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For one of the few times during my friendship with Pennell, instead of heading out on another drunken adventure, I told him flat-out no, and to get the hell away from me and my house. I wasn’t going to ride with him any more. knew all too well. Variations on this same storyfriends and family members turning Pennell away from their doorsare told repeatedly, but beautifully and with varying degrees of guilt, in a recently released documentary about Pennell’s brilliant, but wasted, life called The King of Texas. The sad, funny, and solemnly shot documentary is the collaborative effort of Pennell’s brother, Chuck Pinnell, and Chuck’s sonEagle’s nephewRene Pinnell, along with Claire Huie. There’s also a dead-on appropriate soundtrack by Chuck Pinnell and Slaid Cleaves, who reworked some of his songs, like “Give Me One Good Year:’ that seem as though they were written for this project. Ironically, the youngest Pinnell, Rene, has few recollections of his late uncle, and only became interested in making the film after learning that Eagle, who changed the spelling of his last name after getting into films, had been somewhat renowned as an indie moviemaker, praised by the likes of Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby. “The main thing I remember about Eagle while I was growing up was at my fifth birthday party, and he brought this Frisbee, like the kind you get out of a cereal box or something;’ Rene said after a recent screening of the documentary at the Rice Media Center in Houston \(the film premiered in March at Austin’s South ing, ‘how lame:” But Renes early recollection is far from the last that most of Pennell’s friends, family, and colleagues remember of him. Almost to a person, each recalls the last time they had to send Eagle packing into the night. The most tender and touching of these testimonials comes from Eagle’s brother, Chuck. Pennell’s family had sent Eagle to alcohol rehabilitation centers numerous times. Each time, the family was optimistic the treatment would take. Unfortunately for Eagle and his family, including his distraught mother and father, the effects of rehab never lasted long. So when Eagle showed up drunk at Chuck’s house late one night in 2002, Chuck told Eagle that he’d had enough; he couldn’t help him any more. It was about two weeks later in Houston, on July 20, 2002, that Pennell finally accomplished what most of his friends think he knew he was doing all along. He finally drank himself to death. He died eight days short of his 50th birthday. Since Eagle’s death, Chuck Pinnell says, he’s been plagued by dreams of his dead brother. In the first one, shortly after Eagle’s burial in his hometown of College Station, Chuck says he dreamed that Eagle was in Chuck’s shower, trying to wash off the mortician’s makeup. Chuck tells Eagle that he is dead and that he can’t stay. At that point in the dream, Eagle begins to cry, pleading that he doesn’t want to be dead. Despite his demons, Pennell had real talent, both as a director and as a man who could rally his troops for one more fight, one more journey just for the pleasure of the telling, one more chance to grab the magic of making something truly Texan. “People who aren’t true Texans create cardboard characters, and you get Hollywood doing Hud or Giant,” says Lin Sutherland, a writer and the producer of Pennell’s The Whole Shootin’ Match. “They’re great movies, but they’re not really about Texas. And that was the real forte of Eagle. He had that insight.” The rough brilliance of that movie basically a Mutt-and-Jeff tale of two Austin ne’er-do-wellscaught the attention of movie newcomers and veterans alike. “[The Whole Shooting Match] was a big moment in my own film evolution,” says Austin filmmaker Richard Linklater, who says watching the characters in Pennell’s movie made him feel like “I know these people. It was way ahead of the curve. To this day, [Robert] Redford credits that film with waking him up [to the fact] that there is talent all over this country. And he wanted to do a film festival that would nurture that talent out there:’ That festival is now called Sundance. Texas author Bud Shrake adds that Pennell turned Austin’s dreamers on to the idea that actions could speak louder than words. “One thing Eagle did was to show everybody around here that you don’t just have to talk about it. You can actually do it:’ Shrake says. The Whole Shootin’ Match is actually Pennell’s second film, the first being a 30-minute short called A Helluva Note. Both feature Austinites Lou Perryman ADVERTISEMENT HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America Learn why YOU will NOT be selecting the next US President. This fascinating book exposes the truths about taxpayer swindling, election stealing, electronic voting machines, and offers solutions to save elections. HTTP://HACKEDELECTIONS.COM MAY 2, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29