Memorial set for Austin LGBT activist Ceci Gratias

Earlier this year, the Human Rights Campaign Austin honored LGBT activist and organizer Cecilia “Ceci” Lourdes Bulaong Gratias with the Bettie Naylor Visibility Award at its annual gala.

On Sunday, Gratias died.

Ceci Gratis in January. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

A memorial will be held at Austin City Hall Plaza at 4 p.m., Nov. 12. Details about a Ceci Gratias Legacy Project will be revealed by Mayor Steve Adler and City Council Member Jimmy Flannigan, for whom she most recently tended constituent services in District 6.

After the memorial, to commemorate Gratias’ work with early Austin Pride Parades, admirers will process from the plaza to Congress Avenue then to West Fourth Street to Oilcan Harry’s club for a celebration of her life. Guests are encouraged with wear purple, her favorite color.

As detailed in our profile of Gratias, she served as an aide to former Mayor Pro Tem Gus Garcia, who encouraged her to volunteer for groups such as Out Youth and the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She also served as the business group’s first full-time president and CEO.

Later this month, the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce will salute her life and legacy at its annual National Dinner Awards.

During our interview in a cafe at the Domain Northside, Gratias, who grew up in The Philippines, remained unreservedly open and upbeat, even though she had recently broken up with her partner, was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy.


All hail SaulPaul and the other 2017 AU40 Awards winners!

We couldn’t make the Austin Under 40 Awards ceremony this year, but we can sure follow up on our advance story with a list of winners and a hearty cheer.

RELATED: Matt Curtis sings the praises of the Austin Under 40 Awards.

Austinite of the Year
SaulPaul, Musician with a Message, ReRoute Music Group

WAG Photo SaulPaul 4.14(1)
SaulPaul is the AU40 Austinite of the Year. Contributed

Arts, Media, and Entertainment
SaulPaul, Musician with a Message, ReRoute Music Group

Culinary Arts and Hospitality
Mason H. Ayer, Chief Executive Officer, Kerbey Lane Cafe

Community Service and Nonprofit
Amy E. Mills, Chief Executive Officer, Emancipet

RELATED: Amy Mills takes Emancipet’s animal mission national.

Engineering, Architecture, and Design
Daniel Goodman Carl, Regional Director, BSA LifeStructures

Entrepreneurship and Startup
Matt Stanley, Founder, President and CEO of Sundance Memory Care

Financial and Insurance Services
Rich Coffey, Founder, Coffey Advisory Group, LLC

Government and Public Affairs
Rudolph K. Metayer, Litigator, Chamberlain | McHaney

Milam F Newby, Managing Partner – Austin, Vinson & Elkins LLP

Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations
Maria Orozova, Founder + President, The MOD Studio

Medicine, Healthcare, and Life Sciences
Lauren Chauret, Partner & Director of Operations, PTV Healthcare Capital

Mentor of the Year
Ann Jerome, Executive Director, American Heart Association

Real Estate
Mark Strub,  überAGENT® + owner of STRÜB RESIDENTIAL

Sports, Wellness, and Fitness
Rashanna Moss, Owner- Pure Barre Austin

Technology and Sciences
Jeffrey Palermo, CEO, Clear Measure, Inc.

Youth and Education
Larkin Tackett, Executive Director, IDEA Public Schools, Austin

UPDATE: Left off of AU40’s original official list was:

Engineering, Energy, Mobility and Systems Sciences
Becky Hollis Diffen, Attorney, McGuireWoods



Preservation Austin lauds our people and places with 2016 Merit Awards

ALERT: The Preservation Austin Merit Awards are on their way!

The Merit Awards Celebration will take at the Driskill Hotel on Friday, Oct.28 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The featured speaker will be Paul Gunther, executive director of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy in New York City.

And now for the winners:

Hendrick Southside Medical
500 Chicon. Photo by Kevin Halliburton, AIA

500 CHICON (1923) – East Cesar Chavez  Recipient: Texas Society of Architects Preservation Award for Sustainability.

Highland Avenue Bungalow. Photo by Whit Preston.

