Upscale 168-room boutique hotel planned for the Domain to have ‘rustic Texas chic’ decor and ‘Keep Austin Weird’ theme. Hey, we’ll show you weird…
AUSTIN — I can’t keep silent any longer. Quick, call the Vice Squad! Lodge Works Partners and Endeavor Real Estate Group are endeavoring to pimp and prostitute the Keep Austin Weird legend by keeping the “Keep Austin Weird theme central to our design” in the Archer Austin, a chic boutique hotel to be built between Neiman Mark-up and a new Nordstrom at the Domain in North Austin. (See the May 6, 2014, Austin American-Statesman.)
I submit that these tenderfoots(feet) have no idea of the origin of the KAW slogan. If they did, they wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot(feet) pole. In the first place, the “central theme” of the original KAW was essentially SEX, DRUGS, AND ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. I’ll explain.
Back in the ’70s, when the Live Music Capital of the World was in its infancy after Willie, Waylon, and Jerry Jeff came to town, there were about 300 starry-eyed bands in Austin from all over the country, playing for beer and food, or the door if they were lucky, at the Armadillo World Headquarters, Checkered Flag/Castle Creek, Soap Creek Saloon, Mother Earth, Hole in the Wall, Austin Outhouse, Buffalo Gap/Gemini’s/Raul’s, Posse East, Liberty Lunch, Spellman’s, The Depot, Antone’s, Steamboat Springs, Chicago House, Alliance Wagon Yard, Split Rail, Emma Jo’s, Broken Spoke, Rome Inn, Marshall Ford Inn, Bull Creek Inn, Continental Club, Back Room, Threadgill’s, Skyline Club, Cactus Cafe, Willie’s Austin Opera House, The Pier, and my own Sunshine’s Party out on Lake Austin.
Only three or four of these are still extant. Of course, that was back before liquor-by-the-drink was legalized, so it was hard to make a buck!
As for drugs, once at Mother Earth on North Lamar, where Whole Foods, Cheapos, and now Goodwill were/is, Too Smooth was playing when this guy, whom I didn’t know, fell to the dance floor, convulsing. I quickly dropped and held his tongue to prevent his choking. He died while I had my hand in his mouth and turned as cold as an ice cube.
After the EMS took him away, the band started playing again and everyone started dancing like crazy! As it turned out, he was shocked back to life in the ambulance with no resulting brain damage, probably because his metabolism was so low from the alcohol and Darvon, which, he told me later in the hospital, he had imbibed.
Sam Cutler, a former roadie for the Grateful Dead, rolled 72 perfect joints on a Bull Durham rolling machine.
When Willie Nelson premiered his Red Headed Stranger concept album at the Paramount Theater on Congress Avenue in 1976, a Coffee Davis Band entourage of 22 of us were at Manor Downs while Sam Cutler, a former roadie for the Grateful Dead, rolled 72 perfect joints on a Bull Durham rolling machine from six-foot-long hairy Oaxacan tops and packed them vertically in a lidded china compote.
We all caravanned down to the Paramount, sat on center rows five and six, and, while Willie’s band played straight through the whole album, smoked all 72 joints. (I’ve done the math for you — that’s 3.272 average per stoner.) This just four blocks from the Texas Capitol!
Townsend Miller was a stockbroker by day at Merrill-Lynch and bar-hopped at night. He wrote a music column for the Austin American-Statesman and was largely responsible for Austin’s becoming the Live Music Capital of the World. He’d go home and take a nap after work, then go out later to listen to music until the bars closed. He was in his 70s then, or at least looked like it, smoked cigarettes, and carried a thin silver flask filled with vodka spiked with Crème de Menthe, so he smelled like Scope.
He took me to one of the first screenings of Austin City Limits at KLRU Studios — Johnny Gimble and Ray Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel, if memory serves me — and the opening shows of Chicago bluesmen at Antone’s in the former furniture store on East Sixth.
One night when we went to see Townes Van Zandt at his single-wide trailer at Goat Hill in Clarksville, Townes was up the street in front of a friend’s garage apartment threatening to stab himself in the abdomen with a dinner fork. The last time I went out with Townsend, we went to see Alvin Crow at the Broken Spoke on New Year’s Eve and he could hardly walk. He died tragically in his VW bug when it burned on Festival Beach a few years later
As for weird, one night at my bar on Lake Austin, someone came up to me and told me a tall, toothless guy in a black derby hat, straight out of “Deliverance,” had a yellow McCullough Junior chainsaw hidden on his lap under his Levi jacket. When I asked him to put it in his boat, he grabbed it up and left. When he got to the pier, he started sawing the planks below and the pilings above and he, in short order, sawed himself into the lake, sawdust sprinkling the waves. I called the sheriff to report him and, when asked if I had gotten a license number, had to tell him “He went that-away in his boat.” We never saw him again and we were left with the costly repairs!
