Monday, April 22, 2019

Cape Fair

Previously:




 I take a lot of pictures and shoot a lot of video, both for work and for personal reasons.  One of the challenges involved in such an activity is cataloging and organizing all the media I come home with.  So occasionally I lose track of a pic or two.    

Fortunately, I tend to do frequent hard drive clean outs so nothing stays lost forever.   New discoveries of old pics \can even lead to a blog entry or two.  So let me take you back in time all the way back to the 2013 State Fair of Texas.  With a belly full of Fletcher's, I turned a corner at the Auto Show and was surprised to find enough Superman suits to fill a Fortress of Solitude:


Apparently the Superman 75th Anniversary Costume Tour made a stop at the fair.  Highlights include Christopher Reeve's costume from Superman III:


Dean Cain's costume from Lois & Clark:


Brandon Routh's costume from Superman Returns:


And a few costumes from the recent Man of Steel movie including Superman:


Jor-El:


And Faora:


I don't know if the exhibit is still traveling but the costumes fit right in at the great State Fair.  Maybe they'll fly to your town soon!



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Sandwich Tour of Dallas Part 3

Previously:

Part 1  - -  Part 2

It's time once again to gently nestle a new blog entry between two slices of bread.  So let's squirt on some mustard and get started.

As I mentioned earlier, the best thing a sandwich place can offer is a drive-through window and that's what you'll find at Great Outdoors on Greenvile & Park.  Your sandwich mileage may vary but all too often my sandwich time is rushed so something simple like not having to get out of my car is a big incentive.

There's a variety of subs on the menu and I went with the Invention.  It comes with buffet ham, provolone, cream cheese & fresh mushroom.  After a bite, my first impression was how good the bread was.  Very soft and tasty. 

Too many sandwich makers see bread as an afterthought, but true sandwich geniuses realize it may be the most important ingredient (yeah, that's right!).  The mushrooms and cream cheesed worked great together to create their own unique type of sauce and the ham did what ham does best:  it was ham.


Moving forward, we move backward.  Most towns, at one point or another, have a nostalgic soda fountain type restaurant.  They typically go out of business after about 15 minutes but the Highland Park Soda Fountain on Knox & Travis has been hanging in there for a while and is a very popular lunch spot. (UPDATE: Yeah, it went out of business)
 

In celebration of this, I went old school with my lunch order and got the Grilled Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich.  It comes with, you guessed it, peanut butter and jelly and is then grilled to perfect.  You may scoff at the idea of grilling this lunchtime staple but I've found that, as awesome as peanut butter is, it becomes a billion times better when you heat it up (try it yourself).  I was worried about how the heat would affect the jelly but after all these years it's still the perfect compliment to it's peanutty partner.

It's also always good to get grilled bread that maintains a soft texture without the roof-of-you-mouth-scratching phenomenon that typically comes along with the toasted bread on sandwiches.  This one is a great take on a timeless classic.


Jen's Place Bakery is an unassuming place on Alpha near the Tollway but once inside you can see how popular it is.  It was another packed lunch spot with specific lines for eating in or for taking out.  Menu items range from breakfast to lunch to fresh baked cakes and pies.


I chose the Greek Chicken Sandwich.  It comes with chicken breast, feta cheese, creamy cucumber sauce, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  Similarly to the first sandwich in this post, there was the mingling of ingredients to create a new type of sauce.  When the feta and cucumber sauce got together they gave birth to a much superior sandwich ingredient.  The chicken was very tender and the bread had a great texture.  The overall flavor was understated but satisfying.


If you're not hungry after three entries in our Sandwich Tour of Dallas then you either a) already recently finished a big meal or b) you don't like things that taste good.  Either way, go out and try some of these!


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Launch Time

Previously:


One of the biggest draws in Houston, TX is the Johnson Space Center, home of NASA.  To get into the spirit, and appeal to tourists, several local businesses have embraced a space motif.  It's not uncommon to to see rockets and spacemen as a part of the neighborhood's decor.  Even the gang with the Golden Arches get in on the fun with a special ambassador welcoming hungry guests:


The fry-clutching astronaut statue has been on the roof of this McDonald's for at least 15 years (around the first time I saw it) and was created by a local Houston artist.  NASA is just down the road from this Micky D's so I like to think it's been frequented by real live astronauts, mission specialists and just rando goofballs from off the street like me.


