George Strait, Ed Sheeran among guests at Louis Messina’s 70th

July 31, 2017
Beau Bedford, Louis Messina and Shakey Graves at Messina’s 70th birthday party. Contributed by Carley E. Photography

Christine Messina knows a thing or two about staging events. So when her husband, Austin music titan Louis Messina, turned the big seven-oh, she knew just what to do. She threw a tuneful party at Arlyn Studios and made sure that every detail, down to a fantasy candy counter, sang.

An air-conditioned tent invited guests in from this sweltering South Austin night. Studio co-leader Freddy Fletcher welcomed visitors deeper into the quiet, low-ceilinged rooms, which turn out to be ideal for chatting in a crowd. Not far off was Bobbie Nelson, Fletcher’s mother and Willie Nelson’s sister.

The guests nibbled on savory and sweet offerings and, at one climactic moment, threw back Jell-O shots, perfect for the music promoter who cut his teeth on the New Orleans scene.

The well-mannered Texas Gentlemen performed, but never far from the stage were major musical artists George Strait, Ed Sheeran, Shakey Graves and Shawn Mendes. You see, the birthday boy runs a high-powered Austin-based promotion business whose clients have included Strait, Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney and other top-grossing acts. Ages ago, he also started the concert end of what is now the Live Nation touring behemoth.

Swift’s 13 Management team and parents Andrea and Scott Swift were also at the party.

Christine Messina, who serenely oversaw the sprawling scene, held high positions in business and the arts in Houston and, since moving the family — older boys, younger girls — to Austin, she’s been active in philanthropy. She also founded a sweet business, the Candy Jar in the Hill Country Galleria.

Back to the party: DJ ulovei (Miguel Angel) kept things cool. He showed me some wounds from his well-reported sword stabbing earlier this year.

Among the other guests were John Graham (director of the Erwin Center), Dan Murphy (VP of the New England Patriots), Ron VanDeVeen (CEO and president of MetLife Stadium), Clint Higham (Morris Higham Management in Nashville), Jason Owen (CEO and president of Sandbox Entertainment Nashville) and Steve Moore (former CEO of the Country Music Association).

I talked for some time with Austin’s Anna and Will Hardeman while passing pleasantries with Rebecca and Bryan Hardeman. Jewelry designer Nak Armstrong and interior designer Mark Cravotta seemed always just out of conversational reach.

Meanwhile, Louis was his usual warm, youthful, slightly mischievous self. Many more such parties to come, I’m sure, after his actual birthday, which was July 25.

By the way, singer Sheeran touched me. By accident, but still. …

New to the Bullock

The Texas State Preservation Board has chosen museum veteran Catherine Taylor to lead the giant Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Most recently director of museum resources at the Nantucket Historical Association, the native Texan also served as a district superintendent for California State Parks, overseeing nine museums and state historic parks. She also played multiple roles at the California State Railroad museum.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from California State University-Sacramento and graduated from the Museum Management Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.

“We expect her wealth of experience in all facets of museum operations to take the Bullock to new levels of excellence,” said Rod Welsh, State Preservation Board executive director. The board oversees the Capitol, Capitol Extension, Capitol visitors center, Governor’s Mansion, Texas State Cemetery and their grounds, as well as the history museum. “The museum is at a pivotal point. It will be the centerpiece of an exciting project to redevelop the Texas Capitol Complex into a thriving cultural district that connects the north and south sides of Congress Avenue around the state Capitol.”

The museum attracts more than 600,000 visitors a year and collaborates with more than 700 museums, libraries, archives and individuals to display original artifacts and host exhibitions. It does not collect artifacts.

Current and upcoming exhibits at the Bullock include “The Nau Civil War Collection,” “Pong to Pokémon: The Evolution of Electronic” and “Texas Rodeo.”

Here comes Annie Leibovitz

The Long Center just added celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz to its fall lineup. She will appear at Dell Hall on Nov. 13.

The appearance is timed to the publication of her new book, “Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016.”

Although she has produced memorable portraits for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair and Vogue, she hasn’t published all that many bound collections of her work.

Leibovitz had a close personal relationship with late author and essayist Susan Sontag that she described variously. In 2009, she found herself in extreme financial crisis and put her multiple houses and rights to her photographs up as collateral for a large loan. It appears that those debts have been resolved.

The Long Center reminds us that among her subjects have been Venus and Serena Williams, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Cate Blanchett, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Gloria Steinem, Rihanna, Meryl Streep, Zaha Hadid, Anna Wintour, Leonard Cohen, Jasper Johns, Caitlyn Jenner, LeBron James, Jeff Koons, Joan Didion, President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II.

She’ll present a selection of her work during this appearance.