World SeriousWalking out of the UT-Texas Tech game last Saturday, TCB happened across Continental Club owner Steve Wertheimer. The Horns had just whipped the Red Raiders to, barring a Vince Young injury or other major catastrophe, clear a path to January's national title game in Pasadena, Calif. Wertheimer wasn't thinking Rose Bowl, though. His thoughts were on the World Series about to begin at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, because a friend had given him tickets to Game 5 at Houston's Minute Maid Park. "I just hope there is a Game 5," he laughed.
So do a lot of people. As of press time Wednesday, the Astros had lost the first three games and the outlook was grim. Nevertheless, Port Arthur native Clifford Antone remembers back before the Astros were even around, when his dad took him to see the Houston Buffs then future nemesis St. Louis' top minor-league affiliate play. Antone also saw the very first game in the Astrodome, which his hero Mickey Mantle christened with a home run.
"My daddy had a mind like Casey Stengel and Billy Martin," he says. "He really loved the art of baseball. He loved it like a manager."
Likewise, Warner Bros. VP Bill Bentley, author of this week's John Andrews profile, reflects on early big-league action in his native city. "We sat in the outfield in 1O5-degree heat and would watch the mosquitoes bite our arms and fill themselves with blood," he says. "When they had gotten huge, we'd whack them really hard, and splatter blood all over everyone around us."
More recently, former Room 710 co-owner Woody Wiedeman, who just signed a lease for a new restaraunt/bar off Ben White, became a fan in the rainbow-colored days of Terry Puhl, Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan, and Dickie Thon.
"I think my first game was '78 or '79," he says. "My favorite pitcher was J.R. Richard. He was a badass."
Real Heroes drummer Joey Spivey figures he's logged about 5,000 hours of TV time watching the Astros over the past 15 years. At age 6, his T-ball team watched Mike Schmidt take Ryan deep over the Dome's centerfield fence. And after Houston lost the 16-inning Game 6 of the 1986 NLCS, "My mother had to force me to go to school the next day," he says.
The Last Smoking Ban Item Ever ... Until Next WeekLooks like the smoking ban is here to stay. Last week, Federal Judge Sam Sparks upheld the controversial ban, which had been challenged in a lawsuit filed by several local bars. "The public has a substantial interest in the enforcement of ordinances that protect the public health," Sparks wrote in his ruling. Sparks did order the city to limit the penalty for businesses violating the ban to $500, in accordance with the maximum allowable fine for a Class C misdemeanor, and to institute a judicial review process before stripping violators of their licenses. The judge stated bar owners ultimately failed to demonstrate there would be "irreparable harm" to their businesses because of the ban. "It is difficult for this Court to conclude that any loss of revenue was directly correlated to the smoking ban or would be lasting," he wrote.
Meanwhile, reports continue to filter in that suggest local bars and nightclubs are indeed losing business to the ban. Saxon Pub manager Dave Cotton said Monday that the South Lamar venue was running behind in its monthly receipts, mostly due to a steep drop in daytime business. Threadgill's Eddie Wilson, for whom Cotton books music, reports his numbers are down as well. Up at the Hole in the Wall, results have been mixed. "The numbers were dropping off at first, and I thought they would continue like that, but they didn't," says daytime manager Brooks Brannon. "I can't really tell for sure." Putting in an outdoor patio has "absolutely" helped the Hole hold onto its customers, Brannon adds. Of course news of a drop in business from Hole neighbor the Cactus Cafe, where smoking was never permitted, supports suspicion that the smoking ban has run head-on into larger issues of nationwide economic woes.
That's no salve for Antone's. Compared to the past two Septembers, the Home of the Blues saw a 19% drop in attendance this year, according to Direct Events Vice-President of Operations Barry Kohlus. So far October's bar receipts are down as much as 23%. "I would say the majority of that is attributable to the smoking ban, the fact that maybe smokers aren't going out as much, yet we're not seeing the nonsmokers come out like we thought they were going to," he says. Because they attract fewer casual clubgoers, the Austin Music Hall and La Zona Rosa have not been affected as severely, Kohlus says, but business at their Backstage Bar is off 15%. Direct Events is considering adding a patio for the Backstage, but Antone's street-locked location makes that impossible. "We just sort of have to grit our teeth and tough it out," Kohlus says.
Blue MerleRumors abound that the top floor of the Austin State Hospital, built in 1861 as the Texas State Lunatic Asylum, is haunted, and it's easy to see why. Peeling paint covers all surfaces, windows are boarded up, ancient bathroom fixtures lie in disrepair, and the floor feels like it could give way any minute. In short, it's an ideal spot to shoot the video for a song about America's crumbling infrastructure, both physical and social. "The song is about the forgotten, and if you're looking for somewhere indicative of the forgotten, this is the place," said Austin's Traci Goudie, taking a brief time-out from directing the clip for Merle Haggard's "Rebuild America First" Monday. The Hag, looking dapper in a gray fedora, seemed to take the grim surroundings glimpsed in Robert Rodriguez's The Faculty and Tim McCanlies' Secondhand Lions in stride, but the artists who spent the previous night painting the graffiti mural used in the video were only too happy to see the sun. "They were spooked out," Goudie said. "I'm pretty sure it's haunted."
The Witching HourNothing scarier than the Austin Record Convention in a troubled economy, but yes, adding to the chaos of Halloween weekend, the semi-annual trawl for antiquated forms of musical delivery cassettes, records, 45s, 78s, 8-track tapes hits the new Crockett Event Center, 10601 N. Lamar, Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm. Admission is $4, good for both days, with a $25 early entrance fee for Friday. Happy haunted hunting. www.austinrecords.com.
French tickler Lance Armstrong becomes the latest Texan to host Saturday Night Live this weekend; fiancée Sheryl Crow tags along as musical guest. Watch for the return of popular early-Nineties character Toonces the Driving Cat, who causes havoc when he encounters Armstrong's Discovery Channel team on a practice run.
Local barflies will be in hog heaven this weekend and next for Inside a Broken Clock: A Tom Waits Peepshow, which offers dance, puppetry, vaudeville, and local Waits cover band the Box Spring Hogs. Also sporting dancing bears, showgirls, gravediggers, hookers, and a mad scientist, Broken Clock hits the Victory Grill Friday and Saturday, as well as Arts on Real, 2826 Real St., Nov. 4 and 5. Jockeys full of bourbon sold separately.
Fast supplanting the Chronicle as the local bathroom read of choice even the Statesman loves it Misprint magazine marks the release of its new issue, featuring articles like "How to Attend a Lame-Ass Local Art Opening" and "Rejected Mixed Drinks From Emo's," next Thursday at the Flamingo Cantina. Lomita, the Peel, Short Film, and DJs Chris Rose and the Bruce supply the music; further instructions can be found in the mag's "How to Attend a Magazine Issue Release Party."
If you can't find any Halloween musical treats to your liking in "Music Listings," try these: Pong and Mistress Stephanie & Her Melodic Cat get freaky at the Longbranch Inn, the Invincible Czars revisit Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" at the Red Eyed Fly, both Halloween night, and Nick Cave tribute band Good Sons goth it up with the Flametrick Subs at Beerland. Eerie!