The theme continues inside.  Sure, I would have liked to see a spaceship themed playground and/or the employees dressed as bleep-blorp aliens but I had to settle for 2-D decor.  All your favorite McDonaldland characters are decked out in their finest space gear in extensive murals along the walls of the play area.


I think it's also worth noting that the "Mac Tonight" guy also makes an appearance.  I'd like to think they added him specifically because he fits in with the celestial theme but my best guess is that the short lived 80s mascot was included because these murals were painted when he was at the height of his "popularity" (and, yes, I felt the need to put the word "popularity" in quotation marks).



Further dating the artwork is this tribute to the crew of the Challenger.  It's a somewhat melancholy adornment for a playground yet it feels strangely appropriate.

Morose reminders of national tragedies notwithstanding, it's still a unique enough place to stop in after a a long day of touring NASA to pick up a Big Mac and Space Fries...although I guess they just call them fries.  Anyhoo, more themed McDonald's please!


Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Red Headed Stranger

Previously:




We've seen several comic book characters visit the Lone Star State over the years, especially the gang from DC and Marvel.  But it was only a matter of time before the kids from Archie Comics wanted to get their piece of the action...which brings us to 1991's Veronica #17.


The story begins with Riverdale rich girl Veronica Lodge on a plane headed to DFW Airport to visit her father who is already there on business.  She passes the time by reading a paperback adventure of "Dusty Marlowe, Rodeo Star."  When a bit of turbulence gives her an old school, sitcomy konk on the head, naturally she gets the type of amnesia where you believe yourself to be the character you were just reading about...very common stuff..


Armed with the confidence that comes with a brand new persona, Veronica (or "Dusty" as she now calls herself) then proceeds to lasso a wild bucking bull who was loose in the airport (They really gloss over the whole "bull is loose in an airport" element of the story) like a champ.

The bull's owners, father and son rodeo organizers, Harry and Matthew Chase, offer her a job in their rodeo which she promptly accepts.  They even seem to be okay with giving the amnesiac teenage girl they just met a ride in their truck.


One bottle of red hair dye later, Matthew starts laying on the charm by taking Veronica out to dinner at whatever the restaurant at the top of Reunion Tower was called in the early 90s.  Check out artist Dan Parent's take on the Dallas skyline:


The house style for Archie comics might seem somewhat simplistic but if you take a minute or two to examine the drawing above you'll see several details of the Dallas skyline were included and not just the obligatory Reunion Tower cameo.  At this point in the story we get into a tour of Texas landmarks.  Since we're starting in downtown Dallas, let's do some side-by-sides from that area:


One of the first sights is the JFK Memorial, a.k.a. the JFK Cenotaph which is unfortunately mostly covered by word balloon.  Making matters worse is that the Old Red Courthouse Museum is featured prominently in the panel but the artist didn't seem to have a good reference pic to work from so the resemblance is not very accurate.


Veronica notices that Dallas founder John Neely Bryan's log cabin was not necessarily matching its downtown Dallas surroundings.  The cabin has been moved around and refurbished several times over the years and always seems to get attention.  You may remember that a few years back another comic book tourist noticed it when Spider-Man teamed up with the Dallas Cowboys.


After a while it was time for the traveling rodeo to start traveling and it was southbound to Houston.  Amnesiac teenager "Veronica/Dusty" continued to tag along and nobody seemed too weirded out about it.  And the tour continued!  This time at NASA in Houston.

While all this is going on there's a few subplots in the story trying to keep the queso spicy.  One involves a pair of rodeo clowns planning to steal from the Chase Rodeo's box office.  Another involves Veronica's father hiring a private detective (who's always eating something for some reason) and Veronica's mother hiring a psychic (who, like all psychics, is faking it til she makes it) to track down their daughter.


And, of course, the tour continues!  This time it's a Texas history lesson at the San Jacinto Monument.  Either Veronica is genuinely interested or she's doing a great job of faking it.  But there's no time to bask in Texas Independence...it's time to head to Austin!


Like most tourists, one of the kids' first stops is the Capitol Building.  It's an impressive sight (and a great drawing) but I can't help but stare at the mustache bro who's looking right at the reader:


Yeah, this guy knows what's up.  He's got a secret...a dark secret.  But that's a story for another day.  Unfortunately, our fate is to continue following Veronica and Matthew on their tour of famous Texas sites:


The last stop on the tour was a quick swim at Hamilton Pool.  Looks like there wasn't a postcard handy for the artist to use as a reference because this one was a little off too.  The real thing is more of a grotto than what you'd think of as a traditional water fall but it was still pretty cool that a natural landmark was included in the issue.  Now all that's left is the wrap up.


