That master of the polysyllabic quip, William F. Buckley, Jr., will be firing lines at some of his favorite targets in the Temple Shalom Arts Forum on April 20. For details, see p. 56.
What better rite of spring to celebrate than the opening of baseball season? The Texas Rangers open the 1977 season on April 11 against the Cleveland Indians. For details, see p. 54.
The great old Granada Theatre is goingto be given new life after a sadinterlude. Dave Coffey, John Caruth,and Bill Douglas have plans to openit in early April as a mini-music hall(600 seats) with name entertainmentlike Natalie Cole, and occasional playsand movies. It will also be availablefor rentals. For more informationcall 827-2452.
Even Franz Kafka never dreamed up as many things for a cockroach to do as Dallas artist George Green. His “Cockroach Watching T.V.” will be on display in April at Delahunty Gallery, along with other works by Green. Upstairs in the gallery, there’s a special show of “Fizzles,” a book with text by Samuel Beckett and 33 etchings by Jasper Johns.
Spend a spring weekend on South Padre Island with some fun-and-games types from KNUS and D Magazine April 15,16, and 17. The special $79.95 per person fare includes round trip air tickets and double occupancy accommodations in the Bahia Mar Resort Hotel. For more information call (800) 492-6692 or, in Dallas, 748-2581. If you already know all you need to know, send your order to South Padre Expo, c/o Las Vegas Travel, 1505 Elm, Dallas 75201.
We’re celebrating Oak Cliff in this month’s issue of D Magazine, and you can celebrate it too, by taking the tour of five turn-of-the-century homes in Winnetka Heights on April 3. There’ll also be an antique automobile show, a 1900’s fashion show, live music of the period – even a county store. For details, see p. 56.
The Roots of Black Art at the DMFA
America’s black artists have roots, too, according to the show that arrives at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts on March 30 and continues through May 15. The exhibition, Two Centuries of Black American Art, provides a unique opportunity to view over 200 works of art by 63 black artists. Sponsored by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Philip Morris Incorporated, and the City of Dallas, the show was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art with David C. Driskell of the University of Maryland serving as guest curator. There are works from the late 18th century to the mid-20th century, including painting, sculpture, graphics, crafts, decorative arts, and photographs of architectural and related building arts. The exhibition illustrates by its diversity the contribution of black artists to the American tradition.
Such an exhibition immediately raises questions: Does black art exist as a movement with a shared aesthetic? Or is it part of the larger tradition of American art? Must black art be produced by black artists? If so, what makes Joshua Johnston’s work different from that of other American folk artists?
Must black art treat black subject matter? If so, why are sensitive renderings of blacks by white artists such as Andrew Wyeth not considered appropriate for a show of black art? And must the work of black artists who treat non-black subjects be considered less a part of black art than works by black artists who do concern themselves with the black experience? And is a tie to African art an essential part of black art? (Picasso and other modernists show an interest in primitive art as profound as that of their black contemporaries.)
Black art as a genre or “movement” ’ seems to appear in periods like the Twenties and Thirties, when black consciousness was awakened by the Har- lem Renaissance, or the Sixties and Sev-enties when black awareness has been heightened by social change. But there is no consensus among artists and critics, black and white, on the term “black art.” Henry 0. Tanner, a black artist of international reputation, did not want recognition based on his race, nor did he want to paint black subjects. Raymond Saunders, a contemporary black artist (not represented in this show) wrote a scathing diatribe about being labeled a “black artist,” in which he said “racial hang-ups are extraneous to art. no artist can afford to let them obscure what runs through all art – the living root and the ever-growing aesthetic record of human spiritual and intellectual experience, can’t we get clear of these degrading limitations, and recognize the wider reality of art, where color is the means and not the end?”
The show is an extension of the DMFA’s efforts, especially under Director Harry Parker, to reach all segments of the community, including those who are not regular museum-goers. Despite the assertions of some critics, these works may be unfamiliar to us not just because the artists suffered from racial discrimination. While discrimination may have been a factor after the 1920’s, when galleries became a dominant force in artistic exposure, late 18th and 19th century artists such as Joshua Johnston, Robert Duncanson, Edward Bannister, or Henry O. Tanner may have become obscured for other reasons. Johnston’s work suffered because folk art had no vogue until recently. Like William Sonntag, his fellow Cincinnati artist and traveling companion to Eu- rope, Duncanson was eclipsed by more i talented men who worked in the same genre, 19th century landscape artists ’ such as Cole, Church, Durand, and In- ness. And Bannister, a painter in the ; Barbizon mode, suffered the same ob- scurity as his white contemporaries who ! followed this style. Tanner, internationally recognized in his lifetime, chose to paint religious subjects, an area of American art that has received little serious consideration until recently. The reputations of artists of the American Scene, widely praised in their own time, have suffered from changes in artistic tastes that have accompanied the rise of abstract expressionism. Race and ethnic background alone do not adequately explain why so much art lives in museum basements.
My problem with the DMFA’s show is the ambiguity of purpose and orientation. Is the show geared to the black community or to the broader museum-going population? I have no qualms with an exhibition aimed at a specific audience – museums should serve as educators and as such have varied constituencies. But I would like to think that museums also consider questions of quality as well as social purpose as part of the full response to any aesthetic object. Otherwise, we have tokenism, which is as destructive to art as racism.
While there are some very fine works in the show, works that deserve recognition, there are clearly others that don’t measure up. And one of the best known exponents of social protest, Robert Gwathmey, is missing from the exhibition. By both inclusions and omissions, the show raises the question of the relationship of quality to subject matter. Is the purpose of the show to inform us about the excellence of black art, pointing out artists deserving recognition (who happen to be black) who have long been ignored? Does it present a tradition of black art? Or is the show more about the black artist’s view of society, the black experience, including works for purposes other than their aesthetic merit? Maybe we are being asked to reconsider and redefine art and its relation to society. Can works of art that are inadequate technically but socially powerful be just as good art as works which reverse the priorities? Or, are we being asked to apply only certain specific criteria to our judgments of quality, to establish a double standard and context for judgment?
