‘Veronica Mars’ started as a YA novel set at Austin-area Westlake High School

 

A long time ago, “Veronica Mars” used to be set in Austin. But we haven’t thought about that lately at all. Until now.

Kristen Bell plays the title character in “Veronica Mars.” The film version of the ’90s television series opened in March, 2014. CREDIT: ROBERT VOETS

Fans of the the CW’s criminally short-lived teen detective series “Veronica Mars” are well aware that the show took place in the radically divided Neptune, Calif., a town where all that separated the elite socialites from the seedy criminals was a murky gray line of questionable morality.

But, as Entertainment Weekly has revealed, the show wasn’t always set in California. In fact, “Veronica Mars” wasn’t even originally imagined as a TV show. At first, it was going to be a Young Adult novel set right here in Austin at Westlake High School, and the titular character later became Veronica’s dad, Keith.

First things first: If you haven’t already seen “Veronica Mars,” you’re missing out. The plot centered around Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a high school student who moonlighted as a private eye for her father Keith. Keith was a former sheriff who opened up his own detective agency when he failed to get re-elected after he accused a Neptune socialite of murdering his own daughter (and Veronica’s best friend).

Related: This year’s ATX Television Festival is scheduled for June. Here’s what’s scheduled so far.

“Veronica Mars” was full of noir, camp, crime, quippy teens and lots of high school mysteries to solve. It also went to some pretty dark places in its examinations of class, race, wealth, sex and morality. The show was cancelled after three seasons, but a crowd-funded film was released in 2014 after a fourth season pilot was ordered by a network but never aired. Since the film’s release, series creator Rob Thomas has partnered with Austin author Jennifer Graham to write two books continuing the story of the plucky sleuth.

Rob Thomas on the red carpet for the movie Veronica Mars in Austin, Texas on March 7, 2014. (Thao Nguyen/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Anyway, Thomas originally intended for the story to be told as a young adult novel. He started a draft, “Untitled Teen Detective,” in 1996. That draft was shared with Entertainment Weekly this week for its “Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories” issue.

From the archives: Fresh from filming ‘Veronica Mars,’ Rob Thomas returns triumphant

Thomas set “Untitled Teen Detective” in Austin. His story revolved around Keith Mars, teenage detective. Keith became a detective after his father quit a promising career with the Austin Police Department to open up a private investigation agency. Like in the TV show, there is no mother figure in the picture. Also like in the show, the titular young detective starts out by catching the parents of his wealthy Westlake High School classmates in after-hours trysts at seedy motels.

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Another Texas twist: Keith pines for a popular girl who’s said to be dating a University of Texas football player.

But perhaps the biggest Austin element to the “Veronica Mars”-that-almost-was is a still-unsolved mystery that’s only hinted at. In the original draft, Keith discovers that the reason his dad left the police force is because he knowingly sent the wrong men to Death Row for involvement in Austin’s “Chocolate Shop Murders case,” a name which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life, still-unsolved Austin yogurt shop murders from 1991.

Years later, when Thomas took ideas from the draft into a spec script he sold to UPN (now The CW), Keith Mars became the disgraced law enforcement father figure, the main character became Veronica, and the main plot centered on a different kid of murder.

All of the Texas setting came natural to Thomas. He grew up in Texas, graduating from San Marcos High school in 1983. His father was a vice-principal at Westlake until the early 1990s, and Thomas attended Texas Christian University on a football scholarship before transferring to UT and graduating in 1987. Thomas was working as a high school teacher at John H. Reagan High School in Austin when he wrote the first draft of “Untitled Teen Detective,” and many characters in “Veronica Mars” were named for Austinites he met or musicians he played with. The music of several Austin bands also played in the show.

From the archives: ‘Veronica Mars’ film has many Austin music moments

Alas, the Texas version of “Veronica Mars” is not the version that made it to the small screen. Maybe someday, if Netflix reboots the series (one can only hope) a mystery might take Veronica all the way to Austin.

