanded exponentially into the billions during the dawn of the dollar litre of gas, they decided the event’s aftermath should linger beyond morning-after Advil and have a charitable beneficiary. Every birthday celebrant agreed to cough up at least $50,000 just for the privilege of being on the stage and most gave a lot more. Then they twirled their Rolodexes to bring in wealthy guests from throughout Western Canada and as far away as Texas. Lead organizer Wilson had been treated for prostate cancer in his mid40s discovered during a test that’s not even routinely recommended by the medical community for a man his age. “If I had followed the Canadian or American Medical Association guidelines, I wouldn’t have seen my 46th birthday, never mind reaching 50.” That made the charity a no-brainer. Today, the group will announce plans to split the proceeds between three organizations dedicated to prostate cancer research and awareness. But this, says Wilson, “is just the starter kit for giving. There’s no joy for us in giving from the grave.” That concept is clearly catching in Calgary. One of the city’s largest nightclubs was taken over by an oil executive for the private fundraising event last Saturday and another birthday baron hired singer Chris Isaak to help raise money at his party. Next week, music producer David Foster will be performing in a private Mount Royal garden party to motivate invitees to buy entire tables at a children’s charity gala in September. Single tickets to that event go for $1,500 — and all 800 seats are expected to be sold through word of mouth and without public advertising. “There’s a wave of wealth in the West,” understates Wilson. “We hope to encourage people who have the Saskatchewan mindset of giving the family farm to the university when they die to direct their dollars while they’re still alive.” If the oilpatch remains buoyantly bouncing on petrodollar windfalls for another decade, Wilson sees a massive wealth transfer coming to charitable causes. And he’s already fielding e-mails from 50-year-olds who want join the club of party hearty hosts at their 60th birthdays. “I can’t even imagine what that will be like,” grins Wilson. “A lot bigger, for sure.” Photos courtesy, www.picturethisdigital.com Brett Wilson, chairman of First Energy Capital Corp., left, was among the hosts of a massive 50th birthday party Saturday at the Jubilee Auditorium. Thirteen community leaders celebrate turning 50 together in a cancer fundraiser. Left to right, back row: Michael Smith, John Brussa, Keith MacPhail, Jeffrey Kohn, Brian McLachlan. Middle: Glenn Hamilton, Brett Wilson, Donald Hansen, Paul Wanklyn. Front: Gregg Scott, Robert Proud, Jim Davidson, Matthew Briste. Brett Wilson, left, and John Kohn celebrate at the Jubilee Auditorium.