Vicki Dill

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Most Beautiful

As the owner and operator of Victory Sports in Ft. Bend County, VICKI DILL teaches self-esteem, discipline and sportsmanship to thousands of our area’s youth. The gym participates in the Katy Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s, and the Fort Bend Holiday Bowl Toy Drive. They host free clinics for Fort Bend County little league cheerleaders, and support a local pet adoption agency.

Photo by Gabriela Ferrel

Kim Coffman

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Most Beautiful

KIM COFFMAN is a professional photographer and one of the most popular at many of Houston’s charitable events. Kim’s most current volunteer effort was for the launch celebration of Houston Arts Partners: Arts 4 All, operating under Young Audiences of Houston (YAH). The website allows educators to search through and schedule 300 programs presented by about 250 artists and arts organizations classified by arts discipline, grade level, curricular connections including at-risk, special needs and bilingual offerings. Kim donated many hours of his time, talent and resources to making this launch a success.

Photo by Kim Koffman

Shane Battier

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Most Beautiful

Houston Rocket SHANE BATTIER is a leader on and off the court. He believes the future of our youth rests in higher education. To that end, Shane, and his wife Heidi, established The Battier Take Charge Foundation dedicated to providing resources for the education of underserved youth and teens.

Photo by Houston Rockets

Taylor Lanning

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Most Beautiful

Our cover girl, TAYLOR LANNING, has been able to combine her passion for event planning with her role as Miss Houston 2010 by volunteering to coordinate charity events. She is the spokeswoman for Pure Foods in the Woodlands, a restaurant that focuses on healthy, organic and gluten free offerings, and has raised awareness for childhood obesity by producing a children’s fashion show and working with local company, Soldiers of Fitness, to teach children about exercise. She is currently working on a launch party for the Bully Suicide Project.

Photo by Arthur Garcia

Linda Brown

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Most Beautiful

LINDA BROWN chaired her first gala for the Juvenile Diabetes Center at age 19. Since then she has chaired events for Houston Grand Opera, the Children’s Museum, Baylor College of Medicine, United Cerebral Palsy, The Texas Medical Center’s Hospice Gala and the Rodeo’s Ladies Season Box Gala. She serves on the Boards of March of Dimes, Texas Children’s Hospital, Baylor College of Medicine and others.

Photo by Gittings

in the Heart of Houston May

May 1, 2010 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

    in the Heart of Houston

    MAY be you didn’t notice, but the year is flying by! What happened to your New Year’s Resolutions?

    OK, I’m going to NutShell Dr. Ox’s 10 Commandments for weight loss :

    Thou shall not wear pants that stretch

    Thou shall not keep “Fat Clothes” in your closet.

    Thou Shall not eat meat that walks on four legs more than one time a week.

    Thou shall not graze or browse in search of prey (plan your meals.)

    Thou Shall not eat after 7:30 at night.

    Thou shall not pile on food on a plate more than one inch high or two inches to the edge of the plate

    Thou shall not chew less than 20 bites.

    Thou shall not covet thy neighbors plate (or sample anything on it.)

    Thou shall not carry small bills (for vending machines)

Thou shall not eat standing up or in a car. (concentrate on what you’re eating.)

Now, are you thin?


Oil tycoon and philanthropist Oscar Wyatt at the Houston Grand Opera “Yellow Rose of Texas” Ball which honored his wife, Lynn, surprised the throngs by making a One Million Dollar donation in Lynn’s honor. The donation will establish the Lynn Wyatt Great Artists Fundwhich will be used to bring world-class artists to the city. At the microphone Lynn said, “I’m so proud of you, Honey. Thank you for everything you’ve done.” Good for you, OW, and we thank you, also.

Congratulations to PAUL-DAVID VAN ATTA, Catering Director of the Hilton Americas, for winning the Jefferson Award for his volunteer efforts. BRIAN TEICHMAN planned the outstanding celebratory cocktail reception at the historic Cochran-Hofheinz House, 3900 Milam. The heavenly hors d’oeuvres were prepared by Culinaire chef/owner, Barbara McNight who operates her business from the Cochran-Hofheinz House and is also lucky enough to live there.

THEATRE UNDER THE STARS continues to bring excitement to the city. Looks what’s coming in the 2010-2011 Season: Hairspray, 9 to 5: The Musical, Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas” The Musical, Billy Elliot The Musical, Curtains and Rock of Ages! Thanks, TUTS!


MOST INSPIRATIONAL EVENT: CHILDREN’S DEFENSE FUND “Beat the Odds” Awards Dinner on April 15 presented six extraordinary youths with college scholarships. The honorees shared their individual life struggle, whether childhood mental, physical, sexual abuse, childhood arthritis or other major challenges. National President Marian Wright Edelman explained that the mission of CDF is to ensure every child a healthy start, a head start, a fair start, a safe start and a moral start in life. The organization’s logo is a big body of water with a tiny boat and occupantwith the caption, “Dear Lord, Be good to me. The sea is so wide and my boat is so small.” Believe me when I tell you that tears were flowing in the room.

BEST INVITATION DESIGN AWARD: The May 5 Houston Symphony Society “Flowers Flourishes and FaLa La” invitation is absolutely whimsical, fanciful and endearing. The event is chaired by GABRIELA DROR, DIANE GENDEL, APRIL LYKOS with President of the Houston Symphony League President JANE CLARK. The tag line: “Friendship Fun Fashion Frivolity Festivity Favors “Filanthropy” (why isn’t it spelled this way anyway?) The event is at the Houston Country Club.

Runner-up for BEST INVITATION DESIGN: The May 2 Legacy Community Health Services

invitation is outstanding for its 8 x 10 size and the beautiful photograph of DEBRA and MARK GRIERSON on the front cover. Well done!


April 29th Cancer Fighters luncheon at Lakeside Country Club

In the clever and most capable hands of DALLAS HILL, the ultimate Fashion Director, this luncheon fashion show entitled “We’ve Got You Covered” was a smash. Featured were the Blinn College dancers, under the direction of JAMIE EVERETT, the musical direction of ZACH “DOC” WEBB and the talent of Elvis tribute artist, DAVID PERRY,. President of Cancer Fighters, TERRI STRAUGHN joined member models in fashions by NIMA.


The April 30 Houston Children’s Charity”A Gathering of Champions .. Mingle with the Stars, Under the Stars” dinner was held at the palatial home of PAIGE and TILMAN FERTITTA. Where else are you going to see the likes of NOLAN RYAN, YAO MING, JEFF BAGWELL, CRAIG BIGGIO, RAY CHILDRESS, CLYDE DREXLER, ELVIN BETHEA, ELVIN HAYES, TERRY PUHL, astronauts, several Houston Rockets, and the list goes on.


May 2 – Chairs BOB DEVLIN, MELISSA MITHOFF and SUSAN PLANK and Legacy Community Health Services present “Where Fashion Meets Philanthropy: honoring DEBRA and MARK GRIERSON. FMI: 713.574.9736

May 4 – The American Heart Association’s enormously popular “Go Red for Woman Expo & Luncheon will feature Former First Lady, BARBARA BUSH as keynote speaker. Chaired by LEISHA ELSENBROOK, the LEILA GILBERT volunteer of the year award receipient is JOANN CRASSAS. FMI: 713.610.5020

May 5 – Men of Distinction Luncheon benefiting children’s programs at Texas Children’s Hospital. Chairperson is Jess B. Tutor and the honorees are Tom Barrow, Dr. John Mendelsohn aand Mike Stude at the River Oaks Country Club. FMI: 713.623.2244

May 7 – The Moores School of Music Society “It’s Off to the Races” luncheon at the Junior League will honor SUZANNE BRANDRETT, BETH MADISON, SUE SMITH, SHELBY HODGE Aand SHAFIK RIFAAT. Chairmen are MARY ANN MCKEITHAN, KATHI REVERE and CATHY MCNAMARA. FMI: 713.743.3168

May 8 – Circle of Life Gala benefiting Memorial Hermann Foundation’s Pediatric and Adult Centers of Excellence in Neurosciences. Chairpersons Alino and Roberto Garcia, Donna and Tony Vallone and Sheridan and John Eddie Williams are the Chairpersons and Celia and Albert J. Weatherhead, III are being honored. FMI: 713.448.5220

May 8 – Virtuosi of Houston Young Artists Chamber Orchestra present “Legend of the Future VIII: Under the Colors of Mexico,” a annual concert and dinner at the InterContinental Legend Ballroom. The event is chaired by Mr. And Mrs. Jack McCrary and Dr. and Mrs. Meherwan Boyce. Honoerary Chairs are The Honorable Consul General of Mexico, Carlos Gonzalez-Magallon, Sra. Gonzalez-Magallon and Mr. Monzer Hourani.

May 12 – The 14th annual Strong, Smart and Bold Celebration Luncheon benefiting Girls, Inc. inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold. Chaired by CORTNEY R. COLE, Mayor ANNISE PARKER is the keynote speaker and will receive the Strong, Smart and Bold Award; Center Point Energy will be accepting the Corporate Vision Award. FMI: 713.802.2260

May 14 – Kick Out Kidney Disease “Pump-A-Licious” Luncheon. Chaired by MERELE YARBOROUGH, the fashions are presented by Neiman Marcus.

May 13 – Evening in the Park, benefiting Hermann Park Conservancy. Chairs ANNE and NOBLE CARL, LUCY and WILLIAM CARL are chairing and the evening honors Peter Brown.

Saks Fifth Avenue is providing fashions from famed designers. FMI: 713. 524.5876

May 16 – 2010 Cardiac Cup benefiting Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center at the Houston Polo Club. Houston Texan’s KRIS BROWN and his wife, Amy are the Honorary Chairs and the event is chaired by Dr. Aashish Shah and Roseann Rogers. FMI: 832.824.6818

May 16 – The Mission Incredible fundraising event benefits The Mission of Yahweh, a homeless shelter for women and children. At River Oak Country Club, the evening consists of a silent auction, dinner, dancing and award presentations to honorees Laura and Dave Ward, Monica Hartland and Pines Presbyterian Church. Chairmen are Pam Lockard and Lisa Lee Wilson. FMI: 713. 334.1800


Elizabeth Taylor has definitely experienced adventure in her life! There is a rumor that La Liz is getting married again, but this is certainly not confirmed. Now, let’s see .. there was Conrad “Nicky” Hilton, Michael Wilding, Michael Todd, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, Ditto, John Warner and Larry Fortensky. So why not? If anyone deserves to be happy, it’s Ms. Taylor. Friends who have worked with her for many years say that she is one of the kindest people in the world.. with the biggest heart of anybody. And, so very shy. Ah love .. Ah Liz.

And hometown singing superstar, STEVE TYRELL is singing It Had to be You not only on his new CD but while he’s looking at our town’s KAREN PULASKI. They seem to have fallen right smack in the middle of it .. Ah, Love..Ah, Spring.

A local charitable organization had hoped that two time Oscar winner, Denzel Washington would appear at their fundraiser; but as fate would have it, he got a gig on Broadway in the revival of Fences co-starring Viola Davis.


One of America’s favorite actresses died in Houston’s medical center -DIXIE CARTER, who the Alley Theatre’s artistic director GREGORY BOYD describes as “an astonishingly versatile actor – everyone knows her expertise in contemporary comedy, but she also excelled in Shakespeare, in Wilde, in musicals. She was a sublime cabaret artist, and her act at the Carlyle in New York was the best cabaret act I’ve ever seen. She had the thing that the theatre at its best, though only rarely, sees in an artist – an inner light, a spiritual depth and an abiding sense of grace.” Whew..what a review. I’ll always remember her entertaining performances on television’s Designing Women and now I’ll remember Mr. Boyd’s beautiful recollections of her.

Houston lost a great philanthropist, DAN L. DUNCAN, the richest man in this city and one of the richest in the country and the world, when he unexpectedly passed away recently. There were so many accolades given to him at his funeral, which was attended by thousands; but for me, the best story was one where Duncan had invited people he had just met to visit he and Jan at his ranch. When they arrived, DUNCAN met them, dressed in his jeans, grabbed their bags and showed them to their room upstairs. The man, unaware that the person carrying his bag was Duncan, promptly offered him a tip of two dollars. Dan graciously accepted, said “thank you,” turned and left. I also came away with the three words that others used to describe DAN DUNCAN: humble, hard-working and honest…the three “Hs.” This is a man who lost his mother when he was seven, his only brother when he was 7 and his father when he was 17. He learned this mantra from his grandmother, “Always do the best you can.” I believe he did just that.


I admire Wayne Dyer, the great motivational speaker and author, who at this moment is facing a challenge with cancer. He said recently, “I remember that I am a spiritual being living in a human body temporarily. Everything is fine.”

And, that reminds me of when I interviewed Billy Graham he said, “I’ve read the last page of the Bible. It’s all going to turn out alright.”

Paramahausa Yogananda said: “Never mind the past. Have the unflinching determination to move on your path unhampered by limiting thoughts of past errors.”

Recently a good friend of mine, LISA MOSCARELLI had an overwhelming feeling that she MUST help Mount Carmel Academy raise much needed funds. This small school started out of the ashes of Mount Carmel High School which suddenly was forced to close. Like the Phoenix rising out of those ashes, students at the Academy have for the two years it has been open, excelled beyond all expectations. It is, one might rightly say, a Miracle School. Well, LISA took on the challenge, forged through the frights of producing a first time fundraising event and did a magnificent job. There is such a joy that comes with helping others.

Have you done something good for somebody today?

Houston’s 25 Most Beautiful

February 4, 2010 by  
Filed under Blogs

Houston’s 25 Most Beautiful

Fifth Aniversary Edition

by Warner Roberts / photography by Gittings

HTEXAS is pleased to present 25 Beautiful Houstonians who have been selected from past winners for their unflinching community service. Andy Cordes and the fine photographers at Gittings created the dazzling artwork.

Author, Warner Roberts

Ask one hundred people on the street the question, “What is Beauty?” and you’ll likely get one hundred different answers. Throughout history, literary interpretations include those by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not,” and John Keats: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into oblivion.”

Our 25 Beautiful Houstonians reflect the famed Kahlil Gibran quote: “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”

All Eyes On Green

March 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Blogs

By Warner Roberts

Singing sensation Pat Green on music, family, and the great state of Texas.

H Texas sat down with traveling crooner, Pat Green, the same day his eleventh album, “What I’m For” was released. His excitement overshadowed his exhaustion. He’d been touring for weeks promoting this album and was finally home in Fort Worth. The country star allowed this interview under one condition—he could take a time out when his two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son wanted Daddy to play.

A Texan through and through, Green was born in San Antonio and grew up in Waco. He graduated college from Texas Tech, moved to Austin, and now lives in Fort Worth.

One of nine siblings in a blended family, he remembers a “buffet of music” echoing throughout his childhood home. The family listened to everything from Motown to Mozart. He had heard Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but he did not fall in love with country music until a friend urged him to listen to Robert Earl Keen. That was just before Green headed to Texas Tech. “I thought his songs were incredible; the stories were great and the music was so deep.” He was soon turned on to Jerry Jeff Walker and was inspired by the way these men used their music as a way of heartland storytelling.

Throughout college Green performed on any stage he could find. “Every Friday night I’d try to get a gig at Bash Rip Rock, County Line BBQ, or Depot Beer Garden,” he recalls. With money borrowed from his parents, 18 year-old Green recorded songs he had written and released a series of independently produced albums, including “Dancehall Dreamer” and “George’s Bar.” He had a day job working for his stepfather’s wholesale fuel business, but it was clear Green’s passion was elsewhere. “One day my stepdad called me into his office and let me go,” Green says. “He knew how much I loved music, and he wanted me to go for it. That’s when I made the total commitment to my dream; it’s music all the way.”

Green’s warm, rugged voice and charismatic connection with audiences earned him a rapidly growing fan base. He soon had the support of the same people who inspired him to sing country music. “Guys like Willie, Jerry Jeff, and Robert Earl were letting me open their shows which was amazing! I owe them all a debt of gratitude—not just for the platform, but also for their attitude and example.”

