Monday, September 18, 2017

Hoop Dreams

Previously:


There are some very common fantasies out there.  Being a professional sports star is one of them.  Being a superhero is another.  But there are some people just won't be happy until they're both.  And so, because of that we are gifted with the comic book known as "Full Throttle Featuring the Dallas Mavericks"!


The 2003 comic was created to promote literacy and to show off the Mavs' little known monster fighting skills.  It was fully licensed by the NBA and sold exclusively in Walmart stores and given away at a Mavericks home game.  I'm going to assume that proceeds went to charity.  With that rousing endorsement, let's dive in:


Our story begins at the American Airlines Center during practice when a group of school kids are brought in to meet their favorite Mavs and discuss their favorite books.  Before an in depth analysis of "To Kill a Mockingbird" could take place, a mysterious cracking and shaking in center court grabs everyone's attention, when all of the sudden...


Yep, the mysterious explosion leads to a mysterious system of caverns and it's all beneath the American Airlines Center.  The school kids are led away but all the excitement attracted the attention Dallas' most famous busybody.  Mark Cuban takes charge and drops some fairly upsetting information:


The bad news:  there's a monster called "Gargamon" that lives underground and has some form of nefarious plans.  The good news:  When he wasn't throwing temper tantrums at games, Cuban had prepared for the situation by stockpiling sophisticated weaponry below the American Airlines Center:


The latest technology went into a collection of super suits that enhance an athletes natural abilities to "soar like an eagle" in addition to hi tops that let you walk up walls, mini-basketballs that contain "gizmos" as needed, and gloves that help you "grip" things...I guess.

The details are somewhat glossed over but you get the impression they can do whatever the plot demands.  The suits also come with a catchphrase: "Full Throttle!"


So it was time to head underground to take the fight to Gargamon and his monsterous cronies.  And while they put up a good fight, it didn't take long for the Mavs to realize they're better at playing basketball than being superheros.  Once captured, it was time for the villain to do what villains do and reveal his evil plan:


So the "plan" seems to be to get the Mavs out of the picture and take over Dallas.  Keep it simple, ya know?  So out go the hordes of shaggy green monsters to the streets of Big D.  Once their reign of terror begins we get a couple of hometown cameos.


Dale Hansen from WFFA and the late Kidd Kraddick give the play by play of the monster invasion.  Meanwhile, the reading enthusiast kids from before manage to rescue the Mavs.

They had befriended a young monster and learn a few key pieces of information:  1. The monsters love chocolate and 2. The monsters can't read.  With that crucial knowledge a plan was formed and a trap was set.


So teamwork triumphs, the bad guys are defeated and literacy is promoted...kind of.  I'd like to think we all learned a valuable lesson from this exercise but I'm not sure what that would be.  Maybe, if you're a monster and you want to attack Dallas, you should learn how to read?  But at least Dallas was finally safe from Gargamon...






Sunday, September 10, 2017

Tour of Texas Dinos Part 1

There's lots to love about the Lone Star State and plenty of things that make it unique.  One of the surprising things you may notice along the highways and back roads are a ferocious amount of dinosaurs that make their home in Texas.  So today we begin our Tour of Texas Dinos, starting in Balch Springs:


This guy stands out in front of "No Limits Motors." formerly known as "EZ Pawn" and formerly known as a mini-golf place whose name has been lost to the ages.  Over the years it's been green, green and yellow, and (as of the time of this pic) blue and white.  Its humble origins as a mini-golf obstacle are long forgotten by the commuters that pass by every day.  Hopefully, the next business owner at this location will keep him around and maybe slap on another coat of paint (of his or her choosing).


Our next stop is a Texas roadside legend.  The Car Parts Dinosaur in Bertram is, believe it or not, constructed completely out of automobile parts.  As you can see, she sits atop a flatbed trailer so she can make appearances in parades and other special events.  Years ago I saw her at the "Best of Texas" Festival at Six Flags in Arlington alongside such other legends as "Old Rip" and the World's Largest Jackrabbit.  I'm looking forward to seeing where she goes next.


