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Rubbing shoulders with the stars during SXSW

Michael Barnes, Out & About

Staff Writer
Austin 360

I can retire now. Matthew McConaughey recognized me. From a distance.

He graciously called me over and introduced me to his fiancée, the tall, stunning Camila Alves. McConaughey looked as subdued hanging with Richard Linklater, Danny Trejo and Robert Rodriguez as he did from the stage earlier during the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards ceremony at ACL Live.

I can't figure where the movie star knows me from, except perhaps from the other side of a velvet rope during a red carpet moment. Generally speaking, reporters stick behind their notebooks, digital recorders and cameras at such glam fests. Nobody was ever tempted to link to an image of an "awesomely buff social columnist."

New Austin celebs such as Meat Loaf and Robert Plant spread out over ACL Live's three tiers, diminishing the affair's vertical social stratification. In fact, many of the boldface Austin movie gang gravitated to Tier 2, while the Hall of Fame awardees sat with the monied donors around tables on Tier 1.

Some of the liveliest social action, however, popped up on Tier 3, where members of the film guilds gathered, often noisily during long speeches, around the lobby bar. Public displays of affection seem required at such affairs. The waving, embracing and air-kissing all felt at one with Austin's closest annual brush with Hollywood glamour, only more genuine.

As we've often said, Austin's glamour is its own. And many of the high-wattage guests — such as the still-gorgeous Angie Dickinson — said as much. "My God, you know how to have a party," the 80-year-old star of "Rio Bravo" remarked.

This is how inept I really am: A man brushes by me. I notice his black sports cap and lightly grizzled features. After greeting some guests, he stares intently ahead. Eventually I snap. It was Leonardo DiCaprio. Despite the fact that Tobey Maguire, Lukas Haas, DJ Spooky and others have been standing around chatting with the rest of us for some time now, DiCaprio is understandably the marquee name at this Mobli 2.0 affair during South by Southwest.

All through this party at Kenichi sushi restaurant on West Fifth Street, Emily Haas acted as the den mother, gathering up the celebrated buddies, introducing them to Austinites. Lukas Haas' mom, a former operatic soprano with a brood of talented offspring, deserves as much attention as the more famous boys.

‘I came to meet people anyway," admits New York's Harrison Wise, founder of Wise PR. Waiting in an unprecedented line for two hours to register for South by Southwest, Wise did the right thing. He befriended his fellow festival-goers. People paired up. In front of me, as the line stretched from the south end of the Austin Convention Center to the north, then around the corner to the east end and back again, were Toronto's Ben Feist, group technology director for Taxi Canada Inc., and Washington, D.C.'s Ryan Geiger of Orphan Gray.

"There's always two or three people at SXSW whose passion for something new really makes it worthwhile," Feist says.

"You can glimpse what's just around the corner," Geiger says. Behind me stood Austin's Michael Herst of EA Sports and Wise. "Much of the talk related to how SXSW could avoid such a crushing wait — no matter that I enjoyed every minute. Air travel delays, cold, drenching rain and record attendance combined to force some attendees to miss their panels and movies Friday afternoon.

Favorite sighting: Two young men reading fat books as they trudged along. Print is not dead.

Contact Michael Barnes at mbarnes@statesman.com