Recently, we glammed out with Texas movie stars, saluted two of the state’s sports legends, heard from Austin business givers, got a bit groovy at the Long Center, took in a fashion show for a worthy cause, and graded area education.
Texas Film Awards
“I’m not going anywhere,” Shirley MacLaine quips. “And anyway, I’d be right back.”
Pound for pound, there is more glam at the Texas Film Awards than at any other Austin social event. And that is a good thing, since the Austin Film Society fundraiser is a marathon. Photographers show up around 5 p.m. Guests linger long after 11 p.m.
It starts with a red carpet worthy of the name. Not just award winners, but Austin film and philanthropy royalty.
That is followed by a tasty dinner and a heady, though extended, live auction, which included precious time with the makers of Showtime’s “The Circus,” donated by politico Mark McKinnon, a gift that brought in a cool $60,000o. A double package allowing two bidders to appear in a Richard Linklater movie with Cate Blanchett went for a total of $42,000.
Tens of thousands were also raised for filmmaker grants.
Austin actress Olivia Applegate got things really rolling with a tribute to the late Debbie Reynolds, an El Paso native, and Suzanna Choffel put her own spin on “Singin’ in the Rain.” Later, director Robert Rodriguez eulogized late Texas actor Bill Paxton, then shared video tributes from Tom Cruise and Kevin Bacon.
Film Society leader Rebecca Campbell touted two top-quality screens in the works for the group’s upcoming art cinema, as well as programs that set Texas apart as a “film culture.”
Tye Sheridan, winner of the Rising Star Award, stumbled and choked up charmingly as he admitted this was his first acceptance speech. It won’t be the last for the star of “Mud” and other Austin-linked movies.
Later, the movie’s director, Jeff Nichols, and its producer, Sarah Green, were also honored. She was lauded as somebody “who gets movies made,” and he talked about his Texan wife, who persuaded him to cast Matthew McConaughey in “Mud” and also to make the Academy Award-nominated “Loving.”
Henry Cisneros, the first Hispanic mayor of a major American city, introduced Hector Galán, the first documentary maker to win a Texas Film Award. (Why did that take so long?)
Galán gave a great speech, rich with history, apt for the man who has told us more than almost anyone else about the Mexican-American experience.
“I’m glad to be anywhere!” proclaimed honorary Texan MacLaine as she picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award and also the Star of Texas Award for “Terms of Endearment.” “I’m going to pin these up into earrings.”
History-Making Texans Awards
It isn’t every night that you share the room with Nolan Ryan and Earl Campbell. Yet the ceremony for the History-Making Awards for the State History Museum Foundation routinely makes history each Texas Independence Day. The dominating pitcher and running back were in good company.
We sat with deeply connected businesswoman Diana Zuniga while listening to the accolades and watching the videos for the two athletes, whose career trajectories tracked closely the success of teams in Austin, Houston, Dallas and New Orleans.
All the hoopla helped fill the coffers of the State History Museum Foundation, which provides a big chunk of change to run the Bullock Texas State History Museum.
Austin Gives Luncheon
We’ve watched jewelry maker Kendra Scott grow her business from day one, and she has always given back. Always.
It was gratifying, then, to hear her explain this conscious strategy at a luncheon for Austin Gives, a project of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce. For instance, all her stores — more than 50 of them already! — employ a community outreach leader.
Some Austin Gives winners to report from among charitable companies: Big Hearts: Round Rock Express. Charitable Champions: Hoar Construction. Bold Givers: Keller Williams Realty International.
This event nicely complements the earlier Philanthropy Day Luncheon, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. I’m sorry to say I missed that essential annual affair in February.
Among the honorees on that day: Patsy Woods Martin and Jack Martin, Pete Winstead, Alamo Drafthouse and Taylor Thompson, a 17-year-old high school student who raised $85,000 to build a Habitat for Humanity house in Austin to honor his late mother.
Peace, Love, Long Center
I checked my closets. Groovy is clearly not my thing. For this 1960s-themed party at the Long Center, I pulled out a sports jacket covered in a black-and-navy oversized houndstooth pattern. When I purchased it at a resale shop decades ago, I called it my Dave Steakley jacket, after the always natty Zach Theatre director. To tell the truth, it barely registers in his theatrically styled universe.
Other guests — such as very Sgt. Pepper-like Olga Campos and Kevin Benz — went all out. At the head of our table were super-patrons Marc and Carolyn Seriff, who head off to the Big Apple soon to serve as producers for the Broadway musical “Anastasia.” Meanwhile, I got to know some charming folks whose lives weave in and out of Austin’s creative economy.
Celebration of Life Luncheon for Seton Breast Care Center
Just slap me in between Mary Herr Tally and Carla McDonald and I’m good for a 150-minute charity luncheon. This silky affair attracts the top socials in town, and almost every table at the JW Marriott Hotel was populated with philanthropic leaders eager to make the fight against breast cancer more manageable for Central Texans.
This multifaceted event for the spa-like Seton Breast Care Center starts with a lot of mingling, then some speakers, a brisk Neiman Marcus fashion show, then more speakers, videos and entertainers, all very compelling. In fact, Kendra Scott once again provided some of the most forceful arguments for giving, in this case to purchase a state-of-the-art mammography apparatus that one source told me normally goes for $300,000.
The highlight of the lunch for me, however, was hearing about the current lives and concerns of the well-matched Tally and McDonald, who have upcoming Zach Theatre and Austin Pets Alive events as well.
State of the City Dinner for the League of Women Voters
Nearly 100 years old, the League is a pretty restrained group of good-government types who, no matter their political affiliations, are collectively appalled by recent attempts to make voting more difficult rather than less so. Born out of the suffrage movement, this group knows what it means to be denied the vote in order to preserve an existing order.
Yet among the high points of their annual dinner was a madcap auction run by light-hearted Mary Gordon Spence — who offered additional items from her seemingly vast personal storage — and a comic turn from author Sarah Bird, whose very presence proved an auction item. She leaned a little heavily on the current president of the United States, out of character for this nonpartisan assembly. Such things are ephemeral.
The most serious insights, however, came from Susan Dawson, a spellbinding speaker from the E3 Alliance, an advocacy group. In 20 minutes, she broke down the successes and failures of the Austin-area educational system. Answering a final question, she came down hard for school choice, but against vouchers.