Why is Texas’ most famous former street person back on the streets? He blames Austin.
You can’t go home again, but you can go homeless again: Just ask Lars Eighner. The author of Travels With Lizbeth, a best-selling account of his years living in cardboard boxes and eating out of dumpsters, was forced out of his Austin house in early December after informing his landlord that he was no longer able to pay his $880-a-month rent. How did financial problems envelop someone who was used to surviving on next to nothing, yet in the past five years earned nearly $80,000 in royalties and advances? “That’s not a big pile of money,” he insists. “I pay self-employment tax and I gave my agent fifteen percent, and what was left barely covered my living expenses.” The culprit, he says, is Austin, whose growth has made the city unaffordable—at least for him. “Everything I like about it is gone. There are all these high-tech folks. Barton Springs is polluted. We have more ozone days than in Hollywood.” Eighner says if he can find a way to move his belongings, he’ll probably head to San Antonio, or possibly Brownsville: “If I’m going to end up on the streets in the dead of winter, it may as well be someplace warmer.”
The Pope may not be the only one granted an audience with Fidel Castro in Cuba in the coming months. Austinite Jamie Otis, the director of Under the Flag, a documentary-in-progress about the dark side of the Central Intelligence Agency, plans to head to Havana with a group of former agents and is negotiating to film a “reunion” between Castro and two ex-agents who say they were ordered to assassinate him. Otis’ trip has been on hold because of money problems, despite a Hollywood fundraiser co-hosted by Richard Linklater, the project’s executive producer, and Janet Yang, a co-producer of the forthcoming People vs. Larry Flynt. But now it appears he’ll receive $100,000 in “completion funding” from Turner Classics, whose chairman, Ted Turner, wants to broadcast Under the Flag on one of his cable channels.
A Story With a Nice Ring to It
Last November, in preparation for a scene in the Selena movie that hinged on the slain tejano singer’s $3,000 diamond ring, producers asked her Corpus Christi jeweler, Phillip W. Randolph, to make a $1,500 knockoff using cubic zirconium stones. As it happened, the ring wasn’t ready until the day the scene was to be shot, so prop assistant Vicki Dempsey sped to Randolph’s shop from the San Antonio set. After picking it up, Dempsey drove north along Interstate 37, but twenty miles outside of Corpus, her tire blew out. When the driver behind her stopped to see if he could help, Dempsey—who knew that any delay could cost the production thousands of dollars—decided to take a risk: She showed the man the ring and asked him to take it to the set. “He looked like the most trustworthy individual you would ever meet in your entire life,” Dempsey says. The man agreed and drove off with the ring. And, incredibly, he showed up with it about an hour later. “I didn’t know what was going on,” says the man, 61-year-old Ellis Wind, who runs a natural gas marketing company in San Antonio. “It could have been costume jewelry; it could have been hot. But she was trustworthy looking too. I didn’t think for a second about not doing it.”