Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Austin Inside/Out

Remember when I had Old Austin’s good ear from 1998-2000? I tried to make my three-dot column in the Statesman fun, but some of the bigwigs in town just wanted to see their names in bold type and didn’t care for the sarcasm. My editors got tired of the phone calls, but I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done. Not just the writing but the digging. I’ve been going through the archives (thanks Austin Public Library) and I’m impressed with all the dirt I got in print. But I also understand why my nickname was Little Bitch.

Riviera-on-the-Range

One thing you’ll never read in this column is an item that begins “Overheard at Vespaio. . .” The new Italian hotspot at the former South Congress site of the Lariat has been roping in big crowds, despite the absence of a sign or advertising, but although the food is impressive, the joint is LOUD. This is a place where you might actually have to ask Marc Katz to speak up… The c-word is going to cost KLBJ-FM quite a few c-notes. The FCC fined Luci Johnson‘s station $5,000 for the incident a few months back when a “Best of Dudley and Bob With Debra” segment aired the offending exchange between Dale Dudley and a female caller, which made good use of the seven-second delay in the original broadcast. Apparently, the way the fine breaks down is $3,000 for the naughty words and $2,000 for this group thinking there was enough good material for a “Best of. . .” show. . . . Matthew Bongo Boy McConaughey said the music he was fined $50 for playing so loud was by atmospheric Cameroonian singer Henri Dikonque, who sounded a lot like Ted Nugent to Tarrytown neighbors trying to sleep… Doug Fieger of the Knack, who play Liberty Lunch Sept. 15, never thought he’d be known as “Geoffrey’s brother,” but that’s how it’s been recently as lawyer Geoffrey Fieger is making his name defending suicide doc Jack Kevorkian. They must’ve met when Kevorkian was administering to the Knack‘s career. . . .

How are Steve Hicks and Ben Barnes going to top their joint Christmas party? The festivities started with cocktails at Hicks’ Old Enfield mansion, then 15 horse-drawn carriages waited to take the guests to dinner at Barnes’ equally impressive estate, just down the street. With those burdened beasts pulling around all those folks in fur coats, you can bet this fundraiser wasn’t for PETA… Actor Martin has taken a Sheen to Austin. In town for “A Texas Funeral,” the “Apocalypse Now” star has been seen out everywhere from the Target on Ben White to Mezzaluna downtown, where he dined with an unidentified woman on Sunday. Marty was something of a Mezza-lunatic by asking for eight biscotti instead of the customary one. . . . Her Indigo Girls grossed more than $120,000 at the Backyard this week, yet Emily Saliers chose to ride Capitol Metro rather than a cab or limo Wednesday afternoon when she went from Tesoros to Lucy In Disguise on South Congress. The Girls are staunch environmentalists who not only walk it like they talk it, but bus it like they discuss it. . . . Seen admiring the new Driskill lobby last week was Julio Iglesias Jr. He was in town to do radio interviews for his new album, not to record a duet with Willie’s daughter Paula Nelson (“To All the Dough Our Dads Have Made”). . . . UT System Chancellor Bill Cunningham has been seen driving ’round town in a new, top-of-the-line six-speed Corvette. I get it — UT is thinking about adding a course on the mid-life crisis phenomenon and Cunningham’s doing research. . .

“Sex and the City” star Chris Noth (Mr. Big) has been seen all over town, including the offices of Texas Monthly, where he visited after being spotted in the lobby restaurant of the Omni Hotel by Publisher Mike Levy. (“And over here, uncomfortably close to the lavatory, is Joe Nick Patoski‘s new office”)…“Comedian” Tom Arnold apparently doesn’t know the first rule of celebrity mooching: If your drinks are comped, you need to tip generously. A waitress at Fat Tuesday’s was overheard griping about the pocket-lint-covered coinage the Tomster left after a few free drinks last week. “Hey, listen, Roseanne worked hard for that money.”