So many stories, so little time!
So many stories, so little time! But I do have a few questions and one suggestion for the Archer Austin owners and developers:
(1) If you want to resurrect the “Keep Austin Weird” theme, do you plan to allow skinny dipping in your large soaking tubs and pool? After all, Hippie Hollow has had nudity since day one and it was only in the ’80s, I think, when Travis County officially made it a “clothing optional” park. And down nearby Quinlan Park Road, the now luxurious Lake Austin Resort and Spa used to be a one-story motel-like nudist colony, as was an apartment complex just east of I-35 on the right side of Manor Road.
(2) Will the “culinary-direction of a chef-driven restaurant and bar” include bringing back those scrumptious saucer-size nachos they used to serve on the patio of the Armadillo? And will you hire Micael Priest, Armadillo poster artist, to do your menus? And will your “7,000 square feet of event space” have no seating so that the concert goers will either stand or sit cross-legged on the floor, like in the old Armadillo days? And will the bar serve ice-cold Lone Star longnecks for them to suck on? And will the ladies’ restroom be large enough that you don’t have to bolt the line to find refuge in the men’s room, much to the surprise and chagrin of the guys inside?
(3) Will the parking lot be unpaved so that after a drenching rain (which we seldom have anymore) your guests have to get out the picks and shovels, ropes and chains, and dig their stuck cars and pick-’em-up trucks out of the muck, like in the old days at Soap Creek Saloon off Old Walsh Tarleton Road? And will your kitchen allow a musician to come in and let a comely fan sit on his lap, like John Lee Hooker did there while waiting for his nachos to emerge from the oven of the old kitchen stove? And will your restaurant furniture be comprised of old telephone company spools for tables and chairs, like at open-air Hector’s Taco Flats out on North Lamar across from the Stallion Drive-Inn?
Will you have ‘weirdos’ employed by your HR as Hospitality Ambassadors in costume as Bicycle Annie with all her bags?
(4) Will you have “weirdos” employed by your HR as Hospitality Ambassadors in costume as Bicycle Annie with all her bags? Leslie Cochran in his thong and high heels? Crazy Carl Hickerson, who ran for Mayor, Council, and even Governor, selling his Spinning-Flower Action Figures? Blaze Foley with his duct tape? Max Nofziger, Sixth Street flower-seller, later a City Councilman, selling flowers to your guests? Dry Creek Cafe’s Sarah as a waitress exclaiming, “Fix your own damned cheeseburger!” and a newsboy yelling, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Get The Rag right here!”
(5) And, finally, I will have a “distressed look” like your area rugs, if you don’t have a huge fire pit on the Terrace, so that you can reenact Jubal Clark’s Fourth-of-July “Bean Blast” that occurred at Star Ranch below Texas Tumbleweed Hill out on RR 2222. He’d toss unopened cans of beans into a raging fire at intervals and then we’d all wait for the explosions! Of course, you’d have charred pinto beans stuck to the stucco of your “rustic ‘Texas chic’ decor, with design touches including native Texas limestone.”
If you’re going to have a theme hotel, then you might as well go whole hog and do a full-court theme park out there like the demolished Astroworld, where I worked in PR, and turn it into “Turtle Creek South at the Domain.” Just please keep “Keep Austin Weird” out of it! That’s a sacrilege and is the most ridiculous PR gambit I’ve ever heard of! Austin was one of the lowest cost-of-living cities in the country back then and our “chic” was ragged cut-offs, sandals, beads, long-haired hippies, cosmic cowboys, and lots of free expression and outrageous behavior! Rude, crude, and tattooed!
Austin still has its pockets of weirdness and still has a few closet weirdos, but Austin, the city as a whole, is no longer weird, thanks to people who want to cash in on it. And the ironic thing is, the guy who came up with “Keep Austin Weird” didn’t trademark it and never made a penny from it!
[Sunshine Williams, a real estate broker who will turn 80 on May 29, lives above Barton Springs with her calico cat, Callie. A news and sports junkie, she enjoys reading, yoga, and her many collections. She is searching for a publisher for her memoirs. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.]