Green’s album, “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” was recorded during a performance at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Family Picnic. Soon after its release, Green was headlining his own shows and performing in front of sold-out crowds. His next album, “Songs We Wish We’d Written” was recorded in 2001 and within five years, Green sold 250,000 tapes, records, and CDs—an unheard of figure without backing from a major label.

“Going to Nashville and trying to become a star didn’t seem very appealing,” Green says. He believes Texas is the greatest place on the planet, so he avoided the frustrations of the Tennessee music business and found an audience here. While living in Austin, Green married his girlfriend Kori and earned a decent living doing what he loved—playing music. Though he was happy, there remained a large void in his music business. “I’d go to some towns and play for 1,000 people, but the local stores wouldn’t have my records,” he remembers. “I needed a national company to put my music out so people could study my quirks and kinks just like I studied the people who inspired me.”

When Republic Records came knocking, Green opened the door, signed a contract, and released “Three Days.” His next album, “Wave on Wave” was a hit, and the single of the same name rose to number three on the charts. “That was the album that really made a difference,” he says. “It really got the ball rolling toward radio success and national recognition.” The record catapulted him to stardom. He was suddenly in the same ranks as Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, and Kenny Chesney; “Wave on Wave” won three Grammy nominations.

Green wrote eight of the ten songs on his new album, “What I’m For.” To him, this album is a “coming of age” vehicle. Looking back on the songs he wrote early in his career, he thinks they were good, but with the new ones, he feels like he has come into his own. “They’re written by a man, by a father, by a guy that kind of has a handle on the situation.” As far as Pat Green is concerned, this is the best album he has ever done. The critics say he is right; his single “Let Me” is already number 13 on the charts. His favorite song, “Footsteps of Our Fathers,” was written with his friend, Brett James; “it’s the best song I’ve ever been a part of writing.” This song is his legacy, his story to his children.

Green released his first book, “Pat Green’s Dance Halls &Dreamers,” last year. The coffee table book is a look at Texas’ legendary music venues and the musicians who made them great. Each chapter documents a venue’s history, atmosphere, and individual charm. Green shares memories of each venue and gives readers a glimpse into his favorite, Gruene Hall. Billy Bob’s Texas, Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, and Luckenbach (where Green was married) are also highlighted. Interviews with honky-tonk heroes like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kevin Fowler and Jack Ingram add flavor to the book. “I love those old dance halls,” Green says. They’re where life slows down and people seem to have a better sense of reality. I see those great old hardwood floors and know that’s where a lot of our granddaddies walked. I love it!”

Despite performing for large crowds year-round, there is still one show that gives Green butterflies. “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo still scares me to death, but I look forward to it,” he says. “I’ll never forget the first time I performed there … about ten minutes before I went on, Kori told me we were pregnant with our first baby. I swear I don’t remember that performance at all—I have no idea how I made it through.”

Pat Green believes in the American dream. He aspires to continue to grow and, “be involved in the everlasting chase to be bigger than I am, to be better than I am.” Though much of his life is spent traveling and playing his music, he has never lost his contagious enthusiasm for life or excitement for each new performance and audience. His music pays homage to those who have cleared the path and made him the man he is today.

All Eyes on Green

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Edit

Singing sensation Pat Green on music, family, and the great state of Texas

H Texas sat down with traveling crooner, Pat Green, the same day his eleventh album, “What I’m For” was released. His excitement overshadowed his exhaustion. He’d been touring for weeks promoting this album and was finally home in Fort Worth. The country star allowed this interview under one condition—he could take a time out when his two-year-old daughter and five-year-old son wanted Daddy to play.

A Texan through and through, Green was born in San Antonio and grew up in Waco. He graduated college from Texas Tech, moved to Austin, and now lives in Fort Worth.

One of nine siblings in a blended family, he remembers a “buffet of music” echoing throughout his childhood home. The family listened to everything from Motown to Mozart. He had heard Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, but he did not fall in love with country music until a friend urged him to listen to Robert Earl Keen. That was just before Green headed to Texas Tech. “I thought his songs were incredible; the stories were great and the music was so deep.” He was soon turned on to Jerry Jeff Walker and was inspired by the way these men used their music as a way of heartland storytelling.

Throughout college Green performed on any stage he could find. “Every Friday night I’d try to get a gig at Bash Rip Rock, County Line BBQ, or Depot Beer Garden,” he recalls. With money borrowed from his parents, 18 year-old Green recorded songs he had written and released a series of independently produced albums, including “Dancehall Dreamer” and “George’s Bar.” He had a day job working for his stepfather’s wholesale fuel business, but it was clear Green’s passion was elsewhere. “One day my stepdad called me into his office and let me go,” Green says. “He knew how much I loved music, and he wanted me to go for it. That’s when I made the total commitment to my dream; it’s music all the way.”

Green’s warm, rugged voice and charismatic connection with audiences earned him a rapidly growing fan base. He soon had the support of the same people who inspired him to sing country music. “Guys like Willie, Jerry Jeff, and Robert Earl were letting me open their shows which was amazing! I owe them all a debt of gratitude—not just for the platform, but also for their attitude and example.”

Green’s album, “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas,” was recorded during a performance at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Family Picnic. Soon after its release, Green was headlining his own shows and performing in front of sold-out crowds. His next album, “Songs We Wish We’d Written” was recorded in 2001 and within five years, Green sold 250,000 tapes, records, and CDs—an unheard of figure without backing from a major label.

“Going to Nashville and trying to become a star didn’t seem very appealing,” Green says. He believes Texas is the greatest place on the planet, so he avoided the frustrations of the Tennessee music business and found an audience here. While living in Austin, Green married his girlfriend Kori and earned a decent living doing what he loved—playing music. Though he was happy, there remained a large void in his music business. “I’d go to some towns and play for 1,000 people, but the local stores wouldn’t have my records,” he remembers. “I needed a national company to put my music out so people could study my quirks and kinks just like I studied the people who inspired me.”

When Republic Records came knocking, Green opened the door, signed a contract, and released “Three Days.” His next album, “Wave on Wave” was a hit, and the single of the same name rose to number three on the charts. “That was the album that really made a difference,” he says. “It really got the ball rolling toward radio success and national recognition.” The record catapulted him to stardom. He was suddenly in the same ranks as Keith Urban, Gretchen Wilson, and Kenny Chesney; “Wave on Wave” won three Grammy nominations.

Green wrote eight of the ten songs on his new album, “What I’m For.” To him, this album is a “coming of age” vehicle. Looking back on the songs he wrote early in his career, he thinks they were good, but with the new ones, he feels like he has come into his own. “They’re written by a man, by a father, by a guy that kind of has a handle on the situation.” As far as Pat Green is concerned, this is the best album he has ever done. The critics say he is right; his single “Let Me” is already number 13 on the charts. His favorite song, “Footsteps of Our Fathers,” was written with his friend, Brett James; “it’s the best song I’ve ever been a part of writing.” This song is his legacy, his story to his children.

Green released his first book, “Pat Green’s Dance Halls &Dreamers,” last year. The coffee table book is a look at Texas’ legendary music venues and the musicians who made them great. Each chapter documents a venue’s history, atmosphere, and individual charm. Green shares memories of each venue and gives readers a glimpse into his favorite, Gruene Hall. Billy Bob’s Texas, Stubb’s BBQ in Austin, and Luckenbach (where Green was married) are also highlighted. Interviews with honky-tonk heroes like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kevin Fowler and Jack Ingram add flavor to the book. “I love those old dance halls,” Green says. They’re where life slows down and people seem to have a better sense of reality. I see those great old hardwood floors and know that’s where a lot of our granddaddies walked. I love it!”

Despite performing for large crowds year-round, there is still one show that gives Green butterflies. “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo still scares me to death, but I look forward to it,” he says. “I’ll never forget the first time I performed there … about ten minutes before I went on, Kori told me we were pregnant with our first baby. I swear I don’t remember that performance at all—I have no idea how I made it through.”

Pat Green believes in the American dream. He aspires to continue to grow and, “be involved in the everlasting chase to be bigger than I am, to be better than I am.” Though much of his life is spent traveling and playing his music, he has never lost his contagious enthusiasm for life or excitement for each new performance and audience. His music pays homage to those who have cleared the path and made him the man he is today.  

From Footsteps of Our Fathers:
We are walking in the footsteps of our fathers
Standing in the shadows of our mothers
Standing in the shadows of our mothers
Trying to learn from those who came before us
I see the roadmaps and lines upon their face …

Heart of a Hero

September 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Legendary heart surgeon Michael Ellis DeBakey, M. D. recounts his extraordinary life

I was privileged to interview Dr. DeBakey prior to his death, July 11, 2008, less than two months before his 100th birthday. My goal was to share his life reflections with H Texas readers in our September issue as a birthday gift. In the spirit of celebrating his 100th birthday, this article is written in present tense with Dr. DeBakey living and laughing as he was on May 7, 2008.

We meet in Dr. DeBakey’s private conference room. The walls are laden with framed photos of him with U. S. presidents, heads of state, national and local luminaries, doctors, family members, friends and patients. Dressed in a green pullover sweater and casual corduroy slacks, he still looks ruggedly handsome and has a twinkle in his eye as he enters in a motorized wheelchair. His vibrant warmth quickly fills the big room.

The father of modern cardiovascular surgery and arguably the most famous heart surgeon in the world, Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey, chancellor emeritus of Baylor College of Medicine and director of the DeBakey Heart Center of Baylor and Methodist Hospital, is responsible for much of the Texas Medical Center’s world-renowned reputation. His talent, expertise, compassion and dedication to helping others led him to develop and perfect more than 50 medical devices, techniques and procedures, saving millions of lives.

Theodore Roosevelt was president and Henry Ford had just developed the Model T when DeBakey was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Some of his earliest memories involve the library. His parents insisted their children check out a book each week.

“I could read when I was four,” he recalls, “but I was around seven when I found the best book I’d ever seen in the library. When I asked to take it home, the librarian refused. This fascinating book, my very favorite, turned out to be in a series —The Encyclopedia Britannica. It wasn’t long before my father bought the set for myself and my brothers and sisters. By reading these books, I really broadened my education. I learned a little geography, where all the countries were and the character of the country. I learned a little bit about the United States Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Of course, I didn’t understand everything in the encyclopedias, but I loved them and read each one. I was a good student, in the top of my class. I was probably the best-read freshman on the Tulane Campus.”

He credits his mother for his giving spirit. Every Sunday she gathered her children to deliver clothing she mended and meals she cooked to an orphanage. “One Sunday I objected when she packed a cap I liked,” he reminisces. “She said, ‘You have a new cap. These children don’t have parents to give them a cap. You can afford to give this one to them.’ In that moment I learned a lesson, and it never left me! Throughout my lifetime, I’ve been very grateful to be able to do things for others.”

His mother was a sewing expert, and he watched and learned as she taught neighborhood girls to sew. “At five years old, I could cut out a pattern,” he says. In the 1950s, about 40 years after cutting his first pattern, he sewed the prototype for artificial arteries on his wife’s sewing machine using fabric purchased at Foley’s in Downtown Houston. In 1952, he became the first surgeon in the country to perform successful excision and graft replacement of aneurysms of the aorta and obstructive lesions of the major arteries. He remembers it as one of the most exciting times in his life. “Up until then, there was no thought of ever doing it. It was a great stimulus to go on.”

His interest in medicine developed early in life. “My father was a pharmacist, and doctors would come by to get their prescriptions filled,” he explains. “I thought they were great people, and they truly inspired me to become a doctor.”

At 23, already in medical school and engaged in medical research, DeBakey invented the roller pump, which provides continuous flow of blood during operations and helped launch the open-heart surgery era. “That was pretty exciting,” he says. “I simplified the process with the roller pump, which became an integral component of the heart/lung machine.”

He was already a successful surgeon and professor when he opted to volunteer for service in World War II. He became a member of the Surgical Consultants’ Division in the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army from 1942 to 1946; in 1945 he became its director and received the U. S. Army Legion of Merit. He is credited with helping develop mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) units and later helped establish the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center Research System.

After re-entering civilian practice, Dr. DeBakey’s medical achievements began piling up. He was the pioneer behind countless medical procedures now used worldwide to save lives. Coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty, Dacron grafts and artificial heart transplants are just a few of his medical accomplishments.

Dr. DeBakey has operated on more than 60,000 patients, including President Lyndon Johnson, President John F. Kennedy, President Richard Nixon, The Duke of Windsor, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the Shah of Iran, King Leopold of Belgium, King Hussein of Jordan, Aristotle Onassis, Stavros Nicandros, Marlene Dietrich, Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, Wayne Newton, Sam Giancana and others. Each and every one of Dr. DeBakey’s patients, regardless of their stature, received the same excellent care.

“During those years I was up before four in the morning, at the hospital by 5, operating most of the day, usually 10 or 12 surgeries; between cases, interviewing people, visiting patients and writing,” he says. “Nothing has ever been more important than the health of my patients.”

A lifelong scholar with interests ranging well beyond medicine, Dr. DeBakey has thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, ethics, literature, art and music. Many have added “Renaissance Man” to his titles. His love of writing led him to author or co-author more than 1,700 published medical articles, chapters and books on various aspects of medicine, including ethical, socioeconomic and philosophic discussions. Many of these articles are considered classics. His books have appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list: “The Living Heart,” “The New Living Heart Diet,” “The Living Heart Shopper’s Guide” and “The Living Heart Guide to Eating Out.”

“There were many times I would operate all week and write all weekend,” he says. “I love to write; it’s been a kind of hobby—putting words together, expressing thoughts so that they represent a pleasant hearing of the words.”

After so many accomplishments, I can’t help but ask him for The Dr. Michael E. DeBakey Formula for a Long Life. The great man laughs and answers, “So much of the process of aging—from the day we’re born until the day we die—is unknown. A lot of what’s written is just verbiage; it doesn’t mean a thing. Certainly, there are a few things, such as smoking, that one should avoid; at least omit those things that are harmful. Common sense. Moderation. Eat anything in moderation.”

I heard from his friends that he loves Louisiana creole food covered in Tabasco sauce, so I ask him if he watches his diet.

“No!” he says instantly. “I like home cooking … rice, potatoes, meat once a week, shell fish and fish. Very moderately. I’ve weighed 165 pounds all of my adult life.”

Describing his schedule on the day of this interview, he says, “I still get up early, exercise at a physical fitness facility for an hour or so; come to the office every day, supervise surgeries, tend to correspondence and see people. No pressure. I go home mid-afternoon. I spend much of my free time in my library at home, which includes four or five thousand books. I’ve read many books on the various religions of the world, and I know a little bit about many of them. My favorite reading material is old classical poems from English writers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.”

According to Baylor College of Medicine, one of Dr. DeBakey’s greatest accomplishments is training successive generations of surgeons. He established many fellowship and residence programs; many of the program graduates have gone on to chair and direct academic surgical programs in this country and abroad. He was the driving force behind the High School for the Health Professions of the Houston Independent School District, which attracts young people to the health profession early and prepares them with a strong academic foundation. When I mention there must be thousands of young people who want to talk to him about becoming doctors, his eyes light.

“I enjoy having them ask me! My answer is always the same: discipline. It takes a great deal of discipline to study. You have to make choices: do I go out to the theatre tonight or do I study?”

On New Year’s Eve, 2006, 97-year-old DeBakey felt an incredible pain in his upper chest. He was in denial about the severity of his illness and waited a month before entering the hospital. As specialists conferred and argued the legalities of operating on someone his age, Dr. DeBakey’s wife, Katrin, burst into the room and said, “He’s dying, and you’re talking. If he is to have a chance to live, you have to operate!” The surgery, performed by Dr. DeBakey’s physician and longtime partner, Dr. George Noon, made DeBakey the oldest person to survive a major surgery. Incredibly, he was saved by his own invention of 50 years before.

