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

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.

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

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, Freddy’s mother and Willie Nelson‘s sister. The guests nibbled from savory and sweet offerings and at one climactic moment, threw back Jello 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 include Strait, Taylor SwiftKenny 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.

His wife, 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.

Louis and Christine Messina at his 70th birthday party, which she staged at Arlyn Studios. Contributed by Carley E. Photography

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 Frank 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), 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 is July 25.

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

UPDATE: Additional guests were added to this post and some roles were clarified.

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.

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!

John Legend will sing at Andy Roddick Foundation Gala

John Legend will sing at the Andy Roddick affair.

The date has been set: Nov. 18.

The place is ready: ACL Live.

The occasion? The Andy Roddick Foundation Gala. One of the social season’s biggest events. Over the years, the tennis great’s Austin parties have raised more than $20 million for children’s causes, including current after-school programs for needy Austin students.

And now the picture is complete: The entertainer will be Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer John Legend. 

Want to attend the cocktail reception, dinner, program and live auction and sit at a table near the stage for the whole star-studded evening? Email for table details.

Concert-only tickets will go on sale 10 a.m. Oct. 7 and will be available at the ACL Live box office.

Tiny personal note: My editor and I sat on the front row when Legend sang for the grand reopening of Bass Concert Hall. As you might already know, concert lighting forces musicians or speakers to connect visually only with folks up front. So Legend sang directly into our eyes for the whole evening.

Same thing happened to us with Tony Bennett at ACL Live. Two of my all-time favorite concerts, in part because they felt so personal. One reason to opt for those tables if you can.

Ethan Hawke among presenters at upcoming First Edition Literary Gala


Every season, the First Edition Literary Gala for the Texas Book Festival is one of Austin’s headiest social affairs.

The presenters are sharp and funny. The guests are cool and literary. You won’t find better table-side repartee anywhere in town.

Among the slated speakers for the Nov. 4 party at the Four Seasons Hotel are actor-author Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood,” “Before Midnight”); actress-novelist Diane Guerrero (“Orange is the New Black,” “In the Country We Love”) and columnist-author Carl Hiaasen (“Bad Monkey,” “Dance of the Reptiles”)

You’ll recognize Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson from his frequent appearances on food shows and, of course, his multiple cookbooks (“New American Table,” “Make It Messy”). Often the funniest of the night’s speakers fills the young people’s lit slot. This year it’s Jon Scieszka (“Frank Einstein,” “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”).

You can’t stop me from going!

3 more potent parties that altered Austin

Casandra Perks dances in a drum circle at Eeyore’s Birthday Party at Pease Park. April 30, 2011. Photos by Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman

Recently, we detailed 17 parties that altered Austin. The story and the video were hits. Still are.

Here we offer three affairs that didn’t make the first list — and probably should have.

Courtesy of

March 27, 1925: Texas Relays. Coach Clyde Littlefield and athletic director Theo Bellmont founded the Texas Relays — now named after Littlefield — to compete with the Kansas Relays. It moved from vast Royal-Memorial Stadium to the 20,000-seat Myers Stadium in 1999. It’s always been something of a three-ring circus, with stunts, exhibitions and parties. In the past decades it’s become a national destination for African-American youths and much of downtown is given over to post-athletic celebrations. In 2006, the city’s Urban Music Festival was added to the festivities. The four-day track and field event is usually held in early April.

Courtesy of

April 12, 1930: Longhorn Round-Up. Established by Ex-Students’ Association President Bill McGill, the annual event originally included alumni reunions, campus expos and open houses. These days, many as 15,000 people gather in West Campus as UT fraternal groups stage concerts and host parties. For a long time, too, they paraded in elaborate floats down the Drag. Controversy hit the event in the 1980s when people of color and LGBT students were mocked and harassed, and, after that, Texas Exes abandoned its sponsorship. These days, part of the proceeds go to philanthropic causes. The decade previous to the first Round-Up was pretty wild around campus, too, according to Richard Zelade’s racy book “Austin in the Jazz Age.”

lhs Eeyore's 19
Eeyore’s Birthday in its 52rd year at Pease Park. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

May 8, 1964: Eeyore’s Birthday Party. The first spring party for UT students — started by in part by Lloyd W. Birdwell, Jr., James Ayres and Jean Craver — took place in Eastwoods Park. It moved to Pease Park along Shoal Creek, grew into a daylong fandango, and was adopted by the city’s hippies and post-hippies. It remains a countercultural wonder, with costumes, snacks, contests, face-painting, and, especially, drum circles. When locals profess to “Keep Austin Weird,” images of Eeyore’s past probably pop into their heads. So far, I have not been able to determine the exact date for that first event. Will update when I find out. Note: Just about every online source puts the first party in 1963, but this flyer, suggests the 1964 date, supported by Howie Richey and Les Carnes. But could this be for the second year?


