Around the State
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Around the State subheading: A selective guide to amusements and events. Edited by Quita McMath, Josh Daniel, Erin Gromen, and Cheri Ballew summary:
Members of Bob Wills’s Texas Playboys and Playgirls stage a swinging comeback (Austin and Bandera). Plus: The Day of the Dead lives (Austin, El Paso, Houston, and San Antonio); a new Rocket blasts off (Houston); refocusing on a dark day (Dallas); and Maher-velous stand-up (Austin, Dallas, and Houston).
THE MAIN EVENT
Sultanas of Swing
As celebrated as Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys may be in the annals of Texas music, the Playboys who wore dresses were never really given their due. Most people know about the scores of notable men who worked for Wills; they’re now regarded as legends of Western swing. But the handful of women who joined his group as featured vocalists have generally been regarded as little more than historical footnotes. That wrong will be righted this month, when three female Playboy veterans—Louise Rowe (right, with Wills in 1952) and the McKinney sisters, Dean and Evelyn—reprise old Wills classics like “My Rose of Old Pawnee” backed by the Western Swing Hall of Fame tour band, which features an all-star cast of various former Playboys, Cherokee Cowboys, and Brazos Valley Boys. The first reunion show will be at Austin’s hallowed honky-tonk, the Broken Spoke, on November 8, and the next day the boot-scootin’ moves to one of Wills’s favorite places to play, the Cabaret Restaurant and Dance Hall in Bandera. Dancing is mandatory. Joe Nick Patoski
Death Takes a Holiday
November 2 is el Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), and interested souls can proceed to El Paso’s Concordia Cemetery for one of Texas’ liveliest celebrations of the Mexican memorial observance. The cemetery is nonpareil, and the Hispanic graves there are especially touching—flower-strewn religious statuettes and homemade tile borders adorn the markers, many of which will be further enhanced for the holiday with the essential Day of the Dead decoration: a homemade altar on which family and friends place photos, candles, food, and mementos of their loved ones. The Border Voices Literary Festival, a writers’ group, will sponsor a free-form program of memorial performances; celebrants may listen to (and contribute) short readings of poems, songs, and other remembrances. Before and after, visitors can stroll through the grounds of vast Concordia, which includes sections dedicated to early Jewish settlers and nineteenth-century Chinese railroad workers as well as the grave of murdered outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Other dead-on celebrations occur at Austin’s Mexic-Arte Museum, Houston’s Lawndale Art and Performance Center, and San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures. Anne Dingus
To Sir Charles With Love
Ah, pro athletes. Who else can a city roundly despise one minute and embrace as its own the next? Take Charles Barkley: Few players in basketball inspire more animosity from opposing crowds, and few places have hated the combative power forward more than Houston, where three seasons ago he led the Phoenix Suns in handing the Rockets their most embarrassing defeat of the playoffs and the town a loathsome new nickname—Choke City. The fans began to feel a little more charitable after Sir Charles’ next visit; his team lost, the Rockets went on to win their first championship, and Houston was reborn as Clutch City. Then, last August, all was forgiven. In a headline-grabbing trade, the Rockets acquired Barkley with the hope of winning another title before their other superstars, Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, hang up their hightops for good. They’ll open the regular season November 1 at home against the perennially struggling Sacramento Kings, but the real eye-opener is set for November 21, when the Suns come to town with a roster sporting four former Rockets, including local favorites Sam Cassell and Robert Horry. Welcome, gentlemen, to Chuck City. Josh Daniel
Seven years ago, when the Sixth Floor Museum opened in the old Texas School Book Depository, Dallas finally got closure. The city had permanently acknowledged its darkest day: November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated there. Today Lee Harvey Oswald’s sniper’s nest is one of the most popular tourist destinations in town, drawing more than 400,000 visitors a year and telling a story that’s finely detailed, startlingly honest, and exceptionally informative, even for someone who has heard it a thousand times. In Dallas, like everywhere they went, the Kennedys drew huge crowds hoping to capture them on film (below, they arrive at Love Field), and this month, on the thirty-third anniversary of the president’s death, the museum opens “The Photographers and the Evidence,” an exhibit featuring more than a dozen cameras used in Dealey Plaza that day as well as the images they took. The main attraction, on loan from the National Archives, will be Abraham Zapruder’s Bell and Howell 8mm movie camera, which followed the path of Kennedy’s limousine and recorded the best footage of the shooting itself. But you can’t fully appreciate the Zapruder film until you’ve seen it alongside the other photographic evidence, such as Phil Willis’ arresting color slide taken from the other side of Elm Street. This is your chance. Joe Nick Patoski
A Stand-up Guy
Life, especially in an election year, is nasty, brutish, and short. But enough about Ross Perot; let’s talk about intentional political humor, the kind you’ll find on TV’s hippest half hour, Comedy Central’s Politically Incorrect. Nominated for two Emmys, PI is the brainchild of veteran comic Bill Maher, who has hit on a winning talk show format: Bring together an unlikely array of celebrities (say, Ann Richards and rap star Chuck D, who sings a little ditty called “Thin Line Between Law and Rape”), throw out a controversial topic like abortion, and let the sparks fly. The result is a sort of McLaughlin Group on speed—a serious discussion of issues peppered with hilarious exchanges—and it has quickly turned Maher into a hot property. This fall, he’ll take his acerbic stand-up act to cities across the country (including Austin, Dallas, and Houston) as a dry run for an upcoming HBO special. Then, in January, he’ll move up the dial to ABC, which will air PI following Nightline. Maher vows that the show will continue to book an odd assortment of pundits, including the occasional Texan. “Perot would be awesome,” he says, “though he’s one of those people who would waste the time of the other guests. You’d never shut him up.” Evan Smith