Precursors Awards Luncheon, Long Center’s Purple Party, Pink Martini and more

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Alisa Weldon and Lynn Yeldell at the Purple Party for the Long Center.
Judge Harriett Murphy with UT President Bill Powers and a gentleman to be named at the Precursors Awards Luncheon.

Judge Harriett Murphy with UT President Bill Powers and Bill Lyons  at the Precursors Awards Luncheon.

SCHOOL: “Greatness attracts greatness,” says the Rev. Joseph C. Parker. “I am in awe of the greatness in this room.” The Precursors are African-American leaders who attended the University of Texas more than 40 years ago. They meet regularly, support the university, and encourage the next generation of students to excel. They also remember a time when their ancestors would not have been welcome on campus. Parker, an attorney as well as senior pastor of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, gave a rousing keynote address. Judge Harriett Murphy listed all the ways that UT had changed for the good under President Bill Powers before conferring special honors on him. Former Austin City Council Member Charles Urdy did the same for honoree Ada Collins Anderson, whose family’s history is deeply entwined with Travis County’s. She recently gave the naming donation ($3 million) for a Huston-Tillotson University clinic that will work closely with UT’s new Dell Medical School. Celebrating her time at UT while working on a master’s degree 50 years ago, the 90-plus-year-old directed the best one-liner at Powers: “Neophyte!” Others receiving Precursor honors were engineers Lonnie Fogle and Cleo Jenkins, as well as businessman Carl Huntley.

Alisa Weldon and Lynn Yeldell at the Purple Party for the Long Center.

Alisa Weldon and Lynn Yeldell at the Purple Party for the Long Center.

ARTS: The Long Center’s backers like a theme. Such as purple. The color was everywhere during the Purple Party, including pops of purple on the cocktail attire of several hundred guests at the benefit. Former Mayor Bruce Todd and attorney Cliff Ernst — both longtime supporters of the performing arts venue — wore their special purple suits. Others, like communications expert Lisa O’Neill, couldn’t find much purple in their wardrobes, and so selected some appropriately hued accessories. Another theme for the dinner and auction in a tent on the terrace: Blues Brothers. Every place setting came with sunglasses and hats in the manner of the musical act that was to follow on the Long Center stage. Power couple Lynn Yeldell and Alisa Weldon didn’t need the gear: They arrived so attired. During dinner, I spent considerable time with Sue Meller, longtime manager of the Headliners Club, who is compiling the storied institution’s 60th anniversary history. You know that’s going to be a story for your social columnist as well.

MUSIC: It was hard to imagine anyone but China Forbes as the lead vocalist for Pink Martini. Then along came Storm Large. Tall, statuesque, almost a muscular throw-back to the blond bombshells of the 1940s and ’50s, Large is larger than life. Her voice is a gift from the gods. She now alternates with Forbes and held an ACL Live crowd in the palm of her hand. At a certain point in the entirely entertaining concert, I lost track of the number of languages sung on the stage by this global act based in Portland, Ore. Large was up to every genre, including “The Thrill Is Gone” as a B.B. King tribute. The traditional conga line that accompanies the group’s climactic version of “Brazil” generated as much frenzy as the first time I’d witnessed it. At one point, an audience member next to us on the first row of the mezzanine asked why we weren’t dancing. “Fear of heights,” we said. “Not fear of dancing.”


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