Having missed the previous annual DAZED AND CONFUSED celebrations, I had determined I was going to make it this year - even though it turned out to require forking out $25-plus for a ticket and driving a bit outside of town. DAZED AND CONFUSED, the 1993 Richard Linklater film that followed up his very-low-budget indie film surprise sleeper SLACKER has gained somewhat of a cult status.
This year's DAZED Reunion was held at Walter Long Park just northeast of Austin - where part of the movie itself was actually filmed ten years ago. I had never been to this park before and I must say it was a welcome surprise. The weather was fine (cooling down considerably by 7:30 p.m. or so) and the lakeshore was just beautiful to see in the distance while sitting, standing or strolling on green grasses.
The event started at 5 o'clock, but I purposely arrived somewhat later, opting for the cooler later hours. Folks who purchased tickets to the event were not apprised of the actual location and directions to the event until just a day or two before the Reunion. To be honest, if I had realized ahead of time that it was going to be held out of town and outdoors I might not have purchased a ticket, but they were nonrefundable and I really did want to go see what all the hoopla was about. And I'm glad I did!
I printed out the email with the directions to get there and crossed my fingers I wouldn't have any trouble finding the place. I knew where I-35 was (duh), and where 290 East was too, so I figured it would work out, since those were the first two turns on the journey. The next direction on the trip was more of a challenge. The directions said, "Go past Applied Materials." Huh? I have driven out 290 East at least two dozen times going out to Elgin, but I had no memory of EVER seeing Applied Materials. But it sounds like a familiar name, so I figured I'd find it one way or another. (Never did.) But no matter. The next, more important, direction was to "turn right onto Decker Lane."
There were a LOT of bikers on the road on my way there. I had heard there was a big Biker Rally on the same day, so I realized a lot of them were from out of town. Anyhow, I was surprised that so many of them flocked into the traffic going east on 290 when I was on my way to DAZED. "Hmm," I thought. "Must just be a coincidence." After going a little ways on 290 I got worried I would miss Decker Lane, having just noted a major intersection with traffic lights and all and NO SIGN. Could that have been Decker? I didn't know! So I pulled off the first time I spotted a convenience store. Bikers in the parking lot. More bikers in the store, lined up to buy stuff. I didn't want to buy anything so I didn't want to wait in line. I got the clerk's attention and asked, "Is Decker this way or that way?" pointing my arms in the directions both east and west. The clerk got a smug and reassuring look on his face and said, "It's still ahead. Just follow the bikers!"
Wow. Now this was going to be really easy, because like I said, there were a LOT of bikers on the road. So, I took the clerk's advice and I followed the bikers, and sure enough I was soon turning right on Decker Lane. "Wow," I thought, "I had no idea that that many bikers were DAZED AND CONFUSED fans. Pretty cool. I guess since they had their bike rally here in town today and found out it was on the SAME DAY as the DAZED AND CONFUSED Reunion they're taking advantage of the opportunity to drink beer outdoors, watch a screening of the Austin-made cult film and party down." But still, it kind of surprised and amazed me. I had no idea that so many bikers loved DAZED AND CONFUSED! "Well, that's pretty cool!" I thought.
I knew my next directions were going to be to take a left onto another Decker - this time Decker Lake Road - but no longer did I worry about losing my way. Bikers flanked me on all sides, and not long after my last turn I could see the traffic officer out on the highway directing bikers left and onto the fairgrounds. Easy. I parked almost as soon as I got through the gates so I could be near the exit when it got out. I get so claustrophobic at huge crowds when I feel I can't get out. This would give me a quick route of escape and a sense of freedom and air during the inevitable parking lot jam after the event. I saw a guy that looked like he was official standing near where I hoped to park. He had a soul patch and some piercings and was pretty cute. Anyhow, I asked if it was all right to park there and he said, "Sure." He wasn't wearing a uniform or anything and in fact ten minutes later I saw him driving away and realized he was not an official at all - just someone waiting for a friend.
Anyhow, I told him I didn't have a wristband yet (because I saw most of the bikers and a few cars going down the lane that said "wristbands only") and he pointed me to the big white building that was back and to the right of the parking lot. It had big red letters that said "Registration," so I pulled out my email receipt and sauntered on over there. When I went in the building, I saw more bikers. Wow. I never guessed it was going to be so many bikers! (No problem though, I always thought bikers were pretty cool. I don't think they deserve half the bad press they have gotten, at least a lot of them, and I love their attitudes of independent spirit and questioning authority and all.) I looked around and saw some signs but none of them said DAZED AND CONFUSED. Well, I was certainly beginning to feel dazed and confused - especially when I discovered that this was not the DAZED Reunion Party at all. It was . . . the BIKER RALLY...! And it cost $40, so I realized I was lucky I was going to a different gig, 'cause hey man, I'm on a budget donchano?
Heh. Well, turned out the left turn to go to the Reunion was just another 1/2 mile or so down the road and I finally did find my way. The entrance to the park was just past a Bait Shop that has that old-time Texas look and feel I just love.
A band was playing tunes appropriate for the time period that DAZED AND CONFUSED portrays - high school in 1976 - and they were quite good I thought. Lots and lots of people were there. I don't know how good I am at estimating numbers, but I'd guess there were somewhere between 700 to 1000 people there! Richard Linklater and some of the stars of DAZED, including Matthew McConaghey, got up on stage and talked to the crowd a little bit before the showing of the film (which had to wait for sundown). The Rolling Roadshow blew up it's huge inflatable movie screen, and it was like the most romantic drive-in movie setting I have ever seen. As far as I'm concerned, I got the best seat in the house - er, field? I plopped down the folding chair I brought right behind a tree that gave a big V-like opening to see through, right about back middle center of the crowd, and the tree limbs "framed" the movie for me. And the movie? It was great!
Though sometimes it brought back not-so-fond memories. Like freshman initiation into high school. YES! My own freshman initiation was very much like that! They left out the part where we had to drink peanut butter mixed with water out of stainless steel bedpans, though, and how we had to collect cow dung in a field and then try to sell the "patties" on the nearby college campus to college students for a nickel apiece. And how they cracked raw eggs on our heads before pouring molasses on our heads as well. But it was close enough!
Well, my column is already too long and I'm just enough of a slacker myself to give only that little glimpse of the film for those who may not yet have seen it. If you haven't, I highly recommend that you do - I know I will want to see it again - and then maybe again and again, especially at the annual DAZED Reunions. What fun!
Y'all stay cool.
Michele Déradune is a single mom, film actress and voice talent represented by Ciao! Talents. Michele played Mel, cheating wife of the judge, in the Texas-based SNAKE TALES (Winner "Best Independent Film Comedy" at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Summer 2001). (SNAKE TALES is available for rent at Vulcan Video and Waterloo Video or can be ordered through Media Garage here in Austin.) Her website is http://www.Deradune.com.