Back home, Dennis Quaid recalls Bellaire childhood: ‘an all-American upbringing’

By Charlotte Aguilar

Forget FEMA and the Red Cross. Bellaire’s own special brand of hurricane relief has blown into town with an crooked smile, down-home charm and heart — and a gift for selfies.

Actor-musician Dennis Quaid appeared Friday night at a meet-and-greet at the home of Mayor Andrew Friedberg and his wife, Jennifer, to catch up with old friends, hear tales of Hurricane Harvey, and share his idyllic memories of a childhood on Maple Street.

“Growing up in this town was the most beautiful childhood experience to have,” he said to the gathering, as his own 10-year-old twins, Thomas and Zoe, listened. “Walk three blocks to school, go to Evergreen Pool. We were always on our bikes, we were always just kids.

“Bellaire was all about kids and families — really great families — a great place to grow up, an all-American upbringing, really.”

Everyone moved in for a photo opp.

One after another, residents and city staff stepped in for a quick chat and a selfie — with the actor adeptly grabbing cellphones, positioning himself perfectly, grinning broadly, and snapping.

Some of his former classmates, including Friedberg’s mother, Linda, and Realtor Rachel Crochet, compared school recollections with Quaid, who got the acting bug at Bellaire High School (Class of 1972).

But most of the conversation centered around his reason for coming back to Bellaire — the devastating flooding that impacted more than 40 percent of the city’s homes and hit his old neighborhood the hardest.

Quaid listened and asked questions of city leaders and staff and residents, such as former Councilmember Millie Hast, who suffered major damage to her residence and who had to be rescued from high water just a stone’s throw from where he was raised.

Quaid said when he became aware of Bellaire’s losses, he knew he wanted to help but waited until he knew he “wouldn’t be in the way.” He introduced his brother, Buddy, and sister-in-law, Marielle Quaid, who worked closely with him and the city to set up a free, fundraising “block party” set for 1-5 p.m. today (Saturday, Nov. 11) at Bellaire Town Square, with his Dennis Quaid and the Sharks band as the headliners.

“We didn’t have to call him — he called us,” pointed out Friedberg.

Bellaire’s Assistant Director of Parks, Recreation & Facilities Cheryl Bright-West was the point person who was surprised to learn quickly she wouldn’t be dealing with assistants but with Quaid directly, as she coordinated the event.

“I found him to be so gracious and kind and genuinely interested in the concert and genuinely caring about the Bellaire community — just a very nice person,” she said.

Proceeds from the block party — from underwriting, T-shirt sales and donations — will benefit Bellaire Brave, established to help the estimated 20 percent of city staff who threw themselves into emergency duty for five days straight in Bellaire during and after the hurricane while suffering their own losses.

“Setting aside their own needs at home, they were busy taking care of all of us,” Friedberg pointed out in his remarks introducing Quaid.

It was precisely the kind of spirit that Quaid remembered and will celebrate today. “God bless all of you — it’s still the greatest community that I can think of in this whole country,” he said.

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Dennis Quaid addresses the gathering at the home of Mayor Andrew Friedberg and wife Jennifer Friday. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Quaid listened earnestly to Millie Hast’s experience with serious flooding that necessitated her rescue during Harvey. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Mayor Andrew Friedberg’s mother, Linda, was among former classmates who caught up with Quaid. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Selfies, selfies and more selfies. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

Quaid’s 10-year-old twins, Zoe and Thomas, showed the family grin and charm. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)