Page Two

The history of the intermittent Halloween mask covers and of burgeoning staff dinners.

Page Two
In the paper's first year, we didn't do a Halloween mask for the cover. Eight weeks or so into the experiment that has matured into what is ink staining your hands right now, we were too tired and scared to focus. The next year, in 1982, Guy Juke's drawing of horror icon Rando Hatton's face graced the cover. Hatton had acromegaly, a pituitary disease which results in deformity, which made him look monstrous. He had major roles in only five movies (including House of Horrors and The Spider Woman Strikes Back), but his memory is treasured by horror fans. Notably, Austin's own horror maestro Bob Burns (art director for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, and Re-Animator, as well as writer, producer, director, and actor), appeared in the issue in a demonstration of how to cut out and use the mask. Hatton was the first in a series of monster covers: Al Lewis as Grandpa Munster, Bride of Frankenstein, Leatherface (with hitchhiker Ed Neal demonstrating how to use the mask). The next year was a non-mask cover, but masks returned in 1987 in a politically themed run that lasted until the early Nineties, including then-City Manager Jorge Carrasco, anti-porn activist Mark Weaver, gubernatorial candidate Clayton Williams, the Developer of the Black Lagoon (guess who?!), Ross Perot, and Jim Bob Moffet. One year in there we did a Day of the Dead skeleton mask.

After the political run, with a brief stop at a too-healthy looking Vampira, we waded into more conceptual territory with masks of Memnoch, Chupacabra, and the Triangle. Last year, in a return to the political arena, we offered George W. Bush as an Oompa Loompa in a somewhat controversial portrayal (not ideologically controversial -- rather, the discussion was as to whether it looked like either an Oompa Loompa or the governor).

This year we continue the political theme with one of our longtime favorite public officials, former Austin mayor and current state comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander. A special nod to those pioneering, low-budget independent Florida filmmakers responsible for this year's surprise hit and buzz concept. Cut out the mask, get naked, grab some bongos, and party. Go into a club and enjoy it, rather than closing it. This is Austin, after all!

See The Bar Witch Project for more specific instructions on the mask.

Used to be that Thursday, after the issue came out, the staff would go out drinking. In the early years, at worst we had to put two tables together to hold everybody. When we stopped this practice it was because when we showed up, we would fill up most of the Texas Chili Parlor or the Hole in the Wall (our two favorite hangouts), leaving no room for paying customers -- we were there on trade.

Now once a year we invite the whole in-house staff out to dinner and fill a whole restaurant. This past Monday, we took over the Bitter End for a fine evening of fellowship and (outstanding) food. Some were surprised by our choice of the Bitter End, thinking of it more as a bar and brewpub than as a dining establishment. It is one of my family's favorite places in Austin. Monday night made converts of the skeptics. The staff, grown so large that there were a number of people I talked to for the first time (though in my case, it's more of a monologue than a dialogue), was spread out through the restaurant and patio. The evening was talking, eating, drinking, and is remembered fondly by most -- and not at all by a few.

end story

Tonight, Oct.28, at the Alamo, the Austin Film Society presents The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah's masterpiece and one of the great American films. This is the director's cut (and in this film, that makes a significant difference). This is Peckinpah's epic, in which he gets everything in and gets everything right. Next week, AFS screens one of his quirkiest and most endearing films, The Ballad of Cable Hogue. Ignoring generic conventions, Peckinpah plunges headfirst into cinematic storytelling. This is not a safe Hollywood film that could be described in a sentence (How about: A man, played by Jason Robards, finds water in the desert and establishes a stage stop and along the way is attacked and falls in love with a whore, played by Stella Stevens, with a heart of gold -- and that ignores the subplots). A truly eccentric work, Hogue is a great Western adventure told as a bizarrely romantic American fable. The combination is unnerving but often brilliant. The Ballad of Cable Hogue is nothing if not unique. It is Peckinpah at his idiosyncratic best: This is the master, this is the story he is going to tell, this is how he's going to tell it, and all of us can be damned.     end story

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