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The Great Eight: Meet Central Texans Who Master the Art of Style 10/08

The stars of Austin's social universe

They're Austin's social warriors.

You've seen them. Out there every night, making the rounds at every party. In the eye of the social storm, air-kissing and glad-handing. They're not just in the loop; they started it.

Call them what you will: patrons, sponsors, groupies or party animals. They're the movers and shakers of Austin's social scene. They do the "face time" at the events that make Austin hum. Politics, music, charity and a number of other coteries are their passions.

Some are wealthy, but not all. It's less about money and more about connections and, sometimes, influence — often for worthy causes. These people make a difference just by showing up.

Their motivations for hitting the social circuit differ. Some are natural philanthropists or humanitarians. Others are looking to boost their careers or businesses.

Some boys and girls just want to have fun. But they all share the same goal: to make Austin a better place by contributing to the city's social fabric.

So we decided to create a list honoring Austin's top 500 social stars.

Why? Because lists are fun. Who doesn't enjoy the guilty pleasure of People magazine's "Most Beautiful" list or Mr. Blackwell's "Worst Dressed"? But mostly, we wanted to recognize the social mechanics that makes Austin tick.

We call them the "XL Fortunate 500."

In the beginning, the task seemed daunting, as we sifted through list after list of partygoers generated from inside and outside the newsroom. But in no time, our roster exceeded 500, and we had to scale back.

It was a good problem to have — knowing too many worthy folks to choose from.

We struggled with the list's criteria. Naming the celebrities was easy, but "influential" or just "social" was trickier — more elusive.

Austin's social scene is a unique gumbo of talent, celebrity and backgrounds. Eccentrics and sophisticates. Heiresses rub elbows with slam poets. Power brokers swap jokes with penniless musicians. Politicians hang out with humble shopkeepers.

In Austin, jewels and jeans coexist seamlessly. It's a town where everyone knows everyone else, not everyone else's checkbook. Not that we don't like money. We do. But we try not to let it define us.

We pride ourselves on not being a Dallas or Houston, by not letting social stature take precedence. In Austin, we know what really matters. What's important. We're a tolerant, evolved town not hung up on social status.

But that doesn't mean we're not curious.

So here it is, the XL Fortunate 500. It's not a historical list, but one that highlights who we consider social standouts from the past year. They're in no particular order or ranking, although we've spotlighted a few leaders in their genre. Some fortunates are listed singly, others as couples, if they are known socially for going out in pairs. Some of those couples count as romantic life partners, others as frequent public companions (let's not use the old socialite term "walkers").

Naturally, some deserving folks have been omitted. Also, American-Statesman employees and contract workers and their immediate families were not eligible. It's not a perfect list, but we hope it's a good snapshot of Austin's most recognizable social people.

We hope to make this an annual issue, so if you didn't make this year's list, don't feel slighted. There's always next year. And besides, you live in Austin. And that makes us all fortunate.

The Fortunate 500: Literary and media starsPeople who wrote the book on the literary and media scenes…

By Katy Barron

May 12, 2005

Lidia Agraz media/charity/business/arts

John Aielli media/arts/charity

Sammy Allred media/music/politics

Philip Bobbitt education/literary

Sarah Bird literary/media

Olga Campos media/charity

Fred Cantú media/charity

Gary Cartwright literary/media/charity

Elizabeth Christian and Bruce Todd media/politics/arts/business

Bob Cole media/sports/politics/food/charity

Jody Denberg media/music/charity

Ron Deutsch media/politics/food

Betty Sue Flowers education/literary

Robert Hadlock media/charity

Steve Harrigan literary

Mary Herman literary/charity

Donna and Steve Hicks media/business/charity/education

Jim Hornfischer literary/business

Rebecca and Phillip Hudson media/business/heritage

Molly Ivins media/politics/charity

Brette Lea media/arts/education

David Lindsey literary/charity/politics

Jill McGuckin media/business/music

Judy Maggio media/charity

Libby and Bruce Malone media/business

Theresa May literary/arts

Lance Avery Morgan media/arts

Mark Murray media/music/charity

Jeff Nightbyrd media/music/heritage

Joe Nick Patoski media/music/literary

Steven Phenix media/literary/arts

Kevin Phinney media/music/arts

Cactus Pryor media/charity/heritage

Wayne Slater media

Jim Spencer media/arts/charity

Tom Spencer media/arts/charity

Tom Staley literary/education/arts

Bart Stephens media

Bruce Sterling literary/media

Bill Stotesbury media/business/charity

Maury Sullivan media/education

Kerry Tate media/business/charity/arts

Sally and Bill Witliff literary/movies/charity/education/arts

Roberta and Larry Wright literary/arts/charity