TAMI Flashback: The Roy Faires Collection
Today's Austinites may not be familiar with Roy Faires. But in the Seventies and Eighties, he was a fixture of local TV news and a household name in the River City.
The University of Texas graduate worked at Austin's PBS affiliate, KLRU-TV, from 1971 to 1976 as a news anchor, reporter and producer, and hosted the Who Knows the Answer? weekly quiz show for high-school students.
Faires then joined Austin's ABC affiliate, KVUE-TV, where he wore many hats and won many awards. In his 13 years at the station (1976-1989), he was a news reporter, anchor, director, editor and producer, as well as an entertainment reporter and film critic for the Good Morning Austin morning show. He also worked on the weekly Crime Stoppers segments, which helped solve local crimes, and Wednesday's Child segments, which helped find adoptive parents for children in foster care.
The TAMI library's Roy Faires Collection is an eclectic sampling of Faires' vast body of work, with dozens of news and entertainment stories featuring Faires in front of or behind the camera. In true TAMI form, the videos were ordinary TV broadcasts in their day -- but decades later, they're terrific historical documents. (Among other things, they document a dark period in fashion and hairstyles.)
Most of the videos are film reviews and celebrity interviews, some tied to iconic films of the era (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! and The Princess Bride) and some tied to less iconic films. (Anyone remember Let's Get Harry or Moon Over Parador? Anyone?) Many of these videos are little more than promotional pieces for the films, but film history buffs no doubt will find them interesting.
Of particular interest to Texas film fans is Interview with William D. Wittliff, a 1981 interview in which KVUE reporter Malian Holloway sits down with the revered Texas screenwriter to discuss his new film Raggedy Man, starring his fellow Texan Sissy Spacek and shot in Seguin and Maxwell. They also discuss Wittliff's past career and upcoming projects, and whether Texas could become the film industry's third coast. Wittliff says he's optimistic that it could happen, but hopes the focus will be on making high-quality independent films rather than becoming another Hollywood. (At the time, Texas' now-vibrant indie film scene was still a glimmer in the eyes of local filmmakers.)
If film fans will like Faires' entertainment stories, Austinites will love his news stories. They may be routine pieces about city council meetings, utility rates, road construction and crime, but they capture the rhythms of daily life in Austin at the time. One such video is 24 Action News Reports, a 1978 collection of news clips featuring Faires' reporting and anchoring. Some of the footage is of poor quality, and the abrupt editing no doubt deletes some great material. But the stories -- both local (a project by Burnet Middle School students, a settlement between the City of Austin and its gas supplier) and national (Jimmy Carter's decision to delay the neutron bomb) -- are wonderful looks back at the Seventies.
A similar but far better quality video is 24 Action News Segments. Featuring local stories from 1983 by reporters Jim McNabb and Dick Ellis, the video shows us that while Austin is a far different city now, the daily news hasn't changed much in 30 years. We see stories about utility rate hikes, rampant bicycle thefts, bond elections (to expand Brackenridge Hospital and widen two-lane Jollyville Road), the Texas Legislature, the soaring cost of local government, and the perennial problem of what to do with Austin's ever-growing piles of trash.
A final video I must mention is Crime Stoppers Commercials and Updates, if only because it opens with a commercial in which Ernest P. Worrell (rest in peace, Jim Varney) implores his friend Vern to watch the KVUE newscast. (Sometimes I dearly miss the Eighties -- but not often.) The video also includes ridiculously sensational promos for Crime Stoppers and other crime-related special reports; in 1983, apparently a lot of Austinites were being robbed at gunpoint in their own homes. Along with the commercials are less dramatic news stories about less dramatic actual crimes -- drug dealing, hit-and-run accidents, forgeries and the like. Again, some things change in Austin, and some do not. As Mr. Worrell said, watch the local news to stay informed -- and be careful out there.