Discussing his concept of what life will be like after death, he said, “I don’t think about death or the afterlife very often. I did for years, but I think if you are a Christian, you have to believe. It doesn’t require documentation. Therefore, I’m a Christian. I’m relieved that I don’t have to think about it or prove it. It’s really very simple: either you believe or you don’t. I learned to believe early in life. There is something about the Christian religion that’s very comforting.”

As he nears his 100th birthday, I ask him to reflect on his life. “In general, it was a productive and pleasant life. To be sure, I may be considered a workaholic, but I enjoyed it. The work was part of the joy of life. And there is nothing I enjoyed more than taking care of patients. If you look at the Congressional Gold Medal, which I just received, it bears the inscription of my words that I’ve lived by: ‘THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE HAS BEEN MY OBJECTIVE IN LIFE.’ And everything I’ve done or tried to do has been at the level of excellence.”

Most Beautiful

August 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Blogs

Defining Beauty H Texas Presents the 25 Most Beautiful Houstonians

Throughout history writers have tried to define beauty through poetry and prose. In the novel “Molly Bawn,” Margaret Wolfe Hunferford wrote, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and many writers and philosophers have expressed different versions of the same sentiment. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Beauty, like supreme dominion, is but supported by opinion” and in the words of Shakespeare, “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye.” In a more eloquent description of the essence of beauty, John Keats wrote: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases. It will never pass into nothingness.” We at H Texas define beauty as the ability to spread joy, lift spirits, encourage and inspire, and we measure it through service to mankind. With that definition in mind, we present our fourth annual 25 Most Beautiful Houstonians. The men and women on our list for 2008 make our city a more beautiful place through their courage, talent, creativity and devotion to communities in need.

1. LACY BAIRD: Real estate manager and third generation Houstonian Lacy Baird has received regional and national honors for more than 35 years of devotion to Arabian horses. Her other passion is giving back to the community. At the Houston Polo Club, Baird has chaired events for the Sunshine Kids and Casa de Esperanza and fund-raisers for Friends of Hermann Park, Citizens for Animal Protection, Baylor College of Medicine and other organizations. Her newest endeavor is the fight against cancer. Her paternal aunt was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; her mother with breast cancer. Baird recently tested positive for a rare gene mutation called BRCA, which puts her at high risk of breast and ovarian cancer. She plans to devote her life to educating, writing about and raising money for breast and ovarian cancer research. With medical treatment and a positive outlook, she will fight to live a long life for her 2-year-old daughter, Stella.

2. MARIA BUSH: The always-busy wife of Neil Bush and mother of two young children finds time to work as a community volunteer. A bundle of enthusiasm and energy, she loves working with the charity started by her mother-in-law, The Barbara Bush Family Literacy program. She is also active in the March of Dimes, Kick Start, Arrow Project, Points of Light and the Children’s Assessment Center.

3. CONNIE COOKE: Well-known as a writer and equally notable for volunteer work, fund-raising and community service, Cooke has chaired the University of Houston Moores School of Music Gala, the Silver Grace Hope Foundation luncheon, the Lone Star Wildlife Rescue Evening, the Trees of Light for the Hospice at the Texas Medical Center, the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston luncheon, the Houston Symphony Maestro Collection luncheon and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Gala. She co-chaired the Cancer League luncheon and the Symphony Scores Dinner Series and serves on the board of Summerridge Houston and the Houston Humane Society. This is her fourth year on the board of the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine.

4. ANDY CORDES: “The shining light of Gittings” tries to avoid the spotlight, but has contributed greatly to the success of many charitable organizations. “I am just an ordinary guy from a small Midwest town who is privileged to be associated with an extraordinary company serving a notable clientele,” he says. “I cherish the opportunities to assist our leaders make a difference in our community, and we take every opportunity to do what we can to help.” That help has been showered on the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, Houston Children’s Charities, Baylor College of Medicine and many other organizations.

5. FRANCI CRANE: During her 20-year legal career, the Houston Press named her one of the “women lawyers who men fear.” Today she spends most of her time volunteering in the community. An ardent champion of the arts, Crane sits on the executive committees of the Alley Theatre, Houston Grand Opera, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and Imprint, Inc. She is also a board member of Communities in Schools, Bo’s Place and the Episcopal Health Charities. She chaired the Alley Theatre’s Capital Campaign, and with help from her husband, Jim, the opera’s Heavenly Ball.

6. FULTON DAVENPORT: President of PWL Studio and one of Houston’s most respected and requested photographers, Davenport is committed to our charitable community. “Anyone can give money, but to give of one’s actual time and expertise is a much rarer find,” Fulton says. He helps the Boys and Girls Harbor, an organization providing safe harbor to child victims of family violence and abuse. Close to his heart is the Family to Family Network, which provides information, referrals, counseling, training and support to families who have children with disabilities and illnesses. Fulton supports arts organizations and urges everyone to get involved with one of his favorite projects, Elves and More. “The Christmas bicycle-giving soiree is an amazing event, and anyone reading this should plan on helping next year. It is so moving and is a perfect way to share your life’s blessings with those in need during the holiday season,” he says.

7. SYLVIA FORSYTHE: Many of Houston’s gala committee chairs and members call her a “fairy godmother.” While her job as public relations and fashion manager for Saks Fifth Avenue automatically involves her in a variety of fund-raisers and functions, she has personal favorites: Key to the Cure, supporting the Cancer Center at St. Luke’s, the Crohns and Colitis Winter Ball, The Bridge, The Trailblazer Committee luncheon, the Houston Ballet and Texas Children’s Hospital. Forsythe’s loving heart and passion for charity have endeared her to all who know her.

8. KENNETH GAYLE: As written in the Chicago Sun Times, “Neither scenery nor intricate lighting is required when a singing actor of his caliber takes the stage.” Hailed as one of the faces to watch, Gayle is accumulating accolades in his rising opera, concert and stage career. As a cast member of the staged concert Three Mo’ Tenors, he appeared on the TV broadcast of the NAACP Image Awards. Even with a packed 2008 performance schedule including stops in Baltimore, Bethesda, Seattle and Houston, Gayle makes time to volunteer. He served as artistic director/performer for Cabaret for a Cure benefiting AIDS Foundation Houston, performing artist for the Mukuru Arts for AIDS series, guest performer/student mentor for the Over the Rainbow fund-raiser supporting Yellowstone Academy, guest performer with KUHF Ensemble in fund-raising concerts at the Menil and the Evin Thayer Studios, and adjudicator for the NAACP Academic, Cultural and Technical (ACT) Scholastic Olympics.

9. KIRSTEN GUERRA: After graduating with honors from TCU, Guerra worked in New York and Dallas before returning to Houston to work in real estate. Inspired by her mother’s acts of community service, she began volunteering with Kappa Kappa Gamma for many charitable events and organizations. She volunteers for Special Olympics, Cystic Fibrosis, St. Jude Children’s Hospital and Children’s Assessment Center.

10. JANET GURWITCH: Prior to founding Gurwitch Products, the company that produces, manages and markets Laura Mercier Cosmetics and Skincare, Janet Gurwitch was the executive vice president of merchandising for Neiman Marcus, overseeing ready-to-wear, accessories, shoes and cosmetics departments. She is on the boards of the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Girl Scouts of America. She chaired the Child Advocates luncheon fund-raiser and is active in the Alexis de Tocqueville Society. She co-chairs the March of Dimes Best Dressed luncheon next year.

11. LISA HOLTHOUSE: A native Houstonian, Holthouse devotes much of her time to the Holthouse Foundation for Kids, which serves at-risk youth through character education and life skills programs. The foundation has worked with the Children’s Museum of Houston, Houston Achievement Place, KIPP Academy, YES Academy, Provision, Boys & Girls Club and Family Service Center. Holthouse served as a national board member for After-School All-Stars, as well as chair of the local board. She has served on the board of AIDS Foundation Houston and serves as vice chair and co-founder of Prepared 4 Life. She has chaired fund-raisers for both After-School All-Stars, Children’s Museum, AFH Houston and Prepared 4 Life.

12. VICTORIA NAU JOHNSON: A love of animals and the outdoors drives her to lend her talents, energy and resources to Citizens for Animal Protection, Ducks Unlimited and the Coastal Conservation Association. Johnson also serves on the Victory Committee of the American Cancer Society and the RNC Roundtable. She is a board member of Jr. VolunTIRR and The Good Samaritan Center and a member of the Junior League of Houston. Heavily involved with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, Johnson serves as a committeeman on the Breeders Greeters and Parade committees and team captain on the Corporate Development Committee. She and her husband, Parker, chaired the Ben Johnson Memorial Cowboy Classic Cutting, raising record-setting funds for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Jennifer Jumonville13. Jennifer Jumonville: Deciding at an early age to devote her life to children, Jumonville began her career as a third grade teacher at St. Francis Episcopal Day School. As director of development at the Westview School, she worked with children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PCD), such as autism, and other communication disorders. She volunteers for Camp John Marc, the Children’s Museum Family Night, Texas Children’s Hospital, YMCA Camp Rainbow, Diabetes Day Camp, Junior League of Houston and the Grace Bible Church. She also volunteers on mission trips to South Africa.

14. ROB LANDES: Pianist, organist, arranger, conductor and published composer, Landes is one of the best-known musicians in Houston. He was the keyboardist for the rock group Fever Tree, whose four albums are still heard worldwide. The Rob Landes Trio has performed in venues all over the country. Landes has been collaborating with Dr. Sidney Berger for eight years, writing musicals for the Children’s Theatre Festival at the University of Houston. He has been the organist/artist-in-residence at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Houston since 1996. Landes performs about 75 concerts each year, either as a solo performer or with his Trio, to raise funds for various organizations. His musical gifts, wit and generous heart contribute greatly to the hometown he loves.

15. CARMEN MARIA LECHIN: She is a former Miss Venezuela, Miss South America and was second runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant. An award-winning broadcast journalist, Lechin is on the advisory board of the Latin Women’s Initiative and chaired their Fashion Show luncheon. She chaired the fashion committee for the Mexican Women’s Initiative (MWI), is the president and founder of The Maecenas, MFAH, a support group for the Latin American Art Department, chairman of the concert committee of Virtuosi of Houston, board committee member of Success Scholarships Center, which raises scholarship funds for low-income Hispanic students, board member of Virtuosi of Houston, an organization raising funds for the education of young musicians, member of the Smithsonian Institute, chaired an event for The Rainforest Foundation, and created and developed Fundación las Misses, a fundraising organization helping pediatric hospitals buy equipment. She chairs the Institute of Hispanic Culture’s Gala de las Americas in October.

16. MICHAEL MCCLURE: Director of Tiffany & Company, Galleria, McClure grew up in Beaumont in a single-parent home. He attended nine schools in 12 years, and though going to college seamed like the impossible dream, he was determined to get a degree. After honorably serving his country in the US Navy, he moved to Houston, attended The University of Houston, and received his certification from the Gemological Institute of America in diamond and colored stone grading. In 1993 McClure joined Tiffany & Co. where he worked as a security officer for more than five years before becoming the operations manager. People often ask how he went from security guard to director of the whole store. His philosophy, which he teaches to kids in many community outreach efforts (which include the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund and the United Negro College Fund, among others) is to “be determined, have a strong desire and jump-start yourself!”

17. MICA MOSBACHER: An advocate for abused children and former victim herself, Mosbacher gives a voice to those who have been hurt. She chaired the inaugural event for Texans Against Sexual Abuse in Houston. Her impact on our community is large; she serves on the boards or committees of an array of organizations and institutions. For more than 10 years she has been a member of the National Council of Best Friends, a character education program, and spearheaded the group that brought the program to seven schools in Houston. For many years she has chaired the Best Friends Gala in Washington, D. C. She has chaired many record-breaking charitable fund-raisers here and has hosted countless events in her home for the Houston Ballet, Museum of Fine Arts, Strake Jesuit Capital Campaign and the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

18. DARRYL MURCHISON: Fourteen years ago Murchison started creating holiday floral arrangements in his parents’ garage. He sold them to apartment complexes and hotels. Today his company, Darryl Murchison Design, produces events all across the country. He gives much credit for his success to his “incredible” staff. Always wanting to give back to the community, Murchison donates his time, creativity and resources to the International Special Events Society and the National Association for Catering Executives. In addition, he donates and designs for Child Advocates, American Heart Association, Houston Children’s Charity, Citizens for Animal Protection, the Memorial Hermann Foundation, American Red Cross and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

19. JOEL OSTEEN: He has been called “America’s voice of hope” and recognized as one of The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2006 by Barbara Walters. Osteen and his wife, Victoria, are the pastors of America’s largest church, Lakewood Church in Houston. Through weekly televised sermons, his New York Times best sellers, sold-out international speaking tours and weekly podcasts, he inspires tens of millions of people in more than a hundred nations. While Joel and Victoria support many charities, they’re focused on building a shelter for troubled teens with Mercy Ministries, founded by Nancy Alcorn.

20. FRAN FAWCETT PETERSON: During her 18 years in Houston media, Peterson fought to get desperately needed coverage for charities and the arts. She grew up with a passion for fund-raising, collecting money for the March of Dimes at age four and selling turkey raffle tickets for her school when she was eight. She has helped the Houston Grand Opera, Opera in the Heights, Wellsprings, Stages, Susan G. Komen, CCFA, Northwest Assistance Ministries, M. D. Anderson Cancer Research Center and DARE. She serves on the executive board of the Symphony Society and is a member of the Houston Symphony League, the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, the Ballet Guild and the fund-raising committee of Victory, a branch of the American Cancer Society. She and her husband, Phillip, are avid supporters of Rice University’s Baker Institute, The University of Houston Law School and the Moores School of Music. They chaired the 2004 Houston Symphony Ball.

21. RACHEL REGAN: “I get so much satisfaction from community, family and charity, because you get back so much more than you give,” Regan says. Motivated by a deep love of animals, she chaired the Citizens for Animal Protection Gala last year, served on the Capital Campaign Committee to raise funds for the new CAP shelter, co-chaired the first Derek Dog fund-raiser luncheon for CAP and served as honoree ambassador for the organization this year. She serves as the provisional chairman of the Junior League of Houston, member of the board of directors of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital Friends of Nursing, and is a founding board member of Women of Wardrobe, which supports Dress for Success Houston. She is a guild member of the Houston Ballet, the Zoo Friends Guild, the March of Dimes, the American Cancer Society and the Baylor Women’s Association of Houston.

22. DANIELLE SHBEEB: Owner and president of The Perfect Face makeup and hair studio, Shbeeb travels often as the official makeup artist for Miss Texas USA, Miss Texas Teen USA, Miss USA, Miss Universe and many other beauty contests worldwide. She is a charter member of the Deaf Blind Children’s Fund and supports and volunteers for the Justice Foundation, DePelchin Children’s Center, Get Tough Project (campaign against childhood obesity) and the Sunshine Kids. She says giving back is her lifelong endeavor.

23. CAROL SAWYER: She started volunteering as a child, walking door to door with her mother collecting for various charitable causes. Sawyer has held every position on a fund-raising committee and believes they are all equally important, whether addressing envelopes, acquiring auction items, serving on boards or chairing events. Past president and current board member of The Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine, she serves on the advisory council of the Maxine Mesinger Multiple Sclerosis Foundation and is a member of the Cancer League Advisory Board. For three years she was vice chairman of the Wine Competition and Auction Committee for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and has worked in many capacities for Houston Children’s Charity.

24. SUZANA BRENER DE STERN: From her parents who were involved community service in Mexico, Suzana Brener De Stern learned early to give to others. When she was only 8 years old she gave her bicycle to a poor child on the street. She has always known the vital importance of preserving the earth’s rain forests, which she has called “the lungs of the earth,” and it was when she chaired The Rainforest Foundation Gala in 2000 that her charity work and fund-raising blossomed. With a strong desire to make a difference, she has chaired the Institute of Hispanic Culture Gala and The Latin Women’s Initiative luncheon. A native Mexican, Suzana’s passion is helping Houston’s Hispanic community, but she is active in many diverse organizations, including Theatre Under the Stars, Hadassah, Victory, La Tremenda Radio, Keshel Elion School of Music, Challenge Aspen and her children’s schools. She and her husband, Juan, have opened their home to multiple organizations.

