Ann Richards School, Austin Clubhouse, Toast of the Town with ‘My All American’

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Cleo and Rick Morales at Ann Richards School Gala.
Cleo and Rick Morales at Ann Richards School Gala.

Cleo and Rick Morales at Ann Richards School Gala.

SCHOOL: The late, much-missed Gov. Ann Richards deftly combined merrymaking with public speaking. It was heartening to see teens and adults following in her footsteps during the Reach for the Stars Gala that benefits the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. Sure, some are practiced speakers. Holland Taylor, for instance, played Ann Richards on Broadway as part of a distinguished acting career. She humorously and variously urged the guests to “write a check.” Actress, comedian, activist, writer and producer Lily Tomlin, another friend of the governor’s, deftly accepted the Ann Richards Legacy Award. (During a marathon, long-distance brainstorming session, her wife, Jane Wagner, wrote the famous “born with a silver foot in his mouth” line for the 1992 Democratic Convention keynote address). Yet the real oratorical revelations came from the confident graduates from the Class of 2015. Dennis Vera welcomed the crowd like a pro; Alexis Taylor interviewed “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell on video; Monica Martinez spoke of resilience; Josie MacLean interviewed alumna Monica Herrera, now at Johns Hopkins University; Georgia Hernandez and Karina Mendez interviewed Tomlin on video. I’ve rarely been in the presence of so much eloquence.

HEALTH: It’s a place, in the words of a member, where it’s OK to be not OK. The Austin Clubhouse is a place where recovery from mental illness is possible. Members run the show at a rented 1,800-square-foot community center where they prepare and share lunches. At other times, they hang out or use the computers. The club also delivers on work placement and outdoor outings. As such, it’s also one of the proven Austin bastions against homelessness. We learned at the group’s simple, good-hearted box luncheon that they want to expand, find their own building and plant outposts to serve the metro’s sprawl. In an age when mental health is finally getting the respect and attention it deserves, the Austin Clubhouse is one of the solutions that works efficiently and effectively.

MOVIES: It was impressive enough to mingle with a half dozen members of the Longhorns’ ’69 football squad. Yet there was so much more to this Toast of the Town party that benefited the Neal Kocurek scholars through the St. David’s Foundation. I spoke at length with “My All American” co-producer Kell Cahoon, who told me about the distinct acting styles of stars Aaron Eckhart, who plays a gruff Darryl Royal, and Finn Wittrock, who inhabits the role of Freddie Steinmark, the scrappy UT defensive player whose fight with cancer is the movie’s turning point. Writer-director Angelo Pizzo (he penned “Hoosiers,” “Rudy”) spoke of two constituencies: Steinmark’s surviving family, friends and teammates, on one hand, and the moviegoing public, which is more interested in a good, thumping story than play-by-play historical accuracy. From the four clips he showed the crowd of perhaps 50 at an estate on Stratford Mountain, I’d say the Austin-shot movie has a decent chance of landing well when it is released in October.


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