HIGHLAND AVENUE BUNGALOW (1918) – Old West Austin Recipient: Nick and Kathleen Deaver Preservation Award for Contemporary Addition to an Historic Building.

Neill-Cochran House Museum. Photo: Bill McCullough

NEILL-COCHRAN HOUSE MUSEUM (1855-1856) – West Campus Recipient: National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Preservation Award for Restoration.

Sparky Park_Photograph Courtesy of Austin Parks and Recreation Department.JPG

NORTH AUSTIN ELECTRIC SUBSTATION AT SPARKY POCKET PARK (1930) – North University City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department Preservation Award for Rehabilitation.

ARNO NOWOTNY BUILDING (1857) – University of Texas “Little Campus” Recipient: University of Texas at Austin Preservation Award for Restoration.

Pohl House. Photo by Trey McWhorter, Courtesy of Mid Tex Mod.

DR. DONALD AND MARJORIE POHL HOUSE (1955) – Highland Park West/Balcones Recipient: Trisha and Douglas Shepard Preservation Award for Rehabilitation. (Here’s my story on saving Austin’s midcentury modernist gems.)

CEMETERY MASTER PLAN + OAKWOOD ANNEX LADIES RESTROOM City of Austin Parks & Recreation Department Special Recognition for Outstanding Planning + Preservation of Cultural Landscape. (Here’s my story on Oakwood Cemetery.)

SAVE MUNY Special Recognition for Outstanding Public Service: Lions Municipal Golf Course National Register Listing . (Here’s my story on a century of Lions Club life in Austin.)

JILL AND STEPHEN WILKINSON  Special Recognition for Outstanding Public Service: Neighborhood Preservation in Aldridge Place and Heritage Neighborhoods. (Here’s my story on the Wilkinson’s campaign.)

Hill Country Nights: 19 promising parties that lift Austin into early October


Socially, we aren’t holding out for the real fall. We’re hitting the nightly Austin parties like it was already sweater weather. That means some indoor-outdoor events. But anyone who has lived here for a few days knows to prepare for both. And yes, the biggest party here — Austin City Limits Music Festival — is all open air. Here’s hoping for a bit of chill by then.

Sept. 23: Hill Country Nights for Hill Country Conservancy. Fair Market.

Sept. 23: Tribeza Style Week Kick-Off Party. ACL Live.

Sept. 23: Grand Opening. Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center.

Sept. 24: Trash Makeover Challenge for Texas Campaign for the Environment. Scottish Rite Theater.

Sept. 24: Green Gate Farms is 10. 8310 Canoga Ave.

Sept. 25: Urbanity Cocktail Party for Octopus Club. 360 Condominiums Clubhouse.

Sept. 25: Inherit Austin’s Somewhere in Time. Huston-Tillotson University.

Sept. 25: Ken Hafertepe signs “The Material Culture of German Texans.” Neill-Cochran House.


Carver Museum East Austin recognition/reception awards ceremony with Powers 2008
Gregory Vincent will speak at iACT’s A Night Under One Sky party.


Sept. 27: A Night Under One Sky for iACT. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

Sept. 28: Austin City Social. Nordstrom Domain.

Sept. 28: Austin Book Arts Center’s First Birthday Bash. The North Door.


Sept. 29: Tribeza Style Week Fashion Show. Brazos Hall.

Sept. 29. Caritas Words of Hope / Harvey Penick Award dinner. Hyatt Regency.

Sept. 29: Equal Opportunity Day Gala for Austin Area Urban League. Austin Hilton.

Sept. 30: ACL Music Festival opening night. Zilker Park.

Oct. 1: “Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Musical” opens. Zach Theatre.

Oct. 6: Travis Audubon Luncheon. Austin Country Club.

Oct. 9: Franklin Barbecue, Bourbon & Brews for Project Transitions. 800 Congress.

