Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lance Armstrong Hosts Texas Backyard Bash

It was a Texas-sized private bash to rival any backyard barbecue: Lance Armstrong opened the grounds of his Austin home on Friday night for 450 guests, including his steady, fashion designer Tory Burch – and good pal Matthew McConaughey and the actor's current flame, Camila Alves.

The occasion was to celebrate – and raise about $1 million for – the 10th anniversary of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

"Why not have a party in my backyard?" the seven-time Tour de France champ, 35, asked guests from the stage, where his longtime buddy Lyle Lovett and his band performed before a backdrop of trees covered in twinkling lights which prompted Armstrong to joke, "My neighbors were all wondering why I was decorating early for Christmas."

McConaughey, tanned and fit from surfing on the Bahamas set of his new movie Surfer Dude, and Alves, wearing a backless sundress, cheered as Lovett played.

Like the other guests in the yard, noshing on such treats as wild boar quesadillas from the local restaurant Hudson's on the Bend, the new couple sat on a blanket close to the stage, cuddling together, playing with Armstrong's 5-year-old daughter, Grace, and drinking Margaritas from one of the three open bars.

Armstrong joined Lovett onstage for two songs, "Here I Am" and "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)," leading the group in improvised lyrics.

Besides Grace, other Armstrongs attending were Lance's ex-wife Kristin Armstrong and their two other children – Luke, 7, and Grace's twin sister, Bella.

Armstrong, who first met Kristin in January 1997 at a press conference announcing the Lance Armstrong Foundation (they married in 1998, and divorced in 2003), said of her: "Kristin became my wife, the mother of my three beautiful kids and is an important part of this story. Thanks to her for being with us this evening."

Armstrong also discussed his cancer diagnosis on October 2, 1996 and his decision to start his own foundation, which in its first decade has raised about $180 million.

"I hated losing and I hated rivals," said the now-retired cyclist. "And I despise, detest and hate cancer. This foundation is going to continue to be ruthless and relentless in this fight against cancer."

As for his backyard get-together – holding it on his own property certainly helped contain the party's overhead expenses – "It all went really well," he said. "It was fun to have so many people over to the house. I'm not worried about anything spilling on a pillow or sofa, because you can clean up almost anything. It was a great evening."

But is he ready to throw another? "Well, we're having my stepsister's wedding back here in three weeks," he said. "I think I'll take a break after that."

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