The End of Austin

an exploration of urban identity in the middle of Texas

Alright Alright Alright: We Get Older, Dazed Stays the Same Age

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Dazed and Confused (1993) turned 21 last year. Yes, the film that follows a longhaired teenager and his friends as they attempt to avoid being hazed, the film in which Ben Affleck has a bucket of paint dumped on his head, the film that introduced the world to Matthew McConaughey is now old enough to legally purchase beer. The film that is about growing up, or neglecting to grow up, is itself all grown up.

Director Richard Linklater had recently entered the (un)popular consciousness with the magnificently aimless Slacker two years earlier, a film that centers around the interactions between some of the quirky bohemians and young ne’er-do-wells populating Austin at the time. Given that the end goal for the characters in Dazed and Confused is finding the party at the Moon Tower (with a brief stop at Top Notch on the way), viewers could be forgiven for assuming Dazed is also about Austin.

However, as much as Austinites may wish to claim Dazed and Confused as their own, the film is really about Huntsville, a town probably best known for its state prison and the place Linklater spent three of his high school years. In fact, many of the characters in Dazed and Confused are loosely based on specific Huntsville teenagers Linklater knew at the time—so much so that in 2004, perhaps seeing an opportunity to cash in, Bobby Wooderson, Andy Slater, and Richard “Pink” Floyd unsuccessfully attempted to sue Linklater for unauthorized use of their names and likenesses and for their depiction as stoners, which they claimed hurt their reputations.

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The film is indeed Linklater’s nostalgic vision of his own adolescence. Born in late July, 1960, he was on the cusp of sixteen when Dazed and Confused takes place. In a November 1994 Houstonian article, Linklater said, “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 teenager, but this was one time to be alive and I lived in the time.”

During the 1970s there was a nostalgic look back at the 1950s and early 1960s with Happy Days, American Graffiti, and Grease. Two decades later, Dazed and Confused was an early example of pop culture reinterpretations of the 1970s and early 1980s – from rehashes such as The Brady Bunch Movie (1995), Charlie’s Angels (2000), and Dukes of Hazzard (2005), to Boogie Nights (1997), That 70s Show (debuted 1998), Detroit Rock City (1999), Freak and Geeks (1999), and Almost Famous (2000). This seems to suggest that nostalgia runs in cycles, a pattern Linklater acknowledged when discussing his own adolescence in the Houstonian. “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,” he said. “As a teen, I had the feeling of a displaced love to escape to a different time and place.” This longing for escape is summed up by one of the teens at the Moon Tower party: “The 50s were boring, the 60s rocked, the 70s oh my god they obviously sucked, maybe the 80s will be radical.”

Though set in 1976, there is something that seems very “nineties” about Dazed and Confused. Perhaps it is because the figure of the slacker, which became a visible figure in large part due to the film of the same name, features prominently in Dazed. The slacker, a consciously ambitionless male that is really just another iteration of the idler, loafer, delinquent, beatnik, and dropout archetypes that have existed since at least Industrialization, is a figure present in popular culture throughout the 1990s. Woody Wooderson and Kevin Pickford are in many ways cut from the same cloth as Beck’s “Loser,” Troy Dyer (Ethan Hawke) in Reality Bites, and Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) in My So-Called Life.

Slacker is Linklater’s portrayal of the bohemian Austin of 1989. He filmed without permits, and though some of the locations have disappeared in the face of progress (which you can read about here), anyone familiar with Austin can immediately identify it as such. We see notable landmarks, the city skyline, the State Capitol, and few things have been modified. Though the locations in Dazed are less distinctly “Austin” than Slacker (Top Notch and Moon Tower notwithstanding), the filming locations are still noteworthy. Unlike Slacker, which was shot mainly near the UT campus and the downtown warehouse district, most of Dazed and Confused was shot in Austin’s Brentwood and Allandale neighborhoods, and much of it within a block of the Violet Crown Shopping Center on Lamar Blvd at Brentwood St.

Here are some selected filming locations:

1) 2:55 Robert E. Lee High School is actually Bedichek Middle School (home of the Bobcats), located at 6800 Bill Hughes Rd in south Austin.

2) 19:28 Carl Burnett’s house, 6409 Wilbur Dr. The freshman boys are very nearly apprehended here when Burnett’s mom comes out with a shotgun.

3) 23:58 The freshman girls are being hazed in the parking lot of the Americana Theater, now the Yarbrough branch of the Austin Public Library.

4) 25:50 Kevin Pickford’s dad spoils the party plans, 5800 Coventry Ln.

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5) 29:28 Mitch Kramer pitches a game at Northwest Park.

6) 29:41 Mike Newhouse’s house, 2513 Great Oaks Pkwy.

7) 30:01 Top Notch, one of the few distinctive locations in the film.

8) 41:51 The exterior of the Emporium, modeled after an actual pool hall in Huntsville, though it had been leveled long before the film’s release to make room for a used car lot. There is now a plaque near the edge of the building commemorating the film.

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9) 48:21 The freshman boys are finally caught here.

10) 57:47 Ballard’s Grab & Go.

11) 1:01:51 Centennial Liquor Store, now the Yellow Rose parking lot.

12) 1:05:24 The freshmen make their escape southbound on Wild Street after dumping paint on O’Bannion.

13) 1:05:34 O’Bannion is furious at his paint shower.

14) 1:14:55 The famous party at the Moon Tower was filmed here, a park without an actual Moon Tower (Linklater had a smaller one built for the film).

15) 1:26:47 50 yard line at the Toney Burger Center. Around 1:30:55 we hear the great line, “If I ever start referring to these as the best years of my life, remind me to kill myself.”

For a visual representation of these locations, click here.


Brendan Gaughen is a Ph.D. candidate in the American Studies department at UT-Austin. With his partner and better half, he currently co-hosts a radio show called Domesticated that airs Friday mornings on KVRX 91.7. He in engaged in numerous quixotic pursuits, among them attempting to visit each of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States. Like O’Bannion in Dazed and Confused, his first car was a Plymouth Duster. Previously, he tracked down the filming locations of Richard Linklater’s Slacker for The End of Austin.

One comment on “Alright Alright Alright: We Get Older, Dazed Stays the Same Age

  1. Pingback: Announcement: The winter edition of The End of Austin is here! « AMS :: ATX

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