25. DELISE WARD: A native Houstonian, Ward discovered her love of photography while attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. When modeling in Paris, France, her interest in photography (behind the camera) was revived. She returned to Houston and built a strong reputation for fashion photography at both the Paige Parkes and Neal Hamil agencies. Known for her mastery of photography in natural light settings, she excels in fashion, editorial, commercial and family photography. In recent years, she has been an instructor and guest critic at the Houston Center for Photography. Known in the photographic community as generous and open-hearted, Ward commits her time and talent to worthy causes. Her favorite way to give back is by donating portraits to families at the Star of Hope Mission.

Hope, Help and Forgiveness are Back in Houston

July 1, 2008 by  
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Native Houstonian on her New York Times best seller

Native Houstonian Marianne Williamson, author, international lecturer, spiritual guru and activist, is back. Her ninth book, “The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife,” has just climbed to No. 2 on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

She has a very busy life. While her 17-year-old daughter is her top priority, she currently hosts a daily radio show on “Oprah &Friends” XM radio channel, leads monthly tele-classes and has speaking engagements all over the world.

Williamson said she always had an interest in esoteric and philosophical issues, but when she found “A Course in Miracles” in 1977, her life changed. “A Course in Miracles,” written by Jewish psychologist Dr. Helen Schucman, is a three book series based on forgiveness. It is not a religion, but a self-study program of spiritual psychotherapy based on universal spiritual themes. Williamson defines it as “a practical goal for the attainment of inner peace through the practice of forgiveness — a method for choosing love over fear.” Williamson’s books, lectures and radio show are based on “A Course in Miracles.”

Williamson was raised by her Jewish parents in Houston. She attended Pershing Junior High and Bellaire High School before going to Pomona College in Claremont, California, where she worked “at just about everything,” including cocktail waitress and jazz singer. She says like most people in their 20s, her life was full of “so much fun and misery.”

She began teaching from “A Course in Miracles” at the Los Angeles Philosophical Research Society. She taught for free while supporting herself with temp work. Finally, after two years of volunteering, she began to receive a paycheck for her lectures. During the next 12 years she became a minister in the Unity Church. Her lectures developed a following and she gained celebrity friends including Elizabeth Taylor and Oprah Winfrey. People talked about her, and she soon experienced success with her cassette tapes, books and seminars on both coasts.

In her new book, Williamson admits it was hard turning 50 and facing the fact that youth was irrevocably over. “It’s still a shock!” she says. “Youth is so much a part of your identity, and we don’t have an exact definition for the years that come after — like a second puberty — switching from one persona to another. Life is not less fascinating and fabulous; just different. It’s a new season. We need a new conversation, a new reference, a new way to think and talk about age.”

Williamson says the dilemma confronting those who are older is what to do with the time they have left. “It’s the power of thought that determines whether we give up or finally get going. What we’ve called ‘middle age’ need not be a turning point toward death,” she says. “It can be a turning point toward life — life as we’ve never known it.”

Another challenge is to avoid negative thoughts like “I’m over the hill,” “No one will hire me,” or “I’ve missed my chance.” She says spiritual work trains the mind to counter the dominant thoughts of the world. “At any point, life will be what we program it to be,” she says. “Our very cells respond to the thoughts we think. With every word, silent or spoken, we participate in the body’s functioning. We participate in the functioning of the universe itself. If our consciousness grows lighter, then so does everything with and around us. This means, of course, that with every thought, we can start to re-create our life.”

Williamson believes the physical self ages; the spiritual self does not. “No matter who you are, no matter how old you are, in the present, all things are possible.” She also feels we have a huge impact on others through simple actions — a smile, a kind word, a courteous gesture. “These small things can make such a difference in someone’s day, in someone’s life, in our own life!”

The main theme in Williamson’s work is forgiveness. “Forgiveness involves faith in a love that is greater than hatred and a willingness to see the light, the innocence in someone’s soul even when his or her personality has harbored darkness. Forgiveness does not mean that someone did not act horribly; it means that we choose not to focus on their guilt. In doing so, we not only free them from the weight of our condemnation, but we free ourselves as well. That is the miracle of forgiveness!”

Outside of her professional life she is involved in charitable work throughout the country. In 1989, she founded Project Angel Food, a meals-on-wheels program that serves homebound people with AIDS, which now serves over 1,000 people daily. In recent years she founded and serves as president of The Peace Alliance, a grassroots campaign supporting legislation currently before Congress to establish a U. S. Department of Peace.

In December 2006, a Newsweek poll named Williamson one of the 50 most influential baby boomers. Four of her books have held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list: “A Return to Love,” “The Healing of America,” “A Woman’s Worth” and “Illuminata: A Return to Prayer.” She has been described as a gifted writer and brilliant speaker. When asked to describe herself she said, “Woman!” without hesitation. “‘A Course in Miracles’ poses the question, ‘What do labels mean?’ But I would say that I am a teacher, lecturer, political activist.”

Marianne Williamson is not only back on the best sellers list, she is back in Houston. You can hear her radio show on XM156 and can submit questions through

Hooray for Houston

June 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Edit

Area actors leaving their mark in Hollywood

Houston has produced more than its share of famous actors. Farrah Fawcett, Lisa Hartman, Jaclyn Smith, Patrick Swayze and brothers Dennis and Randy Quaid all achieved national acclaim. There are also hundreds of talented actors who began their careers in Houston and are not yet household names. However, after launching their careers in Houston, they enjoy success as actors.

1. BRANDON SMITH is a successful actor who has always lived in Houston. He was only nine years old when he was discovered at the Alley Theatre and offered a role in an Agatha Christie play. During his 10-year Alley contract, he portrayed all the child roles until he grew too tall. Since his Alley tenure ended, Smith has had major roles in many feature films and on television. He is seen in the Academy Award-winning No Country for Old Men and episodes of Prison Break.

2. A perfect example of talent with supportive parents is CARSON BROWN. Her parents realized Carson was committed to becoming an actress when she was eight years old. Her first audition was at age 12 where she earned the role of Kim Basinger’s daughter in the film Easy Money. The family moved to Los Angeles to give Carson more opportunities for success. Carson appeared in two films, three television shows and a national commercial. Now back in Houston, she is a teen reporter on KTBU’s Wild About Houston.

3. MATTHEW BOMER, starring in Traveler, trained at the Alley Theatre. After college, he moved to New York and worked on stage until landing a part on All My Children. In 2001, he joined the cast of Guiding Light and earned a role in television’s Tru Calling. He was director Brett Ratner’s choice to play the lead in Superman Returns (2006). However, Bomer lost the Superman part when Ratner left the production. He can be seen on Amy Coyne and North Shore, and in Flightplan with Jodie Foster. He also had a lead part in Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning.

4. Since filming her first commercial at age five, ASHLEY JONES has had an extensive career in film, television and theater. She portrays Bridget Forrester on The Bold and the Beautiful. When her father found work in Houston, she became part of the Actor’s Theatre and performed in critically acclaimed productions. At age 12, she earned rave reviews for her performance in The Chalk Garden. At age 15, Jones portrayed Ingrid in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She also has other television credits including The Young and the Restless, Crossing Jordan, The District, Without a Trace, 7th Heaven and CSI: New York. Her film credits include Old School and Extreme Dating. Jones has earned two Daytime Emmy nominations and Australia’s Boomerang Award for Best Younger Actress.

5. DAVID BORN is a professional stage, film and television actor with hundreds of credits to his name. He worked as a full-time actor in Houston and Louisiana for 20 years before he and his wife moved to Los Angeles. The Houston native earned his drama degree from the University of Houston. There, he studied with the late Cecil Pickett, Sidney Berger and Thomas J. Lyttle. He also studied at the Actor’s Theatre and was a prominent fixture at many of Houston’s major companies. Born stars in the feature film God Thinks You’re a Loser and has a supporting role in the independent hit Little Chenier, which won the Best Picture award at the Phoenix Film Festival. He has a co-starring role on the TV series Prison Break and recently filmed Bamboo Shark, starring Mickey Rooney. Born earned accolades for his impression of Robin Williams. He reached the semifinals on The Next Best Thing, a television show seeking America’s best celebrity impersonator.

6. The successful and recognizable LORETTA DEVINE graduated from the University of Houston with speech and drama degrees. Her big break came in the Broadway production of Dreamgirls, which premiered in 1981 and ran for more than 1,500 performances. In 1995, she earned a high-profile role as Gloria Peaches in Waiting to Exhale, starring Whitney Houston, Gregory Hines and Angela Bassett. She earned an NAACP Image Award for best supporting actress. She is best known for her role of Marla Hendricks on the drama Boston Public, for which she won three Image Awards. She has a recurring part as Adele Webber on the hit medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. She appeared in the 2005 Academy Award Best Picture, Crash. She plays Rochelle’s mother, Maxine, on the sitcom Everybody Hates Chris and co-stars in the new hit series Eli Stone.

7. Born in Houston in 1990, soap opera actress LEVEN ALICE RAMBIN performed at St. Francis Episcopal Day School. She studied acting at the Houston School of Film and Theatre and finished her youth modeling courses through Mayo-Hill Houston. Rambin plays the autistic Lily Montgomery on All My Children. In March of 2007, she played dual parts on the serial, portraying Lily and her half-sister Ava Benton. She was nominated as Outstanding Younger Actress in a Drama Series at the 34th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards for the two roles.

8. TONY OLLER is a 16-year-old singer, actor and musician called Disney’s New Heartthrob. Oller is shooting season two of Disney’s As the Bell Rings.

9. BLUE DECKERT, has worked consistently for many years and co-stars as Coach Mac McGill on Friday Night Lights. His character has been in every episode of the series about Texas high school football.

10. Born in Houston in 1980, ERIC LADIN graduated from Kinkaid School in 1997 and from USC in 2001 with a theater degree. He has more than 20 film and television roles to his credit, including a major role in HBO’s miniseries Generation Kill, filmed in Africa.

Clay Walker

November 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Edit

A new album, a new bride, a new life

Multi-platinum country music star Clay Walker has albums that have sold in excess of 10 million copies and placed 31 titles on Billboard’s singles chart. He is one of country’s busiest touring artists. “Fall,” the new single from his eighth album, is quickly moving up the charts. Life may seem good for Walker, but the path has not always been easy. Through perseverance and faith, the country legend still stands tall.

“Growing up in Beaumont was wonderful,” he says. “My mom loved all the soul and R &B music, like Motown; and my dad, who sang and played the guitar, was stone cold country. He taught me to play the guitar. He also bought me a horse when I was two and taught me to ride.”

While the future country crooner excelled in academics, he thought his ticket to fame would be through athletics.

“I was pretty good in school, always in advanced classes; but I loved football and thought I would get a college football scholarship. I was about 16 when I entered a talent contest in the Golden Triangle area (Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange) at Parkdale Mall that lasted three days,” he says. “There must have been 200 acts – singing, dancing – like the Gong Show. I did a demo of a song I’d written for my mom, ‘Lady with a Golden Heart.’ I won, and it was overwhelming; the defining moment of my life!”

When Walker took his demo to a local radio station, he was told that the station’s policy prohibited playing an unsolicited tune. But as he drove away, he heard his song playing on the radio. After as he graduated from high school in 1987, he began to pursue his musical career, singing in local honky-tonks.

“I knew that Mark Chestnut and Tracy Byrd, two other Beaumont artists, started by working there, and I was hoping I could do the same thing,” he recalls.

In 1992, while singing at the Neon Armadillo Bar in Beaumont, a man named Nolan Simmons walked over to him and said, “That’s the best voice I’ve ever heard. I’m sending someone over to listen to you.”

Within a week, James Stroud, Giant Record’s president, came into the bar. “I hadn’t finished my first set when Mr. Stroud got up and walked out the door,” remembers Walker. “I jumped up and followed him to his car saying, ‘Let me buy you a beer.’ He turned to me and said, ‘I’ve seen all I need to see. Come to Nashville, and let’s get started,”‘ remembers Walker.

Walker can vividly recall recording his self-titled first album.

“I’ve never been so intimidated in my life. I’d performed at concerts where there were 10 – or 15,000 people, but nothing compared to being in that studio,” he says. “I’d written most of the songs. ‘Live Until I Die,’ I wrote for my grandmom and my mom. But, somewhere along the way, I said to James, ‘Something is missing. I don’t feel the best of my energy.’ James left the studio, ran barefooted across the road to the record office and came back with ‘What’s it to You?’ Well, I heard angels singing. That song went straight to No. 1. That was my first experience in the studio.”

Just when Walker seemed to be on top of the world, he began to notice subtle changes in his health — fatigue in his right leg, tingling in his right hand and a tiredness that he had never experienced before. In 1996 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a chronic, autoimmune disease that turns the body’s own defense system into a powerful destructive weapon aimed at the central nervous system.

Walker was devastated. “[I was] a broken man for awhile,” he admits, “I prayed. I remembered that I was raised a Christian; and, if I hadn’t had that faith to fall back on, there’s no telling where I’d be today. Never before was it so clear to me that my faith was not just something I was taught but something to live by. I realized why it was there, and it was powerful. I suddenly knew in my heart and soul that I’d be OK. I’m thankful for my family and friends that prayed for me.”

In search of answers, Walker came to the Bayou City.

“I came home to Houston to find out about MS first hand from the greatest doctors in the world. As you gain more knowledge, you know MS is not a death sentence, like had been suggested to me,” he says. “Until recently there was nothing they could do, no known cause or cure, just a crapshoot. Now, doctors have discovered how to slow the disease. I began to research everything I could about it.”

“I started cooking for myself,” he continues. “Instead of the steaks and shakes, cheeseburgers and fries, I began to take care of myself. [I learned] how to cook healthy meals, eating fish all the time, redfish, red snapper and steamed vegetables. I’m not so obsessive now, a little more in the middle – with a little steak and chicken, but still healthy eating.”

Walker formed the Clay Walker Band against MS foundation to help others confronted with the disease. “My goal is to educate people, to get the information in front of them and to fund research into new MS therapy options,” he says. “Each year, the foundation awards additional grants to worthy medical institutions for further MS research. I am so grateful for my success. Here I am 10 years later, and I’m probably healthier than ever. My question to myself is always ‘What can I do to give back?’ And, the answer is, ‘find a cure.'”

With his MS under control and his new single from his first album for Curb Records climbing the charts, Walker has every reason to smile. However, nothing makes his face light up more than talking about his new bride, Jessica Craig, whom he married on Sept. 28 in New Orleans.

“I had been reading a book about how I could make myself a better person so that I’d be ready to find a wife after God’s own heart. I know when your marriage doesn’t work out; it’s the fault of both people. I had finished the book two days before going to New York for the 2005 CMA awards,” he says. “Walking through the lobby of the Marriott Marquis, I saw her; there she was, surrounded by her friends. I made my way closer to her, and it just struck me to ask her where she worked. She mentioned that she modeled for American Eagle, National Verizon and National Mini Cooper, but she did not seem excited at all. I asked why. Jessica said, ‘I want to be a mom.’ I was flabbergasted. I thought to myself (literally within minutes), this is the one. There was something magical about her; she had the traditional values that are so important, and she wasn’t afraid to say that she was traditional. There was no arrogance, no ego about her. As we continued to walk together, we passed a photo of her that was life size. I laughed and told her I’d never had one that big.”

For Walker and Craig, love continued to bloom. “After a year, on Nov. 14, I proposed to Jessica on the steps of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Galveston, where her grandfather proposed to her grandmother,” he recalls.

