Remembering Ann Richards

The flags in Austin have been at half-mast since former Texas Governor Ann Richards died last week. Dozens — no, probably hundreds of people have been writing and telling stories about their experiences with Richards and what she meant to them, politically and personally.
Richards was also part of the Austin (and Texas) film community, as other people have noted:

  • Matt Dentler remembers her from SXSW premieres and her years emceeing the Texas Film Hall of Fame awards.
  • Quint of Ain’t It Cool News remembers seeing Richards at a number of local film events.
  • Austin Movie Blog shares quotes from local film-related personalities.

The only time I ever came close to meeting the former Texas governor was at a film premiere. Austin Film Festival held a gala screening of the recut/remixed Blood Simple at the Paramount in 1998, with reserved tickets. I had a seat up in the balcony near some friends. We waited in line for what seemed like forever, outside the theater in the heat (even in October) until the Paramount ushers finally released the doors.

The lobby was a mob scene. I tried to squeeze past crowds of people to get to the right-hand set of stairs leading to the balcony. Just as I reached the stairs, I saw Ann Richards chatting with a couple of grungy-looking guys. I’m often shy about introducing myself to well-known strangers, but I was tempted to wave or say hi or something. However, the grungy guys had her monopolized. One of them was blocking the stairs, too. Dressed in black. Probably some damn New Yorker.
I smiled at Ms. Richards and said “Excuse me” to the guy blocking the stairs, but he paid no attention whatsover. A second “Excuse me” in a louder, firmer voice did nothing. The crowds were starting to build behind me, so I essentially shoved the guy out of the way and started walking up the steps. I don’t know if he even noticed, but I heard Ms. Richards say to him as I ascended the stairs, “And how is your lovely wife Frances?” I was nearly to the top of the stairs before the penny dropped in the slot and I realized I’d just shoved Joel Coen — the grungy guys were the writer/directors of Blood Simple.
A few weeks ago, I participated in a taping of an episode of SXSW Presents, a local show that highlights documentaries and features from SXSW that haven’t received wide distribution. The documentary that a panel of us were watching and commenting on was Barbecue: A Texas Love Story, which was narrated by Richards. The director, Chris Elley, was sitting next to me in the Alamo Drafthouse theater, and Matt Dentler asked him how he’d managed to get Richards to narrate. Elley said that he’d been very lucky — he’d managed to sit next to Richards at a SXSW screening, introduced himself, and asked her if she’d narrate his documentary about barbecue around the state. She agreed, right then and there. I don’t know when the SXSW Presents episode is scheduled to air on KLRU (you know I’ll tell you when I find out), but watching it will be a much different experience now that Richards is no longer with us.
And then there’s the other Alamo experience involving Richards, one that a lot more people share. Alamo Drafthouse has created a number of entertaining house ads to warn people to be quiet during the movies. (They do in fact throw people out — I’ve seen them do it.) Over the years, the ads have included well-known film personalities like George A. Romero, Peter Bogdanovich, and R. Lee Ermey. One of my favorites was the following ad with Ann Richards, which someone kindly posted to YouTube this week:

4 thoughts on “Remembering Ann Richards”

  1. I got the link to the video from my husband, who now tells me he found it in this Burnt Orange Report entry. My guess is that the Austinist writer probably found the video via BOR too. The video wasn’t online right after Richards died, because I looked for it then; it must have been posted very recently.

  2. I told my dad (who had his 90th birthday party this past Saturday) that Ann tried to upstage him by dying. But living is better, I think. My best Ann Richards story? Well, we knew her but we got to know her daughter Ellen a little better. One day in the Central Market parking lot we saw Ellen and Ann. We were walking along and some other people saw them, too, and were all ga-ga there’s Ann. Forrest turned toward them as they were getting in their car and said, “Hey, Ellen! How are you?” She waved and said “I’m fine” and Ann looked nonplussed. The other people were just floored. And I learned a lesson. It is way cooler to address the famous someone’s companion in a situation like this. Ann was OK if a little strident at times. She was so caught up in the feminist and ‘little people’ issue that she once refused to give FFP business because he was a ‘have’ as in not ‘have not.’ Which was totally BS at the time. Hell, SHE had a silver spoon (or foot) compared to him starting out. But he was white and male. So, yeah, whatever. I loved that she did that Alamo thing. And she was a force, no doubt. RIP.

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