The rodeo clown robbers were foiled, Veronica got her memory back, her parents finally caught up with her and they all celebrated with some BBQ and some Texas two-stepping.  All in all, a pretty standard trip to Texas.


Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Bar Necessities


The 1991 film "Necessary Roughness" was a part of a wave of "ragtag misfits come together" sports movies that were hugely popular in the 80s and early 90s.  It fit right in with movies like "Major League" or "Wildcats" and works for our purposes because it was filmed in Texas.

The majority of the movie was shot at the University of Texas in Denton which filled in for the fictional Texas State University (go Armadillos!) and there are are few other north Texas locations, but what brings us all here today is a bar room brawl at the World's Largest Honky Tonk.



Scott Bakula, Sinbad and the rest of the gang decide to blow off some steam at Billy Bob's Texas in the Fort Worth Stockyards.  Billy Bob's is a world famous bar and entertainment venue that attracts some of the biggest musical acts in the world.  So of course, I had to stop by and see if I could find some of the specific areas where they filmed.



The problem, of course, being that the movie is a couple of decades old and the bar has been remodeled a few times since then.  Gotta get the saw dust off the floors and keep it fresh!  So consider this an exercise in seeing how the place has changed and updated over the years.  For example, you can see that the light fixtures over the pool tables are different.



Seems like some of the neon has been moved around or replaced too.  Normally I try to match up shots as closely as I can but I had to settle for just getting close on this trip.  There are a few other shots in Billy Bob's rodeo area and out front but the main action happened where the drinking gets done.

There's a lot to see in the bar, like the concrete hand imprints of the musicians who have performed there and several celebrities who have visited.  But there's also an interesting prop from a forgotten movie above the dance floor.



The duded-out saddle from the movie "Rhinestone" serves as the disco ball above Billy Bob's dance floor.  The movie stars Dolly Parton as a singer who makes a bet that she can turn Sylvester Stallone into a country music sensation...which sounds like a totally made up movie parody but it was real...and the proof is in Fort Worth!



Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Shoe Maker

Houston is known for its Art Cars of a variety of shapes, sizes and overall wackiness. One of the biggest and brightest puts its best foot forward at parades and charity appearances throughout the year.  Ronald McDonald's Big Red Shoe Car was made by Texas artist Jason Barnett and I had a chance to ask him about his ultimate clown car.

Texas Pop Culture: How did you get involved with the creation of the Shoe Car?

Jason Barnett: In about April of 2002, a friend of mine was one of the local Ronald McDonald's that made appearances at McDonald's events. He came to me and said that the Texas Gulf Coast McDonald's were looking to have a promotional vehicle made is the shape of a Ronald McDonald clown shoe and that they were going to have some of the local art car parade guys bid and build it. My friend Bill (Ronald), told me of a meeting that was to take place the next day in Houston about the shoe car idea and if I wanted to get a bid in that I had better have something ready by that morning. I immediately did a quick sketch of my idea and built a remote control model of my idea using a PT Cruiser remote control car that I bought and removed the body from.


JB: I worked all through the night and at about 5 am the remote control car was finished. The problem was, at the time I lived in Midlothian and it was a 4 hour drive to the meeting. I drove all the way down to Houston and handed over the car sketches and the remote control model. Bill is the ultimate in presenters and showmen. He waited for the meeting to start with all of the board members at their giant table and then flung open the doors and drove the remote control car into the room. Instantly my phone was ringing and the board wanted to meet. Over the next few months we went back and forth over the design and over a year later I received a check to get started.


TPC: How long did it take to design and build?

JB: The actual construction process involved about two years of hard labor and itching from the fiberglass body. I had underbid the project so badly that I had to take on other jobs to fund the project. If not for that blunder, it would only have taken about a year to complete. As I was building the car, improvements were made to its design. The first thing was that I decided to make the entire nose of the car flip forward to access the engine and I decided to have suicide doors.


