Just as a legal, ethical and perceptual firestorm raged last week around Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong, we received a handsome invitation to the anti-cancer foundation's 15th anniversary gala.

What better way to test the impact of the doping agency sanctions on his public image? The guest list for the Oct. 19 event at the Austin Convention Center is topped by movie and media A-Listers Sean Penn, Ben Stiller and Maria Shriver.

The onstage talent includes heavy hitters such as Robin Williams, Norah Jones and Stephen Marley. Celebrity chefs Richard Blais, Antonia Lofaso, Angelo Sosa and Paul Qui were drafted to build the menu.

Expect artists to create an installation live over the course of the evening, while an auction will feature works by Ed Ruscha, Dustin Yellin and Patrick Martinez.

The star-studded guest list has experienced no defections so far.

"The table sales and attendance so far have been phenomenal," Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Livestrong, said on Sunday. "In fact, we sold another $100,000 table yesterday."

On a related note, the Birthday Bash for the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders — slated for Sept. 13 at his Mount Bonnell-area house — is still on.

"We don't see anything changing," Michelle Krejci, director of the school's foundation, said on Friday. "And we are looking forward to it."

Penny Cedel had the right idea. Five years ago, the wife of Concordia University Texas president Tom Cedel — and a major force on campus — figured that a black-tie gala in August would be considered novel by the social set. And it would kick off the formal season in Austin.

She was right. The annual event at the Four Seasons Hotel — held after the regents meet and before students move onto campus — is now a must-attend for social enthusiasts. Especially because the affair plainly and simply honors just one singular sensation in the community.

This year, it was Reid Ryan, owner of the Round Rock Express and a cluster of other businesses. Besides being an all-around swell guy — from all I've heard and seen — Ryan exemplifies the school's goal of developing Christian leaders.

Other big parties that have successfully jumped the Labor Day gun include the Ice Ball for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas, Texas 4000 Tribute, Tour de Vin for the Wine and Food Foundation of Texas, Pay It Forward for the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, and Future Forum for LBJ Library and Museum, as well as collection openings for lyricist-artist Bernie Taupin and jeweler Kendra Scott.

Contact Michael Barnes at mbarnes@statesman.com or 445-3970