Oct. 12: Film and Food Party for Austin Film Festival. Driskill Hotel.

48 Austin authors to toast on O. Henry’s Birthday

Every year on the short-story writer’s birthday (Sept. 11), the O. Henry Museum does readers an enormous service by producing a roll call of Austin authors with recently published books. We asked for a copy of the list to share with you. Not sure there’s another Texas city that could produce such a decent one. (Forgive the fact that they listed me. Didn’t lobby.)

  1. Zach Anner (“If at Birth You Don’t Succeed”)
  2. Michael Barnes (“Indelible Austin: Selected Histories”)
  3. Chris Barton (“Whoosh!”)
  4. Robert Jackson Bennett (“City of Blades”)51idip5zial-_sx331_bo1204203200_
  5. Sarah Bird (“A Love Letter to Texas Women”)
  6. H.W Brands (“The General vs. The President”)
  7. Douglas Brinkley (“Rightful Heritage”)
  8. Brandon Caro (“Old Silk Road”)
  9. Carolyn Cohagan (“Time Zero”)
  10. John T. Davis (“North Beach”)
  11. James R. Dennis (“North Beach”)
  12. Brent Douglass (“North Beach”)
  13. Casey Dunn (“Marfa Modern”)
  14. Jessica Dupuy (“United Tastes of Texas”)
  15. Ryann Ford (“The Last Stop”)
  16. Amy Gentry (“Good as Gone”)
  17. S.C. Gwynne (“The Perfect Pass”)
  18. Kali Nicole Gross “(Hannah Mary Tibbs and the Disembodied Torso”)MrLincoln-683.jpeg
  19. Stephen Harrigan (“A Friend of Mr. Lincoln”)
  20. James Haley (“The Shores of Tripoli”)
  21. Noah Hawley (“Before the Fall”)
  22. Bethany Hegedus (“Be the Change”)
  23. K.A. Holt (“House Arrest”)
  24. James Hornfischer (“The Fleet at Flood Tide”)
  25. Varian Johnson (“To Catch a Cheat”)
  26. Austin Kleon (“The Steal Like an Artist Journal”)
  27. Cynthia Levinson (“Hillary Rodham Clinton: Do All the Good You Can”)
  28. Beverly Lowry (“Who Killed These Girls?: Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders”)
  29. Jessica Luther (“Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football the Politics of Rape”)
  30. Karan Mahajan (“The Association of Small Bombs”)
  31. Barbara Morgan (“On Story”)Poet.jpg
  32. Karen Olsson (“All the Houses”)
  33. Daniel Oppenheimer (“Exit Right”)
  34. Maya Perez (“On Story”)
  35. Rene S. Perez II (“Seeing Off the Johns”)
  36. John Pipkin (“The Blind Astronomer’s Daughter”)
  37. Mary Beth Rogers (“Turning Texas Blue”)
  38. Ire’ne Lara Silva (“Blood Sugar Canto”)
  39. Jose Skinner (“Tombstone Race”)
  40. Dominic Smith (“The Last Painting of Sara de Vos”)
  41. Drew Nellins Smith (“Arcade”)
  42. DJ Stout (“Variations on a Rectangle”)
  43. Don Tate (“Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton”)51lafcijwvl
  44. Helen Thompson (“Marfa Modern”)
  45. Andrea Valdez (“How to Be a Texan”)
  46. Emma J. Virján (“What This Story Needs Is a Hush and a Shush”)
  47. Bill Wittliff (“The Devil’s Sinkhole”)
  48. Lawrence Wright (“The Terror Years”)










Best Texas rivers: Buffalo Bayou, Part 1


Some readers might ask why we have included a bayou in our quest to trace 50 Texas rivers. Actually, it’s our second one. Years ago, we traced Bastrop Bayou in the tidelands of Brazoria County.

In this case, Buffalo Bayou is one of the state’s most important waterways, historically and economically. At 65 miles long, it outstrips some watercourses that are given grander names (the Comal River, for instance, flows only 2.5 miles before it reachers the Guadalupe).