Not everybody knows it but Abilene is the "Storybook Capital of Texas."  The town has no shortage of whimsy in the form of public sculptures all over the places.  From Dr. Suess to William Joyce to E.B. White, many of your favorite childhood characters are represented.  Our friend in the red cap is from "Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo" and was sculpted by the legendary Bob "Daddy-O" Wade

We've just scratched the surface with this small collection of weirdo wonders.  The next chapter of our Tour of Texas Dinos will be coming soon.  Until then, keep an eye out for extinct wildlife.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flashback: Vanishing Texas River Cruise 1986

It was 1986 and the entire state was gripped with Sesquicentennial fever.  But even though there were plenty of special events throughout the year, there were also plenty of non-anniversary adventures throughout the Lone Star State.

One of them was a road trip that my grandparents and great-aunt & uncle took down to Burnet, TX to take the Vanishing Texas River Cruise.  The cruise is still in business today but luckily the gang picked up some post cards and pamphlets that now qualify as vintage (yeah, stuff from the 80's is "vintage" now...feel old yet?)  Here's a look at some of the ephemera you could have grabbed if you had visited in '86, starting with a couple of postcards:





If you're curious about the absolute minutia of what it was like taking the tour a few decades ago then you're in luck!  The grandparents were also able to grab this flyer with details on pricing and meal options:



I'm fairly certain the prices have gone up through the years and possibly the menu has expanded.  According to their website, there are many different themed cruises currently available.  But if it's outdated information that you're looking for then, good news, I've got one more piece for you:


So the next time you're in the area and have a few hours to kill, it might be worth a stop to take a couple of hours and enjoy the river tour and check out the local scenery.  These guys sure seem to be satisfied customers:


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Bug Bites

The Houston Museum of Natural Science has everything you want in a natural history museum.  Fossils, rocks, interactive displays, rotating exhibits...and all the dinosaurs you stare at.

But it was when I was on my way out that I discovered something truly unique.  Near the gift shop is this unassuming vending machine:


Sure, it looks like the average treat dispenser but if you take a closer look you'll see a menu of science specific snacks and borderline gross grub.  Let's start with some of the more traditional fare.  And what's more at home at a museum than dinosaurs?


Gummi bears are replaced with Gummi Dinosaurs but the real find here is the top row.  Choc-o-saurus is a combination of two museum staples: dinosaurs and freeze dried ice cream!  It's chocolate with chocolate chips and, while eating it, you have the option to pretend like you're an astronaut or a extinct predator who loves dehydrated food.


Larvets!  Wondering if these things are what they look like?  Well, here's the explanation directly from their website: "Real larva, deliciously seasoned. Offered in three flavors: BBQ, Cheddar Cheese, or Mexican Spice."  And that's not enough bugs to satisfy your appetite, then good news...


Here we've got "Crick-ettes." which are, you guessed it, real crickets.  These are Bacon & Cheese flavor but they also come in Salt N' Vinegar and Sour Cream & Onion.  And if you're still hungry for bugs, you can also grab some Ant Wafers!  It's essentially what it sounds like: "Real ants in chocolate flavored round wafers."


Have you ever eaten hard candy and thought to yourself, "I wish this had ants in it."  Then you should have picked #56 or #57 from this vending machine.  You get the option of either Cherry or Apple flavor, both with Black Ants of course.


For our final selections we head to outer space for Alien Ice Cream.  This another freeze dried ice cream and is your standard Neapolitan flavor but it's either made by or eaten by Aliens.  Or maybe there's just one on the package.  Or you can have a Moon Pie!  Get it?  "Moon"

So the next time you head out to the museum, bring some change and an adventurous appetite.




Saturday, August 5, 2017

Flag Wavers

Everybody loves a trip to Six Flags Over Texas.  Locals and out-of-towners flock to the park for high speed thrills and kid friendly fun.  The amusement mecca has attracted its fair share of camera crews too since the locale looks great on screen.  So today we have a couple of examples of when Hollywood came to Six Flags!


The Banana Splits Adventure Hour consisted of live action costumed characters (an ape, an elephant, a dog and a lion) having madcap adventures, playing music and introducing Hanna Barbera cartoons that couldn't merit having their own show.

