White wine, rainbows, springtime, Ursula. She's tinsel on a tree. She's everything that every girl should be. From playing in various bands like the sassy Mom Jeans, to making sure OkCupid and Fleshlight run so you can have your weekend fun, it's amazing this socialite has the time to put her thing down, flip it, and reverse it, and still look fierce doing it. Whether she's hosting a party or having a normal day, she's always gone-with-the-wind fabulous. Ursula works hard for the money so you better treat her right. Work it, girl.
Folk music’s just storytelling, subjective history – three chords and a few verses that summarize an era. In late June, two days after Wendy Davis’ 13-hour filibuster heard 'round the world, local songwriter Silas Lowe came forth with “Didn’t She Stand (Here’s to Wendy Davis),” a quick-witted anthem iconizing the state senator as the face of a movement.
While many local politicians claim it, few can match Eddie Rodriguez's commitment as a true man of the people. A real voice for the folks he represents, Rodriguez not only fights for East Austin's District 51, but for all of us. Fully bilingual, he's championed many causes including affordable housing, environmental justice, job training, equality, wellness, and education. Most recently, he spearheaded the Farm-to-Table Caucus and the Cottage Foods Bill, which will help local artisanal food businesses grow and prosper. A tireless advocate for for underprivileged children, workers’ rights, and urban farmers and gardeners, Rodriguez embraces the true spirit of Austin.
Eddie Rodriguez, Eddie Rodriguez Campaign, PO Box 2436, 512/463-0674
She's no longer with us, but her spirit is alive and chanting at every protest rally for women's reproductive rights and every pep rally to turn Texas blue. The 82-year-old activist suffered a stroke at the Capitol June 25 during Sen. Wendy Davis' historic filibuster, and one of her favorite get well cards sent during her hospital stay read simply, "You are a badass." Austin mourned the day she passed, July 13, but there was much to celebrate when friends, family, and just about every elected official and candidate in town gathered at her legendary childhood home of Green Pastures to honor this one-of-a-kind woman.
Who’d-a thunk it on a hot Tuesday night in July at the State Capitol, that overnight Texans would have a new hero in Sen. Wendy Davis? Inspired and emboldened by Davis’ superb appearance, the Bright Light Social Hour rushed home that night, wrote and recorded this compelling instrumental “Wendy,” and had it sitting in their fans' mailboxes the next morning when the rest of us learned who Wendy Davis was. Gov. Davis. We like the way that sounds.
That red neon bird flappin' its feathers on the side of the Frisco is the signature of a local restaurant chain of Night Hawk diners owned and operated by one Harry Akin. Making his first burger in Austin in 1932, Akin came to Texas during the Depression, by way of Hollywood. A showman, but also a helluva businessman, Akin was a trailblazer in many arenas. Whether it was the late-night grub he served (thus the name: Night Hawk) or unprecedentedly integrating staff and clientele in the early Sixties (African-Americans and women moved up the ranks like any white male in Akin's ventures), the Night Hawk restaurants, of which the Frisco is the last stalwart sentinel, are part of the historical fabric of this city. And, you know, their pies are effin' delicious. So the next time you lift that bite of Top Chop't steak to your mouth, lift your eyes skyward and rustle up some mental praise for Harry.
From a pink riverboat gambler's suit to an African tribal ensemble to exquisite Asian embroidered jackets, Mark Mueller is a true peacock. Blessed with good looks and silver hair, Mueller, at 6 feet 2 inches, dresses any way he wants. Of course his wardrobe includes the impeccably tailored suits that are a requirement to practice law – but Mark always adds a twist, such as Native American bracelets or a Peruvian necklace, making sure that everyone knows that he ain't no cookie-cutter attorney. His widespread interests include Voodoo Cowboy Entertainment, which is an umbrella for his film and art production work.
When last we hung out with ol' Beej, he was slung against a fence post, chawing a strand of hay (did we imagine this?), telling tales about this and that while rocking his Stetson, rancher blue jeans, and fave checked shirt, grandpa-style. Well, our guy from Stonewall must've caught a bit of the makeover bug -- a few too many episodes of What Not to Wear or reruns of Queer Eye, we suppose? More likely it had to do with the comprehensive, yearlong, multimillion-dollar, Internet-inspired renovation that his library/museum has recently undergone, because now he's behind a lectern, looking absolutely authoritative, positively political, a mod moderate decked out in a snazzy suit. The corny saws may be the same, but now he seems so … presidential?
