Welcome to the great state of Texas, and its state of mind. There’s room for everybody and always will be.
In the film that most defines the shaping of Texas, upon her arrival from the East Coast, Elizabeth Taylor’s Leslie Benedict asks, “Tell me as soon as we’re in Texas.”. To which Rock Hudson’s Jordon Bick Benedict replies, “Well, that’s Texas you been looking at. For the last eight hours.”
A – ART SCENEFrom Marfa to the museums across the state including the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston, the Nasher Sculpture Museum in Dallas, the Kimball Modern in Fort Worth to the hallowed halls of the San Antonio Museum of Art in San Antonio and the Blanton Museum in Austin, they are a wonderful example of how we Texans support the visual arts.
B – BBQThe best BBQ in Texas? Those might be fightin’ words to some. It’s a way of life in the South, yet Texas has its own unique spin on the savory favorite. From Franklin’s in Austin, to Pecan Lodge in Dallas, The Granary in San Antonio to Triple J’s in Houston… and all the regional joints in Lockhart, Taylor and beyond, the sauce remains king.
C – CINEMAWe have declared Giant the quintessential State Film of Texas and it certainly leads the way of how much revenue film and TV production means to the state. From filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Richard Linklater to Terence Malick’s much anticipated Weightless this spring and the AMC miniseries being shot here, The Son, if there’s a story to tell, there’s a talented Texan to tell it.
Bick Benedict: You all think that the glory happened here in the East, don’t you, with Valley Forge and Bunker Hill? Do you know about San Jacinto? Have you heard about the Alamo?
D – DALLAS, THE TV SHOWIt immortalized the Texas family unit of four generations with one goal: building an empire that’s knee deep in oil and money. The fantasy depiction turned out to be not only a ratings winner and cultural phenomenon, but also just look around you to see that complex family dynamic alive and kicking today.
E – ESTATES ACROSS TEXASWe like ‘em big and grand and able to house collections of just about everything from museum-quality jade collection to art that could be in the Tate London. They define who we are, how hard we work (or inherit)…and our own vastly differing personal tastes from French chateau to post Modern masterpieces.
F – FIESTAShe looks amazing for 126. Honoring the heroes of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto since 189 Fiesta in San Antonio has been serving up a richness of pageantry as the Party With A Purpose. Over 100-plus groups annually benefit from the 3.5 million partygoers and we love that combination of fun and philanthropy.
G – GONE TEXANNewcomers are moving here by the trainload every day to seek their fortune and creative dreams. Artists, entrepreneurs and intellectuals are making strides in film, art, fashion, startups, and plenty of ambitious endeavors that are making Texas a global center of innovation.
H – HARRY RANSOM CENTERThe Ransom Center’s archives include treasures like an original Gutenberg Bible, and the papers of luminaries from David O. Selznick to David Foster Wallace. Both a museum and an academic resource, the center pays tribute to the incredible talent that comes from, and makes history in the great state of Texas.
I – INDUSTRIOUSFrom the extraordinarily ambitious Howard Hughes to a current host of Texas tycoons, our state’s ingenious industrialists have made the Lone Star State’s economy reach among the top ten largest in the world, and it’s still growing.
J – THE JOHNSON FAMILYThe first Texans in the White House, LBJ and Lady Bird made a big global impact, including the Civil Rights Act. Their Texas-sized achievements are commemorated across the nation, recently in the hit All The Way on Broadway and HBO, with another look at his presidency, The Great Society, premiering at ZACH Theatre in Austin this year.
K – KING RANCHThe larger-than-life ranch at 825,00 acres strong, indeed the largest in Texas, symbolizes of the ambition and grit of the men and women who built one of the first Texas dynasties. In fact, after founder Richard King’s passing, Mrs. Henrietta “La Reina” King took the reins and nearly doubled the ranch’s size and holdings.
L – LOOKING LOVELYSome of the most beautiful humans come from Texas. Maybe it’s the humidity. But pride of presence is a commodity where colors are vivid, diamonds sparkle brighter and the human spirit seems to soar here, more than anywhere with the prettiest people per square inch. Like, our fan favorite, Gonzales-born former supermodel Jerry Hall.
M – MARGARITABest served very icy and abundantly lime-filled, the Margarita is the official drink of Texas and our neighbors to the south. If it’s a hot enough day, any margarita is magical, yet in Houston we love Ninfa’s, in Dallas we’re partial to Mi Cucina, in San Antonio we sip at Soluna and in Austin nothing beats the Numero Uno margarita at Fonda San Miguel.
