Yes, 'Dazed and Confused' was about Huntsville

dazed and confused
Dazed and Confused
102 minutes
Written and Directed by
Richard Linklater
Real-life characters from the movie talk about the state of mind that is this town
By Todd L. McLemore, reporter
The Houstonian
November 15, 1994, page 4

Imagine Huntsville as a fun place to grow up, party and survive adolescence. It's kind of difficult to imagine, now isn't it?

Yet, for those who have seen the movie "Dazed and Confused," it is reality if they know the truth.

The truth is, Richard Linklater's movie "Dazed and Confused," which was released last fall 1993, portrayed the lives of several Huntsville residents during their last day of school at Huntsville High School in 1976.

"It was all about riding around, drinking and being cool," said screenplay writer Linklater. I made the movie because I always wanted to make a good teen-age movie. It's really never a good time to be a teen-ager, but this was one time to be alive and I lived in the time."

Linklater said he did not make actual composite characters in the movie from real people he associated with during his high school years.

Although he said that the characters were designed from a variety of friends and peers he was involved with while in high school, it seems all too funny that three residents of Huntsville, whose last names were included in the film, though slightly altered have all agreed that they knew Linklater in high school.

Their actual high-school lives coincided with most of the storyline of the movie.

"The movie was real close to the truth," said Rick Floyd, a Huntsville resident who was possibly the source of the character Randall "Pink" Floyd. "It was true to form, yet a bit outlandish. The way he (Linklater) had everybody dressed wasn't real close. I mean, nobody's hair was that long or anything."

"Now, Slater, he was a little different. He walked to his own tune."

Slater was the character in the movie that supplied, used and abused all sorts of substances. He appeared as a long-haired hippy type that was always feeling fine.

A local bookstore owner, Andy Slater, coincidentally went to school with Linklater. The true-life Slater said he thought the movie portrayed him as a character but that Linklater had included a good bit of "artistic license: to make the movie more enjoyable.

According to Linklater, the character Slater was not based on Andy Slater, the manager of The Other Bookland located here in Huntsville.

"He was a good guy, but I guess you could say he was one of the non-conformists in high school you know. Everybody's got one," Floyd said.

Floyd, according to Linklater, was not a composite character, either. Yet he went by the nickname Pink, referring to the music group Pink Floyd.

In the movie, Randall "Pink" Floyd was the main character of the story.

"My character, the guy they have playing me, he was way out," Floyd said. "I mean, I was not the high quarter-back in high school. I played some ball until was a senior, but then I had to concentrate on getting out."

"The Randall Floyd in the movie was the rebellious star athlete who everyone was counting on for the next year's football season. He was also the partying type who loved to drink beer and smoke marijuana.

But the real Floyd was not necessarily that.

"I was not the kind of guy to get out there and get my head beat in," Floyd said. "I was more of the guy that wanted to go out and drink beer and smoke dope."

One thing that Linklater did agree upon was that several of the landmarks where parties occurred in the movie were actual places in and around Huntsville. The Moon Tower, as it was called in the movie, was actually called the Fire Tower by many flocked to its location to drink and toke.

"We'd all meet on a Friday or Saturday night, "Floyd said. "Everybody would put in a buck or two and we'd get a keg of beer. Now we'd either go out to the Fire Tower or where the old Wal-Mart used to be. We called that Tequila Hill. We'd go up there and just get ripped."

The Emporium, which was a pool hall and football hang-out that was inhabited by high-school students in the movie, was actually real in name and purpose. It was located off of South Sam Houston, but has since been leveled and turned into a used-car dealer.

Besides The Emporium, older high-school students frequented the streets of Huntsville.

"Cars were the big thing back then," Slater said. Slater was characterized in the movie as a hippy that fit in with the jocks, the nerds and anyone else that was around the halls of the school.

"Your wheels were your freedom, you know. Anybody that had a cool car, well, everybody wanted to ride with 'em," he said.

;"The cool students would work all they could and save their money and buy the hot rods, but you didn't see them too much unless they came out in their cars."

