When my friend Tom Huckabee and I were seventeen, we pooled our money and bought a new Kodak Ektasound Super-8 system. One of the first films we made was a black and white pseudodocumentary called Victory at Auschwitz, which we shot in the old train yard off West Vickery in
MY MATERNAL GRANDMOTHER, Grandma Page, was up at three-thirty or four o’clock in the morning to bake and churn and get ready for the cotton fields on our family farm in Bloomington. At night, after all the cooking and sewing, there was energy left for her reading. “Come, Danny, I’ll
I enrolled at the University of Texas in 1950 during a post-war period that produced many talented individuals. Harvey Schmidt, Tom Jones, Liz Smith, Robert Benton, Pat Hingle, Word Baker, Kathryn Grant (later Mrs. Bing Crosby), and I all graduated with degrees in drama. We did lots of dance concerts
One day when I was in the seventh grade at Christ the King School in Dallas, the Ursuline nun who taught our class dragged in a phonograph with 78 rpm records from the convent. She put on an album of Puccini love duets sung by Licia Albanese and James Milton.
I arrived in El Paso as a small child and grew up within sight of the Rio Grande. Juárez was part of our lives, and it was comfortable and easy to cross the border. My friends and I were part of rat packs: We had jackets, and zip guns were
When I got out of high school at three o’clock each day, I went to work giving away movie passes and hanging up posters in barbershops and drugstores for coming attractions at the Iris or the Texan or the Ritz theaters in downtown Houston. Unfortunately, when I graduated I didn’t
I entered the University of Texas before World War II ended; I was fresh out of divorce court. I didn’t know a soul in Austin, and there were only very young men—prodigies—or very old men on campus. American guys were still at war! So I spent my time swinging between
When I was a little girl, the thing that I most wanted to do was to be able to sing, but as fortune would have it, I can’t carry a tune. One year at River Oaks Elementary School, a humane decision was made by the principal that anyone who wanted
The day John F. Kennedy was shot, I rushed down to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where I was the night police reporter, to help answer the phones on the city desk. A woman caller asked, “Is there anyone there who can take me to Dallas?” and I said, “Well, this
I went to the University of Texas at Austin to play baseball. In high school I wanted to be a pro baseball player, and I never really thought about movies outside of taking dates to them and stuff like that. And when I tried to walk on to the UT
Every Christmas, from the time I was three until I was ten, my family would drive in a stream of cars to Kilgore, where, during the Depression and a very big oil boom, oil wells had been drilled downtown. Hundreds of derricks on street corners and next to office buildings
I started working for radio stations in El Paso at seventeen. I played records and ripped wire copy off the United Press International or the Associated Press wires and read it. Then, in 1954, television came to town; so my last year of college I worked for a local TV
My parents were jazzers. In 1954 my father was appointed chairman of the music department at Sam Houston State Teachers College in Huntsville; my mother sang live on the radio. My first memory of any sound at all was of Miles Davis’ muted trumpet; I came out in my pajamas
WHEN WE LIVED IN RIVER OAKS, three or four boys and I would go down to the creek when it was hot, when the dragonflies were louder than the wind and the air was so still that it felt like it weighed a ton—but you’re seven years old and you
MY EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SON is named after a town in Texas. His given name was Daniel Streeter Phillips. When he was born, my wife, Debra, and I broke out the map of Texas and our finger kind of stopped at Streeter. It was actually going to be his middle name, but
I REMEMBER ONE SUMMER when there were snakes galore on Lake LBJ near Kingsland. We have five kids in our family, and we’d all go swimming in the lake, but when we’d see something in the water—and couldn’t tell if it was a turtle or a water moccasin—we’d jump out.