Last Call With Lou

Remembering actor Lou Perryman

Lou Perryman (l) with Sonny Carl Davis in <i>Last Night at the Alamo</i>
Lou Perryman (l) with Sonny Carl Davis in Last Night at the Alamo

You can spill a lot of kind words on the life and times of actor Lou Perryman, who was found murdered in his home in South Austin Thursday, April 2, and those words are necessarily unencumbered by hyperbole. He lived the kind of life and played the kinds of roles that required no extra horse puckey to sass it up all up. He did it all his ownself, as Joe Lansdale would say.

Perryman was a damn fine character actor in the best sense of the term and an even better representative of old weird Austin (and by extension the whole of the Weird Star State), from the corners of his lopsided, hound-dog smile to the tips of his dust-scuffed Ropers. He was a charmer and a sweetheart and, hell yeah, a bit of an outlaw – again, in the complimentary sense of the word – and a lifetime dues-paying member of that fast-vanishing breed, the native Texan, yarn-spinning actor/artist and all-around jaw dog, as in: "You wanna go get another round? All your jawing is making me thirsty, and it's your turn to buy."

He was, in short, one of our own, and you can bet that rusty old McCulloch BP-1 you have sitting gathering cobwebs in your garage on it. And then you can take that saw to the bank, rob the bank, and use the cash infusion to purchase thousands of copies of Eagle Pennell's The Whole Shootin' Match and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and hand 'em out free of charge on Sixth Street to one and all. Hell, it's what Perryman would've thought of doing, if only he were the bank-robbing-with-a-chain-saw-for-self-promotion type.

Seriously. Perryman had a gift, and he knew it and used it to the full extent of the cinematic law, with malice toward none and payment deferred. If you're one of those unfortunates who has yet to see Shootin' Match or Chainsaw 2 or Last Night at the Alamo or Deep in the Heart – all fine movies in their own genre-hopping ways and all starring or featuring equally unique, funny, sweet, or strange Perryman performances – well, then I envy you.

Discovering Perryman on film (or DVD) is like discovering an armadillo kicking back on your front porch, smoking your Luckies, drinking your Lone Star, and reminiscing about its long-gone but ever-present-in-spirit World Head-quarters: It's weird, wild, and wonderful, and it doesn't happen often enough.

Personally and to my everlasting regret, I only had the chance actually to sit down, wipe out a few Shiner Bocks, and conversate with the man just once, in November 2007, to talk about the film's resurrection – finally! – via Watchmaker Films' lovingly restored DVD release of Shootin' Match. Perryman, Shootin' Match co-star Sonny Carl Davis, and I talked about Eagle Pennell, their on/off film careers, how Austin used to be (it's inevitable after a certain age), and no-budget regional cinema, of which Pennell's 1978 film was an early landmark example.

I mentioned that Robert Redford had cited Shootin' Match as an influence on the creation of the Sundance Film Festival and Institute, and Perryman apparently hadn't heard the news, so we ordered another round and then walked across the street to the Alamo Drafthouse, where I scammed them a pair of Alamo Ritz T-shirts.

That was the first and last time I met Perryman in the flesh, and it was a great and funny and, yeah, weird experience, just like Perryman, who is sorely missed but more than likely having a helluva time knocking back cold ones at the Soap Creek Saloon right about now. Me, I'm so dry I can't even spit.  

Perryman's family and friends will host a public memorial at Scholz Garten on Thursday, April 9, at 7pm. For more on Perryman's role in the Austin theatre community, see "Lou Perryman."

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Lou Perryman, The Whole Shootin' Match, Last Night at the Alamo, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Deep in the Heart, Sonny Carl Davis, Eagle Pennell

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