When you boil it down, a Texas bayou is really a river that was named by someone from Louisiana; a Texas creek was named by someone from Tennessee; and an arroyo was named by someone from Spain or Mexico, and so forth. Those names stuck.


We began our bayou adventure where we ended our tracing of the San Jacinto River — at the San Jacinto Monument. On dead-flat, brushy land at the juncture of the two waterways, the Texan army defeated Santa Ana and his Mexican troops. Surrounding that point at the Lynchburg Ferry are miles and miles of industral plants and gritty residential neighborhoods strung along the Houston Ship Channel, the largest such industrial agglomeration in the country if not the world. It’s awe-inspiring, though not in an entirely positive way.


Joe Starr and I started by perusing the small, old-fashioned historical museum at the base of the monument before ascending the tower — taller than the Washington Monument and built during the Depression — in a tiny elevator. The small interior deck faces mostly west, but also south and north, where we spotted the mouth of the bayou near the docked Battleship Texas. Pretty spectacular setting.


We next headed to old Harrisburg, a former port on the bayou and town that predated Houston, but now is a grim neighborhood within the city limits, split brazenly by freeways and railroad tracks. It took a little iPhone detective work to find the main historical marker here, located outside a modern drive-through bank. We never discovered the location for the marker that tells about Texas’ first railroad, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado, which embarked from here in 1853.


Getting down to the docks themselves has never been easy, even less so since 9/11. We were politely turned away, for instance, from the Turning Basin at the head of the Ship Channel by a security guard. But just upstream on the still-wide bayou, we tromped around Hidalgo Park, part of an Hispanic neighborhood alongside Navigation Boulevard that goes back to the turn of the last century. Here, the banks are high and thick with brush, but we got a good view of a rusty railroad bridge and, from a distance, the Turning Basin. A reminder how the port and the rails made this town.

Except for a landscaped area around the original Ninfa’s restaurant, this is an unlovely stretch of Houston that I predicted would resist gentrification. I was wrong. Already, the section of Navigation that abuts downtown has attracted condo-buyers, bicyclists and dog walkers, three signs of what’s to come.


Only a raving man camping atop a littered hill greeted us on the Buffalo Bayou Hike and Bike Trail near South Jensen Drive. A bankside theater sat across the bayou, but there was no human activity on either side. It continued to confound me that the bayou is so wide here. Later, I read that it is tidal all the way inland to Allen’s Landing, the starting point for historical Houston. Explains a lot.


Dodging the freeways that entangle downtown, we found a lovely historical bridge on McKee Street next to James Bute Park. A handy marker informed us that this area was also a little town with a spotty history. It, too, eventually was overshadowed by the metropolis around it.


Attempts to beautify and civilize the bayou get really intense at Allen’s Landing, whose old brick buildings were rediscovered by hippies when I was young, then later by the builders of University of Houston-Downtown.


Beautiful walkways, gates and other structures makes some sense as tourist attractions, but that’s not the crowd that huddled there this day.


We next explored Buffalo Bayou Park, part of a gargantuan program by the city to “green” its signature stream, mainly from downtown to the west. The amenities, including an upscale restaurant at Lost Lake, are, indeed, impressive. We walked out on a grand, empty pedestrian bridge.


I’m sure that if it were not so incredibly humid, more joggers and bikers would have taken advantage of the park’s intricate, recently flooded landscaping.


Our last stop of the day took us to Bayou Bend, the former home of philanthropist Ima Hogg, now an outpost of the Museum of Fine Arts-Houston. The parking lot located on the northwest bank off Memorial Drive was empty because, it turns out, the pedestrian bridge over the bayou, which leads to the house and gardens on the southeast bank, was under construction. We’ll come back in the spring when the azaleas are in bloom.

It’s worth noting that the bayou will still very high from summer rains. The vegetation along the banks in the River Oaks area is quite verdant. One could imagine what explorers or early settlers thought about this near-jungle when they first encountered it. We didn’t hike around the Hogg Bird Sanctuary. In fact, by this point, we could hardly stand being outside.