Due to the ongoing and tireless efforts of AHC archivist Tim Hamblin and volunteer Scott Hoffman (smartypants Purdue American Studies Ph.D.), the history center's slowly but surely growing LGBTQ archive has a resource guide. What's the big deal? Resource guides, also called finding aids, are the portals for us mere mortals wanting to find out more about our collective history – there are resource guides for Austin's Mexican-American, African-American, and Asian-American communities. Rainy day? Spend it at AHC soaking in the storied history of Austin's many LGBTQ communities and icons. Be sure to cruise the research guide, available online through the AHC's website, before you mosey. Or better yet, pack up some of your old ephemera and documents. We're talking to you, stone cold femme who kept every flyer from Chances, and to you, dear dancing queen from the Friends & Lovers' heydays – and drive 'em down and donate them to the AHC. Community is a practice; research a pleasure.
Anthony Graves spent nearly two decades behind bars – including a majority of those years on Texas' death row – for a multiple murder he did not commit. After years of fighting to prove his innocence, Graves was finally released, and ultimately exonerated, in 2010. Despite finding an outside world that had changed, and drastically, while he was locked up, Graves dove into his renewed life, creating Anthony Believes with a mission in mind: getting his story out there (he's spoken before lawyers, activists, faith leaders, and even Congress), working to expose – and prevent – prosecutorial misconduct, and getting buy-in from everyday folks for the idea that our system of justice can, and must, do much better.
If there is something going on in the city that could impact Central Austin's neighborhoods, Mary Ingle is most likely there. Like a gentler, modern Madame Defarge, Ingle sits through long (sometimes tedious) meetings, watching, listening, and speaking her mind when need be. Currently serving as first vice president of the Austin Neighborhoods Council, a representative of the Central Austin Neighborhood Planning Advisory Committee, and a member of the Residential Design and Compatibility Commission, Ingle volunteers a lot of her time ensuring that she and her neighbors know what is going on. With this award, we humbly volunteer our appreciation for her often-unappreciated dedication.
Sam Killermann is one of the LGBT community's greatest allies with the Safe Zone Project, The Social Justice Advocate's Handbook: A Guide to Gender, and other educational endeavors attributable to him. But it's the Gamers Against Bigotry initiative that really impresses, setting its sights on a demographic known for hateful speech tossed around cavalierly, especially in online venues. It's an important early step addressing a largely ignored problem, and Killermann is just the man to bring it to light.
Though there are very few people who would cite the city's Planning and Development Review Department as their favorite aspect of Austin, the department does contain one of Austin's quiet treasures. Jerry Rusthoven is one of the few people who reliably knows exactly what is going on. He also frequently makes the tedium of zoning and code amendments bearable with a deadpan wit appropriate for the subject, relieving tensions by pointing out absurdities of bureaucracy in a way that makes everyone laugh – including the bureaucrats themselves.
Jerry Rusthoven, City of Austin Planning & Development Review Department, 505 Barton Springs Rd., 512/978-4000
Alan Graham’s miracle mission on wheels is best known for breaking bread with Austin’s homeless. But for the last nine of its 15 years, the nonprofit has quietly expanded its meal-delivery calling to the “housing first” principle – buying gently used RVs and converting them to permanent housing for the homeless. So far, 83 people have been housed in RVs at trailer parks in Austin with an 85% success rate. Not too shabby. We wish Graham well with his latest vision – creating an all-inclusive RV community for the formerly homeless.
One stood and talked for hours. The other struggled just to be heard. What they have in common is that both state Sens. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, and Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, this year proved themselves the strongest voices for Texas women, anywhere. Forced into the national spotlight by their efforts to halt and bring common sense to sweeping abortion regulations that are likely to cut women off from access to other, basic health care (like birth control!), these women stood up to the white, middle-aged men under the Capitol dome with graceful and indefatigable aplomb – reminding us, again, of the real power of Texas women. Gov. Davis and Lt. Gov. Van de Putte in 2014!
On the first floor of City Hall, retired Police Captain John N. Vasquez has placed his hand-carved figurines of every city of Austin employee who has died while serving the city. Each of the figures is in uniform – from firefighters to secretaries – with a plaque that identifies them by name. Mounted next to the display is a searchable database of all the names, telling their story. Above all, it's a thoughtful tribute, but it's also a compelling reason to learn more about everyone from Austin's First Chief of Police, James N. Littlepage, to Roy D. Schmidt, an electrical repairman who was killed by Charles Whitman while on a utility department call.