The context for judgment in this show is indeed problematical. The works can be judged from the point of view of the black experience in America. Or they can be judged, perhaps with different results, from the context of a larger art historical tradition, the wider tradition of American art of which black art forms only a part. My background in art history influences my preference and vision, and makes me uncomfortable with the dichotomy emphasized by the catalogue itself, which establishes a double vision (by implication, a double standard) and does not let us forget which critics are black and which are white. I don’t like to think that there is a black viewpoint and a white one about art, that whatever I say reflects a racial bias. I don’t agree that the history of art can or should be divided absolutely along racial or ethnic lines, or that its appeal is limited by these criteria. I’d much prefer a show of art which has both black and white artists represented, side by side, judged on an equal basis. Standards of excellence should be colorblind – where content and form are inseparable, where aesthetic priorities are not sacrificed for social content. (And there are certainly works in this exhibition that portray the black experience without sacrificing quality.)
What the DMFA show can and, I hope, will do is raise our consciousness concerning the black contribution to the American tradition, a contribution that may not always agree with our preconceived notions of what good art is. The show should challenge us to think about criteria for judgments of quality, judgments that are not always black or white, but often gray.
-Louise Ellen Teitz
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. The Wise Collection of gold, silver, textiles, and pottery, Apr 6. Two Centuries of Black American Art, Mar 30-May 15. Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5. Fair Park/421-4187.
Amon Carter Museum. The Bison in Art, through Apr 3, followed by Southwestern photography by Ansel Adams. Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5:30. 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd. Fort Worth/(817)738-1933.
Fort Worth Art MuMum. Texas Today, in three parts, through Apr 17. Installations for Corner Spaces (only through Apr 10), Four Texas Photographers, paintings and drawings by Dick Wray. Tarrant County Annual Exhibition runs Apr 24-June 5. Tue-Sat 10-5, Sun 1-5. 1309 Montgom-ery/(817)738-9215.
Klmbell Art Mmseum. Through Apr 10. European Drawings from the Fitzwilliam. including some of the great masters of art. Apr 21 at 7:30 p.m., Rubens’ Sketches in Oil, lecture by Rubens scholar Julius S. Held. Tue-Sat 10-5; Sun 1-5. 1101 Will Rogers Rd/(817)332-8451.
University of Dallas. Sculptures by area artists through Apr 10; Renaissance Print Exhibition Apr 5-May 1; photography and drawings by O’Neil Ford May 3-22; all in University Gallery, Tue-Fri 11-3. Sat-Sun 12-4. Paintings byBobNunn Apr 10-23; Bill Lydecker paintings Apr 17-30; in Haggerty Art Center. Mon-Fri 9-5. Sat-Sun 12-4. 438-1123.
Eastfield College. Apr 4-15. Rex Reece photographics Apr 18-29, exhibition by the DISD Arts Magnet School seniors. Mon, Tue, and Fri, 9-5; Wed and Thu, 9-7. 3737 Motley Dr, Mesquite/746-3132.
Afterimage. Early western photos by Laton Alton Huffman, Apr 5-May 14. Mon-Sat 10-5:30. Quadrangle/748-2521.
Allan Street Gallery. Visual Studies Workshop Traveling Show. Apr 2-15. 2817 Allen/742-5207.
Arthello’s Gallery. Collages and Old Testament drawings by Jean Lacy. By appointment weekdays; 1-6 p.m. Sat & Sun. 1922 S Beckley/941-2276.
Chisholm Trail Gallery, Fort Worth. Landscape show, including Carroll Collier and Patricia Loree. Mon-Sat 10-5. Montgomery at W 7th/ (817)731-2781.
Delahunty Gallery. Through April, drawings by George Green and paintings by Jasper Johns. Tue-Sat 10-6 and by appointment. 2611 Cedar Springs/744-1346.
D.W. Co-op. Fabric constructions and drawings by Susie Phillips and a group show of gallery artists. Apr 2-28. Tue-Sat 11-6. 3305 McKinney #7/526-3240.
Frontroom Gallery. Woven wall hangings by David Raney, beginning Apr 2. Evelyn Anderson’s stoneware sculpture closes Apr 22; a mask-making presentation by Sara Blackwell begins the next day. Mon-Sat 10-5. 6617 Snider Plaza in the Craft Compound/369-8338.
Kleine Gallery. Limited edition prints by Robert Nidy. Tue-Sat 10-7. 12610 Coit Rd/233-9472.
Macy Galleries. Canadian show, featuring CampbellScott and Stan Kupczinsky. Tue-Sat 11-6. 2605 Routh/742-4587.
Michele Herling. 14th-18th century Thai pottery and
artifacts from New Guinea. Tue-Sat 12-5:30. Quadrangle Suite 260/748-2924.
Quadrangle Galleries. One-woman show by Sandy Scott. Apr 17-30. 2800 Routh #220/748-9488.
Southwell Art Center. Bronze exhibit by Ed Fraugh-fon, Dennis Silvertooth, and others. Tue-Sat 9-6. Preston Rd at Forest/233-2702.
Tuthill Gallery. Serigraphs by Tom Bartek. Mon-Sat 10-5:30, till 9 on Thu. Olla Podrida, 12215 Coit Rd/661-1204.
Williamson Gallery. Oils by Herc Ficklen, formerly ofthe Dallas Morning News. Mon-Sat 11:30-6. 3408 Milton/369-1270.
The Writings of Spring
If, gentle reader, you’re feeling the sap of spring rising in your winter-weary heart, join me in an orgy, reading three new books by women about love and sex. Tread the vicarious primrose path so lightly laid amidst a titillating trio of unstately pleasure tomes, variously decreed by Fort Worth’s Lolah Burford, Ingrid Bengis, author of Combat in the Erogenous Zone, and flight-bound Erica Jong.
