MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AGO the collective might of Columbia Pictures descended on Austin with one of that studio’s blue-ribbon, A-team moviemaking armies: Blythe Danner, Anthony Perkins, Beau Bridges, a hot director named Sidney Lumet, an ingenue named Susan Sarandon, and the same producer who had already made small-town Texas a bankable commodity with the adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show. The prestige project settled in at the Chariot Inn, where Danner had a permanent sign on her door—“Quiet!
In this month’s issue of Texas Monthly, executive editor S.C. Gwynne envisions a hypothetical terrorist attack on the Houston Ship Channel and its social, political, and economic impact on the United States and, effectively, the world. Here, he discusses government-issued terror alerts, acknowledging our vulnerabilities to attacks, and being prepared for the worst.
texasmonthly.com: What made you decide to write this story now?
texasmonthly.com: How did you become interested in writing about the Roby millionaires?
I wish the Texas House of Representatives would install suites in the gallery. They’d make a fortune: comfortable chairs, leg room, food and drink, no DPS officers to admonish you for chortling with your neighbor at the antics on the House floor below. The business lobby would surely buy them, and members of the media could drop by to engage in speculation about which bills and amendments (and which legislators) were going to pass or fail.
Sharon Bush is not the best witness in her own defense.
texasmonthly.com: Obviously, this topic is a highly emotional one. How did you approach this story from the beginning? Did you have preconceived ideas before you began working on it?
"OH, MAN," HE SAID. DID I leave you with two dollars? I thought I'd bet it all. You better make a stand. Custer did, but of course you know that poor son of a bitch got massacred. So you can imagine what's fixing to happen to you."
WHEN ENRON WAS RIDING HIGH, in the fall of 1995, an accountant named Sherron Watkins competed in a tournament that her boss, Andy Fastow, had devised, a contest he called the Paint Ball War. The actions that would make both of them famous—Watkins as a corporate whistle-blower and Fastow as a balance-sheet manipulator—lay far in the future, but looking back on her Enron odyssey, Watkins now sees the Paint Ball War as a metaphor for all that would come to pass.