Richard Linklater on that time he got fired from an Austin hotel, and other words of wisdom about money

 

“Every single commodity you produce is a piece of your own death!” — Hitchhiker, “Slacker”

“Didja ever look at a dollar bill, man? There’s some spooky s*** goin’ on there.” — Slater, “Dazed and Confused”

The films of acclaimed director and Austin resident Richard Linklater don’t explicitly deal with money, but the characters in Linklater’s films often ruminate on philosophic ideas about money, capitalism, life, love, time and everything in between.

Austin Film Society Founder and Artistic Director Richard Linklater poses on the red carpet for the Texas Film Awards at Austin Studios where he later presented Shirley MacLaine with the lifetime achievement award. (Suzanne Cordeiro/American-Statesman)

Those philosophic ideas about money (such as the quotes above) stem from Linklater’sown experiences. Linklater shared those experiences in a 2016 guest blog post for WealthSimple, an investment website. In the year-old essay, Linklater writes about his relationship with money, and why he was glad he got fired from a job at La Mansion in Austin (now the Doubletree Hotel off I-35 North).

More: Richard Linklater adaptation of ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ starring Cate Blanchett to start filming July 2017

The story goes like this:

When he was 27 years old, Linklater was working as a night bellhop at La Mansion. One night, he went to go pick up a customer at the airport and bragged about how his hotel job basically allowed him to read and write and he guessed that during a regular 8-hour shift, he only did about an hour to 90 minutes of actual work.

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Turns out, the guest Linklater picked up was the assistant regional manager for the hotel chain, and Linklater found a pink slip at the desk when he showed up to work 10 days later.

Related: Shirley MacLaine walks the Texas Film Awards red carpet with Richard Linklater

But, he said that experience allowed him to travel to New York and hone his screenwriting skills for a summer. Then, his filmmaking career started to take off.

“That Doubletree Hotel isn’t far from my daughter’s school, and we drive past it all the time. I’ve pointed it out to her: ‘See that place? That’s the last real job your dad ever had, the last honest buck I ever made!'” Linklater wrote in the blog post.

Linklater also dropped some pearls of wisdom about money, including these quotes that wouldn’t sound out of place in one of his films:

  • “The best advice I ever got about money was from a doctor I met a long time ago. He had plenty of money, and he told me, ‘Invest in yourself.'”
  • “Ultimately, for me, money is a bad motivator. I’m so blessed because I’ve never really done stuff for money. I just try to make the films I want to make and tell the stories I care most about. Once you really don’t give a f*** about money, it comes scratching at your door.”
  • “When you grow up pretty poor, you see money as the thing that will solve all of your problems.”
  • “Once you have a reasonable level of comfort—you’ve got a roof over your head, you can pay your bills, your utilities aren’t being shut off, you can fix your car—having more money doesn’t really increase your happiness.”

Read Linklater’s full blog post here.

Austin’s Oilcan Harry’s will host official “RuPaul’s Drag Race” viewing parties

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” returns for its ninth season on Friday, and Warehouse District nightclub Oilcan Harry’s has been chosen by VH1 to help celebrate this fashionable occasion.

Premiere viewing parties on March 24 and March 31 will give you the chance to win some “Drag Race” swag and enjoy the adventures of the queens competing for the ultimate crown. The free fun begins at 7 p.m. March 24; 18 and older are welcome.

The first episode features a guest appearance from Lady Gaga.

Throughout the season, Oilcan Harry’s will host trivia contests during each Friday night episode, followed by performances by local female impersonators. And the nightclub will be bringing in Season 9 contestants throughout the spring as special guest performers at the weekly Super Sunday Show at 11 p.m. and midnight.

Season 8 of “Drag Race,” you may recall, featured Austin’s own Cynthia Lee Fontaine.