To remind yourself from the beginning that it’s all in fun, start with Alyx by Lolah Burford (MacMillan, $8.95). Since Vice Avenged in 1971, Burford has amused us almost annually with an incredible story set in a historically accurate milieu. The plot of this year’s offering is the unlikeliest to date, involving as it does an innocent 16-year-old English gentlewoman and a handsome; ripsnorting duke ten years her senior, who meet for the first time in the breeding hut of an eighteenth-century Caribbean sugar plantation. Never mind how they got there or how they leave. What is remarkable about the tale – this is the kind of book one calls a tale – is the way Burford serves up all the ingredients of spicy sex, from helpless virginity and bondage: to whippings and sadomasochism, yet manages to keep our myths, though not our heroine, intact. Thus the beautiful. Alyx emerges from the plantation a chaste wife, the mother of legitimate children, and, of all things, a countess. There’s not a meaningful line here, but Lolah Burford is a marvel of panache and bravado, and Alyx is in its way delicious. I am convinced Bur-ford wrote it to give us a good time, and to make money. Alyx should do both.
I Have Come Here to Be Alone by Ingrid Bengis (Simon and Schuster, $8.95) has different intentions. Tracing the emotional history of an American girl, Lola, from infancy to the break-up of her first serious love affair and from New York to the Greek islands and back, Bengis writes sensitively of episodes that wrench the heart: a child’s discovery of parental infidelity, the patient overcoming of frigidity, the meeting of mistress and wife, the death of love. Often painful to read, this book has a loss of virginity scene that, because it is real, is far worse than anything that happens in that Caribbean breeding hut. I Have Come Here to Be Alone is self-conscious at times, but men and women alike will recognize its honesty and the validity of an ending that doesn’t: compromise. Don’t read it if you’re down.
Instead, turn to How to Save Your Own Life (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $8.95), Erica Jong’s satisfying sequel to her phenomenally successful Fear of Flying. Read how our girl Isadora Wing finally rids herself of Bennett, her uptight psychiatrist super-jerk husband, and finds a man who is an Ace – Josh Ace, to be exact – and fully deserving of soaring through the stratosphere with her.
That Erica Jong is no artist goes, or should go, without saying, and to read the book jacket blurbs by John Updike and Henry Miller makes you wonder what unsettled those two gentlemen. What Jong has that is admirable or not, as you please, is the audacity to take off her clothes in public, with a running commentary: the novel as emotional strip-tease. The locale of the book is California, of course, and the spirit is spirited. “Amanuensis to the Zeitgeist,” feminist with flair, Isadora Wings her way along in accordance with her own rules, chief of which is, “Trust all joy.” If her cult of independence seems a trifle shallow and vogue-ish, more Zeit than Geist, there’s for consolation a cast of thousands, lots of good dirty fun, and a supremely happy ending. How better to celebrate the rights [sic!] of spring?
A Look at the “Other” Robert Frost
“You’re a good poet, Robert, but you’re a bad man,” Bernard De Voto’s already famous outburst to Robert Frost, may well be the most controversial line in Robert Frost: The Later Years, 1938-1963 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, $17.95). The third and last volume of Lawrance Thompson’s splendid authorized biography of the poet raises unintentionally but unavoidably just this issue: how can such a good poet – for by the time of Volume III Frost’s literary reputation was established – be as a man so given to pettiness, duplicity, and egotism, so remarkably deficient in human understanding?
To a naive believer in the legend, assiduously cultivated by Frost himself, of the plain New England farmer turned poet and sage, De Voto’s statement emphatically punctuates a series of shocking accusations against the idol. To a more informed reader, aware for years of another version of the story, that of the “dark” Frost whose “malice was a pimple down his good/big face,” as John Berryman wrote, De Voto’s line has the ring of absolute frustration and exasperation. His is the kind of summing-up made in rage and tears when everything else – sympathy and patience and rationality – has been tried, a last-ditch effort to comprehend the incomprehensible fact of seemingly gratuitous nastiness in a man one would expect to be above it.
To call Frost a bad man as flatly as De Voto did reduces to banality a far more complicated state of affairs in the life of one of America’s greatest poets. Thompson and R.H. Winnick, who completed The Later Years when Thompson died during the writing, are concerned primarily with revealing the facts about Frost and allowing the reader to make decisions about badness and goodness for himself. Not since the eighteenth century have we seriously believed a good poet must ipso facto be a good man, but in Frost’s case the discrepancy between the sagacity of the poetry and the selfishness of the life is almost incredibly great. Frost was a man cursed in his family, cursed even more in himself. To what extent these curses are related is difficult to assess. Certainly Frost was not responsible for the untimely death of his favorite daughter Marjorie. But what of the wife who died without wishing to bid him goodbye? The son whose last words to Frost were, “You always win an argument, don’t you?”, before he shot himself to death? Then there are the surviving daughters, Irma whom Frost himself committed to a mental institution, and Lesley who said to Frost on the occasion of her mother’s funeral that he was “the kind of artist who should never have married, or at least who should never have had a family.”
The present volume treats the poet’s life from the months after his wife’s death in 1938 to his own death in 1963. They were years of recognition and deserved reward, and The Later Years is full of excerpts from the poetry which was being written and read and published, so that the reader never loses his sense of the “good poet.” But what remains when the book is closed are the glimpses of a man tragic in his willful loneliness, his driven insecurity, his manipulation of the lives of others, his downright meanness.
In a fit of professional jealousy during a reading at Bread Loaf by Archibald MacLeish, the 64-year-old Frost grimaced, whispered, baited MacLeish with audible comments, and finally set fire to a handful of papers in order to attract attention from the speaker.
Four months after the death of Elinor, his wife for over 40 years, Frost demanded that Kay Morrison, the wife of his friend Theodore Morrison, and the mother of two small children, leave her husband and marry him. She declined.
In 1955, Frost had 27 honorary degrees, and enough academic hoods to be made into a brilliant patchwork quilt. Yet he still had so great an unsatisfied need for approbation that he connived for and got additional honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge, and the National University of Ireland in the same year.
He took complete credit for Ezra Pound’s release from prison – “All I did was the whole thing.” – though in truth he came in strongly only at the end of a two-year campaign for Pound’s freedom run largely by Archibald Mac-Leish.