Spaghetti Warehouse diners must’ve been startled to see Garth Brooks and his entourage stroll into the restaurant Tuesday night. After selling more than 60 million albums, you’d think he could at least spring for Olive Garden. But Garth might’ve been trying cut down on the enormous cost of playing “Austin City Limits” on Wednesday. According to ACL’s Terry Lickona, Brooks picked up all expenses for flying in his two bands (one for Garth, one for “Chris Gaines”), putting them up at the Hyatt and feeding them. Garth did get paid for his 2 1/2-hour performance: union scale of $500. . . .  If avid pilot Tom Cruise wants to do some aerobatics while in town, he should contact Michael Cook, who owns the same model Pitts S2B biplane as does Tommy C. Wait a second, I thought Cruise has denied that his plane is bi. . . .

Chatterboxin’

Perhaps in an attempt to tart up his staid image, Michael Dell will play Mother Ginger at Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker ” on Dec. 13 at Bass Concert Hall. To at least one grumbling waiter, however, a more fitting role is Papa Frugal. It’s not that Austin’s richest man is a lousy tipper; it’s just that he doesn’t order extravagantly and usually drinks iced tea, while wife Susan rarely orders more than an appetizer. These two read a wine list about as often as they do Mad Magazine, making for average dinner bills under $50, even at fancy restaurants. . . . In what could be the most ineffective deterrent to crime since the death penalty, Texas Monthly has been banned from Texas correctional facilities at the request of publisher Mike Levy. …

Reinforcing the idea that Austin is a racist city — Vidor with a symphony — is the plight of DeWayne Lofton. In a case Court TV would call “Black Santa Gets Malled,” Lofton is seeking damages from Barton Square Mall owner Simon Property Group after being denied work as Santa Claus because, according to Lofton, the mall said it wasn’t looking for minority Santas. And doesn’t it seem a little, I don’t know, racist, that the Alamo Drafthouse is featuring 40-ounce bottles of Schlitz malt liquor at tonight’s midnight showing of “Superfly?” While admitting that the tie-in “isn’t very p.c.” co-owner Tim League said it merely plays up all the stereotyping of the blaxploitation genre. What’s next? Watermelon for an upcoming screening of “Beloved?”… A comment overheard concerning the mansion Dell exec Tom Green and wife Deborah are building in Old Enfield across from Roy and Ann Butler: “That’s a house without a budget, and they’re exceeding it.” …

Legendary jughead Russ Meyer apparently picked a wrong time to fall off the wagon, hours before his appearance Thursday at the Alamo Drafthouse. Although the “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” director drank O’Doul’s in the afternoon, he switched to wine when the sun went down and turned in an incoherent performance that made Michelle Shocked’s rambling SXSW ’92 keynote speech come off like Lincoln at Gettysburg. The next night, a sober and repentant Meyer showed up to apologize and made an unscheduled appearance, introducing “Faster Pussycat” and taking questions from the audience. . . .

The national gossip press finally has caught up to “Austin Inside/Out” a month after I broke the Farrah Fawcett- Greg Lott reunion, when they were seen dancing on their chairs to Junior Brown at the Continental Club. “Divorce Shocker! Farrah runs off with college sweetheart . . . but he’s already married” screams the current cover of the Star, with 1966 photos of Farrah and Greg, when she was the campus fox and he was the quarterback. In recent years Texas-ex Farrah has had about as much luck picking men as have the Dallas Mavericks. After leaving Ryan O’Neal in February ’97, she hooked up with director James Orr, who was recently convicted of beating her up. Then there was tennis pro Martin Baba, who stopped being Farrah’s angel when she found out that he’d done time for sexual battery. Farrah no doubt hopes things will work out better with Lott, even though he spent time in prison on drug dealing charges in the ’80s and is currently going through a divorce with a woman who’s not exactly his biggest fan. “He’s been trying to get back with Farrah since she broke up with Ryan O’Neal,” said estranged wife Sue Lott who, like Greg, has been sober for 10 years. “He’s trying to relive the past.” … Joe Ely, who keeps his fingernails long so they click when he drums the table waiting for the major labels to call, has been contacted by Sony Nashville’s Blake Chancey about producing an album that teams Willie Nelson with Joe’s pal Bruce Springsteen. It’s w-a-a-a-y too early to talk about, sez Joe . . .