UPDATE: The Eeyore’s flyer and a new date for the first party were added after the first post.



13 key Austin affairs to anticipate

A look at the near term for pivotal Austin parties.

Did I miss any big ones for this stretch of the season? Let me know at

Tall Grande Vent. Photo: Chad Wellington.

Aug. 30. Opening of the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival. Various locations.

Sept. 2: 4th and Goal Gala for DKR Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. AT&T Center.

Sept. 4: UT Longhorns football opener against Notre Dame. Royal Memorial Stadium.

Sept. 8: Red Dot SpreeWomen & Their Work. ADDED

Sept. 9: The Big Give for I Live Here, I Give Here. Sunset Room.

Sept. 9: “Over the Lege,” a fresh set of political sketches, opens. The Institution Theater.

Sept 9. Opening of the Austin Symphony season, “The Mozart Requiem.” Long Center

The Mathis family, who filed a complaint when their transgender child, Coy, was told she couldn’t use the girl’s room.

Sept. 10: Southwest premiere of transgender issues movie, “Growing Up Coy.” Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar.

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

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

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

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.

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


Three ultra-bright Austin social affairs

Dana Younger and Felice House at ‘Sum You Some Me’ opening. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman.

So great to chat with sculptor Dana Younger, whose career I’ve followed for more than 20 years, since he was a member of the utterly charming Troupe Texas, which unfortunately expired in 1995. In most minds, however, he is more closely associated with Blue Genie Art Industries, known for its commercial and architectural sculpture. After putting up a show in Grand Rapids, Mich, he and his painter wife, Felice House, have staged a larger version of “Sum You Some Me” at the Dougherty Arts Center. It’s figurative and fantastical and the opening night crowd couldn’t get enough of it. Really, they wouldn’t leave. Go by Sept. 10.

Recovery Unplugged Grand Opening, Austin, Texas - 18 Aug 2016
Director of Operations Rob Harrison, Chief Strategist Paul Pellinger, Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer, CFO Andrew Sossin, CEO Marshall Geiser, and Accountant Robert Sossin at Recovery Unplugged grand opening. Suzanne Cordeiro for the American-Statesman.

Recently, a fairly novel addiction treatment center, Recovery Unplugged, opened with an emphasis on serving Austin’s music industry. The grand opening of the place, which started in Fort Lauderdale and uses music as part of the therapy, included, according to spokeswoman Anna Vaughn, live music, barbecue, tours of the facility, giveaways, appearances by Richie Supa and Joey Kramer and more. “The treatment center brings a new approach to recovery and sobriety by combining music into the process,” she continues. “They have a special music room where local sober/clean musicians come to run process groups where they talk about their experience in recovery and discuss lyrics, which helps the clients relate to what they are going through.  The center also has Playlist groups where the clients explore their feelings through songs they enjoy.  This unique approach of using music to help move lives forward on a new path is sure to thrive in a community like Austin.” What’s not to like?

Rotarians Frank Lynn and Sally Spann with happy teachers at Pickle Elementary.

Jean Nalle, president elect of Austin University Rotary, tell us that “all of the teachers at Pickle Elementary were given $50 gift cards for their classrooms as well as discounts at Office Depot to help with the coming school year. Equipment was also given to the school from a wish list along with books for the library and books from Bookspring. We have been helping this school the last year and step up our help this year. We also partner with other Rotary Clubs to help Pecan Springs Elementary along with the Andy Roddick Foundation.” Love the Rotarians.


Debut: Out and About video on Austin social scene

We had such fun creating a video version of a post on Austin Found — regarding Texas dorm life before the Ruckus — that we decided to do the same for a week’s worth of Out and About posts.

Behold below the dubious glories of “Out and About in Austin” for a recent week.

Karen Hawkins, Maria Groten and Val Armstrong at Central Standard.

Also, for the full reports, see the previous posts on Out and About.