The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/columns/2010-05-07/1025400/

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, May 7, 2010, Columns

TRUE CONFESSIONS I turned last week's column in early and was unable to write about the fabulous Women & Their Work fundraiser and the fabulous Hill Country Ride for AIDS ... until now. I also wound up having to back out of the Umlauf Garden Party even though I adore it. I sent my trusty photographer Seabrook though, and he texted me from there saying, "Wow, I really know why you like this party so much!" Yes, I'm very sorry I missed it, but I heard that the event was just as perfect as the organizers hoped it would be. Good work, Umlauf!

Last week's Women & Their Work gala was at the new home of Deborah Green and Clayton Aynesworth. Oh. My. God. Simply incredible. Designed in the same league as many top-drawer art museums, the facade is impressively blank but with seductive intimations of the grandeur that lies on the other side. Entering through the portals (where Ms. Green greeted each guest personally), guests were immediately enveloped by the jaw-droppingly magnificent art collection as surely as if they'd traveled to a new planet.

Without a doubt, the best-dressed couple there was Elizabeth and Nathaniel Chapin – she in dreamy summer-print chiffon, and he ... well, he's a total original with style to burn. What was really cool was hanging out with architect Berthold Haas (www.bertholdhaasdesign.com) and his glorious wife, Emily Tracy (she contributed several stunning installations and artworks to the design of the house).

All in all, the event would have to be described as flawless, but as flawless as it was, it didn't negate the fact that my escort Stephen Rice and I had to get up at 4:30am the next day to get ready for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. That was a riot – with our carnival sideshow theme, our whole group was a vision of loveliness, particularly at that hour of the morning. We were operating pit stop No. 1 and became known (very unglamorously, I might add) as the "Pit People." We had a ringmaster, bearded lady, Tarzan Boy, Thurston Howell III, a carnival barker, and a variety of other characters. I was a swami/fortuneteller decked out in brilliant silks and a huge turban with ostrich feathers – Stephen called me Swami Mommy. What a damn success it was – I was thrilled to help raise more than $600,000 for AIDS services. But it was exhausting watching all those riders.

I took it pretty easy for a few days and dreaded the upcoming week of events. I missed the David Yurman fundraiser for Ballet Austin but heard it was divine. I did manage to make it to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gala, accompanied by my mother and my sister. The Wildflower Center is the crown jewel in Austin's jewel box. So very Austin, but with such universal appeal; the grounds are absolutely glorious. Becky Beaver held court there, wearing absolutely stunning jewelry. Melanie Barnes was dazzling in a beaded summer cocktail sheath, Katy Hackerman was drenched in Queen Baby turquoise jewelry, and Jo Anne Christian floated around like a butterfly catching up with everyone.

I had a few moments with Lynda Johnson Robb. Gracious and charming but with a no-nonsense demeanor, she said that her sister Luci Baines Johnson was doing considerably better and that the family drew a lot of strength from the good wishes they'd received from around the world. Spectacular art, glittering guests, fine food, and an unbeatable location made this (like every Wildflower Center Gala) an evening of unforgettable graciousness.

Have you seen Our Town at Zach Theatre yet? Critics are raving at the twist that Dave Steakley has put on it. I'll be making a guest appearance in the show at the Sunday, May 9, matinee – Mother's Day. Come watch me make a fool of myself.

Last Saturday was the Art Ball – another event I'd looked very much forward to attending ... but it so happened that it was my nephew Tyler's last day on leave from the Army, and he'd be heading off to Germany, and then Afghanistan. I simply wasn't in the mood for festivities that night and stayed home with my family. I'd spent a good bit of time with Tyler while he was here – gratifying quality time, working together in the yard, having him chauffeur me around, and just hanging out together. When he left that night, I was devastated. I couldn't speak while I was hugging him. He's such a sweet soul, and I was anguished to think he might not return to us. I felt as if he were my own son. I sobbed bitterly after he left, sitting in the yard we'd all worked so hard on, bathed in moonlight and thoroughly bereft.

As I sat there alone, I could hear the sounds of a backyard wedding taking place across the street and a few houses down. Through the strains of "We Are Family" and "Celebration," I could hear the crowd joyfully rollicking and toasting the bride and groom. And I knew that life would go on, and that the sun would rise again the next morning. I also knew that the love I felt for Tyler would travel with him on his journey and hopefully help bring him back home safely.

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