One of celebrity’s immutable laws is that you’re nobody until your private life has been picked apart by the predators of the New York media. By that standard, J. Shelby Bryan is well into his Warholian fifteen minutes. The Houston native has been a tabloid staple lately, and—wouldn’t you know?—it’s not because of his work as the CEO of Denver-based ICG Communications or his fundraising for the Democratic party. What makes him gossip grist is his relationship with Anna Wintour, the all-powerful editor of Vogue, whom he met last year at a charity ball chaired by Anne Bass and has been romantically involved with ever since—even though both are married.
Who is the urbane cowboy who’s lassoed, Horse Whisperer-style, a steely, stick-thin Brit? For one thing, he has undeniable Texas bona fides: He is the great-great-great-great-nephew of Stephen F. Austin and is also descended from William Joel Bryan, for whom the town of Bryan is named. His maternal grandfather, Evan Shelby Smith, for whom he is named, was a land baron in Brazoria County. His father, James Perry Bryan, was a lawyer for Dow Chemical and a regent at the University of Texas. His brother, J.P., founded Torch Energy Advisors, a Houston oil and gas company, and owns the tony Gage Hotel in the West Texas town of Marathon.
Bryan was born in Houston on March 21, 1946. He played football at Lamar High School—“I was a Redskin,” he says proudly today—and also at UT-Austin, but only briefly. “I wasn’t any good. When I started at Texas, there were three or four other guys who were as