“We had a wonderful engagement party in Abita Springs near Covington, La. where Jessica grew up, with about 40 family members and friends.”

“We invited 500 guests to the wedding. All the groomsmen wore Resistol hats and Lucchese boots. The colors were sage and lavender; I wore a lavender shirt and my beautiful bride wore a dress by designer Melissa Sweet, which she found at Priscilla of Boston,” he says.


With his new bride, Walker is looking to settle in the Bayou City.

“We’re in the process of looking for a house in Houston or close by on a ranch. [This city] is my home, and one of my biggest thrills is playing the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo,” he says. “There is something very special and spiritual between the audience and me. I’m not sure that feeling is shared by any other performer. One of my proudest moments came when I placed fourth in the HLSR cutting horse competition recently.”

His HLSR performances are generally sold-out.

While his music has catapulted Walker to the top of the country music world, faith and family still come first.

“The most important thing in the world to me is my family. Jessica is the greatest human being I’ve ever met and my daughters are everything to me,” he says. “I want to be sure my priorities stay where they belong. It’s God first, family, then music. Music will always be my first love. MaClay DeLayne, age 11, and Skylor Clay Anne, age 8, are the apples of my eye, and both are good horsewomen and good singers. MaClay can ride the hide off of anything.”

Walker also makes time for his beloved game of golf. He honed his talents playing with golf-pro Jackie Burke at Champions Golf Course. “I’m such a history buff, and this game has such a rich history. It’s a great game,” he says. He regularly competes in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. In 2005, his team won the tournament; he donated his share of the winnings to Band Against MS.

The handsome Texan points to two Southern legends as sources for inspiration.

“My favorite singer is Elvis Presley. I don’t think Elvis gets the credit he deserves for being an absolutely great singer,” he explains. “I’ve always been a big fan of Freddy Fender and feel lucky to have recorded his country classic mega hit, “Before the Last Teardrop Falls” with him on my new album. This was the first duet I’ve ever done, and when we went into the studio to record it together, it was pure magic. Freddy died of cancer just a few months after we sang. He was a great guy.”

Although Walker’s legion of fans has their own descriptions for their idol, he strives to stay down to earth. “I’m a pretty focused person. I want to do the right thing, no matter what the cost,” he says. “I read the Bible every day, and there’s always something there for me. People make religion and life too difficult; they want to complicate everything. Read John 3:16. [It] doesn’t matter if you’re Baptist, Catholic, or whatever – that one works for everybody.”

Tina Knowles

September 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Edit

Pop star’s mom sews some Diva-licious threads

When you are the mother of the world’s premier diva, you can relax and enjoy life’s spoils … unless you are Tina Knowles.

The couture fashion maven, who happens to be the mother of Beyoncé, will turn heads on the runway when she releases her 2007 House of Deréon fall fashion line.

It’s not by accident that Knowles’ creations are must-haves across the country.

Raised in a large, poor family in Galveston, Tina often wondered how her mother, Agnes Deréon, could afford to send her and her siblings to a pricey Catholic school. As it turns out, her mother paid for part of their tuition by making robes for the altar boys, cloaks for the priests and altar cloths for the church.

“My mother was so talented and so resourceful. People would come to her to make their prom dresses and beautiful formal gowns,” says Tina. “I grew up in a very style-conscious environment. She used paper to cut her patterns and her creations were often embellished with hand-smocking, beading, lace, embroidery and jeweled buttons.”

Tina watched as her mother meticulously took simple pieces of fabric and created her own custom masterpieces.

In junior high, Tina sang with a local group called the Beltones. Needing costumes, she put her lessons to good use and took it upon herself to design the clothing for the group’s performances.

Fast forward a couple of decades and Tina’s designs have exploded on the scene.

Maybe it was destiny (as in Destiny’s Child), that Beyoncé and Tina would collaborate to launch the House of Deréon, a high-end couture line, in the fall of 2005.

Tina describes the clothing line, inspired by three generations of women, with the mantra: Couture, Kick and Soul. Tina is the “Couture,” Beyoncé is the “Kick,” and Tina’s mom and Beyoncé’s grandmother, Agnes Deréon, is the “Soul.”

“My goal has always been to bring a touch of couture to affordable clothes. Everyone should have access to great fit, great fabric, to the feel of a perfect garment,” Tina says.

The young contemporary women’s line features ready-to-wear, casual sportswear and denim offerings, as well as furs, handbags and footwear. The House of Deréon is featured in all Federated stores, such as Macy’s, Dillard’s, Bloomingdale’s and other fine department and specialty stores nationally.

Tina’s couture creations hit the mainstream as her family’s high-powered act Destiny’s Child took over the pop charts by storm.

When Beyoncé was 7-years-old, she and her girlfriends were dancing in the backyard. But at age 11, Beyoncé’s dance teacher saw something special in the young future diva. She began entering in music competitions and won every contest she entered against girls who were much older. All the while, Tina was creating the costumes and hairstyles as she was a hairstylist with a successful salon.

It wasn’t long before Beyoncé was making waves performing at Tina’s salon. The family was approached by someone wanting to build a vocal group around Beyoncé. After auditioning more than 50 girls, Mathew, Tina’s husband and Beyoncé’s father, quit his six-figure job and took over as manager for the family’s music endeavors.

“My husband is very, very smart. He’s a risk taker; I’m not. When he believes in something or someone, the building can fall, but he will never give up,” she says.

As the group continued to gain notoriety in music circles, they settled on the name Destiny’s Child.

Tina was responsible for suggesting the name “Destiny” after she found a photo of the girls stuffed in the Bible. They chose the name “Destiny’s Child” because there were several other groups with the name “Destiny.” Fortified with inspiration and talent from her mother, Tina created the cutting-edge, hip-haute fashions worn by the R&B group during public appearances and music videos.

While the members of Destiny’s Child have since gone their separate ways in their careers, Tina and Beyoncé and the rest of the Knowles family continue to support each other.

Daughter Solange, herself a successful singer, has joined her sister, Beyoncé, and Tina in the House of Deréon. Each brings fresh, playful attitudes and individual personalities to the designs. Beyoncé, Solange and Kelly Rowland are the dynamic Deréon models.

This year, the House of Deréon launches two new lines, including one for infants.

“We’re also launching a ‘real woman’ line for sizes up to 24, with all the styling tips to accentuate the positive,” she says. “Every woman is beautiful and deserves a perfect fit. If she wants to wear a pencil skirt, she should be able to find one that fits.”

Tina also presents her exclusive “Miss Tina” line on the Home Shopping Network. The collection, which debuted Aug. 19, emphasizes figure-flattering silhouettes and exquisite attention to detail to enhance every woman’s personal style. The collection is designed for confident women who like to make a statement with the clothes they wear. It includes denim, sweaters, blouses, jackets, trousers, skirts, T-shirts, footwear, handbags and other accessories.

“I went to New York to look at all the samples for the Young Deréon line before any of them left for the stores,” Tina recalls, “While there, I met with Mindy Grossman of Home Shopping Network concerning the new line we debuted in August. We were walking from her office to my office (about four blocks,) and people were coming up to me on the street saying, ‘Miss Tina, I saw this’ or ‘I like that’ or something about Beyoncé or Solange. They all kept calling me Miss Tina. That’s when Mindy said, ‘That’s it! We’re going to call this line Miss Tina!'”

Being a fashionista isn’t exactly easy. If anything, it can be time-consuming.

“Most days, I’m up at 6 a.m. and the days are sometimes 12-, 14-, 16-hour days,” she explains. “I’m sketching or fitting and the deadlines keep coming. This is a hands-on business. If I’m not in New York, I’m running with the sketches to send to New York.”

Although her family is top priority, Tina acknowledges working with them has its trials.

“People tend to think that the reason for my success is due totally to my relationship with Beyoncé. They don’t seem to want to acknowledge the fact that I might be able to accomplish anything on my own; they don’t realize the hard work that goes into every project.”

But, that won’t stop Tina from what she does best.

“I’m a caretaker. I want to take care of everybody. I’m a protective mother first. Actually, that’s the most important and the best job I’ve ever had,” she says with a smile. “I think about how grateful I am to God for all my blessings, and I ask Him to protect my children and keep them healthy and happy. Then, I start sketching in my mind.”

And the process starts all over again.

25 Most Beautiful Houstonians

August 1, 2007 by  
Filed under Edit

Compassion and generosity make for a beautiful community

KELLY ANZILOTTI‘s love of beautiful, unique handbags and accessories led her to start her own company, Kelly K’s Designs. Known for her distinctive creativity, she is also open-hearted and generous when it comes to donating to worthy causes. Her handbags are popular and easily recognizable in the many silent and live auctions associated with the city’s charitable events. At her private showings, a portion of the sales are donated to Citizens for Animal Protection. She also is very involved with her three young children and volunteers at their schools.

Houston Astro LANCE BERKMAN is a hometown favorite. After graduating from Canyon High School near New Braunfels, he attended Rice University from 1995 to 1997. He was named the 1997 Player of the Year by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and named first team All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine, Baseball America and the Sporting News. Berkman has continued his success with the Astros, amassing an All-Star career with MVP-caliber numbers. Along with the Methodist Hospital System, he has founded Berkman’s Bunch. For seven years, they have provided game tickets and promotional materials to underprivileged youth. Lance feels strongly about supporting the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and his church, Second Baptist Church.

NOBLE CARL is a native Houstonian and has been president of the Gainsborough Corporation since 1994. He is passionate about his work and equally passionate about participating in charitable endeavors that benefit children. He has worked on many events for the Children’s Assessment Center and the Children’s Museum. Recently, he and his wife, Anne, co-chaired the Polo Risotto Festival which benefited the Children’s Assessment Center. He is very active at Second Baptist Church and is also involved with Single Parent Ministry. He is committed to making a difference in the lives of others in his hometown.

BROOKE DANIELS is Miss Houston USA, 2007. She is a junior at Sam Houston State University, majoring in mass communications. Upon graduation, she plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in school psychology in order to help children who have learning disabilities achieve their academic and personal potential. As the founder and mentor of ADDitudes for success, she believes she can help children with ADHD/ADD learn tips and strategies to overcome their disability. As a Race for the Cure and Sprint for Life participant, Brooke supports both the ovarian and breast cancer foundations. She is active at First Baptist Church Tomball and enjoys cooking, scrapbooking, running and spending time with her family.

JOANNE KING HERRING DAVIS became a major contributor to Houston since she began hosting “The Joanne King Show” on television in the late 1950s. By the late 70s, she was married to oilman Robert Herring and served as honorary consul to both Pakistan and Morocco. It was then she realized the Soviet Union intended to use Afghanistan as a steppingstone to dominate the Middle East and the world. Convinced American security was at risk, she began to make covert visits with a film crew to the Soviet Union to document Soviet soldiers attacking Afghan soldiers. A film about her exploits, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” opens in December starring Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Davis’ love for children shines in her charity work. She started a camp for foster children, supports a group focused on at-risk children and funds a group of 100 single mothers in five counties, helping with everything from personal hygiene to money management.

DEBORAH DUNCAN has been well-known to Houston’s television viewing public since she began hosting a daily talk show. Today, you can catch her every morning on Channel 11 news. Her gregarious personality is contagious and is a positive influence on everyone she meets. Duncan’s personality plays an integral part in the success of many charitable events by making donors easily part with their money and bringing a feeling of joy and fun to very serious fundraising efforts. Duncan’s work took on a personal touch after her brother was killed by a drunk driver. “Sometimes, you might not pick your cause or charity,” says Duncan. “It picks you.” She feels there is no better way to honor her brother than to talk to others about the dangers of drunk driving. She also co-chairs the Hope Gala for Santa Maria Hostel in celebration of the organization’s 50th anniversary in April.

PAGE PARKES-EVELETH is co-owner of the largest talent and modeling agency group in the Southwest. During her 26 years of scouting and developing talent for the fashion industry, she has earned an outstanding reputation. Her awards include the National Businesswoman of the Year from the National Association of Women Business Owners, National Leadership Award, Fashion Forum Award and Winner of Distinction by the Better Business Bureau. Parkes-Eveleth is a board member of the Better Business Bureau and takes special pride in her long-time involvement as a board member of Child Advocates. This year she served as honorary chair of La Rosa Family Services’ Yellow Rose of Texas Celebration. Parkes-Eveleth and her husband, Bob, are the proud parents of three adopted children and her nephew, who they adopted two years ago. Parkes-Eveleth was recently honored by H Texas as one of Houston’s Best Moms.

DEBBIE GREENBAUM spends most of her time trying to keep up with the joys of her life: her three young daughters. A dedicated volunteer at the Kinkaid School, Greenbaum feels that it is very important to be involved with her family. She sits on the board of the Anti-Defamation League and for the last two years has worked with Caring Critters, a pet-assisted therapy group where members and their pets visit more than 200 hospitals and facilities in the Houston area.

MARY AND KELLI KICKERILLO are the dynamic mother-daughter duo who own Kickerillo Companies, a home and land development business. They also make immeasurable contributions to the community, giving of their time and resources to the American Heart Association, the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the Linda Lorelle Scholarship Fund, the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Houston Symphony. Mary has chaired a variety of events and serves on the board of governors of the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Palm Desert. She has had a 13-year-relationship with the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart and has chaired many of their fundraising events. Last year, Mary and her husband, Vince, chaired Duchesne’s past parents’ annual giving fundraiser, pledging to match every dollar donation to the school. Kelli is also extremely active, serving on the alumni board for the University of St. Thomas, the advisory board for Texas A&M’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology in Houston, the board of trustees at Duchesne Academy and has chaired numerous fundraising events. Mary and Kelli share a simple philosophy concerning their charity work: education and medicine are the future. Their focus is giving to children in need, providing scholarships for those seeking education and helping doctors continue their medical research.

ALTON LADAY is the owner and founder of the LaDay Group, a public relations firm specializing in the promotion of luxury goods, brands and services. Alton enjoys integrating community service into his professional and personal life, serving on a variety of local and national boards and committees. He is also a member of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Houston Steering Committee and chaired the HRC gala for two years. He chaired the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) Houston’s Take a Seat gala and Houston’s DIFFA Sweetheart Soiree. He also serves on the board of AIDS Foundation Houston and on the advisory board of Bering Omega Services.

STEVE LEWIS, vice president of Bernstein Global Wealth Management, gives his time and resources to numerous charitable organizations. Most notably, he serves on the board of the I Have a Dream Houston, a group that mentors and educates inner city, at-risk youths. Lewis is a founding member of the Star of Hope Planned Giving Council, whose goal is to help long-term donors give more efficiently and effectively to meet the needs of the homeless population. He is on the board of the Father’s Day Classic Charity Golf Tournament for the Methodist Retirement Communities and is the vice chairman of the Spring ISD Career &Technology Education Group. Lewis also volunteers his time as an auctioneer for a wide variety of organizations, including The Children’s Fund, Briar Grove Elementary and the Oil Baron’s Ball.

LINDA McREYNOLDS credits her fund-raising successes to her parents’ life-long example of community responsibility and the countless committee members who have served on her project teams. The diversity of her interests are reflected in her service to the boards of the Junior League of Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Houston Symphony, the Houston Zoological Society, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Salvation Army. She is also a founding member of the Houston Ear Research Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. She has been involved in many memorable events such as the funding and construction of the Houston Police Officer Memorial, the statewide 100th Anniversary Celebration of the Salvation Army, Miss Ima Hogg’s 100th Birthday Celebration at Bayou Bend and the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the chartering of Rice University. McReynolds has spent most of her life chairing, co-chairing and tirelessly working to raise funds for innumerable charitable causes.

KIM MOODY grew up watching her mother, the late Catherine Blissard, open her heart to serve others. Moody learned her lessons well, and has volunteered for most of her young life. She is on the River Oaks Country Club (ROCC) associate board and the Children’s Assessment Center Friends’ Guild. Moody co-chaired the Amschwand Sarcoma Foundation, the American Heart Association Go-Red Luncheon, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun for the Ronald McDonald House; and she chaired the Polo Risotto Festival for Children’s Assessment Center, the Christmas Holiday Boutique and the Fall Style Show at ROCC and the Children’s Museum luncheon in February.

