August 16, 2004
Local angles

Still working my way through Fifty Years of the Texas Observer - these things do go in fits and starts sometimes, you know? The book is divided into sections, with an intro and an afterword by founding editor Ronnie Dugger. Section one was about people ("Heroes and Hucksters"), while section two, which I've just finished is about places ("Local Angles"). This one has a lot of humor in it, which I find to be one of the stronger parts of TO's writing. Subjects include:

- A "startling expose of how Governor John Connally's plot to bankrupt liberals and other heavy drinkers" with a new alcohol law that mandated airplane-style single serving bottles.

- An amusing look at the battles faced by the crew that filmed the satirical movie Viva Max! (based on a novel by Jim Lehrer, yes, that Jim Lehrer), about a ne'er-do-well Mexican general who recaptures the Alamo after his girlfriend tells him that "his men wouldn't follow him to a house of ill repute". It contains this wonderful description of the Daughters of the Alamo, who did their best to keep those Hollywood ruffians from soiling their shrine:

Mrs. Scarborough pointed out that: "We are not little old ladies in tennis shoes." And several of her companions, one of whom had come straight from the country club and still wore golf shoes, nodded solemn agreement.

- The story of the world's largest cake, to celebrate the Sesquicentennial in 1986

- And my favorite, the story of a gambler who was convicted of premeditated murder after he bashed a loan shark's head in with the frozen body of his poodle (whom the loan shark had previously killed for failure to repay a debt).

There are other stories from various locales, ruminations on change, loss, and getting by in the world. The one online entry is from 2001, The Wounds of Waco, about a cameraman named Dan Molloney who was unfairly blamed for tipping the Branch Davidians about the ill-fated raid on their compound and never recovered from it.

The next section is called "The Political Tumult". I can already see a few themes to discuss. More later. Remember, there are book signings coming up in Austin and San Antonio in September.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 16, 2004 to Books | TrackBack