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A Western photographer’s retrospective in Fort Worth will leave you thinking, Holy Cowboy! Plus: Lounging around in Houston; listening to the tenor of the times in Corpus Christi; staging something Wilde in Dallas; and grooving to the joy of sax in Houston.
THE MAIN EVENT
Erwin E. Smith’s artistic vision had greater range than a West Texas ranch. Born in Honey Grove in 1886, the Western photographer fell in love with the cowboy life when he was just a boy. By his teen years he was not only a hard-working hand but also a determined chronicler of the cowpuncher’s daily grind. After a short stay in Chicago, where he studied sculpting, he returned home and saddled up again, carrying a Kodak along with his lariat, bedroll, and other essentials. Between 1906 and 1917 he snapped surprisingly sharp pictures of his bunkmates roping, branding, herding, and spinning fireside yarns (right, a self-portrait, Bonham, 1908). So wholly unaffected were his images that actor William S. Hart, a silver screen cowboy, once sought his advice on how to make his portrayals more authentic. Smith’s meticulous notes about the men, horses, and cattle on a variety of Southwestern ranches—including the Matador, the Spur, and the Turkey Track—further enhanced his photos. He died in 1947, and today more than five thousand of his negatives belong, appropriately, to a Cowtown collection, the Amon Carter Museum, where a retrospective of Smith’s work debuts on January 24. Anne Dingus
Sammy and Dean are dead, and if you believe the rumors, the only thing under Frank’s skin these days is an IV. So what’s left of the old Vegas, the pastel paradise, the dusty town given life by Bugsy Siegel back when there was no Siegfried and no Roy? Three words: Steve and Eydie. Since the fifties, when they began their careers as cast members of Steve Allen’s Tonight Show, husband-and-wife crooners Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme have been the chief exporters of the sort of lounge music you find only in the casinos. Traveling the country night after night with a full orchestra, they perform pop standards like “Blame It on the Bossa Nova” to packed houses—always professional, always sincere, never giving less than their best. “When people come to see Steve and Eydie,” the 64-year-old Lawrence says in a voice as smooth as Johnny Walker, “they expect a show of a certain quality.” That’s what you’ll get when the duo plays Houston’s Arena Theatre January 31 in a concert benefiting the Houston Chapter of Hadassah. Ask nicely and they’ll sing “Black Hole Sun,” the grunge hit they covered on the recent Lounge-a-Palooza CD, the latest manifestation of lounge’s improbable resurgence. “If you hang around long enough,” Lawrence says, “everything comes back.” Fortunately, Steve and Eydie never went away. Evan Smith
Hear His Song
Although most Irishmen wait until Saint Paddy’s Day for the wearin’ o’ the green, the descendants of Corpus Christi’s Irish settlers will celebrate their heritage early this year—and the rest of the state will be green with envy—when renowned tenor Frank Patterson presents his annual Irish Concert there on January 16, under the sponsorship of Texas’ only Irish Culture House. Heir to the tradition of classic Irish tenors going back to the fabled John McCormack at the turn of the century, Patterson has a repertoire that stretches from Bach cantatas to the songs of modern composers. Many Texans no doubt heard him for the first time on the December PBS fundraising special Faith of Our Fathers, which reflected his love of the traditional hymns of his people. But like McCormack’s fans of bygone days, Patterson’s admirers want to hear the “heart songs” (“Galway Bay,” say, or “Danny Boy”) sung in his unique style, accompanied on the piano and harp by his wife, Eily O’Grady. Much in demand as Saint Patrick’s Day approaches, the two have made Corpus Christi a regular stop on their concert circuit simply because of the warm reception they receive. “We love to go there,” says Patterson. “They are such friends of ours. It’s the friendship that brings us back.” Chester Rosson
The Call of the Wilde
We’re not sure why Oscar Wilde seems to be enjoying a renaissance these days. Maybe it was all the hundredth-anniversary productions of The Importance of Being Earnest in 1995 that jogged our collective memory. But with a biographical drama playing Off-Broadway and a biographical film awaiting American release, one thing is certain: Suddenly, everybody’s going Wilde. “We’ve only recently rediscovered the true brilliance of Oscar Wilde,” says Jonathan Moscone, the associate director of the Dallas Theater Center. “He is in many ways one of the most profound dramatists and thinkers of the past hundred and fifty years.” Moscone will direct the DTC’s production of Wilde’s political thriller, An Ideal Husband, opening January 14. Set in the late 1800’s, the play focuses on a popular young politician with a skeleton in his closet that a young woman threatens to reveal, jeopardizing not only his political future but also the stability of his marriage (sound familiar?). Full of Wilde’s characteristic wit, it’s an eloquent indictment of romantic idealism that, though written in 1895, still rings true today. “Many people would say that he was ahead of his time,” Moscone says. “I would contend that he was ahead of our time.” Erin Gromen
When he was still a toddler, Charlie Haden began his musical career singing on his parents’ country music radio show in Springfield, Missouri. That was during World War II, and Haden has been a major force in American music ever since. He was barely twenty years old when he heard the then-unknown Ornette Coleman in Los Angeles and became the bass player with Coleman’s first quartet, whose work would change jazz forever. Since then he has played on more than four hundred albums and made history himself—in the seventies with his highly political Liberation Music Orchestra and currently with Quartet West, which is performing in Houston January 30. (Above, from left: Larance Marable, Haden, Alan Broadbent, and Ernie Watts.) As Haden was deeply affected by the noir movies of the late forties, his group plays a rich, plaintive, lonely music that makes the black nights and wet streets of those films seem vividly contemporary. If you like the sound of a sax at two in the morning or wish you could have heard Jo Stafford sing in a smoky nightclub, don’t miss this show. Gregory Curtis