We settled instead for excellent Belgian fare at Cafe Brussels on Houston Avenue. The next day: Buffalo Bayou from its source to Memorial Park.

UPDATE: The river at the mouth of Buffalo Bayou was incorrectly identified in an earlier version of this post.


Rodeo Austin picks new leader

Rob Golding, new CEO of Rodeo Austin.

Rodeo Austin,  one of Austin’s signature events, has a new leader. Rob Golding, who has served in the past decade as founding principal, chairman and CEO of Live Oak Gottesman, a commercial real estate development and services company, takes over the venerable group that emphasizes entertainment and education, as well as preserving the culture of the West.

“(Golding) brings a strong background and expertise in executive leadership roles and community engagement,” said Laura Estes, director of marketing & merchandising for H-E-B said. “Rob will continue the vision and lasting impact Rodeo Austin delivers in empowering the youth of Greater Austin with entertaining and meaningful hands-on learning opportunities.”

Golding is no stranger to public service. He has been involved at the board level with numerous local organizations including the Urban Land Institute, Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, Austin Economic Development Corporation, Greater Austin Crime Commission, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“It is an honor to step into this role with Rodeo Austin,” Golding said. “The board, staff and incredible base of volunteers have built a terrific organization and I look forward to working with them on innovative ways to grow the presence and impact of the organization. I found the mission and professional challenge at Rodeo Austin irresistible.”

First envisioned in the 1930s, Rodeo Austin started as a livestock show staged across the street from the State Capitol. It later moved to the City Market at Seventh Street and East Avenue, then the City Coliseum near the Palmer Auditorium on the south riverfront. The first two utilitarian structures were demolished, the third was recycled as the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

After the rodeo moved to its current facility, the Travis County Expo Center on Decker Lane, it grew in size, but grew away from core Austin culture. No more parades down Congress Avenue. No more office closures or class cancellations. A breakdown of attendance is usually not made available, but it appeared for years that the group’s carnival far outstripped the rodeo sports, concerts or the nearby livestock show in popularity.

For decades, the rodeo’s powerful board of directors remained resolutely the province of a few loyal families.

Longtime CEO, Bucky Lamb, parted amicably with the group several months ago, according to rodeo spokeswoman Jennifer Stevens.

21 sizzling Austin parties for late September

Here’s a mid-September update on Austin parties that I prophesy will please.


Sept. 14: Liz Carpenter Lecture featuring Gloria Steinem. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 14. A Night with the Stars (Dancing with the Stars Austin). Dine.

Sept. 14: Chef’s Table Austin for Water to Thrive. Brodie Homestead.

Sept. 16: Imaginarium for the Thinkery. JW Marriott.

Sept. 16: Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. Long Center.

One of the historical treasures from the Briscoe Center.

Sept. 16: Briscoe Center’s “25 Years/25 Treasures” opening reception. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 17: Little Black Dress Soirée for Dress for Success. Palazzo Lavaca.

Sept. 18:Voting Rights in Texas and Beyond.” LBJ School.

Sept. 17: Ballet Austin Fête and fête*ish. JW Marriott.

Sept. 17: Opening of the Austin Opera season, “The Manchurian Candidate.” Long Center.

Sept. 17: Moonlight in the Gorge GalaCanyon Lake.

Tara Doolittle is among the journalists honored at the Mike Quinn Awards.


Sept. 17: Mike Quinn Awards Luncheon. Headliners Club. DATE CHANGED.

Sept 19: Upbring Golf. Avery Ranch Golf Club.

Sept. 23: Hill Country Nights for Hill Country Conservancy. Fair Market.

Sept. 23: Tribeza Style Week Kick-Off Party. ACL Live.

Sept. 23: Grand Opening. Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center.

Sept. 24: Trash Makeover Challenge for Texas Campaign for the Environment. Scottish Rite Theater.