N – NASAHouston, you created a solution. For man’s desire to explore space and greater Universe beyond. We love that such mind expansion started here and we look forward to soon colonizing other terrains, don’t you?
O – ORIGINALSWe all know that Texas women are some of the strongest, hardiest and most dynamic on the planet. From their fundraising acumen to being the perfect mother, wife, hostess and all around cool chick, we have few favorite examples…
P – PLASTIC SURGERYThe fountain of youth runneth over. Beauty is as beauty exudes. Does she or doesn’t she? We find nothing wrong with keeping America, and Texas, beautiful, within means and since as much plastic surgery happens here than anywhere, it’s here to stay.
Q – QUESOThe creamy cheese concoction is the stuff of dreams, as is its green cousin, guacamole. In San Antonio, seek it at the Alamo Cafe, in Houston find it at Armandos. In Dallas, try the white cheesy dip at Taco Diner and dive into the Bob Armstrong seven-layer dip at El Rancho in Austin, all longtime traditions.
R – RETAILShopping is a sport in Texas and the power of the Texan spender is legendary. From back when Neiman Marcus welcomed new customers who just struck oil arriving in their stained overalls, to the legendary Sakowitz, Scarborough’s, Joske’s, Foley’s, Frost Bros. and Battlestein’s stores…they paved the way for the chic boutique owner of today.
S – SPORTSTexas has more championships under its belt than we can count, and plenty of powerhouse teams to keep them coming. Besides robust college teams, we’ve got the Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars, Rangers, Texans, Rockets, Astros, Spurs, and countless NCAA champs – and of course, the coaches and owners with outsized personalities of their own.
T – TWO STEPWhether you dance in your dandiest duds, or like to trip it in the dingiest dive, you’re never far from a dance floor where you can dance the Texas Two Step. From Billy Bob’s in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, to the Firehouse in Houston and Gruene Hall to Luckenbach and Austin’s Broken Spoke, we love to go for a twirl at our favorite western honky tonks.
U – UNEXPECTEDThink you’ve got Texas pinned? With a state so big, you’re bound to find surprises. Who’d have guessed we’re home to the world’s foremost piano competition, The Van Cliburn International – or that we shame the coastal states with our superlative ruby red grapefruits? And of course, countless world-changing trends make their grand entrance at SXSW each spring.
V – VINEYARDSAlmost a century before California vineyards were established, Spanish missionaries began producing Texas wines around the 1700s. German and Italian immigrants kicked off Texas’ major wine production, and continue the traditions in the Hill Country today. In fact, a tour of the Texas wine country, with myriad chateaus and fine dining along the way, is quite like having our own Napa Valley.
W – WESTERN WEARWhether you prefer country music classics like Tex Ritter and Bob Wills, or outlaw stars like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, we all love dapper dudes in western wear. Even the infamous sequined “Nudie Suits” that took the world by storm from California, gracing the shoulders of greats like Elvis and Gram Parsons… the tradition started here in Texas.
X – FASHION XNew York, London, Milan, Paris… make room for Austin, Dallas and Houston, too. The Fashion X Weeks feature the latest and greatest talents from Texas and around the world. Founded by Austinite Matt Swinney, the designer-driven runways are putting Texas on the map of global couture with all signs pointing to even more stylish things ahead.
Y – YELLOW ROSE OF TEXASThe Yellow Rose of Texas, among the greatest western love songs, hardly does justice to the way we feel about our beloved state. Not only do we sing the sweetest tunes, but also we grow the most fragrant florals too, which are on honored display at the annual Tyler Rose Festival.
Z – RENEE ZELLWEGGERThe All-American blonde has played a Brit in many movies but this Katy-born, UT-schooled star made her first onscreen appearance in Richard Linklater’s quintessential coming of age film Dazed & Confused, the perennial classic shot in Austin in the 90s, and she hasn’t stopped landing roles in big Hollywood hits.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is the essence of Texas as well as some fine examples that represent both the state and state of mind as we all start our fresh New Year together.
By Lance Avery Morgan and Jonathan Spindel
Additional Contributors: Tori Johnson, Ellie Leeper Morrison, Jennifer Roosth and Cynthia Smoot