The canonical fall social season wrapped in November. Among the Austin parties that preceded Thanksgiving are these champions for various causes.
Night of Giving Dangerously
The Austin Children’s Shelter made all kinds of news during its fall gala. The charity sustained its 007 brand and raised $1 million in an event that included faux gambling and spy thriller opening gambit.
Yet the news that had knots of guests gabbing was that Bill McLellan, the banking and nonprofit leader married to the shelter’s Kelly White, confirmed that he was running for mayor.
Since Rep. Mark Strama dropped out of the picture to lead Google Fiber locally, prognosticators at the party assumed that Council Members Sheryl Cole, Laura Morrison and Mike Martinez would also step forward, perhaps joined by Bill Spelman.
Qui to the Cure
You just knew the food would be good. After all, the party is cleverly named after incredibly modest celebrity chef Paul Qui.
But who knew the benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation at Brazos Hall would be so tightly organized, from the front of the house to the grill stations set up in the alley?
Even the wine, chosen by Qui sommelier June Rodil, was memorable. The space was set up with high tables to the center, lounge and dining tables in bordering reserved sections.
I met several people in a crowd of smartly dressed thirty- and fortysomethings who had witnessed cystic fibrosis close-up in their families. Serious stuff.
But, oh, the food, the intensely flavored food!
When President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, he said, “We dedicate this part of the airwaves to the enlightenment of the people.”
Recently, one of his granddaughters, Catherine Robb, took the podium at a LBJ Presidential Library reception as the chairwoman of the board for KLRU.
Complementing speeches by the TV station’s Bill Stotesbery and the library’s Mark Updegrove, Robb not only talked about her grandfather’s vision for what was then called “educational television” but also recounted how Lady Bird Johnson was often glued to public TV.
“She had a crush on Jim Lehrer,” Robb joked. “You knew not to interrupt her ‘dates’ with Lehrer.”
One could easily spot Sarah Bird, Steven Weinberg, Steve Harrigan, Bill Wittliff and any number of similarly accomplished authors.
The occasion: The Illumine gala to benefit the Austin Public Library Friends Foundation, a group that could use a deft name change. Every conversation during the cocktail part of the evening led to new ideas, old stories, fascinating figures.
Among the things I learned: the place near El Paso where Juan de Oñate’s expedition crossed the Rio Grande and, thus, the likely first spot for European-style theatrical performance in what is now the United States; the street above Barton Hills that hosts a cluster of A.D. Stenger modern homes; and the existence of a trio of outstanding women who are quietly funding an emotional intelligence program for Austin schools.
Black and White Ball
People attend charity events for disparate reasons. At this gala for Boys and Girls Clubs, and I ran into charity professionals, such as the group’s highly respected executive Mark Kiester; inveterate charity volunteers, like Rusty Morrison; and charity backers like auto dealer and relative newcomer Carl Barnett.
Perking up the mix were supporters of Zach Theatre, like lobbyist Andrea McWilliams, and my chat partner for the early part of the evening, University of Texas math major and pianist Derrek Christian. He was there to cheer on Zach’s pre-professional troupe, which provided the entertainment.
Dine for Good
Sarah Evans, who lives in Driftwood, founded Well Aware, which has for some time been providing clean water for thousands of people in Kenya. Sometimes, her group teams up with another Austin charity, Turk and Christy Pipkin’s Nobelity Project.
They were all at Well Aware’s Dine for Good event at Olive & June restaurant.
I met Mike Mutuku, who handles the group’s efforts on the ground in Kenya and who expressed awe about the good condition of American roads. Also spent time with Melanie Fish of EnviroMedia and her wide-traveling mother, Joyce Faye Cox.
The big announcement: Well Aware, whose projects all work swimmingly, will branch out into fixing other water systems that have gone wrong.
That Neil Diaz knows how to throw a party. The expert on event planning and public relations struck on a vintage theme for the New Milestones Foundation gala, staged at the Four Seasons Hotel.
At first I was a bit confused. I saw a flapper from the 1920s, a party girl from the 1940s, a poodle skirter from the 1950s and some people who looked as if they just left an Andy Warhol opening in the 1960s. Then I realized: It all works together as a sort of post-Halloween salute to decades past.
Help Clifford Help Kids
Music is the theme, naturally, for the informal gala named for late blues promoter and club owner Clifford Antone.
The benefit for American Youthworks climaxes with a concert, this year headlined by Bob Schneider. Yet many other notes during the evening at ACL Live reflected the musical theme, including the prize packages auctioned off — in a dignified manner — as folks dug into dessert.
These included hotel/concert packages, signed guitars, private entertainments and so forth, mostly tied to Austin musicians. It makes a nice break from the vacation homes, exotic trips or cases of old wine often on the auction block. (It’s not like I’m bidding, but I do track the items.)
Hicks & Co. Anniversary
At the Palm Door, Hicks & Co. Environmental Consulting celebrated 25 years in business. Two and a half decades ago, the business of preparing environmental impact statements barely existed. Yet Sandy Hicks and Tom Van Zandt persevered. Among their biggest projects to vet: Texas 130 and Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
Their employees past and present joined for a particularly enlightening reception that promised to last well into the night. I was drawn to the ways that the two generations of Van Zandts present traced their lineage to Isaac Van Zandt, namesake for the Texas county, and Townes Van Zandt, the late, lamented songwriter.