Bill Leissner: I Shot the Eighties

Event to fund photographer's book showing the decade in Austin

With so much recycling of the Eighties going on – Stranger Things, Ready Player One, the Go-Gos musical on Broadway, Murphy Brown, She-Ra, I Want My All ATX, to scrape just the tip of the iceberg – we sure could use a look at the real deal. Well, one's coming in a book of images by Austin photographer Bill Leissner.

Randy "Biscuit" Turner, circa 1984 (Photo by Bill Leissner)
Austin Icons of the Eighties: Music, Theatre, Politics is its title, and it shows our beloved home in all its torn T-shirted, big-haired, rockin' & rollin', DIYin', li'l-town-startin'-to-put-on-its big-city-pants glory. It also shows how Leissner was one of the busiest shutterbugs this burg had at the time. Judging by what he shot, he looks to have been at just about every rock show, theatre production, and political schmoozefest that took place in that decade, capturing everyone from Lady Bird to Biscuit, Joe "King" to Gov. Ann, Stubbs to Blaze, the Uranium Savages to the cast of In the West. To hear that Leissner logged more than 100,000 shots in the Eighties comes as no surprise. He shot everything everywhere. The surprise is that he was able to cull them down to one book.

Bill Leissner (l) with Blaze Foley, Steamboat Springs, 1986 (Photo by Bill Leissner)

But he did, and Austin Icons of the Eighties is headed our way in the spring of 2019, courtesy of Waterloo Press, the imprint of the Austin History Center Association. The thing is, he needs some scratch to finance the book. So to that end, he's holding a fundraiser on Dec. 10 to underwrite production costs, and you might say he's pulling the Eighties back together for one night to help out.

Joe "King" Carrasco at Liberty Lunch, circa 1984 (Photo by Bill Leissner)

Emceeing the evening will be none other than the grande dame of Esther's Follies, Shannon Sedwick. Providing musical flashbacks will be Jesse Sublett of the Violators and the Skunks, Gretchen Phillips of Meat Joy and Two Nice Girls, Larry Seaman and Randy Franklin of the Standing Waves, Monte Warden of the Wagoneers, Eric Hisaw, and Ben Livingston. There will be a touch of drama from Big State Productions company members Janelle Buchanan, Joy Cunningham, Gene Fowler, Amparo Garcia-Crow, and Tim Mateer, who will perform selections from the hit monologue show In the West. And Isabella Russell-Ides will read from her new novel, White Monkey Chronicles.

Lady Bird Johnson with Jake Pickle, Campaign Kickoff, Municipal Auditorium, 1990 (Photo by Bill Leissner)

A silent auction will include a selection of Leissner photographs as well as art and memorabilia, recorded music, and signed books from the Armadillo Art Squad, Liberty Lunch, Ed Ward, Jesse Sublett, Joe Ely, neon artist Ben Livingston, dining coupons for Patsy’s Cafe and the Tavern, and more.

The event will take place Mon., Dec. 10, 7-10pm, at Esther’s Follies, 525 E. Sixth. Doors open at 7pm, and the entertainment starts at 8pm. A cash bar and food will be on hand. To learn more, visit the History Center website.

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Austin photography, Bill Leissner, Esther's Follies, Shannon Sedwick, Jesse Sublett, Gretchen Phillips, Larry Seaman, Randy Franklin, Monte Warden, Big State Productions, In the West, Janelle Buchanan, Tim Mateer, Gene Fowler, Isabella Russell-Ides

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