Famous sons Julian and Sean Lennon have a sometimes-volatile relationship similar to that of their father and Paul McCartney and for the same reason: Yoko Ono. Julian has accused Ono of ignoring him financially, while Sean has stood by his mom. It’s sometimes been a sibling Siberia up there in Lennongrad, but the half-brothers are about to become album-mates. KGSR’s “Broadcasts, Vol. 6” contains “Into the Sun” by Sean and Julian’s “I Don’t Want to Know.”… Courtney Love is reportedly ga-ga over Goudie‘s recently completed LP, which should hit stores in the spring. “That record makes me want to have sex!” Love reportedly told someone at The Music Company label after hearing an advance. But then, air seems to have the same effect on Ms. Love, who recently performed nude at the Hollywood Bowl during a video shoot. (Thank God for big guitars!) . . .

Bash in the Boonies

 Ever since I started “Austin Inside/Out” two years ago, I’ve been waiting for someone to try to put one over on me by planting a completely ridiculous item. It hasn’t happened yet, but I received an anonymous fax Wednesday that smelled of a hoax. It reported that Jim Nabors and Dallas socialite Carolyn Hunt recently were spotted together at Wal-Mart in Lockhart, before joining a big-name party at Frank’s China Palace across the street. Phyllis Diller and Ruta Lee flew in from L.A. on the jet of Redken owner Paula Meehan, along with Nancy Conrad, the widow of astronaut Pete Conrad. Funnygal Ruth Buzzi and husband Kent Perkins drove down from their North Texas ranch. The next day, on the Caldwell County ranch of Dollie Cole, the widow of former General Motors president Edward W. Cole, eight skydivers floated down carrying a banner that explained why so many had come from so far: It was the 50th wedding anniversary of Coca-Cola magnate Tav Lupton and wife Carolyn, who have a place in Llano. Jim Nabors? Phyllis Diller? Ruta Lee? Dallas high society? Frank’s China Palace? The first rule of pranks is to make them somewhat believable, but this item seemed composed by a late-night channel surfer in some “Love Boat on a Texas ranch” daze. To expose this journalistic snipe hunt, I made several phone calls, and “surr-prise, surr- prise, surr- prise!,” the story checked out. Dollie Cole said the group has been friends for more than 30 years, with the connection being Nabors (who celebrated the fifth anniversary of his new liver). Cole moved from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., to the Briarpatch Ranch soon after her husband died in a plane crash 22 years ago. . . . At breakfast Sunday, Buzzi’s husband Perkins made Kinky Friedman‘s day when he called the Kinkster, told him to hold for a second and then put on his tablemate, actor James Garner, a Kinky hero. . . .

Soup y Sayles: John Sayles, who directed “The Big Chill” when it was called “Return of the Secaucus Seven,” had his beloved tortilla soup and chicken tacos at Guero’s last Friday, when he dined with Lucinda Williams and others. This was before Friday night’s party for KGSR, which proved it has the most influential 3-share in the radio biz when Lyle Lovett and his full band performed a surprise set . . . For one gorgeous Dell exec, the main Michael in her life was not Dell, but actor Douglas. The couple seemed smitten when they dined at Sardine Rouge last month (with her picking up the check), but wonder how the unidentified Dell-ilah feels after Michael Douglas’ office confirmed he’s seeing actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. But then, the reputed “sex addict” was dating New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd at the time of his tete-a-tete in Austin. . . . . Director Wes Anderson will return to UT, his alma mater, this Friday to promote new quirky high school film “Rushmore.” He and the film’s star Jason Schwartzman (the son of actress Talia Shire) are traveling in a 45-foot Silver Eagle painted to look like a school bus…. The latest actress to go on and on about how great it is in Central Texas is Madeleine Stowe, who lives on a ranch in Fredericksburg with actor/hubby Brian Benben and their 2-year-old daughter. “I like to think I started the celebrity stampede from Hollywood to Texas,” she said in a recent interview. Oh, now she’s made neighbor Lynda Obst mad…