But he was capable of generosity as well, and of arousing devotion in others. Kay Morrison did not leave her husband to marry Frost, but she did, still happily married, become Frost’s personal secretary, and his friend and companion till the end of his life. He wrote one of his finest poems, “The Silken Tent,” in praise of her.
Finally, he was occasionally simply pathetic, as when he faked the effects of a New Year’s Eve celebration in 1946, spilling whiskey on the dining room table, burning and stubbing out cigars and cigarettes in all the ashtrays, disarranging the furniture, even breaking glasses, all so that Kay Morrison wouldn’t know he’d spent the holiday alone.
“For some,” Thomas Mann has written of artists, “there is no such thing as a right path.” Self-condemned to loneliness and alienation, they have devils which perhaps make their angels possible. Frost has been adored by the American people, often for the wrong reasons, like no other poet of his century. He recited “The Gift Outright” at the inauguration of President Kennedy, and went to Russia to see Khrushchev at Kennedy’s request. He gave poetry a good name among the Philistines, who memorized his easy poems and ignored the terrible bleak beauty of the others. If the facts of his life are not so simple as the fable he became, there is in those facts a complexity, a richness, an extravagance worthy of a poet.
The following information on what’s hot in Dallas bookshops is compiled with the aid of The Bookseller, Willow Creek Shopping Center, 9811 N Central Expwy; Brentano’s. 451 NorthPark Center; Cokes-bury, 1910 Main, Taylor’s Books, Preston Center East; and the Dallas Public Library.
Roots, Alex Haley (Doubleday. $12.50). Blockbuster nonfiction novel about the history of an American black family. (Reviewed in January issue.)
Blood and Money, Thomas Thompson (Doubleday, $10 95). Superbly told story of the John Hill murder case, which still has the Houston gossip lines buzzing.
Passages, Gail Sheehy (Dutton, $10.95). Non-fiction study of the crisis periods adults typically pass through.
Your Erroneous Zones, Wayne W. Dyer (Funk & Wagnalls, $6.95). A New York psychologist’s report on “unhealthy behavior patterns.”
The Users, Joyce Haber (Delacorte, $8.95). Hollywood gossip fictionalized; this year’s Dolores.
The Hite Report, Shere Hite (Macmillan, $12 50). Yet another book that purports to survey what women think and feel about sex.
The Chancellor Manuscript, Robert Ludium (Dial Press, $10). A thriller involving the murder of J Edgar Hoover. But you thought . ?
Adolf Hitler, John Toland (Doubleday, $14.95). Two-volume “definitive” biography.
Blind Ambition. John Dean (Simon and Schuster, $11.95). Very far inside Watergate.
Lancelot, Walker Percy (Random House, $8 95). New novel by the author of The Moviegoer and The Last Gentleman.
The Selected Letters of William Faulkner (Random House, $15). Letters selected by Joseph Blotner, Faulkner’s “authorized” biographer.
October Light, John Gardner (Random House, $10). The latest novel by the author of Grendel.
Selected Poems, 1923-1975, Robert Penn Warren(Random House, $15; paper, $6 95). The author’schoice of his best work.
This Year’s Good Little Movie
More than ever, movies are the medium for overstatement: when there are no 40-foot plastic gorillas, no mile-high conflagrations, when no one even bares his or her spectacular chest, audiences feel cheated, especially when they’ve had to choose between buying a pound of coffee or an evening at the movies. So when you run across the Good Little Film, like last year’s Hearts of the West and this year’s The Late Show, you hesitate to recommend it to just anyone because it’s sort of off-beat and very low-key. If it were on TV, you’d be on the phone at the drop of the first commercial, urging your friends to tune in. Television’s blockbusters – Roots for obvious example – make their strongest effect on the intimate level, while the most successful Hollywood movies – the Godfathers, All the President’s Men – encase the human drama with the opulence of their production. This isn’t to say that TV can’t be opulent, or that movies can’t be humane, but that the over-produced TV show or the understated film is likely to look like the fish out of water, and to do what that fish usually does. Flop.
I hope The Late Show isn’t a flop, because there’s so much talent on view in it. Above all, it is a first-rate vehicle for Lily Tomlin. Tomlin excels as a monolo-gist, so it’s delightful to see that she has the versatility to perform with other actors. Fortunately, Robert Benton’s screenplay is tailor-made for her comic style, which amounts to taking comic figures – usually the eccentric and the solitary – and carrying them one step over the line into reality, illuminating the pathos of their lives without sentimentality, and without dispelling the laughter. No one else, with the possible exception of Carol Burnett, has done it. The commonplace is that comedy depends on the perception of the “Not-Me” in the situation (the pie in your own face is painful and messy; in another’s it is funny), but Tomlin’s is a comedy of the “Not Me, But Someone I Know Very Well” (the pie in her face is funny, but you’ll be glad to help her clean up afterward).
Benton provides Tomlin with dozens of opportunities to accumulate the nuances of detail that make her characters live. When she tells Art Carney that their detective teamwork reminds her of “Nick and Nora. . . . You know, The Thin Man – Phyllis Kirk and Peter Lawford,” we’re delighted by the Tightness of the line. It puts Tomlin’s character in the right generation and milieu – if she were either hipper or straighter, she would have said, “Myrna Loy and William Powell.” But her head is soaked in the ephemeral trivia of television – the only life, one feels, she has had contact with.
Benton directed the film, too, with touches of suspense that seem pure Hitchcock, except that they are better done than most recent Hitchcock. His film goes wrong on the soundtrack when the music tries to underscore the pathos of Art Carney’s character, an aging private eye – a Barnaby Jones with a bum leg and a perforated ulcer and no Lee Meriwether to keep his life tidy. Carney’s performance is strong enough; the music seems superadded and sentimental.
The only other problem with the film, and it is, unfortunately, a major one, is that the concept, the elegiac look at the private eye myth, is getting stale. Robert Altman, who produced The Late Show, did it better in The Long Goodbye, as did Roman Polanski in Chinatown. In fact, if any film weighs heavy on The Late Show, it is Polanski’s; Carney and Tomlin are only skewed versions of Nicholson and Dunaway, who were in turn skewed versions of Bogart and Astor in The Maltese Falcon. The vogue for movies that feed on other movies is beginning to take on an unsavory character. Could it be the narcissism of a decadent medium?
