Travel mavens in and out of Texas have grown accustomed to citing Dallas’ posh Mansion on Turtle Creek as not only the state’s best hotel but one of the best in the nation. But in 1997, the Mansion has to settle for second place. In the new edition of the Zagat Survey of U.S. Hotels, Resorts & Spas—the companion to the biblelike restaurant guidebooks published by New Yorkers Tim and Nina Zagat—the top-rated Texas hotel is Dallas’ tiny Hotel St. Germain, an elegant turn-of-the-century home on Maple Avenue. Zagat voters, who graded the rooms, dining, service, and public facilities at more than eighty Texas properties, gave the St. Germain an average score of 28.1 out of a possible 30, beating the Mansion by .05 of a point; rounding out the top five are the Four Seasons at Las Colinas in Irving (27.14), the Ritz-Carlton in Houston (26.75), and the Four Seasons in Austin (26.12). The only glitch in the ranking is that fewer Zagat reviewers stayed at the St. Germain than the survey requires, so an asterisk will appear next to its name—but being the Roger Maris of Texas lodging is nothing to sneeze at.

Star Wars

The 750 or so amateur astronomers who travel from around the world to Fort Davis each May for the Texas Star Party—billed as one of the hemisphere’s premier observing events—are in for a Prude awakening. Since 1982, the Star Party has been held at the Prude Ranch, a rustic retreat situated under the wide-open West Texas sky. But this year the Prude family and Star Party organizers are going their separate ways after a hostile and ultimately unsuccessful renegotiation of their annual contract. Star Party organizers say the Prudes wanted to up their fee from $4,000 to $15,000 and threatened to keep more than $20,000 of Star Party equipment stored at the ranch; the Prudes say the fee has been cut to $7,300 and that the threat was only made in anger. Whatever the case, the result is that the Star Party is relocating to Uvalde in 1997, and the Prudes will be hosting their own star party on the same days for the first time ever. “It’s due to the economic crisis I’m getting blamed for,” says rancher John Robert Prude, citing the estimated $100,000 that Fort Davis would lose if no stargazers came to town. “When things cool off, we hope we can see about coming back at some time in the future,” insists a lawyer for the astronomers. “We still have good feelings toward the ranch.”

Happy Gilmore

As collaborations go, there’s a certain symmetry to it: The Zen master of Texas singer-songwriters, Austinite Jimmie Dale Gilmore, has accepted a small role in the new film by Ethan and Joel Coen, the auteur-geeks responsible for such oddball classics as Raising Arizona and the soon-to-be-Oscar-nominated Fargo. Now shooting in Los Angeles, The Big Lebowski is the story of three bowling fanatics (played by Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi) who get caught up in a kidnapping plot; Gilmore has a cameo as a foulmouthed bowler who gets into a fight. “I’m not an actor, so I was very surprised when they called me to read for the part,” he says. “Of course, I was thrilled about it. I’m not just a fan of theirs—I’m a rabid fan.”