JB: The car was about 8ft wide in the front and narrowed down to about 4ft wide at the rear. It would have been very difficult to get to the engine with a normal car style hood. Originally the car was to be built on a 2003 Chevy1/2 ton truck chassis with a 6 cylinder engine. When I went down to buy a truck from the dealership, they made me a better deal on a truck with a V8 and cruise control. I have personally driven the shoe car well over 100mph!

TPC: What was your favorite part of the process?

JB: As far as my favorite part of building the car goes. I would have to say that was when I got the fiberglass body back in from the workshop that hand laid the fiberglass. We didn't use molds. I carved the shape of the car out of huge blocks of foam and then coated them with layers of drywall mud to fill in the imperfections. The giant mock-up was sprayed with latex paint to create a barrier from the fiberglass. Once the fiberglass was laid up on the mockup and cured, I popped the new fiberglass body off of the foam. I still had a lot of hand work to do to the body, but at that point the car was coming to life. Anytime a new part was added- doors,hood, hatchback,etc., it was necessary to drive it around to test for problems and rattles. There was nothing like watching kids and adults freak out as I drove past in the 23 ft long shoe.


JB: I had it in my head from the beginning that I was going to be able to pull this off entirely by myself. Luckily for me, I had a lot of friends and family that volunteered and spent endless days and nights to make this project a reality.


Check out Jason's website for more of his unique work:
http://www.jasonbarnettartist.com/

He's a very talented guy and we hope to cover his upcoming projects so check back soon for more details!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Pros at Cons

These days, if you wanted to, you could probably attend a scifi or pop culture convention just about every weekend.  Sure, you'd have to travel but probably not as far as you'd think.  The act of standing in line to get a $40 autograph from someone who did something you liked has gone completely mainstream as conventions are popping up everywhere, all the time.

But not so long ago these kind of cons were a lot rarer to find.  They were grass roots initiatives by and for hardcore fans that are now the stuff of legend.  One such convention was HoustonCon.  I stumbled across program for the 1974 HoustonCon and today we're going to check out some of the highlights.


Celebrities



If you found yourself cast in a scifi or superhero show today you'd probably have a clause in your contract necessitating a certain number of convention appearances per year (or at least an incentive for those appearances).  That's why you might find half the CW Network in Lexington, KY or Bozeman, MT on a particular weekend.

But in the good old days, actors had to make their own way to cons and it was usually well after their show was off the air.  And if they charged for autographs, it wasn't anywhere near today's prices.  There was a bit of a negative connotation to these appearances back then as it was sometimes seen as a desperate choice for someone whose acting work had dried up but we've thankfully gotten past that today.

HoustonCon '74 had two primary focuses:  old movie serials and Star Trek.   With those themes, these two were pretty good gets.  Kirk Alyn was the first ever live action Superman on film in the original serials and Walter Koenig served his tour of duty on the U.S.S. Enterprise on the original Star Trek TV series and movies.  There were other actors that were willing to brave the Houston humidity that year but these two are probably the best known today.

Artists



There were a couple of artists listed in the program but I picked Fred Fredericks to feature on the blog because of his contributions to the program itself.  You can see his two page spread above as well as his work on the cover.  At first I wasn't sure if that character was meant to be the Lone Ranger or not because of the weird netting on his mask, but after some quick research, it looks like it is.


Apparently that's the type of disguise the masked man wore in the first Lone Ranger movie serial.  With the convention's movie serial theme, it makes sense that Fredericks would use this design.  He also seemed to be known for his work on the comic strip for pulp hero Mandrake the Magician as well as several cartoon character comics.

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First up is an ad for the "All American Book Store" in Hurst which features what I can only assume is a non-authorized appearance by Captain America.  I'm not sure which artist drew him but I'm gonna guess...the store's owner?  I can't find any confirmation that this place is still open but thankfully the ad includes a handy "map" if anyone wants to try and track it down.

The next ad is a great sign of the times.  This was well before the age of Netflix or video on demand, so if a fan wanted to catch their favorite episode of "I Dream of Jeannie" or 'The Flintstones" they'd have to wait until the rerun was rerun.  These bootlegs were presumably for sale on VHS but in 1974 I can't imagine too many people had VCRs.  Like any good page from a decades old convention program, this brings up more questions than answers. 

In addition to the gems I've posted, the program included con rules and schedules, with an emphasis on their screenings of Star Trek episodes and movie serials as well as bios of the other actors, writers and artists that were appearing.  It's a great window into a different time when fandom was a lot more work than it is today...but it looks like it was worth it.