It would be hard to find any who has done more to raise Houston’s visibility around the globe than Lynn Wyatt, one of the city’s most beloved socialites, philanthropists and all-around champions. Wyatt, a third-generation Texan, heir to the Sakowitz fortune and wife of Texas oil magnate Oscar Wyatt, has a Rolodex to rival even the most seasoned Hollywood celebrities. Her close friends over the years include Sir Elton John, Andy Warhol and Princess Grace of Monaco, and she has hosted overnight guests in her homes such as Truman Capote, Mick Jagger and Princess Margaret.
While Wyatt is known for the glamorous parties she’s thrown over the years — both in Houston and at her villa in the South of France — her true gift is in philanthropy. Over the years, she has both donated to and raised money for organizations such as the Princess Grace Foundation; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Rothko Chapel; Alley Theatre; Houston Grand Opera; Houston Ballet; Star of Hope Mission (on whose board she has served for more than 40 years); and many more.
Called “the best little socialite in Texas” by Vanity Fair and “The Sociality of the Century” by Texas Monthly, Wyatt is now 87, but she shows no signs of slowing down in her philanthropic efforts. In 2019, she gave the city of Houston $10 million to renovate Jones Plaza, which will eventually reopen as Lynn Wyatt Square for the Performing Arts. It’s an opening she tells us she’s really looking forward to.
We recently spoke with Wyatt about her long legacy in Houston and how the city has changed over the years.
HOUSTONIA: How would you define Texas style?
Lynn Wyatt: Class with a bit of rudeness, but never rubbish.
Of all the celebrities you’ve hosted at your home over the years, who was the best guest?
If I were to answer that I would sound like I was name-dropping, and I’m not a name-dropper.
You helped introduce Houston to a global audience. How would you say the city has changed over the years?
In my lifetime, Houston has evolved dramatically in just about every way, but to me one of the most profound changes is the tremendous growth of our arts and culture scene. There used to be only a few small museums and theaters; today we have world-renowned institutions like the Menil Collection, the Wortham Center, and even the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art, which celebrate the artist in everyone. It’s a tough question because the list is a mile long, but what I do know is that Houston has become a bucket list city for art lovers from all over the world.
Despite its continuous progress as a global city, Houston is still often misunderstood by outsiders. How would you describe Houston to someone who has never been here? Your Houston elevator pitch, if you will.
The best thing about Houston is its diversity, and when you factor in our can-do spirit, anything is possible.
You’ve thrown so many parties over the years. Can you give us some of your best tips on how to be a good host?
My best advice is to invite people from different walks of life. The best conversations always happen when worlds collide.
For years, people have marveled at your excellent health and high energy levels. What’s your secret to staying healthy and energetic at 87?
A steady diet of champagne and popcorn.
If someone you know was visiting Houston for the first time and you served as their tour guide, what’s the first place you would take them after getting off the plane?
Rothko Chapel, and I’m not saying that because I’m listed on their letterhead as its official cultural ambassador. I say that because there is no other city in the world that has a sacred art space like the Rothko Chapel.
You have a strong philanthropic history stretching back several decades. What are some current Houston charities close to your heart?
When it comes to philanthropy, I am a lifer, so I am still involved in the same charitable causes that have always been close to my heart, such as the Princess Grace Foundation; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Rothko Chapel; Alley Theatre; Houston Grand Opera; Houston Ballet; and Star of Hope Mission, whose board I have served on for more than 40 years. These days I am particularly excited about the new city block in the center which will be the new gateway to the theater district. You might not know it yet, but — shameless plug alert — you will when Lynn Wyatt Square opens this spring.
When you look back on your life, what are you most grateful for?
My family and my friends – no doubt. They are my most precious treasures now and forever.
When you think about your future, what are you looking forward to or looking forward to the most?
You mean something other than the opening of Lynn Wyatt Square? Wink wink. Actually, I’m most excited every morning when I wake up, and I’m still here!