The Best of the Texas Century—Lifestyle


Socialite of the Century

For more than thirty years Lynn Wyatt, the blond-maned Sakowitz heiress and wife of oil and gas tycoon Oscar Wyatt, has spent her days shopping, lunching, and flying off to Europe to take in a fashion show or attend a party. She’s a fixture in New York, she summers on the Riviera, and when she’s in Houston, she occasionally serves as honorary chairwoman of a charity gala. Ho-hum, right? In truth, no Texas socialite has been as mesmerizing. Andy Warhol painted her portrait. Everyone from Liza Minnelli and Sammy Davis, Jr., to Monaco’s Princess Caroline and England’s Princess Margaret has dropped by her Houston mansion. In the mid-seventies she made the International Best Dressed List three years in a row, and she is still regularly photographed for the fashion bibles Women’s Wear Daily and W. What is it about Wyatt? It’s not just her beauty and her natural sophistication (Houston writer Clifford Pugh once called her the “Last of the Glossy Group”). She loves playing the rich Texan, greeting people with “How are yew” and showing off her Texas roots. When she was asked by Princess Grace to host one of Monaco’s premier social events, the Bal de la Rose, in 1981, she turned it into a country and western party with longnecks and barbecue. Runner-up: Electra Waggoner was always known as a clotheshorse. In the early 1900’s the daughter of North Texas land and cattle baron Tom Waggoner bought $20,000 worth of clothes at Dallas’ Neiman Marcus in one day, then came back the next day and spent an additional $20,000. But it wasn’t until after her divorce from Easterner A. B. Wharton that she became the state’s first great international socialite, buying a three-block-long estate in the Turtle Creek area of Dallas and throwing magnificent parties, occasionally even hiring private trains to move them across the country. Skip Hollandsworth


Party of the Century

The Shamrock Hotel’s Opening Night Gala on March 18, 1949, was the biggest, brashest, most outrageous party Houston had ever seen. Broadcast live on NBC radio with host Dorothy Lamour, the extravaganza put Houston on the map, sparking a national media sensation and heightening Texas’ larger-than-life image. “Diamond” Glenn McCarthy, the flamboyant wildcatter who was the inspiration for Giant’s Jett Rink, built the Shamrock. The oilman decorated it in 63 shades of green and outfitted it with an emerald swimming pool so vast that you could water-ski across it. He spared no expense for the hotel’s debut, which drew the likes of Ginger Rogers and Errol Flynn as well as the Kilgore Rangerettes and a crowd of Houstonians who became so rowdy that NBC pulled the plug on the broadcast mid-program. All told, the revelers drank more than 12,000 bottles of champagne before the night was over. Runner-up: On June 11, 1926, oilman Edgar Davis threw a lavish picnic in Luling for family, friends, and co-workers to celebrate his sale of an oil field to Magnolia Petroleum; at the time it was the state’s biggest oil deal. The tab for the picnic was $5 million. Pamela Colloff


Do-gooder of the Century

Edna Gladney of Fort Worth was so famous for her crusades to care for abandoned children in the first half of this century that a film was made about her life, Blossoms in the Dust, starring Greer Garson. Gladney was barely twenty years old when she made unwanted children her cause in life, first working to improve the conditions on a poor farm, then becoming superintendent of the Texas Children’s Home and Aid Society (later renamed the Edna Gladney Home). By the time she went into semi-retirement in 1960, the childless Gladney had placed more than 10,000 babies with adoptive parents and successfully lobbied the Texas Legislature to have the word “illegitimate” kept off birth certificates. Runner-up: Clara Driscoll, the daughter of a wealthy Corpus Christi ranching family who crusaded to save the Alamo. Among other things, in 1903, when she was 21, she put up the money to buy the long barracks adjoining the chapel, thereby preserving the “cradle of Texas liberty.” Skip Hollandsworth


Bad Girl of the Century

In the early fifties a nymphet with tropical green eyes and a body that would stop the Dow Jones taught the puritans of Dallas the pleasures of sex, and they taught her their version of justice. Stripper Candy Barr got fifteen years for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, but her real crime was shaking her fanny at the establishment. Candy’s activities had been an open secret for some time. She popped her G-string at smokers and SMU fraternity parties, and she starred in Texas’ most famous stag film, Smart Aleck . Trouble started when Candy became the headliner at the Colony Club, in the heart of Dallas’ business district. Not only did people read about her in the dailies and hear about her at the country club, but a life-size cutout of Candy in her skimpy cowboy outfit, pointing a toy pistol under a cocked leg, greeted shoppers strolling along Commerce. Suddenly, both guilt and repressed fantasies were unleashed, and the police and prosecutors went to a lot of trouble to put her away. The evidence was likely planted, and her trial was a four-day farce in which the judge took snapshots of the shapely defendant. Runner-up: Miss Jessie Williams, the kindly madam who in 1905 took over a little house of prostitution in La Grange that would become known as the Chicken Ranch and turned it into a whopping business, servicing many of Texas’ finest young men. Gary Cartwright


Preacher of the Century

The white-haired, white-suited W. A. Criswell came to Dallas’ First Baptist Church in 1944 and turned it into the biggest Protestant church in America, with a reported membership of 30,000 in its early-nineties heyday. Nobody could stir a crowd like Criswell, who is part theologian and part thespian. During one eighteen-year stretch at First Baptist, he preached the Bible all the way

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