SXSW 2017: Turns out Fred Armisen loves Mighty Cone just as much as you do

In today’s edition of “Celebrities: They’re just like us!” I present to you Fred Armisen eating Mighty Cone at a surf park in the middle of downtown Austin, which is a sentence I could only type if it was South by Southwest — oh hey, turns out it is.

NEW YORK, NY – MAY 31: Actor Fred Armisen attends The 74th Annual Peabody Awards Ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street on May 31, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Peabody Awards)

Anyway, the “Portlandia” star and “Saturday Night Live” veteran was spotted chatting with folks at the Animal Kingdom installation on Fourth Street and Congress Avenue on Sunday while enjoying fare from one of Austin’s most beloved food trucks, Mighty Cone.

RELATED: Surf’s up and the stars are at out at TNT’s ‘Animal Kingdom’ pop-up beach

Fred Armisen eats Mighty Cone at the Animal Kingdom installation on March 12, 2017. Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman

It’s hard to tell what he’s eating, but it looks like it could be french fries. Solid choice, but has nobody told Fred how good the hot and crunchy cones are? I mean, you’ve got chicken, you’ve got avocado, you’ve got mango-jalapeno slaw, you’ve got ancho sauce … if anybody sees Fred, advise him to go with the cone next time.

Fred Armisen eats Mighty Cone at the Animal Kingdom installation on March 12, 2017. Alyssa Vidales/American-Statesman

 

Seven Chuck Norris facts that are true (really) for his 77th birthday

Chuck Norris accepts an award from Mayor Will Wynn in front of City Hall in 2007, where the mayor presented him with an Honorary Austin Citizen Award and declared Friday, September 22 as Chuck Norris Day. Photo by Kelly West / American-Statesman

On this day in 1940, Carlos Ray Norris was born into a world that did not yet have M&Ms or Cheerios or color television. In fact, it would be another decade before that world would see an Uzi submachine gun*.

And just in case your brain is quicker with “The Octagon” quotes** than math, I’ll help you out: Chuck Norris is 77 years old today.

That’s right. He’s within a half-decade of Woody Allen. Though his body count is probably a good deal higher.***

Chuck Norris stars as ‘Booker’ in ‘The Expendables 2.’ Photo by Frank Masi

In those 77 years, Norris has been: an unathletic and introverted child, an Air Force air policeman, a martial arts student, a martial arts instructor, a martial arts competitor, a martial arts champion, a bad-movie actor, a legitimate film opponent for Bruce Lee, a movie star, a product pitchman, a television star, a Christian author, a philanthropist, an outspoken Republican and … of course … an Internet meme.****

But don’t worry. I’m going to skip the worn-out Chuck Norris Facts cliché***** (what is this? 2005?) and celebrate Mr. Norris’ 77th birthday with these seven Chuck Norris … uh … true things:

1. Though he lives on a sprawling ranch near College Station, Chuck Norris is only a naturalized Texan. He was born in Oklahoma and raised there and in Kansas and California. However,  his tricked-out website points out he did acquire his nickname “Chuck” during Air Force basic training in San Antonio. And in 2010, Norris was named an honorary Texas Ranger by then-Gov. Rick Perry.

2. Chuck Norris is not an unstoppable force — at least early on. On his website, he tells the story of visiting the Helio Gracie School of Ju-Jitsu in Brazil. When the elderly instructor told Norris to punch him in the face, he argued before meekly starting to comply … “and that’s the last thing I remember,” he writes. “Respect your elders,” he says. “Or they’ll choke you out.”

3. Chuck Norris has his own brand of water: CForce. Its website boasts “CFORCE doesn’t flow from the ground; it bursts from an artesian spring with the same unharnessed power and intensity you’d expect from Chuck Norris’ roundhouse kick.” The water comes from a well discovered on Norris’ ranch.

4. Chuck Norris’ store on his website is as colorful as you’d expect. Among the items available are a 2-foot-by-3-foot “Ethics” poster and a $6 license plate frame that reads “Fact: Chuck Norris doesn’t race cars. Cars race Chuck Norris.” It also points out that any item can be autographed for $100 extra — though the extra money goes to Norris’ Kickstart Kids charity.