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Apr 10. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman at 2 p.m. Apr 24, 1:30 p.m., The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins and A Well Spent Life.
SMU Cinematheque. Apr 22-24, Experimental Film Festival, featuring Germaine Dulac, Man Ray, Salvador Dali, Jean Cocteau, John Whitney, and many others. Tickets $1 50 at the door or $7.50 for the weekend series. Bob Hope Theater, 7 and 9 p.m. 692-2979.
University of Texas/Dallas films, Tue, Wed, and Fri 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. in Founders North Auditorium, Floyd & Lookout, Richardson. 690-2945. April films are: Ernest Pintoff’s Harvey Middleman. Fireman; Chabrol’s Les Biches; Pepe Le Moko, with Jean Gabin; Lolita, by Stanley Kubrick; Rene Clement’s Purple Noon; Disney’s Sword in the Stone; Yves Montand in Z; Without Apparent Motive, Philippe Labro; Last Year at Marienbad, Alain Resnais; I Never Sang for my Father, with Gene Hackman.
Southwestern Medical School. Saturdays at 8 p.m. in Gooch Auditorium. Robert Altman’s That Cold Day in the Park; Woman in the Dunes (with discussion led by J.D. Capra); Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator. $1. 5323 Harry Hines/688-2168.
University of Dallas. Art Department Film Series inLynch Auditorium at 7:30: Apr 7, Savages, JamesIvory; Apr 1 4, La Bete Humaine, Jean Renoir, $3.Other films: Images Apr 1, Repulsion Apr 3, Yellow Submarine Apr 15, Silent Running Apr 17, FreaksApr 22 & 24, Taming of the Shrew Apr 29, TheFour Musketeers May 1. 438-1123.
Richard Haight’s Theater of Awareness
Audiences can’t decide whether Richard Haight looks more like Falstaff or Henry VIII. What they do agree about is his skill at using theater to explore complex social and psychological problems. As humanist advisor to the Dallas Theater Center’s “Close to Home” project, he spent the fall crisscrossing the state with a company of actors doing original plays on aging, crime, and child abuse. One evening they might perform in a drafty gymnasium in Amarillo or Temple, the next morning everyone would cram into the Dodge van for a sprint to Lubbock or Waco or wherever arrangements had been made for a stage and a drop. If four months of Big Macs and one-night stands occasionally made him feel more like a hippie than a humanist, the programs themselves had little in common with coffeehouse raps. They were instead miniature town meetings at which laymen and professionals (lawyers, psychiatrists, policemen, welfare workers) had a chance to talk to one another without the pressure of a crisis.
Richard’s official job was to provide background information and philosophical perspective, but he was rarely allowed to wear a guru’s hat. One minute he’d have to be a hirsute Johnny Olson, warming up his audience with songs and patter – “Hi, I’m Dr. Richard Haight. I use the title just to please my mother.” At other times he would find himself placating some feisty old person who’d taken exception to a comment about senior citizens, or listening to an interminable anecdote about the racehorse Dan Patch. There were painful incidents as well, like the night a woman in Killeen sat through the drama on rape and then explained to everyone that her son had just been imprisoned for that crime. There were also times when he was required to play a rapist or a child abuser in order to clarify a point.
“The discussions were usually intense and exciting,” Richard explains, “because they were an opportunity for people to act their own lives instead of just sitting back and listening to a lecture. All of us have strong feelings about aging, for example, because we’re all victims or potential victims. The discussions allowed people to express their feelings without making them ashamed.”
Richard brought to his job extensive training in theater and psychodrama as well as six years experience in teaching literature and humanities at SMU.
“Most educators agree that students can’t read very well, which is another way of saying that they can’t translate print into some form of personal experience. I won’t go into a monologue about this mind-body split except to say that the schools aren’t doing much to remedy it, despite all the talk about ’well-roundedness.’ Body courses are always elective, usually in the PE department, not part of the core curriculum. The Greeks would be astonished.”
Walk into one of Richard’s classes, however, and you’ll see plenty of body language – mime, tai-chi, role playing, awareness exercises. In good weather he likes to commandeer the lawn in front of Dallas Hall for dramatic readings and workshops. His objective is not only to help students experience what they read but to make them more adept at educating themselves, something he believes both they and the general public deperately want.
“Everywhere we went we found people who were starved for ideas, especially housewives and pensioners who were fed up with TV and Reader’s Digest but couldn’t seem to find alternatives. They felt that there were no outlets for their talents and energies. Too often they were right. Even agencies that need volunteers aren’t always prepared to use them effectively.”
One goal of the “Close to Home” project, which was funded by a matching grant from NEH and the Texas Committee for Humanities and Public Policy, was to encourage the creation of local humanities councils that could, in turn, stimulate citizen involvement in social action groups. The reason, Richard explains, is that our social problems are too many and too complex to be left solely to the bureaucracies.
“For a long time the so-called ’healthy’ segment of society has been able to hire a few people to take care of the so-called ’unhealthy’ segment, the dope addicts, mental patients, and so on. We’re discovering that such a system doesn’t work, not because the people who are hired are incompetent but because they are so few and bum out so quickly, in two to three years in most cases. The responsibility has to be shared by all of us in some way.”
Although the final report still isn’t in, response to the project has been so enthusiastic that there is little doubt about its being refunded this year, probably with an expanded itinerary and a fresh set of topics. All of this delights Richard, particularly the fan mail from people who ordinarily wouldn’t go to a play on a bet. But he’s hesitant about calling the project a complete success. Crowds were often small (40-50), local promotion tended to be haphazard, and sometimes the dramas weren’t seen by the audiences for whom they were intended. The play on aging, for instance, was meant for everyone under 60 but was played mostly for senior citizens, who already have a few ideas on the subject.
