We Have a Lot of History Here: The Austin Chronicle and Between the Lines
How Jeff Goldblum’s first starring role helped shape the paper we became
Between the Lines (1977). D: Joan Micklin Silver; with John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Jeff Goldblum, Gwen Welles, Marilu Henner, Bruno Kirby, Jill Eikenberry, Michael J. Pollard, Joe Morton, Lane Smith.
There's no way for us to modestly skirt this film's effect: This story of an underground paper in Boston facing corporate buy-out was the inspiration for starting the newspaper you hold in your hand. ... This ensemble production weaves its way through the lives of its free (and not-so-free) spirited staff with truer-than-true life vignettes and characters: the squirrelly rock critic; an editor caught between integrity and survival; the pompous ad salesman; the ambitious features writers and photographers sorting through intricate webs of love and lovers, past and present. Its appearance seems quite dated now, but that only gives it the comfortable feel of a pair of bell-bottom jeans, with passion and struggle reinforced within its frames like a leather patch stitched over a frayed denim knee.
Moser was the Chronicle's first music columnist, beloved den mother to the Austin music scene and the Austin Music Awards, and she knew whereof she wrote. Several of the paper's founders had fallen in love with this movie while we were in film grad school, and returned to it repeatedly for spiritual renewal. It also played a key role in one of the foundational tales of early Chronicle lore, which Jordan Smith wrote up in our 20th anniversary issue as a Rashomon-like oral history called "The Golf Cart Story: What Really Happened ... The Great Chronicle Golf Cart Rustling Lakeway Raid" (Sept. 7, 2001).
We had bartered for a condo rental out at Lakeway, "like the parents' ritzy resort place for the weekend, which we were all sort of giggly about." As Jody Denberg recalled, there was "lots of food and drink. And so that's why we were there ... and we were on psychedelic drugs for sure – as far as I can recall." But before we stole the golf cart and drove it into the swimming pool, we were doing what we always did. Per then-Politics Editor Jim Shahin: "For those of us who had been through it before, it was kind of tedious. You had all these guys sitting around and watching videos. I don't know which for sure – but what they used to do, what they'd watch over and over was Between the Lines. This is a very important thing." And Jim was right. Yeah, the golf cart thing was pretty cool; but it was Between the Lines that was really important.
So this coming Tuesday, we're having another Chronicle party, this one at AFS Cinema. We probably won't steal a vehicle this time, and Jody probably won't be on psychedelics, but you can enjoy an AFS "Summer of '69" cocktail and revel in this widely unseen masterpiece, completely unavailable for most of the past three decades. Afterward, we'll talk about underground journalism (see "Page Two: Ringing True," Aug. 20, 2010) and Silver herself (see "Working Girls," Screens, May 18, 2001), and compare notes on who wants to be which character. (That's a trick question; everyone wants to be Jeff Goldblum's freewheeling music writer, Max Arloft, his first lead role.)
Between the Lines screens at AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35 #3100, at 7pm Tue., Aug. 6. Tickets and info at www.austinfilm.org.