MAEVE PESCERA is the beautiful face that greets Fleming’s Steakhouse diners. This full-time restaurant operator also finds time to help in the community, and very often can be seen working on charitable fund raisers. Pescera has co-chaired the Rose Ribbon Foundation’s major fundraiser, the Divine ValenTime Dinner, for three years. Her underwriting efforts have allowed the organization to provide surgeries for post-cancer survivors for a full year, which would otherwise cost millions of dollars for those without health insurance. She is also active with the American Heart Association and participates in many charitable endeavors.

ELIZABETH PETERSON‘s passions in life are spirituality, helping others and enjoying all that life has to offer along the way. Very active in the community, she has chaired two luncheons this spring — one for the Center Serving Persons with Mental Retardation and the Spirit of Spring Luncheon and Celebrity Fashion Show for the Children’s Assessment Center. Peterson serves on the steering committee of YES College Preparatory School, and is very involved with Saving Animals Across Borders. She focuses her philanthropic efforts on children, education and animals. With her husband, Gary, she is co-chairing the Museum of Natural Science gala next year, and together, they will serve as underwriter chairs for the Periwinkle Foundation gala. Peterson is looking forward to continuing her community service for years to come.

SUSAN PLANK has a real passion for issues concerning children. For many years she has been involved with Texas Children’s Hospital’s (TCH) Circle of Care, the advisory board of Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Plank and her 11-year-old-daughter Kendall have recently started a new program called, “Dec My Room” at TCH, where volunteers decorate the rooms of long-term cancer patients to make them feel more at home during their extended stay. Along with her husband, Mike, Susan co-chaired the Children’s Museum of Houston Gala, which broke all previous fund raising records. She will also co-chair the Children’s Museum Luncheon next year. Plank’s deepest hope is that one day her children will understand the importance of giving back to the community and understand the difference one person can make in the life of another.

VIRGINIA REISMAN, after earning a Bachelor of Science in speech and hearing, began her career as an elementary teacher. Later, after earning a Master of Science in education and child psychology, she served as a principal for two area elementary schools. In 1998, after earning a Doctorate in educational leadership, she founded Color Them Gifted, an educational consulting company that identifies gifted minority students. Reisman is a board member of Summerbridge Houston, an academic program that helps put low income, academically-gifted students on the path to college. She also serves on the board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and has served on the boards of Silver Grace Hope Foundation and the University of Houston Moores School of Music. She has chaired numerous charity galas and varied events. Today, Reisman serves as president of the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine.

JESSICA ROSSMAN and her brother took Houston by storm when they branded their own form of pisco: Quiero Pisco. This young entrepreneur hasn’t slowed down since and is now a full-time attorney actively campaigning to bring life to Houston’s downtown scene. She devotes any spare time to Planned Parenthood and raising funds for some of Houston’s political leaders. The year she chaired Planned Parenthood’s “Party like a Rock Star” event was a record-breaking year.

SAMI SHBEEB is partner and CFO of Appian Partners, an investment banking advisory firm. He and his father own one of Houston’s most respected and influential floral companies, Flowers by Nino. In addition, he is a partner of The Social Book, an event calendar and resource guide. He has been involved in many charitable fund raising efforts because he feels strongly about giving back to the community. Most recently he joined the advisory board of the Deaf Blind Children’s Fund, Baylor College of Medicine and the Trey Rice Foundation for autistic children.

ALICIA SMITH‘s entrepreneurial drive led her to create a business of her own, Innovative Legal Solutions. In addition to having a fulfilling career, she is a wife, a mother to three young sons and a volunteer involved in a wide range of philanthropic endeavors. Highlights of her activities include active participation on the board of directors of the Houston Ballet, the Children’s Assessment Center, the March of Dimes Guild and the American Heart Association Guild. Smith is president of the Children’s Assessment Center Friends Board. She draws upon her extensive business skills as chair, co-chair, auction chair, invitation chair and advisor for events, festivals and galas. Her skills benefit the American Heart Association, the Amschwand Sarcoma Foundation, the Houston Ballet, the Bridge Over Troubled Water, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the National Kidney Foundation of Southeast Texas and the Ronald McDonald House.

MONSOUR TAGHDISI has a passion for home development and design. He also has a passion for helping others, and has become an integral part of Houston’s charity community. His love for children inspired him to serve on the board of UNICEF, and his feelings for his rescued boxer, Tyke, prompted him to co-chair the Citizens for Animal Protection gala and fashion show. Taghdisi recently co-chaired the Legacy Community Health Services. In the fall, he will lead the effort to establish an Islamic Art Gallery for the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, with a goal of creating the largest exhibit of Islamic calligraphy ever assembled. Monsour hopes his efforts will give a positive perspective on Middle Eastern culture for many years to come.

PAUL DAVID VAN ATTA, director of catering at Hilton-Americas-Houston, has 25 years experience in the hospitality business and at one time was the youngest general manager in the corporation. He is known for his deep commitment to community service and has held positions on advisory boards and host committees for the Houston Symphony, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, the Children’s Fund, the Human Rights Campaign, the Ensemble Theatre, the World AIDS Day Luncheon and The Social Book. For the past two years, Van Atta has been a top fundraiser for AIDS Walk Houston. He can also be found serving the homeless at the Salvation Army on Christmas Day.

DANCIE PERUGINI WARE heads one of the region’s most prominent public relations firms. Orchestrating high-visibility events that contribute to corporate success, this dedicated fifth-generation Galvestonian has been an instrumental force in the renaissance of her native city, as well as Houston. She has held advisory and board positions on the March of Dimes, the School of Architecture of the University of Houston and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Ware serves on boards of the Houston Grand Opera the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Alley Theatre and the San Jacinto Girl Scouts. She has chaired the March of Dimes Best Dressed Luncheon, World AIDS Day Luncheon, the Houston Grand Opera’s Family Opera Brunch, the 1900 Storm Centennial Tribute and the Sheltering Arms Gala for Alzheimer’s Research.

SHERIDAN WILLIAMS is a talented interior designer with her own firm. She is very fashion forward, as she was listed on the 2007 Houston Chronicle’s Best Dressed list. She is also beautiful on the inside, as her heart shines in her daily life. Williams and her husband, John Eddy, are grateful his successful law career affords them the opportunity to give back to the community. “Because we are so blessed and so able to help others, we do,” says Sheridan. “We all need to remember that there are so many people out there who need help.” She volunteers at the Rise School and serves on several nonprofit boards. Sheridan and John Eddy are both committed to many varied causes, such as M. D. Anderson, Baylor College of Medicine, Baylor University’s law school and the Goodfellows annual holiday campaign. They also have become top buyers at the Houston Livestock Show &Rodeo’s wine auction.

ED YOUNG, pastor of Second Baptist Church, has seen his congregation grow from 2,000 members in 1978 to more than 40,000 members at five different locations in 2007. No one is more concerned for children than Pastor Young; a day rarely passes when his focus is not on children. “Children are the most neglected, over-looked entity in the world,” says Pastor Young. “If we want to build a bigger tent, the answer isn’t worship, its kids. If you love people’s kids, you’ll get their time and attention. Adults will come every Sunday if their kids love the church.” He and his wife, Jo Beth, were high school sweethearts in Laurel, Miss. These days, they take high school and junior high school students on beach retreats every summer.

Guy Clark

March 1, 2007 by  
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A legendary Texas troubadour

If you grew up in Texas, you most likely can find something to which you can relate, deep down in your soul, when you hear songs written and sung by the legendary Guy Clark. The very word “troubadour” was coined in the 11th century to define “a class of poet-musicians.” Clark is that songwriting legend, “the poet-musician,” who projects images and characters in his writing that have earned him a reputation as a literary master, who has won the admiration and respect of his peers, and whom young artists and seasoned writers study and attempt to emulate.

Many of Clark’s songs flow with memories of his days growing up in the small West Texas town of Monahans, where he was raised by his grandmother, who ran the town hotel. (His mother worked, and his father was in the Army.) One of Clark’s most famous songs, “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” tells the story of an oil-well driller who stayed in the hotel. Many of his other songs, such as “Texas 1947” on his debut album Old No. 1 and the 1992 song “Boats to Build,” recount in vivid detail and with emotional fervor his formative years in Texas.

Clark describes those early days in Monahans as “bleak, desolate … you had to learn how to amuse yourself. I lived in a pre-TV house, where we all sat around and read. My mom and dad were bright, well-read people, and I was exposed to good literature. Mom would pass around a book of poetry, and we all read. I remember hearing a 16-year-old girl playing the guitar and singing Mexican songs … all border songs, nothing in English. I was stunned and absolutely hooked; I knew then I had to learn to play the guitar.

“We moved to Houston in the ’50s, when my dad went to law school and later worked as an attorney,” he says. “I went to a couple of colleges and, finally, to the University of Houston. I loved all kinds of music and was very interested in John Lomax (the folk music historian), his American folk songs and the Texas Folklore Society. But, Chuck Berry was my favorite. If you ever listen, really listen, to his songs and pick them apart, you know it’s poetry … extremely well-written poetry.”

In the ’60s, Clark worked as an art director for KHOU Channel 11 during the day and began writing and performing his special brand of folk- and blues-influenced country music by night, playing the Jester Lounge (on Westheimer and Post Oak), the Sandman Coffee House and the Old Quarter downtown. It was in Houston that he met a lifelong friend, fellow songwriter and performer, Townes Van Zandt, who toured with Clark until Van Zandt’s death in 1997. Clark credits Van Zandt with being a major influence on his songwriting.

After a brief sojourn to San Francisco, Clark returned to Houston, where he met and married his wife Susanna, a songwriter and artist. A move to L.A. ended quickly, but not before Clark had penned one of his classic songs, “L.A. Freeway,” which Jerry Jeff Walker recorded and turned into a hit. Next, the Clarks made the permanent move to Nashville.

By the time Clark’s first album premiered in 1975, he was considered one of the most promising young writers in country music. Many of his albums reflect his Texas roots, and all of his songs are masterfully crafted with honest, folksy lyrics and melodies that he has devoted his life to writing. For decades, he’s put out a steady stream of music, with albums such as Texas Cookin’, The South Coast of Texas, Guy Clark, Better Days, Old Friends, Boats to Build, Dublin Blues, Keepers, Cold Dog Soup, Together at the Bluebird Café (with Townes van Zandt and Steve Earle) and The Dark.

Additionally, many of Clark’s songs have been hits for other artists, such as Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, George Strait, David Allen Coe, Ricky Skaggs, The Highwaymen, Jimmy Buffet, Steve Wariner, Rodney Crowell and Lyle Lovett, who recorded Clark’s first song, “Step Inside This House,” that had never been recorded before.

When asked if one of his songs is his favorite, Clark insists, “I like ’em all!” But, after a brief hesitation, he says, “‘She Ain’t Goin’ No Where.'” On the same track, Clark has a hard time putting his finger on his current favorite artist. “Oh, I have so many,” he admits. “But, there are two sisters, The Waifs, from Australia: full of enthusiasm and energy.”

Skilled at working with stringed instruments, Clark’s music mastery goes beyond the notes. “It started with my ability to work with wood and my love of guitars,” he says of his luthier skills. “Most of it was by trial and error: I’d take ’em apart and put ’em back together.”

With so many songs on the charts, Clark keeps a schedule to produce all the hits still to come. “Well, I start early in the morning when I’m brighter, quicker, funnier,” he reveals. “I sit in my guitar shop at my writing desk and just start writing. I never write at night. I’m still thrilled when it comes together; it’s very rewarding when I think I’ve done good work.” He even advises novice song writers to “write with a pencil and a big eraser.”

“The feeling I get from performing: Sometimes it’s perfect … you hit a hole-in-one … and that’s an awesome feeling,” he says. “It’s a really hard job, what with the travel, all the airports, maybe 10 or 12 hours to get there. It’s a lot more involved that you might think and can get pretty tedious. Obviously, I love doing it. What I do is the best that I can … play and sing my best — and have some fun while I’m at it.”

Known as an Americana legend, Clark reveals that it’s simply all in a day’s work. “I like what I’ve done with my life. You never get to be the best; you never get there. It’s always the next song; I’m always working on the next song. I like good work! Nothing matters more than the quality of the work! I feel responsible for that.”

Hard work has obviously paid off for Clark as he has been recognized by the public and peers alike for creating masterful, poignant melodies and insightful lyrics that touch the heart. In 2004, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Foundation’s Songwriters Hall of Fame and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting by the Americana Music Association in 2005. “I’m flattered, and I do appreciate it,” he says of the recognition. “But it didn’t change my life; it didn’t make me a better writer. I’ve got to get up in the morning and work.”

His latest body of work is in his 11th studio album, Workbench Songs, that was released last September. Warm and cozy, Clark has collaborated with other writers on most of the songs. “I’m proud of it,” he says frankly. “When I get 10 or 12 good songs, I’m ready to do a new album. I really like the upbeat ‘The Walking Man’ and ‘Magdalene.’ ‘No Lonesome Tune’ by the late Townes Van Zandt is included. I miss my friend of 40 years; I miss his brightness and his humor.”

Again, harking back to memories of Texas, “Tornado Time In Texas” paints a vivid picture that is indelible in the minds of most Texans and almost lets you smell the Texas dirt.

Well, the sky was blacker than a funeral suit. Hotter than a depot stove.
Hide in the cellar — here comes Amarillo. Blowin’ up the road.

You got ya hailstones, big hen eggs, boys. Clouds as green can be.
Ol’ Mother Nature’s raisin’ hell. She parked the pick-up in a tree.

Tornado time in Texas. Take the paint right off of your barn.
Tornado time in Texas. Blow the tattoo off of your arm.

Heart to Heart with Isaiah Washington

February 1, 2007 by  
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Houston native and star of “Grey’s Anatomy” on the before and after

Growing up in Northeast Houston, Isaiah Washington watched as his mother worked several jobs at a time — not only to feed him and his two sisters, but to move the family to a safer neighborhood. Washington’s father had been murdered on the streets close by in 1976. Because of his mother’s strong desire and diligence, she was successful in moving the family to Fort Bend County, where Washington played football, made good grades and ultimately became one of the first graduates from Willowridge High School in 1981.

“My memories of childhood [are] organic … filled with love,” Washington reminisces about growing up in Houston. “Because Mom was working all the time, I lived with my grandmother, a great human being, who was such a strong presence in my life and instilled in me a deep, abiding faith in God.”

“I thought I was going to get a football scholarship,” he continues about his youth. “And truth is, I did — but it wasn’t a full scholarship. It wasn’t what I needed, and I didn’t want to be a burden on my mother. I decided to join the Air Force, where I got a degree in aerospace engineering. I thought, if I’m not going to be a famous football hero, I’ll be General Washington on the cover of Time magazine. I was just 18 or 19, and I really thought I was going to have a 20-year military career. I don’t regret a minute I spent in the Air Force.”

Getting his start
“I went to Howard University and studied art management and worked on a master’s in English,” he says. “Vera Katz, professor of drama at Ossie Davis’ Howard Players, saw something special in me and encouraged me, recommending me to Harry Poe of the Ebony Improvisation Theatre in Cleveland, who became like a guru to me.”

It was after seeing Spike Lee’s first feature film, “She’s Gotta Have It,” in 1986 that Washington decided to give acting a try. He made a promise to himself and to those in his world that within 10 years, he’d appear in one of Spike Lee’s films. In the meantime, he says he “planned, prayed, pushed and prepared.”