But when I asked Richard if he’d consider becoming involved again this year, he jumped to his feet and said loudly, “God, yes. What a marvellous experience! It got me out of the ivory tower and helped restore my faith in the intelligence of the public. There are so many extraordinary people out there whom I’d never have met otherwise. The project also gave me an opportunity to really be myself, to respond spontaneously and at times intuitively to whatever was happening. And none of us knew from night to night what would happen.”
As he spoke he began to glide slowly across the living room floor, carving the air with both hands, playing, it seemed to a sofa and chair in the corner.
Not Falstaff, I said to myself. More like Zero Mostel.
Dallas Theater Canter. Something’s Afoot closes Apr 2. Santa Fe Sunshine opens Apr 9. Tickets $5.25-$6.75. Tue-Fri at 8 p.m., Sat at 5 and 8:30 p.m. 3636 Turtle Creek/526-8857.
Theatre Three. In Celebration through Apr 3. Apr 19-May 22, Little Mary Sunshine. Wed-Sat 8:30 p. m., Sun at 2:30 and 7 p.m. $5 weekdays; $6 weekends; $4 Sun matinees. 2800 Routh/748-5191.
Dallas Repertory Theatre. The Sunshine Boys, Apr 14-May 15. Fri and Sat 8:15 p.m., Sun 3 p.m. $4.50. NorthPark Hall/369-8966.
Theatre SMU. Rain. Apr 12-16, 19-23 at 8:15 p.m., Apr 17 and 24 at 2:15 p.m. in the Margo Jones Theatre. Tickets $3.50. 692-2573.
Fort Worth Community Theatre. Finishing Touches, by Jean Kerr, Apr 20-23 and 27-29 at 8:15 p.m. and Apr 24 at 2:15 p.m. Tickets $3 50 Fri and Sat, $3 other days. 3505 W Lancaster/(817)738-6509.
New Arts Theatre. Hot L Baltimore, through Apr 7. Thu-Sat at 8 p.m., Sun at 2:15 p.m. $4.50 adults, $1.50 students. Olla Podrida. 12215 Coit Rd/691-3215.
University of Dallas. The Tempest, Apr 20. 23. 27, and 30 at 8:15 p.m. in the Margaret Jonsson Theater. $1.50. Reservations 438-1123, ext. 314.
University of Texas/Dallas. Original plays by the Small Change Theatre Apr 22-23 at 8 p.m., Apr 24 at 5 p.m. Admission 50￠. Apr 20-24, Spring Inter-Arts Festival of theatre, music, and visual arts 690-2982.
Magic Turtle Series. Sleeping Beauty, Saturdays Mar26-May 14 at 10:30 a.m. Tickets $1.75. Dallas Theater Center/526-8857.
Haymarket Theatre. Kathy Burks Marionettes, The Adventures of Peter Rabbit. Thu 10:30 a.m., Fri 11:30 a.m.. Sat 4 p.m. $1 Olla Podrida. 12215 Coit Rd/233-1958.
Casa Mariana. Charlottes Web. Apr 2, 9. and 16 at 2 p.m.; Apr 1 and 15 at 7:30 p.m. $3 adults, $2 children. 3101 W Lancaster/(817)332-6221
Junior Players Guild. Apr 24, Celebration, with theBryan Adams Patchwork Players. $1.50. EwellWalker Middle School, 12532 Nuestra Dr/358-3756 or 363-3922.
Ever since the supermarket syndrome began to affect the record-selling business – and more than one defunct A&P now has bins full of Beethoven instead of bananas – many of us have behaved like the shopper who goes in for a loaf of bread and comes out with a new mop, a half pound of Jerusalem artichokes, a case of cat food and a copy of People magazine, but forgets the bread. Systematic record-buying has been stymied by the sheer numbers of records in many stores, and by the seductiveness of packaging. (Remember the otherwise respectable recording of Die Walküre a few years ago that featured on its cover a Valkyrie wearing a brassiere made of VW hubcaps?)
Well, no sensible shopper goes to the supermarket without a checklist, and that’s what we hope to provide you in these pages in the coming months. We’ve asked several local record collectors of jazz, blues, soul, rock, country and classical music to name those works, artists, or recordings that they think essential to a basic record library – and then to single out the ten recordings they’d find it hardest to live without. This month, D Magazine editorial intern Tracy Curts leads off with his choices of the best in country music.
How to Start a Country Music Collection
Don’t let this blanket title scare you away. This category is not all Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner, Nashville standards of acceptability notwithstanding. Combining other facets of music with country is not original to Austin. Bob Wills incorporated a big band horn section into the Texas Playboys’ sound, and was threatened with expulsion from the Grand Ole Opry stage for using drums. More recently, John Denver has been voted Country Singer of the Year.
The selections will be divided between early and contemporary music, because elements of both are vital to a complete collection.
To begin at the beginning, then, let’s start with Hank Williams. Now admit, all you rockers, that you still sing along on “Hey Good Lookin’ ” with the television commercial. Williams is the most-recorded songwriter in the field, for obvious reasons. He always got right to the heart of the matter, whether that heart was “Cold, Cold” or “Cheatin’.” He broke country music out of its isolated pockets of popularity and turned it into a nationwide musical force. In just three-and-a-half’ years, he managed to express almost every human sentiment in his lyrics. Most Hank Williams albums available now are collections of his hits, if only because most of his songs became hits. Be sure to steer away from MGM’s. series of albums with Hank Williams, Jr., narrating the life of his father. (“My daddy’s career was like a meteor. He lit up the sky just as bright as could be, then disappeared from sight just as suddenly.”). However, MGM has issued a straight musical selection of 24 of Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits.
You won’t find Ernest Tubb on the Billboard charts very often anymore. But the days are not forgotten when the “King of Country Music” took the lion’s share of the Top 20, while Webb Pierce occupied any spaces left open. You can’t get much further into the country than these two, and you can’t get much more talented. Tubb albums are no longer commonplace, but try Baby, It’s So Hard To Be Good on MCA Records.
I’ll list Jimmie Rodgers under country only because everyone else does. He was actually a blues singer and a pioneer in blues yodeling. Most representative of Rodgers is My Rough and Rowdy Ways, on RCA.