Slater and Floyd said their nights of partying seemed so much like the night in which the movie setting took place."

"I knew Ricky mainly from going out partying," Slater said. "That's how I knew most everybody. That's how I knew Linklater. There was kind of a redneck group and a hippy group and there was a nerd group, pretty much the movie, but it seemed like everybody got along pretty good when everybody went out at night. There was an extreme hippy group, and there weren't welcome too much."

Slater added, "I was probably one of the only hippy sorts. I crossed the border somehow, because I was accepted. I was a decent person. I didn't cause trouble. I took a bath. I don't know, really. I guess I was kind of different from the stringed-hippy sorts. But that was the cool thing we all got along. It was cool."

Slater explained that back in the '70s there was a feeling much different from the feeling and attitude that young people have today.

"Back then it was get away with as much as you could and not get caught, and nowadays, it seems like it's get away with as much as you can with disregard to other people's property. If you get caught, it's no big deal," Slater said.

"Back then it was a big deal to get caught. It was like a badge of honor not to get caught, and now it seems like it's a badge of honor to get caught."

Times have changed since 1976. So has the feeling that Slater speaks of. Linklater explained that "coming out of the '60s passed a lot of personal freedoms into my generation." He added, "The movie was more of a moment-to-moment reality of a teenager in the '70s."

"We romanticized the pop-culture history of the '50s and '60s the same way that young people today sometimes try to relive the late '60s and early '70s. As a teen, I had the feeling of a displaced love to escape to a different time and place."

As for Slater and Floyd, they are content with their lives during the '70s as well as their present lives.

"We all liked to party back then," Floyd said. "We all left Huntsville after high school, but hell, we all ended up back here somehow. I guess some things never change."

Drinking beer and smoking dope seemed to be the main focus of the movie. Running a close second would be the hazing of the incoming freshmen from junior high.

Incoming freshman would be subject to severe paddling from juniors who were graduating to the senior class. The main hazers in the movie were the football athletes.

The routine was for the incoming freshman to exit the junior-high school doors and run for their lives before the older boys with paddles in hand could reach them or their behinds. The partying and the hazing went hand in hand. After the hazing rituals retired for the evening, a party began and lasted until sunrise the following day.

The Emporium sheltered many intoxicated or otherwise stoned persons.

"Yeah, when that place opened, that was, of course, a haven for drug addicts and hippies and all that," Floyd said.

In the movie, a pledge sheet was passed around to all of the football athletes saying that they should commit themselves to quit any drinking or drug-related activities that could jeopardize the possibility of a championship season the following year.

"I can remember the coaches from the football team calling a meeting with all of us, and they told to stay away from the Emporium, but I don't remember anything about a piece of paper. I don't remember having to sign anything, but I sure remember that there was a lot of pressure on us not to go there," Slater said.

"They used to race over there by where the Taco Bell is now. We had a drag strip over there that headed back into where those houses are now. The street curved down at the end, but only a couple people raced that far. I don't ever remember anybody getting hurt from that," he said.

"A few people did get killed one year, though. You see, Huntsville used to be dry," he said. "I think they changed it around '73 or so, because in my older brother's era, they would have to drive to Trinity to get beer."

Trinity is a small town 22 miles north of Huntsville on Highway 19.

"It was a two-lane road back then, and I think three people got killed driving back and forth to get beer. So, the city changed the law or I think the parents pretty much changed it, because they knew the kids were going to do it anyway and they didn't want anyone else getting hurt," Slater said.

;"It's a different atmosphere now. Back then it was 'don't hurt anybody.' There wasn't anything to fight over like people do with drug nowadays, and you didn't have gangs back then. It was a happy-go-lucky sort of feeling," he said.

"I remember the first time there was some crime in this town, and it was done by a guy breaking into churches, and stealing P.A. systems and stuff, and it shocked the whole town.

"Nobody even locked their doors up until that point. There were lots of drugs and drinking back then but no crime up until that point at the end of the '70s into the early '80s. It was weird compared to how the two go hand in hand nowadays. I guess times change," Slater said.

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