By the end of this 10-year period, Washington had been in four of Lee’s films. The writer and director had seen Washington in “Strap,” an HBO film in which the actor had a small scene. Washington had made his impression, and he got a part in Lee’s 1992 movie, “Crooklyn.” The other three movies that he did with Lee are “Girl 6,” “Clockers” and “Get on the Bus,” which earned Washington great notices from critics. He has guest starred on a myriad of television programs, and his film credits are many, including “Romeo Must Die,” “Exit Wounds,” “True Crime,” “Dead Presidents” and “Dead Bids,” for which he also served as co-producer.

Making a change
It was discontentment at being typecast as a criminal, a crooked cop or a thug that prompted Washington to tell his agent that he was not going to accept another role where he portrayed a negative stereotype. “I looked around and realized I was off track,” he reveals. “My roles had to change. And, guess what? I didn’t work for two years, and, I refused to touch my children’s trust fund.

“Then the call came to audition for the pilot of a series originally called ‘The Surgeons,’ which later became ‘Grey’s Anatomy,'” he says. “I read for the part of Dr. Derek Shepherd and was sorely disappointed when I didn’t get the role that ultimately went to Patrick Dempsey. That was until I was offered the role of Dr. Preston Burke, a cardiac thoracic surgeon, originally written as a nebbish, stout doctor; and, they told me that I could make the role my own.

“What a great opportunity this has been!” Washington says of his ABC drama series. “I had worked with a lot of fine actors in film and television, but in my 20 years’ experience, I’ve never worked with such talented people as the cast and crew of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ — absolutely the greatest imaginable.

“I never dreamed I would ever get the opportunity to push myself spiritually, emotionally, mentally and leave it all out there on the table,” he reveals. “I feel unbelievably blessed that the writers have enough faith and creativity to allow this to happen.”

Clearing the air
Several months ago, rumors circulated that a feud existed between Washington and Patrick Dempsey (an incident recently rehashed at the Golden Globes). Washington sheds light on the true inner-workings of the cast. “There are no perfect humans in life,” Washington says. “I like to say that we have ‘perfect imperfections.’ Much like me, I have perfect imperfections. We’re all individuals with raw emotions, passions, despondencies. It’s human stuff. But, all of the cast are friends, just as down-to-earth as you can get. Patrick and I are great friends. When things are said that are not true, it’s painful on both sides. So much is invented to make a juicy story. It’s like a hologram.”

Family man
Playing an integral role on America’s No. 1 show can be draining on the whole family. “That’s tough: that’s the challenge,” Washington says of incorporating his career success into his home life. “My wife, Jenisa, and I have two sons, Akin, 7, and Tyme, 4, and a daughter, Iman, who is 15 months. Most of the time, they’re asleep when I leave home to go to work and they’re asleep when I get back. Those are the huge sacrifices you make. We have to make time for each other. We try to go to the park on Saturday and to church together on Sunday. We take yoga, go bowling, watch art-house films.”

“I’ll always remember Dr. Gene Allen, a lovely gentleman friend of mine, who said, ‘fifteen percent of the people are not going to like you — no matter what. They may never meet you, but they’re not going to like you! But, 85 percent of them will like you. Focus on that!'” Washington reflects. “I’m going to teach my children to focus on that 85 percent!”

Changing the world
Through African Ancestry and a DNA sample, Washington learned that his maternal bloodline is traced back to the Mendé people in Sierra Leone and his paternal bloodline is of the Mbundu in Angola. Joyful and proud to have found his lineage, Washington traveled to Sierra Leone with a film crew, a doctor and an architect. He got Nike to donate tennis shoes and soccer balls, and a medical organization to give penicillin. He quickly established the Gondobay Manga Foundation, which is committed to helping Sierra Leone recover from its war-torn past and prosper in its future. With his production company, Coalhouse Productions, he is making a documentary chronicling his connection to Sierra Leone — capturing its land and people, village by village. A five-year project, the one-hour television shows will document how one person, Washington, can focus on changing one person, then an entire village, make an impact and move on to help people in the next village. Last year, he was inducted into the Mendé tribe, in the village of Ngalu of the Bagbwe chiefdom, where he was named Chief Gondobay Manga.

“This kind of celebrity gives me access to many powerful people, who open their hearts to me,” he reflects of his successes. “This past December, I was invited to serve as Master of Ceremonies at the While House Summit on Malaria hosted by President and Mrs. Bush at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., which focused on three themes: the Challenge of Malaria in Africa, the Power of Public/Private Partnerships and Growing the Grassroots. Mrs. Bush dedicated $1.2 billion to the African fight against malaria.” Washington was invited to speak about his Gondobay Manga Foundations’ involvement in combating malaria in Africa and how the foundation advocates cooperative planning to achieve positive, timely improvements in the lives of the people of Sierra Leone.

Other organizations he is committed to include the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. “There were so many times when I was going to school in Washington, D.C., that I’d sleep in my car, and I was hungry a lot of the time,” he says. “But, the good news is, I never lost hope, heart or my passion.” He is also committed to promoting water safety for all children.

Leaving a legacy
The NAACP acknowledged Washington’s work with the 2006 Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series and “Grey’s Anatomy” was the recipient of the Outstanding Drama Series Award. Most recently, the show won Best Drama Series at the Golden Globes. Additionally, his critically acclaimed performance in HBO’s “Dancing in September” earned Washington an NAACP Image Award nomination for “Outstanding Actor.” TV Guide, the magazine, included Washington in a list of TV’s Sexiest Men.

When aspiring actors seek his advice on how to make it in the business, he answers, “No. 1: You’ve got to love it! And, you’ve got to understand who you are as a person, good or bad. You have to have a clear idea of yourself. Don’t pretend; you can’t play it! You can’t act if you don’t know who you are. Do not listen to ‘No!’ P. S., you’ve got to have talent. If you’re not equipped, it won’t work. I can’t pretend I’m a quarterback in the NFL. Maybe I’d like to be a world-class ballerina, but that’s not very realistic. Get a mirror. Are you holding on to pipe dreams, floating around? Are you living in a house with no mirrors? Ask yourself, ‘Is this really for me?’ If it’s not gonna happen.”

Last August, the Houston Chapter of Women in Film and Television honored Washington and Chandra Wilson, another star of “Grey’s Anatomy” and Houstonian, as well, with the Reel Stars of Texas award. Several of Washington’s football coaches, Dennis Demel and Rex Staes, along with their wives, were among the surprise guests that honored him. After being introduced by Cynthia Neely, WIFT President, Washington reflected on growing up in Houston and how, 30 years before, his father had been murdered here. In a heartfelt speech, he said, “Today is the day that I can put to rest completely and unabashedly that little, angry black boy from Studewood. I can safely say I can rest my soul and my spirit, with no more anger or confusion. It doesn’t matter anymore.” He and his audience, filled with family, friends and fans, were visibly affected with tears of joy.

“I think this second, as we’re talking today, is just a moment in time,” he says of his goals for the future. “All we have is this moment. I take it one day at a time. A plan? A goal? Make a plan, and God laughs.

“I’m so grateful to God for my beautiful family,” Washington continues. “I’m grateful to have the best job on the planet. I’m thankful every day of my life. My mission statement for Coalhouse Productions lives with me: ‘To create change, we have to invite change. By asking ourselves to consider what a better world would look like, we encourage all of us to think deeper.'”

Leaders and Legends 2007

January 1, 2007 by  
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Houston is made so much more wonderful because of its leaders and legends who have expended exorbitant effort, energy, resources and pure love to improve the city and its residents. Knowing that there are many among us who go unrecognized and unsung as they venture out into the world, making a difference every day, we are reminded that “the world knows nothing of its greatest men.” These 25 individuals offer but a glimmer into the heart of Houston — the can-do, spirited, open-hearted, dynamic and talented citizens who have earned Houston its reputation as one of the most charitable cities in the world.

As a fashion consultant, Gayla Bentley realized the difficulty many women have in finding fashionable clothing in sizes larger than a 10. In 2001, she launched her design business, Gayla Bentley Collection with her own studio and with trunk shows across the country. (Her clothing is now available at and in the NM mail order catalog.) Bentley has chaired fundraisers for Big Brother and Big Sisters, served on the board of the Southern Dominican Fathers, and volunteered with the Fashion Group Foundation of Houston, Houston Ballet and The Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine. She also offers internships and scholarships to fashion students.

Those who know Jack Sawtelle Blanton describe him as the most humble man alive. Others give him credit for being one of the primary builders of the medical center, having served for years on the boards of the Texas Medical Center, University of Texas System, Methodist Health Care System, Harris County Hospital District, Houston Partnership, Houston Endowment and many others. When delivering the commencement speeches he so often is invited to give, the theme is constant: “Repay your debt to the society that nurtured you by serving others.”

Barbara Pierce Bush met her future husband, George H. W. Bush, when she was just 16. Four years later, they were married. When her husband was Vice President, she selected the promotion of literacy as her special cause. As First Lady, she called working for a more literate America the “most important issue we have;” and she helped develop the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy, for which she serves as honorary chair and hosts its annual fundraiser. She helps many causes, including the homeless, AIDS, the elderly and school volunteer programs; and she serves on the Boards of AmeriCares and the Mayo Clinic Foundation and is a strong supporter of the Leukemia Society of America, the Ronald McDonald House and the Boys &Girls Club of America.

The nationally prominent pastor, Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, has witnessed Windsor Village United Methodist Church grow from its original 25 members to become one of the largest churches in the country. Under his leadership, the church and the Pyramid Community Development Corporation developed the 104,000-square-foot Power Center. Pastor Caldwell serves on the boards of the National Children’s Defense Fund, Baylor College of Medicine, SMU, Music Hall Foundation, Board of Visitors at M. D. Anderson, Greater Houston Partnership and many others. He founded the Patrice House, The Imani School and the Village of Hope.

One of the most prominent cardiovascular surgeons in the world, Dr. Denton A. Cooley has contributed to the techniques for repair and replacement of diseased heart valves and is widely known for his pioneering surgical treatment of cardiac anomalies of infants and children. He believes his major accomplishment has been the creation of the Texas Heart Institute and developing the Cooley Surgical Society. Among his more than 120 honors and awards are the National Medal of Technology, presented by President Clinton; the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, presented by President Reagan; and the Rene Leriche Prize, the highest honor of the International Surgical Society for cardiovascular contributions.

A native Houstonian, Rose Cullen has spent a major part of her life in the service of others. Currently, she is serving on the boards of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; University of Houston Moores School of Music; Friends of Nursing at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital; Houston Eye Associates Foundation; St. Agnes Academy Foundation; and The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston; as well as the executive committee and advisory board of The Ballet Foundation. She has worked to develop a merchandising endowment for the University of Houston Department of Human Development and has co-chaired The Assistance Fund Gala for four years.

Nancy Dinerstein started her community service as a candy striper, making milk shakes in the old Texas Children’s snack bar when she was just 13. She continues her relationship with Texas Children’s, having served as a founding member of the Development Council, a chairman of the “Hail to the Chief” Luncheon and an active participant in the 2001 Cow Parade. Much of her focus has been with the American Heart Association, where she chaired the “Heart of the Nile” Heart Ball, served on the AHA Board and chaired the inaugural “Go Red for Heart” luncheon. She is vice president of the Ronald McDonald House Houston and serves on the boards of Foundation for Teen Health, Holocaust Museum Houston and the Partnership for Baylor College of Medicine.

Clyde Drexler, nicknamed “Clyde the Glide” because of his grace on the basketball court, was a member of “Phi Slama Jama” at the University of Houston, a group dedicated to becoming the best student athletes they could become. Clyde made first-team All-American after leading the team to a second-straight NCAA Final Four and first NCAA championship game in school history. Reuniting with his buddy Hakeem Olajuwon, together they led the Rockets to the NBA championships. He became the Head Basketball Coach of his alma mater, and was named one of the 50 greatest NBA players in 1997. In 2004, Drexler was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. He spends much of his free time supporting the community, particularly helping children.

Dr. Ralph D. Feigin is an internationally renown expert in pediatric infectious diseases and currently serves as the J. S. Abercrombie professor of pediatrics, chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Baylor College of Medicine and physician-in-chief of Texas Children’s Hospital. In addition to being named the senior vice president of Baylor College of Medicine in 1994, he also served as dean of medical education for Baylor College of Medicine, positions he held until his appointment as president and CEO in 1996. A member of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals Advisory Plan on Terrorism and Children’s Hospitals, he is chairman of the Medical Advisory Steering Committee of the City of Houston Task Force on Bioterrorism.

Richard Flowers has been recognized by the Houston Chronicle as the ultimate event planner in Houston for total event planning and production. Additionally, Flowers donates his time to many charitable causes and served as co-chairman of the 75th Houston Symphony Anniversary Gala, Chron’s &Colitis Winter Ball and Hermann Hospital Children’s Miracle Network Telethon. He also chaired the Heritage Society Ball, and has served on the boards of Chron’s &Colitis, Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera and Heritage Society.

After experiencing a troubled youth, George Foreman won the boxing heavyweight class gold medal at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968. Foreman then captured the world heavyweight boxing championship in 1973. He became an evangelical minister, pastor of a church, and in 1984, opened the George Foreman Youth and Community Center. He regained his title in 1994 at age 45 to become the world’s oldest heavyweight boxing champion. Foreman became even more famous as the spokesman for Meineke Muffler and the George Foreman Grill. In 2003, he was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Television viewers know Shara Fryer as an award-winning journalist and the longest running anchorwoman in Houston television. A surviving cancer patient, Fryer devotes much of her time to various cancer outreach programs and has established the Shara Fryer Cancer Research Fund in the Department of Surgical Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. She is a fellow of the American Leadership Forum, director of Houston World Affairs Council and trustee for the Retina Research Foundation; and she has chaired numerous charitable events and serves on many boards.

E. J. “Jodie” Hoffer started Hoffer Furniture Company in 1977 and currently serves as the company’s chairman of the board. Giving back to the community has been an ongoing commitment throughout his lifetime. Hoffer helped found national and local chapters of The Furniture Bank, whose purpose is to aid those in need of household furnishings, and has served on its board of directors since its inception. He has held leadership positions for the March of Dimes, Theatre Under the Stars, Houston Grand Opera, American Cancer Society and many more.

Peter C. Marzio, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston since 1982, is generally credited with helping build public participation in MFAH activities to a record high and making the museum not only a cultural success, but a business success. He is reputed to be the most successful fundraiser the museum has ever had and one of the driving forces behind the funding campaign that raised $126 million for the Beck Building. Completed in 2000, the building more than doubled the museum’s exhibition space, catapulting it from 30th to sixth largest in the nation.

George Mitchell is the former chairman and CEO of Mitchell Energy and Development Corp. In the ’60s, it was Mitchell who envisioned a real estate project unlike anything ever seen in the Houston area: The Woodlands. Built on 25,000 acres, when sold in 1997, this master-planned community had a population of 48,000. Mitchell was instrumental in founding Houston Advanced Research Center and founded the Center for Global Studies. He and his wife, Cynthia, are largely responsible for the rejuvenation of Galveston’s historic Strand District and revived Mardi Gras celebrations in Galveston, which now draw 555,000 visitors annually.

The Hon. Robert A. Mosbacher Sr. is chairman of Mosbacher Energy Company and Trustee Emeritus of the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. He was President George H. W. Bush’s secretary of commerce, and his nomination was unanimously confirmed by the U. S. Senate. He has served as chairman of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s Board of Visitors and on the boards of American Hospital in Paris Foundation, U.S. Naval Academy Foundation and Odyssey Academy Inc. Along with his wife, Mica, he worked on the “Bush 41 @ 80” birthday celebration, raising $56 million for the Bushes’ three favorite charities.

Gordon Quan was only three when he and his family fled China, due to the Chinese Revolution, bound for Houston. His firm, Quan, Burdette &Perez, is one of the largest immigration law firms in the country, and he was the first Asian to be elected to an At-Large City Council position. Quan has been a Boy Scout leader, Sunday school teacher and an officer in numerous cultural, civic, political and professional organizations. He currently serves on the boards of the Holocaust Museum of Houston, Asia Society, Aspiring Youth, Catholic Charities and Asian Pacific American Heritage Association.