Writer Marc Eliot‘s booksigning Friday evening at Book People had the benefit of a crack advance promo man: Don Henley. Citing distortions, half-truths and lies in Eliot’s “To the Limit: The Untold Story of the Eagles,” which portrays the ’70s country rockers as vain, oversexed cocaine vacuums (but what about the lies?), the former Eagles drummer/singer came to town recently to try to convince B’People honcho Abe Zimmerman to cancel Eliot’s appearance. With the possible exception of Jewel‘s book of poetry and a sign that says “College Station 1 mile,” there’s nothing I’d least like to read than a book about the private lives of the geniuses behind “Tequila Sunrise.” The booksigning went on but Mr. Eliot’s name did not make the marquee. . . . . Fabulously overrated director Quentin Tarantino is currently writing his next film, which he says will be set in Austin. “You know what they call a double bacon cheeseburger on the Drag? An O.T. Special.”

Thrillionaire Richard Garriott and a handful of others defied a court order and toured the wreckage of the Titanic last week. The 37-year-old Origin Systems co-founder paid a reported $65,000 for the trip that included girlfriend Heather Smith. The adventure involved taking a tanker ride 368 miles off the coast of Newfoundland and then plunging 2 1/2 miles below the surface of the Atlantic Ocean in a 23-foot egglike submersible. When Medieval Knieval gets back in town I have to ask him if he saw the remains of director James Cameron‘s humility in the hulk… Someone please send in an item about HEB’s Charles Butt so I can call him “the Chekov of checkout.”…

I had a nice, long talk recently with the man I used to call “Matthew Mahogany” after “Amistad,” and he said that “one of the coolest things about Austin is that you can just hang out and nobody makes a fuss over you.” But then here comes the corkerazzi to ruin everything. See, Mr. McConaughey doesn’t want to be treated special. He just wants to do regular guy things, like hang out in the Longhorn locker room after the game and receive a special jersey with his name and the number “8” on the back. Then it’s off to London with Sandra Bullock (“It depends on how you define `dating’ ”) to attend the opening of Nicole Kidman‘s new play “The Blue Room”. You know, the same ol,’ same ol.’ So next time you see MM out in public, be cool. Act like you’ve seen a famous, shirtless, millionaire hunk before.

Going Ape Over Pampered Pet

The wife of a prominent West Austin doctor bought a baby chimpanzee about a month ago and has taken great delight in pampering the primate. (To show just how similar the chimp is to humans, he also finds Jeffrey’s to be slightly overrated.) But it’s a violation of the Austin city code to keep a chimp as a pet. Animal control supervisor Dave Smith points out that as members of the ape family, chimpanzees are classified as the same sort of dangerous animals as lions and elephants. The code does allow exemptions for licensed wild animal rehabilitators to keep sick or injured chimps in their homes. “Chimps can be very cute at an early age, but their owners usually find out the hard way that they can’t manage them when they get stronger and more ferocious,” Smith said. Chimps, who can live to be in their 60s, are often discarded, confined to cages or sold to biomedical labs by the time they reach 6 years old. Linda Koebner, executive director of the Chimp Haven, which provides a sanctuary for cast-off apes on 200 acres near Shreveport, La., says the simian surplus is a growing problem because of the demand for baby chimps, who lose their charm with age (also known as the “Corey Feldman Syndrome”) and become seven times stronger than humans. “One day they’re reading magazines in their overalls and sipping tropical drinks to the amusement of everyone,” Koebner said. “The next thing you know, they’re living in a cage in the basement with no social contact whatsoever.” Karen Glass of Sunrise Exotics, which has a colony of nine chimps for breeding in Dripping Springs, said she sold the baby chimp to the doctor’s wife for “more than $20,000.” She said she’s been selling chimps for 10 years to satisfied customers.

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