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Getting ready to chat with Vanessa Williams in Niagara Falls

When Vanessa Williams tells you a story, she doesn't spare the details. I learned that in July when I interviewed the actress and singer about her Buffalo wedding to Jim Skrip of Depew.

I'm guessing we'll see that today, too, when I moderate a conversation with Williams at Leadership Niagara's sold-out Leader of the Year luncheon at the Conference & Event Center of Niagara Falls.

Williams grew up and lives in downstate New York, but she's become a fixture in the Buffalo area. Her husband is from Depew and graduated from St. Bonaventure University. Last fall, she sang the national anthem for the Buffalo Bills. Her mother, Helen Tinch Williams, grew up here and attended SUNY Fredonia.

And of course, Williams and Skrip's three-day celebration here in July grabbed national attention.

I interviewed Williams on a Sunday afternoon, one day after her ceremony and reception. Twenty-eight minutes into a conversation loaded with specifics, I thought I had what I needed for the story: I could recite the poem that Williams' brother, the actor Chris Williams, wrote for the bride and groom. I could tell you what celebrities came to town (Ana Ortiz, Christopher Gorham, Mark Indelicato, Tony Plana, Teri Hatcher). I could tell you what coffee joint Williams and Skrip's guests liked to hit (Tim Hortons).

I could even tell you the pattern of the tablecloths at the welcome dinner inside Pearl Street Grill (blue-and-white gingham).

But just as the conversation was ending, I realized there was one thing I couldn't tell you: The color and design of Williams' wedding dress.

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams married Jim Skrip, of Depew, in a secret wedding at the Statler on July 4.

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams married Jim Skrip, of Depew, in a secret wedding at the Statler on July 4.

Rookie error. I forgot to ask about the dress and, newbie nuptials writer though I was, I sensed that would leave a gaping hole in the story.

Hang on please, I asked Williams, slipping in that final question: "I neglected to ask you about your gown — and I know I should."

She laughed. It was a short, simple, soft laugh, but a revelatory one too. Williams is a woman with a high vision and a mind for detail, but she's down to earth — all of which should make for a good conversation in Niagara Falls.

Here's the high vision: As a good actress will, she appreciates a solid narrative arc, even for her own wedding. She and Skrip, with their guests, celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Stanislaus Bishop & Martyr Church, which is where Skrip's late parents were married. It's also home to the angel statues once housed at the since-burned St. Mary’s Redemptorist, where Williams' parents wed.

“We felt it was meant to be for us to have our wedding here,” Williams told me.

The actual wedding ceremony, officiated by Vanessa's brother Chris, took place at Statler City, which was decked out for the reception with an Egyptian magic carpet theme — a reference to the Nile cruise on which Williams and Skrip met.

And here's the down-to-earth: In telling me about her wedding, Williams dished on the Arabian tents and Moroccan lanterns in Statler City as readily as she scooped about the hot dog sauce served at their Friday night welcome dinner.

“Babe,” Williams asked her husband during our interview, “it’s called slime sauce, is that what you picked up?”

“Texas Red Hot Sauce,” Skrip clarified.

Williams works the details, whether glitzy or saucy. At today's luncheon,  we'll talk about what drives Williams as an actress, a singer, a wife and a mother. We'll get her take on the Buffalo Niagara region. We're opening the conversation to suggested questions, too. (Tweet me at @timoshei or email me through the link in my byline.)

Maybe her wedding will come up. But if it does, I won't have to ask her about the gown (or gowns, as it turns out). That info, I got. Williams wore an ivory and gold-trimmed dress for the church, followed by a gold dress at the reception. Both were designed by Carmen Marc Valvo, who was also at the wedding.


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