Information for Historians, Researchers, Nostalgia Buffs, & Observer Fans Bound Volumes: The 1979 bound issues of The Texas Observer will be available in January. In maroon, washable binding, the price is $20. Also available at $20 each are volumes for the years 1963 through 1978. Cumulative Index: The clothbound cumulative edition of The Texas Observer Index covering the years 1954-1970 may be obtained for $12. Index Supplements: The 1971 through 1979 paperback supplements are provided at no additional charge to those who purchase the cumulative index at $12. Subscribers who do not want the cumulative index may purchase any of the supplements separately. The price is 75 cents for each year. Back Issues: Issues dated January 10, 1963, to the present are available at 75 cents per issue. Earlier issues are out of stock, but photocopies of articles from issues dated December 13, 1954, through December 27, 1962, will be provided at 75 cents per article. Microfilm: The complete backfile scription to the microfilm edition is $15. To order, or to obtain additional information regarding the 35mm microfilm editions, please write to Microfilming Corporation of America, 1620 Hawkins Avenue, Box 10, Sanford, N.C. 27330. server Business Office. Texas residents please add the 5% sales tax to your remittance. Materials will be sent postpaid. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 600 W. 7 ST. AUSTIN 78701 anger at the racism, corruption, and cynicism that oozed out of the statehouse was genuine, fueled by the same kind of discontent as Ronnie’s. Willie Morris I had known before I went to work for the Observer. I used to write a column for the Daily Texan when I was an undergraduate, and as I began to understand more about politics, these columns became rather irreverent. The Texan in those days had on its payroll a poor old newsman gone to seed who was advertised as a journalism prof, but in fact he was the paper’s censor. Before long I noticed that some of my best columns were not being published. I ran into Willie one dayhe had recently come back from England to take over as Observer editorand I mentioned to him what was happening. He chortled. Willie had had his own problems with the censor when he was editor of the Daily Texan. “I tell you what,” Willie said. “Whenever they censor you, send over your copy of whatever they cut out, and we’ll run it in the Observer, with a note that the Texan censored it.” I did, and he kept his promise, and it was good fun. Looking back on it, I suppose it was to the Texan’s credit that they let me keep writing at all. Willie, too, in his own way, was an angry young man. But it was not simply his political sensibilities that were tramin the Augean stables of Texas politics. It was his aesthetic sensibilities as well. It was not only that the public good was being violated, the public till plundered by the oil moguls, the race-baiters, the corn-pone con artists who worked for the Establishment. It was that they had no style. They were the Snopeses writ large \(or writ small, depending on how well-schooled in Faulkner as Willie, himself a Mississippian, there was not much that was worse. than a Snopes, especially in a pair of cowboy boots and a Stetson. The Yahoos of the Texas ruling class were more effectively exposed, in all of their pompous banality, by Willie’s finely-wrought satire in the Observer than at any time before or sinceat least until another itinerant satirist named Molly Ivins came on the scene almost a decade later. Two other Observer people whom I recall from that era were Bill Brammer and Larry Goodwyn. Bill had that rare ability to compliment your work and make you believe he really meant it. His novel, The Gay Place, had just been published, and he was being lionized. Indeed, he sometimes seemed to be smothering in adulation and, well, female flesh, of which there was an abundance around him most of the time. And booze. Unbeknownst to me, and perhaps to him, too, he was already settling into a life of dissipation from which he never emerged. Anyhow, the idea that “Billie Lee” Brammer \(the “famous arthur,” as he liked to refer to himself, in just such a way that people who didn’t know him were unsure whether he really knew how copy and actually finding good things to say about it had me walking on air. Everyone said that it was a tragedy that Bill ended up like he did, OD’ed on drugs, and it was. He had a great deal of talent that burned out too quickly. But there is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, and which in some ways compensates for the unhappy turn his life took. That sweetness, that ability to make people feel good about themselves and their efforts, that rare acceptance of people as they were, was a leavening in the Observer crowd, whose forte was not tolerance of human frailty. It stayed with him, I am told, all his life. Larry Goodwyn I hardly knew at all, though I’ve gotten to know him better since then. Larry and Willie were good friends. They liked to talk about writers and writing down at The Tavern on 12th Street. They had aspirations to be “writers” as opposed to “mere journalists.” They were good raconteurs. It dawned on me one day listening to them swap yarns that both of them had picked up a certain cadence of speech, a sophisticated flamboyance of story-telling style that must have come from long hours spent sitting at table with Bob Eckhardt, who was in ‘the Legislature during that period. I don’t know to this day if either of them is aware of it. Willie’s North Toward Home and Larry’s Democratic Promise both owe something, I suspect, to the Texas oral tradition as it was practiced under Bob’s tutelage on lazy Austin evenings at Scholz’s Beer Garten. Larry was the first person I ever heard refer to someone’s “bullshit detector.” This apparatus, which cannot be purchased either in a store or from a mailorder catalog, was acquired without fail during a stint on the Observer. And then there was Sarah. I worshiped the ground she walked on. I guess we all did. Sarah Payne was the business manager. She was in her 60s when I first met hera grandmotherly little whitehaired woman with freckles, who spoke in the accent and locutions of rural turn-of-the-century Texas. She was one of the loveliest and finest people I have ever known. She was from West Texas, as were my kin, and she reminded me of them \(and of my mother, too, whose name was also of good humor, a genuine liking for people, a joie de vivre. There was Bill Brammer’s same kind of sweetness in Sarah, but she was tougher than Bill. Ronnie once wrote that it helped him to know that if Sarah had thought he had sold outor even stopped doing things 62 DECEMBER 28, 1979
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