To set up the fun tone of the show they shot their opening credits at amusement parks including Coney Island and, you guessed it, Six Flags!  One of the first recognizable rides you can see in the credits is the Run-A-Way Mine Train:



Another easy to recognize attraction is "El Sombrero":



https://www.sixflags.com/overtexas/attractions/el-sombrero

 If trippy weirdo characters on trippy rides are up your alley then you'll love what comes next.  Sid and Marty Kroft designed the Banana Splits' costumes and, of course, produced their own shows like H.R. Pufnstuf, Land of the Lost and Lidsville.  When it was time to shoot the opening of Lidsville (a show about a land of magic hats) the Kroft brothers knew where to go:


The sequence involves young Butch Patrick (Eddie from The Munsters) running afoul of Merlo the Magician at a magic show at Six Flags.  You can see from the sign above that the producers felt no need to hide the identity of the park or try to disguise it as a fictional park.

With Six Flags definitely being the setting, you can spot quintessential Six Flags accoutrements like Texas Flags and El Aserradero (the Log Ride):


And since we're talking about the Log Ride (and for no other real reason), I have an excuse for posting this old school token that's been lying around for awhile.  I'm not sure what year it's from:


Our last stop at the park involves a much more recent production.  Texas native Robert Rodriguez is known for his gritty, violent action movies but he's also been known to make fun kids movies too.  So when it was time to shoot an amusement park sequence for Spy Kids 2, you can guess where he went.


The Oil Derrick Tower is one of the most recognizable elements in the park.  It's 300 feet tall and was perfect when Rodriguez needed to create his own special effects thrill ride:


Of course, that's the late, great native Texan Bill Paxton as "Dinky Winks."  And that's our last ride of the day.  Time to head back to the parking lot for the long drive home.    Hope you had fun today and that the lines weren't too long.



Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pin Pal

Previously:


If there are to be various World's Largest things then surely they would feel right at home in Texas.  While, I've so far been able to stop myself from beginning a blog entry with the phrase, "They say everything is bigger in Texas," it's getting harder and harder with the amount of great big stuff that populates the Lone Star state.  And with that, we head inside Pinballz Kingdom in Buda, TX to check out another great big thingamajig.


Now it's always tricky when you get into the "World's Largest" this and the "World's Largest" that.  Caveats tend to abound.  Many people play it safe by claiming they have the largest thing in the state or the country or they can even get cute and claim to have the second largest such-and-such.  But when signage is involved, you know they mean business:


There's a lot of great pinball machines out there but there's only one that can claim to be the "World's Largest."  OK, so these were commercially produced so there's technically more than one of them out there but I this is the one in Central Texas.  Behold...the "Hercules":


The place is full of tons of retro (and newish) pinball and arcade games but this one is the arcade's pride and joy and is positioned right in the center of the action.  In the interest of full disclosure, the Folks at Guinness claim that this machine in Italy is the real World's Largest but that location probably doesn't have the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game like Pinballz does so I'll head to Buda the next time I want to sink some quarters.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Matchbook Memories: Big Texan Steak Ranch

Previously:




If you're reading a blog about Texas Pop Culture then you're probably already aware of the Big Texan Steak Ranch in Amarillo. What you may not be aware of is the 2002 film Waking Up in Reno.  In it, a quarter of fairly obnoxious couples go on a road trip and like the best road trips, they make a stop at the legendary restaurant.



This wasn't just some quickie lip service about a famous roadside Route 66 attraction that was actually shot in some Hollywood sound stage.  The production filmed scenes at the actual legendary destination.



Billy Bob Thornton is one of the stars of the film and the Big Texan scene is pretty much what you'd expect.  But before we get to the inevitable "full belly" situation, a true Amarillo legend makes a cameo in the film.  If you've been to the restaurant, you've no doubt met Hodie Portfield.  He appears in the film in his trademark animal skin outfit:


Well, as you can imagine, Billy Bob takes on the Big 72 Ounce Steak challenge and succeeds!  And while he didn't do it in real life, fictionally eating the 72 Ouncer can go on his Texas Resume alongside fictionally fighting in the Alamo.


As often happens in real life, four and a half pounds of beef was a little too much for Billy Bob's character and things get a little out of hand.  As you can see, Hodie steps in to help out, which I assume would also happen in real life:


So the next time you head up to Amarillo, let Billy Bob's story be a cautionary tale:  there's no need to try to eat that much food in one sitting.  But it you can do it...it's free!