A native Houstonian, Mickey Rosmarin opened a boutique, Tootsies, in 1973. With the goal of always offering luxury, sophistication, fun and creativity in fashion, Rosmarin has successfully created one of the most luxurious shopping experiences in the nation — now not only in Houston, but in Dallas, Atlanta and San Antonio. Some of his favorite causes to support and volunteer for are Dress for Success, AIDS Foundation Houston, Elves and More, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, March of Dimes, Mexican Women’s Initiative, Art Bridge and American Heart Association.

Dr. Sandra Sessoms is one of the foremost rheumatologists in the country. A diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and the Rheumatology Subspecialty Board of the American Board of Internal Medicine, she lectures frequently on rheumatology subjects nationally and locally and has been widely published. Dr. Sessoms holds membership in many professional organizations, while performing as a volunteer physician for the San Jose Clinic for many years and serving as a board member of the Arthritis Foundation and the Lupus Foundation of America, Gulf Coast.

Former owner of Fiesta Mart Inc., Trini Mendenhall-Sosa founded the Mendenhall Asthma Research Laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. She serves on the board of Catholic Charities and endows scholarships to inner-city Catholic schools and the College of Education of the University of Houston. She has served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Ballet Public Affairs, United Way’s Women’s Initiative, End Hunger Network and the Mexican Council of Entrepreneurs of Houston, and has chaired a multitude of benefits for Houston charities.

A St. Thomas High School alumnus, George Strake graduated from Notre Dame, served in the Navy and earned a Master’s Degree from Harvard University. Joining his father in the independent oil business, he is now chairman and CEO of Strake Energy. Strake is president of the Strake Foundation and has served on the boards of Boy Scouts of America, Rotary Club of Houston, Asia Society, Mexican Cultural Institute of Houston, Institute of International Education, Greater Houston Partnership and many more.

With more than 31 years in the business, Evin Thayer has established himself as one of Houston’s finest photographers. Additionally, he is dedicated to making a difference in the community, helping groups like the Body Positive Wellness Center, Bering Omega Community Services, AIDS Foundation Houston, Citizens for Animal Protection and more. He and Mayor Lee Brown created “The Mayor’s Millennium Makers,” a book filled with instrumental Houstonians that raises money for the Evin Thayer Scholarship Fund of the Greater Houston Community Foundation.

Restaurateur and antique collector Beau Theriot owns both The Brownstone restaurant and Brownstone Antique Gallery in Houston, as well as Comanche Canyon Ranch and The Oasis restaurant in Austin. He provides scholarships in interior design and art to students who attend his alma mater, Lamar University, and participates in a multitude of charitable projects in both Houston and Austin.

Martha Fuller Turner, a fifth generation Texan, taught school for 15 years before becoming president of her own real estate company, Martha Turner Properties. Involved with the Texas Business Hall of Fame, Leadership Texas, Crohn’s &Colitis Foundation, United Cerebral Palsy, 100 Club, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, The Forum Club, Cultural Arts Council, Greater Houston Women’s Foundation and others, Turner was appointed by Gov. George W. Bush to serve on the Board of Regents for her alma mater, the University of North Texas in Denton.

In 1965, Tony Vallone opened his first restaurant: tony’s. Since then, he has served six United States presidents and dignitaries from around the world, consistently winning national and international accolades. He is the first Texan to be inducted into the National Restaurant Association Hall of Fame and the first American-born board member of the famed Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani of Italy. He also donates his time and talents to numerous local and national charitable causes, sitting on the boards of the Texas Heart Institute and the University of Houston Conrad Hilton School of Restaurant and Hotel Management.

Billy F Gibbons

September 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Edit

The Man Behind The Beard

Billy F Gibbons when he was just a tall, skinny, very polite young man making a lot of noise in the garage of his parents’ home in Tanglewood. His father, Fred Gibbons, was a musician who played the piano for many of the fashion shows in which I modeled; he also accompanied me when I sang on many occasions. I don’t think I ever went to rehearse in Fred’s home and didn’t hear Billy, amped up to the max, rehearsing with his band.

In 1969 Billy’s band, Moving Sidewalks, joined with a rival band, the American Blues, which included bassist and vocalist Dusty Hill of Dallas and drummer Frank Beard of Irving. They formed the blues-rock band, ZZ Top – aka That Little ol’ Band from Texas. With Billy as the front man, centerpiece guitarist and vocalist, the band has been a part of the American musical landscape ever since. The longest running major rock band still composed of its original members, they are known for their Texas-size energy, showmanship and unique image.

Billy is widely regarded as one of America’s finest guitarists working in the blues-rock arena. He is also an internationally recognized collector of cars, guitars and African art, as is chronicled in the best-selling book he wrote about his collecting obsessions, “Rock + Roll Gearhead,” which was published in 2005.

His astronomical guitar collection includes the “Muddywood,” constructed from fallen timbers from Muddy Waters’ childhood home; the famous “Furry One,” as seen in the “Legs” video; and his most cherished one, “Pearly Gates,” a Gibson Les Paul Sunburst, valued above all others.

Over the years, Billy’s cars have become stars in their own right. The Eliminator, CadZZilla, Kopperhed and others have been major attractions on the car show circuit and highlighted in numerous videos. They are considered art and icons of automotive history.

Theories have collected, as well, concerning the origin of the band’s name. One asserts that they put two brands of rolling paper, Zig Zag and Top together; another declares the name is a tribute to blues legend, Z. Z. Hill. The real story is told by Billy in his new book, “Rock + Roll Gearhead,” where he reveals that the name really came from “king of the blues” master B. B. King. They started to call themselves Z. Z. King, but it sounded too much like their hero; so they settled on ZZ Top.

The band’s first two albums, ZZ Top’s First Album and Rio Grande Mud, were produced by the London Records label. National success and the first gold album came to the hometown boys in 1973 with the third album, Tres Hombres, featuring the now classic song, “La Grange,” about the famous bordello that inspired the musical “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” This album also included “Beer Drinkers &Hell Raisers,” which became a favorite.

Fandango produced the huge hit “Tush;” Tejas featured “Arrested for Driving While Blind” and “El Diablo;” and The Best of ZZ Top quickly followed.

ZZ Top’s “Worldwide Texas Tour,” with sets that featured haystacks, live buffalo, a longhorn steer, rattlesnakes, buzzards and ranch equipment, lasted a year and a half, and reportedly, earnings were in the tens of millions. Exhausted, the band decided to take a sabbatical in 1977, which lasted for almost three years. When they reunited to record again, under the Warner Brothers banner, a cosmic revelation or cosmic comedy had occurred: Billy and Dusty, unbeknown to the other, had grown the chest-length beards that soon became part of their “wild man” image.

The members of ZZ Top are almost as well known for their appearance as for their music. Billy and Dusty are always pictured wearing sunglasses and their trademark beards. Ironically, Frank Beard is the only band member without a beard; logically, the group could be renamed, “The Beard Brothers.” All wear similar clothing. Billy has long since replaced his giant cowboy hat with an African Nudu tribal chief’s hat from Cameroon, a nod to his love of African art.

It was not until MTV started in the ’80s that ZZ Top decided to appear on television. Their first video, “Gimme All Your Lovin,” was soon followed by “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man” from the 1983 album Eliminator, which featured Billy’s bright red Ford ’33 hotrod. This multiplatinum album has become one of the group’s most successful. Becoming the “darlings” of MTV took the trio’s famous mystique and popularity to an all-time high.

Afterburner, the group’s eighth album, was a worldwide smash hit; Recycler came out on the Warner label before the group signed a five-disc deal with RCA. Deguello, ZZ Top’s first new album with Warner, featuring “I Thank You,” “Cheap Sunglasses” and “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide,” is believed by some fans to be the band’s strongest release. Six albums on RCA followed.

Throughout the years, Billy, Dusty and Frank have relished playing gigs in their hometown. ZZ Top was the second act to play at the Summit; they played there 23 times, more than any other act; and performed at the closing of the Summit, renamed the Compaq Center, renamed Lakewood Church. As Billy was quoted by Houston Chronicle columnist Bruce Westbrook, “ZZ Top walks out, Jesus walks in.” Continuing, Billy said, “We have to give our best for the home folks; the home shows are the fun shows … You get to show off in front of your buddies, new girlfriends, old girlfriends – girlfriends you wish you had.” As Houstonians, they felt honored to play at the Houston Livestock Show &Rodeo the last year in the Astrodome (2002) and again the first year at Reliant Stadium (2003).

ZZ Top, an acknowledged symbol of Texas, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 2004, by Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, a longtime friend of Billy’s. It was the first Houston band to join the roster of rock legends.

Beyond his work with ZZ Top, which includes 14 albums, six compilations and myriad singles, Billy has recorded with many notable artists, such as B. B. King, Kid Rock, John Mayall, Les Paul, Nickelback, Queens of the Stone Age and others. He has acted on the television shows “Bones” and “Yes, Dear,” as well as appeared in a Quaker State motor oil commercial and innumerable television appearances.

Additionally, Billy was instrumental in raising funds for The Orange Show when it was in its beginning stages. And The Cancer League honored Billy in 2002 with its Texas Hall of Fame Award. It was a joy to catch up with Billy, who people say is still the sweetest, most modest superstar in the world.

H: What was it like growing up in Houston?
BFG: “Bright … with no traffic. The same great community then as it remains today.”

H: Tell me a little about your mom, dad and sister.
BFG: “That’s the family. My dear ol’ Dad surrounded us with his musical talents, Mom (Lorraine) listened; Pam and I listened and learned.”

H: When did you know that music would be your life?
BFG: “Early on, back as far as I recall … probably around age zero!”

H: Who did you listen to when growing up? I know that one of your housekeepers influenced your direction.
BFG: “Loads of influences! As the song says, ‘Country, Jesus, Hillbilly, Blues, that’s where I learned the licks.'”

H: How did you choose the guitar as opposed to piano, like your dad?
BFG: “Easier to carry! Get up and go!”

H: You’re an icon. It’s so often said that you’re the finest guitarist in the world. How did you learn to play?
BFG: “That’s quite a send up! Rock ‘n’ roll on records and on the radio was the start and still remains a beam of attraction. Good stuff!”

H: ZZ Top has sold 60 million records. Can you think back to the time when you had your first big success? Remember how you felt?
BFG: “ZZ Top’s third release landed our first ‘Top 10,’ ‘La Grange’ – then the touring travels began taking the famous Houston and Texas feeling around the world.”

H: What comes to mind immediately as one of your most memorable moments in a performance?
BFG: “Perhaps one of the first performances where the curtain opened, and we were greeted by the one paying customer of the evening. We looked at each other, then launched into the show. Played the first set, took a break, went out and bought the guy a Coke and went back and completed the night. We’re still friends with the guy!”

H: Describe your band members, Dusty and Frank.
BFG: “My stalwart pals; Fine entertainers and superb instrumentalists each. We still like what takes place on the bandstand ’cause we’re never certain who’s gonna do what. Challenging, yet cool.”

H: Describe Billy for me.
BFG: “Just that eccentric guy tryin’ to be a good ‘un!”

H: It’s such a tribute to all of you that you’ve stayed together all these years. What’s the secret to the success?
BFG: “We still enjoy playing and creating above anything. It’s a passion which maintains our focus and enjoyment.”

H: When did you fall in love with cars?
BFG: “Well, I’ve been told the first words out of my mouth were ‘Ford, Chevrolet and Cadillac’ … that says it all.”

H: What was your first car? How many cars do you have? Do you have a favorite? What do you drive now?
BFG: “The first car was a Saturday Westheimer Special, a 1953 Packard Golden Clipper, complete with sawdust in the transmission to keep it in gear … picked it up from a notoriously gifted TV pitch-man for $50 and took off straight for the Mexican border. That’s the start of it all … now too many to count. We do have some favorites, the little rod ’33 Ford, seen in the videos, ‘the Eliminator Coupe,’ and, of course, ‘CadZZilla,’ the radically customized ’48 purple Cadillac. And after all that, our daily driver is provided by Houston’s Yellow Cab!”

H: Why did you decide to write a book? How long did you work on it? Did you enjoy the book tour?
BFG: “The collection of cars and guitars came to the attention of some young associates from Motorbooks International who suggested following the idea of creating a coffee-table photo presentation and essay. The work commenced and a quick few months later, the project hit the streets. A robust book-signing tour ensued and along the way, I rekindled a long standing friendship with another Houstonian, the lovely Adrien Seixas, now residing down the street in Los Angeles! She appears in the book and recognized an early photo of herself when she danced as a go-go girl, way back when!”

H: Do you have any other hobbies in addition to cars and guitars?
BFG: “Oh yes! African art holds intrigue in a most peculiar manner … the somewhat exotic expressions of functionality … in the western eye, considered art, represent feelings of the way, way back. Quite grounded and solid.”

H: How about exercise? Favorite foods? Do you ever cook?
BFG: “Exercise? Try walking through an airport looking for the gate! Favorite foods? Mexican as found in Texas or anywhere else. Cook? What’s that!?”

H: You’ve accomplished so much. Do you ever make goals? Is there anything you want to do that you haven’t realized?
BFG: “Oh, yeah. I just want to aim at what remains to be discovered. Keep writing songs.”

H: Do you ever get nervous performing anymore?
BFG: “No, unless Mom is in the audience!”

H: Any favorite singers?
BFG: “Jeff Beck. Jeff is as good a guitarist as it gets and yet he, at one time, chose to assign the singing chores to someone else. However, I invited him to appear on ZZ Top’s XXX release as a singer. It was an unexpected invitation and to capture the moment, we revisited the Robert Johnson blues recordings method of setting up the recording session in Dallas in a hotel room. One take and he nailed it! ‘Hey Mr. Millionaire’ became another stunning example of Jeff’s genius and delivery. Mercy!”

H: How many songs have you written, if you know?
BFG: “A bunch … and still willin’ to hammer on!”

H: There’s so much humor in your choices of songs. Are all of you that funny? Or, who’s the funny one?
BFG: “Well, I suppose if one were to encounter us off stage, we would all be thought quite funny.”

H: Can you narrow down your favorite song or songs?
BFG: “I like most all of ’em. Especially the one being played at the moment.”

H: In concert, is there one song you MUST do for fans … such as “La Grange”?
BFG: “La Grange,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Bang Bang Shang-A-Lang,” “Legs,” “Tush.”
H: How long have you had the beard? Did Gillette really offer you $1 million to shave it?
BFG: “The beards are now part of the trademark. We have turned down all bets to shave ’em as we don’t really know what’s under there! The answer that seems to fit is: we’re too ugly. Ha!”

H: I love the sunglasses. Do you wear them all the time now?
BFG: “Oh, yes. Part of the image.”

H: I hear you’re working on your 15th album? Tell me about it. When it’s coming, etcetera? When do you go out on tour again?
BFG: “New recordings [are] in the works. Seems that remains an ongoing prospect, followed with touring and, of course, Houston square in the middle. Gotta love the H-town.”

H: Talk to me about what Texas means to you.
BFG: “Big, and BIGGER. This is home.”

H: When you look back on your career, can you believe what you’ve accomplished? What has all this success meant to you?
BFG: “The accomplishments are a reward. Family and friends make ’em worthwhile.”

H: What do you tell young performers that want to follow in your footsteps?
BFG: “Keep at it. Learn to play what you want to hear.”

H: Do you have any favorite sayings that live with you, keep you positive and energized?
BFG: “The great blues singer, Muddy Waters, said it best. ‘You don’t have to be the best one, just be a good ‘un!’ That pretty well says it all.”

Billy F Gibbons has been described in many ways: “the guru of the guitar,” “the musician’s musician,” “an iconic guitarist,” “the legendary master of the six-string,” “music’s most highly regarded Renaissance man” – even as “The Reverend Willy G.,” making that title official when he was ordained in 2002, so that he could perform a wedding ceremony. Boogie on, Billy; you have made your hometown very proud!

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