Soaking up the glamour of the Texas Medal of Arts

I could have chilled all night. And still have chilled some more.

These days, I’m looking for the exit earlier and earlier at Austin affairs. Chalk it up to social supersaturation.

Eloise DeJoria and Lance Avery Morgan at Texas Medal of Arts preview party under the new canopy at The Contemporary Downtown. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Not this night. Or nights, if you include the preview party, and I do.

The Texas Medal of the Arts started and ended with big doses of luminous glamour. Dance great Debbie Allen hosted. Singer Vikki Carr was among the celebrities who introduced the honorees on the Bass Concert Hall stage.

RELATED: A-List: Texas Medal of Arts awards red carpet at Bass Concert Hall.

Although singer-songwriter Kenny Rogers — serenaded with his own songs by a scrum of fantastic musicians — took home the Lifetime Achievement Award from Texas Cultural Trust, let’s face it, all 13 awards were for lifetime achievement.

No tenderfeet among these winners: Austin patrons Eloise and John Paul DeJoria, singer-songwriter-actor Kris Kristofferson, Houston patron Lynn Wyatt, ballerina Lauren Anderson, gospel singer Yolanda Adams, educators at Dallas Black Dance Theatre (they also performed), actor Renée Elise Goldsberry, San Antonio benefactors to the tune of more than $50 million Tobin Endowment, visual artist Leo Villareal, architect Frank Welch, author and journalist John Phillip Santos, TV and anchor Scott Pelley.

Lisa Jasper and Jim Ritts at Texas Medal of the Arts dinner under very pink lighting. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

As might be expected, a half dozen of the awardees made fairly mild political statements. Pelley, especially, was cheered for explaining what it meant to be an “enemy of the people,” as the media has recently been branded.

Stray thought: The Trust, an advocacy group, cites $5.5 billion in annual Texas revenue for the arts, but doesn’t that number include software, gaming and a lot of other non-traditional creative activities? Not trying to make a case for more awards, but let’s be up front …

After the ceremony, we strolled into a giant tent bathed in pink light and lashed down to the Bass plaza. Once again: Glamour! I spent the rest of the evening chatting with Amy Updegrove, former publisher of Texas Monthly. We agreed that intimate dinner parties were the highest form of socializing, and then we shared our secret guest lists, along with some fantasy table mates.

UPDATE: In an earlier version of this post, Frank Welch’s name was misspelled.

Feed the Peace for Nobelity Project

Time and again, Turk and Christy Pipkin have transformed charitable giving in Austin.

They were among the first to wrangle big celebrities — global celebrities — for their events, starting with an exclusive steak dinner graced by Willie Nelson. (How many times have I wished I’d been there!) Over the years, they’ve endeavored to put at least one really recognizable face at every table.

Their efforts have been matched locally by the Andy Roddick Foundation and Mack, Jack & McConaughey, but let’s face it, those two mega-events enjoy the advantage of A-List celebrities right there on the letterhead.

They also led the way in broadcasting to Austinites the needs of people overseas. While their Nobelity Project makes headway in Kenya, Honduras, Mexico and elsewhere, Austin these days is home to some two dozen such outfits, such as Well AwareMiracle FoundationGlimmer of HopeCaring for Cambodia and so forth.

Shannon Mathews and Shardul Kulkarni at Feed the Peace for the Nobelity Project. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Early on, they made entertainment, too, a crucial element in their parties. For other charitable groups, recreation is an optional add-on. Not for the Pipkins, who make everything from the thanks list (rendered in just over a minute) to live auctions (ultra-quick and funny) and the videos (utterly charming and ultimately heartrending) into seemingly casual but in fact highly polished performances.

Their most recent Feed the Peace Dinner kept up those traditions. They honored runner and humanitarian Gilbert Tuhabonya, who gave one of the most clear-eyed speeches one could imagine, and singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, who, from all accounts made everyone feel like the best parts of Old Austin had reconvened in the banquet room of the Four Seasons Austin Hotel.

And yes, he sang “Mr. Bojangles.”

Free condoms on National Condom Day

AIDS Services of Austin announced a smart offer this morning.

Through Dec. 31, it will ship free condoms right to your door. It’s all in celebration of National Condom Day. The offer stands for residents of Bastrop, Travis, Caldwell, Hays and Williamson County.


They have 160,000 on hand. Last year, the group distributed 360,000 condoms. They hope to improve that number in 2107 to 500,000.

Why? “To increase accessibility and reduce barriers to condom collection for residents such as reliable transportation, stigma and money.”

What will our creative nonprofits get up to next?

Don’t forget your socials: @cdnatx, @asaustin

Mark Updegrove to step down as LBJ Presidential Library director

Mark Updegrove, only the fourth director of the LBJ Presidential Library, announced that he will leave his position as of March 1.

An author and former media executive, Updegrove will become the CEO of the newly minted National Medal of Honor Museum planned for the Charleston harbor in Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

Mark Updegrove will step down as director of the LBJ Presidential Library in March 2017. Contributed by Jay Godwin.

RELATED: Harry Middleton, longtime head of the LBJ Presidential Library, dies at 95.