And then there’s Bob Wills. Fiddler, bandleader, and probably the most creative and innovative mind in country music. He originated Western Swing, a style carried on by modern offspring like Asleep at the Wheel, Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys, and even Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. Wills never recorded a song you couldn’t dance to; his vocalist Tommy Duncan, a song you couldn’t sing with. Duncan’s vocals were interspersed with saxophone, clarinet, and piano breaks that were directly influenced by the big band jazz sound, and steel guitar and fiddle licks that were undeniably western. Get an even sample of all in United Artists’ great Hall of Fame: Bob Wills and Tommy Duncan. I believe Wills’ legacy has yet to be fully realized.
The other names from the early period are both women: Kitty Wells and Mother Maybelle Carter. Wells stands out as the perfect example of what a lady can do when she puts her soul completely into her voice. Good Wells catalogues are rare, so no recommendations here. Listen to Carter on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
Three women jump to mind in contemporary country, namely Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Dolly Par-ton. I endorse, respectively, Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’, Stand By Your Man, and Best of Dolly Parton. I don’t consider this last one a cop-out, since it’s the only album I find with her two best songs, “Jolene” and “My Tennessee Mountain Home.” With “country” employed as broadly as it is these days, I must include Emmy Lou Harris’ Pieces of the Sky and Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel as two of the best.
Among men, Johnny Cash is still on the forefront, as is Charley Pride. Johnny Cash at San Quentin and Charley Pride Live at Panther Hall are my picks. Ronnie Milsap, Nashville’s answer to Stevie Wonder, is still very hot with his last release, 20-20 Vision. Instrumental country albums are infrequent, making Roy Clark and Buck Trent’s A Pair of Fives (Banjos, That Is) a special treasure.
Two men of significance still recording are Marty Robbins and Ray Price. Robbins is the only major figure still doing the “western” half of that title. He often sings ballads like the classic “El Paso.” In addition, he has a natural approach to comedy in his performances quite different from the Hee Haw genre. I found only four different Robbins albums, all greatest hits volumes, so take the double Ail-Time Greatest Hits. Price was the first to use symphonic backgrounds, and remains one of the few who does it with taste and direction. Witness For the Good Times. This is country with class.
Ten Essential Country Music Recordings
1. 24 of Hank Williams’ Greatest Hits(MGM). An obvious choice; the best ofthe best.
2. Hall of Fame: Bob Wills and TommyDuncan (United Artists). A double album with a generous representation ofevery song style Wills used. It containssome of the best songs and most exciting instrumental breaks on vinyl.
3. Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (UnitedArtists). This is a Nitty Gritty DirtBand album, which virtually guaranteesquality in itself, but the guest list is theoutstanding feature. The triple albumincludes Earl Scruggs, Mother MaybelleCarter, Roy Acuff, Junior Huskey, DocWatson, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements,oh – and the NGDB. This album shattered musical barriers never beforedented.
4. Shotgun Willie (Atlantic). Willie Nelson, Nashville exile, Texas renegade,singer superb. It was Nelson’s voice thatfirst sparked my interest in country music. That voice comes through best onthis album.
5. Honky Tonk Heroes (RCA). WaylonJennings’ finest hour as a vocalist; BillyJoe Shaver’s finest as a writer. Shaverwrote all but one tune on this album,and the Waylors cover each directionhis music takes with experience and accuracy.
6. Live at Panther Hall (RCA). CharleyPride gives a typical example of thevoice and style that can win any ear tocountry music.
7. Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia).The Byrds. Yes, the Byrds. I know theydid “Eight Miles High,” but you listento this and tell me if it’s not country,and damned good country at that.
8. Close Up the Honky Tonks (A&M). Imay be stretching the category a bit,but the Flying Burrito Brothers dohonky-tonk music better than anyoneelse.
9. B.W. Stevenson (RCA). His debut album deserves to be on any “best” list.Sensitive, sincere, and meltingly beautiful.
10. Asleep at the Wheel (United Artists). Another good swing assortment,this release is indicative of the band’sindividual talents. Most outstanding isa rendition of Count Basie’s “Jumpin’at the Woodside,” with a bang-up jamat the end of the song.
– Tracy Curts
Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Guest conductor Thomas Schippers Apr 1 -2. Pianists Arthur Whitte-more and Jack Lowe Apr 7 & 9. Pinchas Zuker-man, violinist, guests Apr 21, 22 (10:30 a.m.), and 23. Contralto Maureen Forrester and tenor Seth McCoy Apr 29 & 30. All concerts in State Fair Music Hall at 8:15 p.m./692-0203.
Dallas Civic Music Association. Pianist Tamas Va-sary Apr 12 at 8:15 p.m. in McFarlin Auditorium, SMU. Tickets $2.50-$7. 369-2210.
Van CIiburn Lecture/Performance Series. Pianist Lorin Hollander Apr 12, Bach: Stones in Sound. Apr 26, lecture by Paul Hume, music editor of The Washington Post. 8 p.m. in Scott Theatre. Fort Worth. For series subscription information, write Van Cliburn Foundation. Inc., 3505 W Lancaster, Fort Worth 76107. or call (817)738-6509.
Lovars Lane United Methodist Church. Bach Cantatas 4 and 160. Apr 3 at 5 p.m. Free. Northwest Highway and inwood/691-4721.
SMU Division of Music. Mozart’s Magic Flute Apr 28-30 at 8:15 p.m. in the Bob Hope Theater. $4 50. 692-3342.
Fort Worth Opera Association. Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier Apr 22 at 8 p.m. and Apr 24 at 2:30 p.m. in Tarrant County Convention Center Theater Tickets $4-$10.50/(817)731-0833.
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. Robert Davidovi-ci, violinist, Apr 2, 8.15 p.m. Orchestra Hall, FortWorth. Apr 17 at the Fort Worth Art Museum, theBrass Quintet of the FWSO. $2 50/(817)921-2676.
Venetian Room. Marilyn Maye, Mar 26-Apr 13. Mon-Thu at 8:30 and 11; Fri and Sat at 9 and 11:30p.m. Cover varies. Reservations. Fairmont Hotel,Ross and Akard/748-5454.
