July—People, Places, Events, Attractions


In the summer of 1955 a Hollywood imperial army invaded the small West Texas town of Marfa. For five weeks acclaimed filmmaker George Stevens and a huge Warner Bros. cast and crew labored on nearby drought-stricken ranchland to create Giant, the story of the lordly Benedicts—played by Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor—and their oil-slick neighbor, James Dean’s Jett Rink (right). Marfans, delighted with the limelight, offered up lunch spreads, lumber, cattle, and the town’s only good hotel, the Paisano, to the invaders, whose idiosyncrasies would unfold before them: Stevens’s perfectionism, Hudson’s distaste for Dean, Dean’s rabbit-hunting night forays with acting coach Bob Hinkle, Taylor’s dire warnings to Hudson about eating too many banana splits. But Giant and the studio’s open pocketbooks, some said, saved Marfa from blowing away with the dust, and so now, fifty years later, the town welcomes another takeover, this time by film enthusiasts: On July 2 a pristine 35mm Giant print, on loan from Warner Bros., will be screened outdoors in front of the legendary Hotel Paisano. Chale Nafus

(For directions and more information, see Other Events, Marfa Giant Anniversary Screening)

COMING ATTRACTIONS | The month in summer fun.


It’s the quintessential American cooking experience. Food Network chef cum scientist Alton Brown, who on July 9 brings his unorthodox methods to Barton Creek Square Mall, in Austin, shares his secrets for the ideal hamburger.

Is it true that your favorite food is the cheeseburger?
Without question.

So how do you grill the perfect patty? Well, if you’re really looking to make great burgers, then you shouldn’t grill them. The fat leaks out and catches fire, creating soot that isn’t all that tasty. I suggest using a small cast-iron griddle—a flat piece of metal with a handle—and putting that on your grill, over indirect high or medium heat.

What’s the best kind of meat to use? I like my burgers with an equal portion of two meats: sirloin for flavor and chuck for texture and fat. I have the butcher grind them together at the grocery store, or I run it all through the food processor at home.

And what do you season with? Kosher salt. That’s all. It should really just be about tasting the meat. What about buns? I like kaiser rolls. I’m into the smaller burger thing.

Do you use fancy cheese? Cheddar. What else are you going to put on a cheeseburger? That can’t be messed with. Jordan Breal

(For directions and more information, see Austin, Other Events Alton Brown)


Beat the heat at these old-fashioned water holes.

Blue Hole, Dinosaur Valley State Park (Near Glen Rose)
Jump into the cool Paluxy River from the hole’s surrounding boulders and look for the underwater dinosaur tracks. Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Devil’s Waterhole, Inks Lake State Park (Burnet)
Take one of this month’s guided canoe trips to the pink granite cliffs and cascading waters. Open daily 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.; closes at 10 p.m. on Fridays.

Krause Springs (Spicewood)
Bask in the otherworldliness of the cypress trees and fern-lined waterfalls. Open daily 9 a.m. to sunset.

San Solomon Springs Pool, Balmorhea State Park (Toyahvale)
Snorkel or scuba dive in the clear, 25-foot-deep water at this West Texas oasis. Open daily 8 a.m. to half an hour before sunset.

(For directions and more information, see Glen Rose), Burnet),Spicewood), and Toyahvale).


Houston mayor Bill White has thrown down the patriotic gauntlet this year, proclaiming that his city’s Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July celebration—and its fireworks show, specifically—will be the biggest, most breathtaking in the state. Show producer Paula Craig, a licensed pyrotechnician, has been working since January with her crew of nearly fifty to make his proclamation true. “We’ll be shooting two thousand different fireworks in seventeen minutes,” she says. “A big show is half that size.” European-style choreography, with an intricate play of angles, rapid-fire blasts, and slow, graceful explosions, will be painstakingly timed to Texas tunes and Americana songs. But the real coup is the extensive firing location along Buffalo Bayou Park. “Traditionally we’ve shot from eight places,” Craig says, “but this year it’ll be from nineteen. Everyone is going to feel like they have a front-row seat.” Jordan Breal

(For directions and more information, see Houston, Other Events Freedom Over Texas)

GET A LOAD OF THIS | More than you’d ever want to know about…

Annie Leibovitz

This month, “Annie Leibovitz: Women, Part III,” the final installment of a series donated to Dallas’s Women’s Museum by the photographer herself, will show off more than thirty female faces, both obscure and famous—Madeleine Albright, Lil’ Kim, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Venus and Serena Williams, among others—through July 31. Meanwhile, at the Live Music Capital’s Austin Museum of Art, iPod listening stations will accompany portraits of everyone from music idols like B. B. King to newcomers like the White Stripes in “Annie Leibovitz: American Music,” on view through August 7. Could Leibovitz have found two more appropriate Texas venues for her work? Katy Vine

(See pages 26 and 30.)

Stoop shoot

Robert Earl Keen, whose portrait with Lyle Lovett appears in “American Music,” recalls sitting for Leibovitz in 2001.

The day of the shoot was dreary. It was misting and it was maybe fifty degrees. We all met on this ranch outside Austin, and Annie was very outgoing and friendly. Lyle Lovett and I wrote this song together called “This Old Porch,” and so Annie just decided to take the shot on the porch. She was very hands-on, very much a part of her own art. She said, “I’m going to be back here, and you sit there, and you sit there,” and so Lyle and I sat and talked and she took a picture. That portion of the shoot didn’t last very long at all, probably no more than fifteen minutes. And the day sort of cleared up as it went on. One thing I like about the picture is that there’s a depth to the horizon that has to do with just the way the day was.

The picture captures a certain camaraderie and history that Lyle and I have. I thought it really interesting that Annie took it from the inside looking out; there’s a sense of intimacy, as if you were sitting there too. For someone who didn’t know me, she was really intuitive about what was going on. She and Lyle knew each other—they’d taken pictures together before—and they talked about some shared experiences. But I’m not a big question asker; I really do just sit around. I kept thinking, “I want to remember every second, because this is a really great moment.”As Told To Jordan Breal

Keen performs in San Antonio on July 4. (For directions and more information, see San Antonio, Music/Dance)