Updegrove oversaw the $11 million redesign of the library’s core exhibits, which has increased visibility and visits. He planned two major symposiums at the library, the closely watched Civil Rights Summit in 2014 and the more modest Vietnam War Summit in 2016.

The former event, tied to the anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson championed and signed, attracted Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, as well as first ladies Michelle Obama and Laura Bush.

A consummate diplomat and spokesman, who understood the Johnson family’s unbreakable link to Central Texas history and culture, Updegrove also engaged speakers such as Mikhail Gorbachev, Sandra Day O’Connor, John Glenn, John Lewis, Hank Aaron, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

During his time in Austin, Updegrove penned “Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency.” He is working on his fifth book: “The Last Republicans: George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — a Father, a Son, and the End of an Era,” due out in 2017.

He earlier served as publisher of Newsweek in New York and manager of Time in Los Angeles and president of TimeCanada.

“Mark Updegrove is a rare leader possessed with vision, creativity, and organizational skills,” said Larry Temple, chairman, LBJ Foundation. “He is an entrepreneurial guy both with great ideas and the skills to implement them. The programming at the LBJ Library over the last eight years has brought national and even international acclaim to the library and The University of Texas. Credit that to Mark Updegrove. I won’t try to put a happy face on our disappointment on his leaving. While we will always be indebted to him for the rich legacy of accomplishment that he leaves at the Library, I just say: Darn it. We hate to see him go and we will miss him.”


All Austin Symphony tickets on sale today for only $20

It’s happening right now.

The Austin Symphony has put all the rest of this season’s tickets on sale for $20 apiece.


All day today.

This includes concerts that drill in on Mahler, Copland, Rachmaninoff, Respighi, Gershwin and Dvorák and more.

RELATED: Take me out to these top Austin shows and parties for February.

This is fantastic.

Sale ends at 11:59 p.m. Feb. 7.

Take me out to these top Austin shows and parties for February

During the remaining days and nights of February, we’d love to see you at these top Austin shows and parties.

Dancing with the Stars Live at the Beacon Theatre

Feb. 7: Dancing with the Stars Live. Bass Concert Hall.

Feb. 7: Forklift Launch Party. Private home.

Feb. 8: Austin Music Foundations’s Feed the Love. Emo’s.

Feb. 9: Malpaso Dance Company. Bass Concert Hall.

Feb. 10: Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux” opens. Long Center.


Feb. 10: Mix ‘n’ Match Party, Exhibition & Art Sale. Mexic-Arte Museum.

Feb. 10: “Purchased Loves’ opens.” Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Feb. 11: Blanton GalaBlanton Museum of Art.

Feb. 11: Mardi Gras Magic for Town Lake Links. Hyatt Regency Austin.


Feb. 12: Nobelity Austin’s Feed the Peace Awards. Four Seasons Austin.

Feb. 12: Brush Square Museums Foundation’s O. Henry Pun Off. Austin Hilton.

Feb. 14: “The World According to Snoopy.” Texas State University.

Feb. 14: Esquina Valentine’s Dinner and Show. 209 Pedernales St.


Feb. 15UT Dance’s “Momentum.” Brockett Theatre.

Feb. 15: Austin Shakespeare’s “Old Times” opens. Long Center.

Feb 15: Philanthropy Day Luncheon. JW Marriott Austin.

Feb. 16: “Farrah Fawcett: Seductress and Sculptress” opens. Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.


Feb. 16: Penfold Theatre Co’s “An Iliad” opens. Scottish Rite Theater.

Feb. 16: “Pride and Prejudice” opens. Mary Moody Northen Theatre.

Feb. 17: Physical Plant Theater’s “Sister of the Shattering Glass” opens. Digital.

Feb. 17: “West Side Story” opens. Georgetown Palace Theatre.

Feb.17: Austin Symphony’s “Pixar in Concert.” Long Center.


Feb. 18: Opera Austin’s Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction. Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

Feb. 21: Finding Refuge in Austin, 1848-1980” opening reception. Austin History Center.

Feb. 21-22: Texas Medal of the Arts. Bass Concert Hall.

Feb. 22: Literacy First’s Bright Futures Ahead Party. South Congress Hotel.

Feb. 22: Housing First Oak Springs breakfast. St. David’s Episcopal Church, Sumners Hall.


Feb. 24: Wonders and Worries Unmasked. JW Marriott Austin.

Feb. 24: The People’s Gallery 2017 Opening Reception. Austin City Hall.

Feb. 25: Rockin’ Round Up for Any Baby Can. Bullock Texas State History Museum.

Feb. 25: Toast and Roast for Wine & Food Foundation of Texas. Stonehouse Villa.


Feb. 25. Meet the artists of Performa/Dance. Private home.

Feb. 25: Carnaval Brasileiro. Palmer Events Center.

Feb. 27: Comedian Billy Crystal. Long Center.

Feb. 28. Firefly Fund Inaugural Event. ACL Live.


Report: Toasty winter parties in Austin

This long week, we learned about child advocates, savored an opera, lingered over a humanities exhibit, mingled at a block party, toasted a nonagenarian and shared an Austin history book with the masses.