In 2008, Chuck Norris was an outspoken supporter of presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Photo by Alex Brandon / Associated Press

5. Chuck Norris, who warned in a 2012 Youtube video that our country “may be lost forever” if President Obama was re-elected, used his WorldNetDaily.com column to fuel the conspiracy fires regarding the 2015 Jade Helm 15 operation. Later that month, he backed down a little.

6. Here’s one from IMDB.com: His voice and drama coach was Jonathan Harris, of Lost in Space (1965) fame. Harris “taught him how to speak,” by putting his fingers in Norris’s mouth, and stretching the mouth wide open. Chuck names Jonathan as the only man in the world who could get away with doing that to him… which Harris was always proud of.

7. The first Westerner to ever be awarded the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master in Tae Kwon Do, Chuck Norris is known for his own martial art: Chun Kuk Do. Among his famous students are Donny and Marie Osmond, Steve McQueen and Bob Barker.

* Sorry, “Invasion U.S.A” fans, Chuck Norris was not born with an Uzi in each hand.
** “Oh my God, Ninjaaaaaa …. it has to be … but they don’t exist anymore …”
*** This website has his kill count at 458, right between Jean Claude Van Damme and Nicolas Cage
**** Chuck Norris can hit you so hard that he can actually alter your DNA. Decades from now your descendants will occasionally clutch their heads and yell “What the hell was that?”
****** Chuck Norris can pick oranges from an apple tree and make the best lemonade you’ve ever tasted. Chuck Norris’ blood type is AK-47. The best part of waking up is not Folgers in your cup, but knowing that Chuck Norris didn’t kill you in your sleep.

Luke Wilson wants you to wear shirts from this Austin clothing company

Actor Luke Wilson is now a brand ambassador for Austin clothing company Criquet.
Actor Luke Wilson is now a brand ambassador for Austin clothing company Criquet.

Austin-based Criquet – purveyors of retro-cool clothing for men – have linked up with some stylish star power.

The golf lifestyle brand announced it has partnered with actor Luke Wilson, a native of Dallas known for such films as “Idiocracy,” “Old School” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Wilson will act as a brand ambassador and minority owner with the official title of “Assistant Pro.”

“I have always been a huge fan of Criquet Shirts’ vintage, classic look and I really love the 19th hole spirit behind the brand,” Wilson said in a news release. “They have managed to capture the laid-back vibe that is unique to Austin and created a product that I can take from the golf course to the set. I am pumped to be part of team and look forward to contributing to their story.”

RELATED: Criquet clothing founders mine classic cool for modern look

Why does Matthew McConaughey live in Austin? The answer is simple

Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves attend a party at the Highball before the Austin premiere of McConaughey's movie "Gold" on Jan. 12, 2017. Contributed by Rick Kern
Matthew McConaughey and Camila Alves attend a party at the Highball before the Austin premiere of McConaughey’s movie “Gold” on Jan. 12, 2017. Contributed by Rick Kern

Sure, the Uvalde-born Matthew McConaughey is a Texan’s Texan with an obvious affinity for the Lone Star State …

EXHIBIT A: Yes, that's Matthew McConaughey back there cheering on a Longhorn touchdown during an October 1999 game. Photo by Sung Park / American-Statesman
EXHIBIT A: Yes, that’s Matthew McConaughey back there cheering on a Longhorn touchdown during an October 1999 game. Photo by Sung Park / American-Statesman

… but the Hollywood superstar could live anywhere he wants — and afford to bring plenty of Texas with him — why does he live in Austin?

The answer is simple: Family. In an interview with ABC News film and TV critic Peter Travers, McConaughey said “my mother is there, the rest of my family is there, part of the reason for going back there was having kids.”