Dallas Ballet stages Merry Widow in the Music Hall Apr 15 & 16 at 8 15 p.m. and Apr 17 at 2:15 p.m. Tickets $4.50-$ 11/526-1370.
Fort Worth Ballet. Patricia McBride and Jean-PierreBonnefous in Afternoon of a Faun. The Man ILove, and the Grand Pas de Deux from Don Quixote. The Ballet performs Holberg Suite, Simple Symphony, and two other ballets. Apr 29 at 8:15p.m. in the Tarrant County Convention CenterTheatre. For tickets and information, write F.W.B.,3505 W Lancaster, Fort Worth 76107, or call(817)731-0879.
Games and Matches
Baseball/ Texas Rangers. Arlington Stadium. 7:35 p. m except Sundays at 2:05 p.m. Tickets: reserved $5, $5.50. and $6; general $2 adults, $1.50 children. 265-3331.
Apr 11, 13 & 14 vs. Cleveland Indians
Apr 15, 16 & 17 vs. Baltimore Orioles
Apr 21, 22, 23 & 24 vs. Minnesota Twins
Hockey /Dallas Blackhawks. State Fair Coliseum. All games start at 730 p.m. Tickets $2 50-$5 50. 823-6362.
Apr 2 vs. Tulsa
Apr 3 vs. Fort Worth
Apr 6 Central Hockey League playoffs begin, continuing through May 2. (Call ticket office for schedule.)
Lacrosse /Dallas Lacrosse Club. Village Apts. on Southwestern Blvd. Games at 1 p.m. Free. For information, call Don. Newbury at 823-1310.
Apr 2 vs. Baylor
Apr 3 vs. Houston
Apr 16 vs. San Antonio
Quarter Horse Racing /Ross Downs, Hwy 121, four miles southwest of Grapevine. 481-1071. From 9 to 19 races every Sunday year round, beginning at 1 p.m. Adults $2, children $1.
Rodeo/Mesquite Championship Rodeo. Every Fri & Sat Apr through Sept at 8 p.m. Off LBJ at Military Pkwy exit. Box seats $4. grandstands $3 adults, $1.50 children. For tickets and information, call 285-8777.
Soccer/Dallas Tornado. Ownby Stadium, SMU. 8 p. m. Tickets $3-$7. 750-0900.
Apr 9 vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Apr 30 vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Thoroughbred Horse Racing/Louisiana Downs. Bossier City, LA, on I-20 (about three hours drive from Dallas). Nine or ten races daily, Wed through Sun, Jan 14-June 5. Post time 1:15 p.m. Grandstand $1, Clubhouse $2.50; plus $1 entrance(parking) fee. For further information or reservations call toll free 1 -800-551 -8623.
University of Dallas. Address by McDermott Professor Malcolm Muggeridge at 8 p.m. Apr 6. 12, and 19 in Lynch Auditorium. Apr 13 at 7:30 p.m. in Gorman Lecture Center A, “Shakespeare’s High Comedy: ’The Tempest’ “. by Louise Cowan. 438-1123.
Cushing Gallery and Mountain View College. Wat-ercolor class and demonstration by Arthur Wein-berg of the University of Texas. Apr 19, 7- 10 p.m. $7.50. 2723 Fairmount/747-0479.
Temple Emanu-EI Significant Book Series. Mary Vernon of SMU discusses Gustave Flaubert’s Sentimental Education and J.K. Huysmans’ Against the Grain Apr 6 at 10:30 a.m. Series tickets $5. 8500 Hillcrest/368-3613.
Carl Sagan, Cornell University professor of astronomy and space sciences, speaks about Martian exploration, extraterrestrial lite, and the origin of life on Earth, at a Dallas Public Library luncheon Apr 8 at the Hilton Inn. Reservations $8.75; call 748-9071 ext. 355.
Dallas Public Library. Book collecting and care for rare and fine books, at the Central Library Apr 6-21 Wednesdays and Thursdays. 12:15-1:30 p.m. Fee $5. To preregister, call 748-9071 ext. 350.
Temple Shalom Arts Forum. William F. Buckley, Jr.. Apr 20 at 8 p.m. $12 tor series tickets. 6930 Alpha Rd/661-1810.
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Demonstration of techniques of oil painting by Paula Doty, 2-4 p.m. Apr 3. Apr 17. 2-4 p.m., techniques of gold-work, pottery, and textiles in the Wise Collection, by Jo Farb Hernandez. Lectures on Wednesdays: The Black Artist in America. Dr. Harry Robinson; El Dorado: Gold and the Wise Collection, John Luns-ford; Black American Artists, Paula Doty.
Rlchland College. Cosmosynthesis, in the Planetarium, Fri at 8 and 9:15 p.m., A History of ScienceFiction, Wed at 8 p.m. and Sun at 2. 3. & 4 p.m.Adults $1, children 50￠ 746-4494.
Book Fair, sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, with new and used books, first editions and rare volumes, At the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth, corner of Hulen and I-20, Apr 16-24. Mon-Thu 10-9. Fri 10-6. Sat 7-10 p.m., Sun 1-6.
Spring Tour of Homes, Mar 31 10 a.m. -7 p.m., features five North Dallas homes. Proceeds to benefit Girls’ Adventure Trails, a program unit of the YWCA. Tickets $3 50 advance, $4 at the door. 369-8869 or 388-1721.
Tour of Homes, two in the Preston Trails area and two in Northwood Hills. Sponsored by Northwood Woman’s Club. Apr 22 & 23. 10-4. Tickets $2.50 advance, $3 at the door. 233-2307 or 233-2682.
Turn-of-the-Century Homes Tour, showing fivehomes in Winnetka Heights in Oak Cliff Apr 3, 1-6p.m. In addition, an antique automobile show, afashion show from the era, live music, and a county store. Tickets $2.50 advance, $3 at the door.321-5897.
That master of the polysyllabic quip, William F. Buckley, Jr., will be firing lines at some of his favorite targets in the Temple Shalom Arts Forum on April 20. For details, see p. 56.