Aurora Martinez Jones and Darlene Byrne at Casablanca for CASA of Travis County. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

CASAblanca for CASA of Travis County

The take-away from this large gala: CASA of Travis County is on track to become the first large urban group of Court Appointed Special Advocates to place a trained volunteer with each abused or neglected youth within the area’s system. We learned this from impassioned Board President David Rubin, who followed equally stirring Executive Director Laura Wolf at the dais halfway through what, for some guests, was a six-hour event at the JW Marriott. Gratifying to find that this key nonprofit has doubled the size of its guest list and provided last year individualized help for 1,847 children, 722 of which went home to safe permanent families. During the same year, however, 700 children still needed advocates. I sat with amazing Judges Darlene Byrne and Aurora Martinez Jones, who split up the foster care cases at the same courtroom, part of the Texas foster care system that is not, as one federal judge ruled, overall “broken.”

Emily and Ken Ashworth at Austin Opera’s “The Daughter of the Regiment.” Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Austin Opera’s “The Daughter of the Regiment” 

Funny opera? Sure. It’s not all sturm und drang at Austin OperaDonizetti‘s “The Daughter of the Regiment” — a young adoptee of a Napoleonic regiment must go through multiple tests before landing love — is not always laugh-out-loud funny, but every minute is smile-out-loud funny. The cast at our Sunday matinee was terrific from top to bottom and, of course, they and the orchestra sounded magnificent under maestro Richard Buckley. The combination of French (singing) and English (speaking) was jolting at first, but we took to it quickly. We’re always happy to see fresh faces in the crowd for this leading Austin arts group.

RELATED: Austin Opera’s general director turns to big data to engage audiences.

Christina Abboud and Dana Tomlin at CaSaBlanca for CASA of Travis County. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Ransom Center’s “Stories to Tell”

This is something we’ve been waiting to see: More of the vast collection at the Ransom Center on display for the public. With a few other lucky souls, we peeked at a preview of the exhibit, “Stories to Tell,” which will be up through July. It seems fairly evenly split among American and European literature, performing arts, film, photography and visual arts, sharing the back stories along the way. One could spend hours there and I plan to return. One encouraging bit of news: The Ransom folks plan to devote one corner of the first-floor galleries to timely, rotating samples from this collection, which ranks among the finest in the world. We enjoyed catching up with longtime photography curator Roy Flukinger and still relatively new performing arts curator Eric Colleary, as well as Austin Way editor extraordinaire Kathy Blackwell.

Joseph and Stefanie Ting at #KMFA Block Party. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

KMFA’s 50th Anniversary Block Party

If you are going to celebrate the 50th year for a community treasure, you invite in the whole community. And what better place to do so than the Fair Market events center in East Austin on one of the fairest days of the year? You had your food trucks, your scattered entertainment, your face painting (I demurred), your mingling over drinks. Kids seemed overjoyed, but frankly, who wouldn’t have a good time at such an event? KMFA also plans its first and only gala ever for this golden year. We look forward to it.

Patricia Fiske and Burch Fiske at Patricia’s 90th Birthday Party Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

Patricia Fiske at 90

She’s an original in so many ways. A beauty, she grew up quickly and took on New York with all the gusto of her generation. More recently, she’s been an Austin poet, actress, memoirist, singer and peace monger by her own description. So when it came time to toast Patricia Fiske at her 90th birthday party, we couldn’t resist. The well-assembled event at the Zilker Clubhouse included comfort food and drinks, a tent to ward off inclement weather and — a special treat — the Austin Symphony Big Band. Now, I love the 1940s sound — “my music” as Patricia aptly remarked — but I’ve rarely heard it rendered so expertly as this during this loveliest of lovely nights.


Three dates for ‘Indelible Austin’

Thanks for asking: “Indelible Austin: Selected Histories” is on target to receive its third printing. And Vol. 2 is due out in the fall. Meanwhile, we’re nearing the 5oth public appearance related to this collection of my historical columns from the American-Statesman, published by Waterloo Press and benefiting the Austin History Center Association. In the course of a week, we talked to the Governor’s Mansion Docents at Chateau Bellevue, during the Angelina Eberly Luncheon — along with Saundra Kirk, Lonnie Limon and Evan Tanaguchi — at the Driskill Hotel, and to an Episcopalian gathering known as Pub Church that assembles casually but thoughtfully at Scholz Garten. Enjoyed the public dialogue with leader Stephen Kinney on the beauty of the people of Austin.

J.C. Shakespeare, who asked on of the sharpest questions, shared this excerpt from “Indelible Austin” on Facebook.

“I fall in love with Austin every day when I leave our bungalow and walk downhill to the social center of the city. Unabashedly, I cherish our arts, music, movies, fashion, sports, media, museums, nightlife, eateries, shops, and parties. I sing the praises of Great Streets, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail, and the State capitol. I linger over the reflections on Lady Bird Lake and the arcing green hills along the horizon. I boast about the University of Texas — ranked in the world’s Top 30, according to the Times of London — and how Austin Community College responds nimbly to our business ecology. As soon as I hit the social circuit by entering a room full of Austinites, I’m electrified. These people are worth knowing!”