McConaughey has lived here in Austin with his wife, Camila Alves, and their three children. His mom, Kay, lives in the Sun City retirement community near Georgetown.

Last week, McConaughey appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” to promote his new film, “Gold” — wearing, fittingly, a shirt emblazoned with Texas yellow roses …

RELATED: Photos of Matthew McConaughey through the years

Hear Kacey Musgraves sing a song about moonshine from ‘Live By Night’

Texas country star and ACL queen Kacey Musgraves teamed up with Irish folk singer Foy Vance for an original song that will be featured on the soundtrack to Ben Affleck’s Prohibition-era gangster film “Live By Night,” in theaters today.

Kacey Musgraves performs on the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 2. 10/02/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kacey Musgraves performs on the opening weekend of the 2016 Austin City Limits Festival at Zilker Park Oct. 2. 10/02/16 Tom McCarthy Jr. for AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The song’s subject? Whiskey, of course.

More: Affleck wears too many hats in ‘Live By Night’

“Moonshine” mostly showcases Vance’s vocals until the chorus, when Musgraves starts harmonizing. The folksy ode to the illicit drink pushes the two voices to the forefront, backed by a foot-stomping beat and some guitar and fiddle. It sounds exactly what you would think a song about moonshine would sound like, sans banjo.

“I got a really fun, Southern vibe from it, and i thought that it would be kind of a fun challenge for me to figure out how to mix in my own flavor and my own bits of harmony within the song,” Musgraves said in a behind-the-scenes video about the making of the song.

More: A beginner’s guide to Willie Nelson and Kacey Musgraves’ friendship

“Moonshine” is the only original, non-score song to be featured on the original soundtrack album, and Vance has already started playing the song on late-night shows.

Listen to the song below.

Travis Tritt clarifies remarks about Beyoncé’s CMA performance

Earlier this month Beyoncé performed “Daddy Lessons” on stage at the 50th Annual Country Music Association Awards with the Dixie Chicks. The performance was lauded by many cultural critics, hated by many country music fans and left many scratching their heads.

Multi-platinum country singer, songwriter, performer and musician Travis Tritt in 2004. (PRNewsFoto)

One of those left scratching their heads was country artist Travis Tritt, who took to Twitter the day after the awards ceremony to express his views.

After that tweet, he claimed in a reply that “Nobody in [country music] has done more to bridge racial gaps than me.”

After the late-night tweetstorm, he woke up to several people on the social media site labeling him a racist.

In an interview with Nash Country Daily, published last Thursday, Tritt doubled down on his opinions and clarified that his aversion to Beyoncé’s performance had nothing to do with race.

Read more: The good, the bad and the ugly of the CMAs

It wasn’t so much about just Beyoncé,” he said. “This is a complaint that I’ve heard for a long time, actually for decades. Back in the ’90s, it was Elton John or Sting or whoever. Every year the CMA television producers feel a need to bring in acts from other genres, and it’s always done to boost ratings. I understand the concept behind that but at the same time I’ve always found it a little bit insulting— from the standpoint of being a country music artist—because this is a format that I’ve been a part of since the very beginning in my career. It’s a format that I have seen grow a tremendous amount in the 27 years that I’ve been doing this.”

He went on to say that other member of the “Class of ’89” were able to sell records and sell out concert arenas without help from outside sources, which is what he feels the Beyoncé addition to the CMA lineup was.

“As part of the Class of ’89—Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Clint Black and myself—we saw country music album sales increase by millions over what they had ever been before. We saw an ability by all country music artists to put more fannies in concert seats than we’d ever seen before. We sold a ton of product, drew in millions and millions of fans that had never listened to country music before. I think during that period of time we’ve certainly become strong enough to stand on our own two feet without the help from outside sources. I’ve been complaining about this for years, and it’s funny to me that it took complaining about this year’s performance, before anybody paid any attention to it.”