Sept. 25: Inherit Austin’s Somewhere in Time. Huston-Tillotson University. DATE CHANGED.

Sept. 25: Ken Hafertepe signs “The Material Culture of German Texans.” Neill-Cochran House.


Sept. 28: Austin City Social. Nordstrom Domain.

Sept. 29: Tribeza Style Week Fashion Show. Brazos Hall. DATE CHANGED.


Three Austin parties that closed out the summer

Kathy Blackwell and Becky Beaver at Fourth and Goal for DKR Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease.

It took three celebrities to deliver the news. Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, golfing great Ben Crenshaw and prominent University of Texas backer Mike Myers announced that a $500,000 trust would be named for Edith Royal, widow of football coaching giant Darrell Royal and the smiling public face of the DKR Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s big. But so was the Fourth and Goal affair at the AT&T Center, guided jovially by emcee Ed Clements, who seemed to know everybody in the room, including former players from Coach Royal’s teams (1957-1976). Also on hand to raise extra cash was ace auctioneer Heath Hale and his merry band of seasoned “callers.” So where does all these bucks go? Two of the grant winners, Adriana Haley of UT Austin and Lenora Volk of UT Southwestern in Dallas, rose to speak about their research into dementia, some of it running counter to the mainstream studies. Promising stuff.

Don’t know the names of these guests, but the inimitable Miguel Angel took this and a number of other cool shots at the SHED party.
Helpful Torie Gehrig sent us this recap of this event, which we couldn’t make:
Hosted by SHED Barbershop & Supply to bookend Austin’s hottest season, SHED’s Summer Parties bring a new tradition to the Austin community. Held at Cheer Up Charlie’s with no cover, these shindigs are a chance to let loose with friends and celebrate the season. The most recent End of Summer Party cemented it’s spot as one of the essential things to do over Labor Day Weekend. The event kicked off with free drink tickets to early arrivers followed by DJ sets from Stone Cold Snugglas and DICK WOLF and culminated with the inflation of a giant (water slide).”
Mayor Steve Adler and Joah Spearman at ADL True Colors.

One event that I was especially sorry to miss was ADL True Colors, staged by the young leaders of the Anti-Defamation League AustinLast year, it was one of the most exciting parties of the season, supporting the group that fights hate at all levels. But I’ve decided to attend only one social event a night whenever possible, so that I can spend more time with the guests and learn more about Austin, and another group, previously reported, got to me first. Get those Save-the-Date invitations out as early as possible!

Horace Samuel “Sonny” Wallace Jr., 1930-2016

Horace “Sonny” Wallace with Horace Wallace Sr. at Wallace Engraving Co. in 1946.

Horace “Sonny” Wallace, part of three generations in the family Wallace Engraving business here in Austin, died recently.

I had the privilege of interviewing him just a year ago at his kitchen table. Here’s a sample from my profile of the Wallace family that ran Dec. 18, 2015.

“During the 1940s, Horace “Sonny” Wallace tried his hand at every task in his father’s shop.

“I washed the glass plates before being paid,” he says about the Wallace Engraving Co., founded by his father in 1932. “Then I worked a camera. It took two minutes to take a picture. We transferred the image from film to metal. We exposed the metal, etched with an acid bath to make a metal plate. Then we cut away the parts that didn’t need to be there.”

Virginia and Horace “Sonny” Wallace, longtime owners of Wallace Engraving Co., at Green Pastures in 2014.

As a youth, Wallace sometimes rode horses or mules to see his friends. He first lived on Taylor Street in East Austin, then on Carolyn Avenue in the Harris Park area, then on Windsor Road and, lastly, on Blanco Street.

For Wallace Engraving, he made deliveries on his bicycle. The company did a lot of prepress engraving for the American and Statesman newspapers, owned by the same company even before they were merged into one morning paper in the 1970s.

“We always wanted to be close to the Statesman, so we could deliver right away,” he says. “They couldn’t do what we were doing. I knew a lot of people down there.”