“It’s very strange to me. I’ve had open discussions about this on social media for the last 10 days and the fact is that while there are a lot of people that try to twist this into being something different than what it is—being motivated by something different than what it’s motivated by—the fact is that this is something that I’ve been very vocal about for a long time. Race has nothing to do with it. That’s what I’ve tried to make clear from the very beginning. We should be better than that. To make everything about race—to me—it makes me sad to be honest.”

He goes on to say that his tweets were taken out of context by people who picked the story up from Twitter, and that he simply thought it made no sense to have a pop artist on a country show, no matter who it was.

“First of all, they said that I trashed Beyoncé, which I never did. I never made a statement saying anything bad about her personally. All I said was that her performance—in my humble opinion—her performance as well as any of the other performances that have been on from the pop world, including Ariana Grande, Meghan Trainor, Justin Timberlake or whoever, do not belong. I don’t think they belong on any country music show. Especially on a country music show that was a 50-year celebration—an anniversary of what was supposed to be the entire 50-year history of country music awards—the CMA Awards show. The other thing that frustrated me was the fact, and it has frustrated me for years, is the fact that for every pop performance or R&B performance or any other type of genre performance that you have on the CMA Awards, that takes time away from somebody who is a country music artist, doing country music songs, releasing country music singles to radio, selling country music under that moniker to people all across the country and across the world. That’s taking time away from them. There are other artists that could have been just as much of a draw and that really should have been involved in that slot to celebrate the music that they have helped to create.

“So many great country music artists that you can name that weren’t part of it because there is only so much time—I get that, I understand that and everybody else does too. But when you take a portion of that precious time and give it to an artist outside of our industry, it makes no sense. It makes about as much sense to me as it would make sense to bring Eminem in on the Dove Awards. But you wouldn’t do that because it doesn’t fit the format. That’s my humble opinion.”

Tritt’s new album, “A Man and His Guitar,” is an acoustic live album, and it’s on sale now.

Adele spent Halloween in Texas dressed as Jim Carrey from ‘The Mask’

Move over, Heidi Klum. Adele is the new queen of Halloween.

FILE - This Feb. 24, 2016 file photo shows Adele onstage at the Brit Awards 2016 at the 02 Arena in London. Adele opened up to Vanity Fair about parenting and her struggle with postpartum depression in an issue for the magazine's December 2016 issue. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP, File)
FILE – This Feb. 24, 2016 file photo shows Adele onstage at the Brit Awards 2016 at the 02 Arena in London. Adele opened up to Vanity Fair about parenting and her struggle with postpartum depression in an issue for the magazine’s December 2016 issue. (Photo by Joel Ryan/Invision/AP, File)

The British soul phenom, who comes to Austin this weekend for a two-night Frank Erwin Center engagement, has been lighting up Dallas for a similar series of gigs just up the highway. According to Guide Live, Adele arrived in the Big D a little early and spent Halloween in Highland Park. Would you like to guess what she dressed up as? I don’t care what your guess is. It’s wrong.

READ MORE: Adele gives Austin one more thing to cry about

Adele went out into the spooky night as The Mask. Yes, the Jim Carrey character.

View this post on Instagram

Halloween 2016 / Dallas, TX

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The “Hello” hitmaker camouflaged herself in a full character illusion: trench coat, hat and facial prosthetics, according to pictures posted to her Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Halloween 2016 / Dallas, TX

A post shared by Adele (@adele) on

Unfortunately, the photos are in black and white, so it’s impossible to really see that neon green pop. But I’d like to point out that Adele’s makeup bears a slight resemblance to “RuPaul’s Drag Race” winner Sharon Needles.

But what’s this? Jim Carrey himself responded to the homage on Twitter? It’s true! And also offensively rooted in stereotypes about British dental hygiene!

Not that you shouldn’t have already been excited for Adele’s Austin shows this weekend, but this might take your interest from piqued to positively smokin’. Remember: No matter what happens, it can’t go worse than her 2007 South by Southwest debut.