‘Veronica Mars’ started as a YA novel set at Austin-area Westlake High School


A long time ago, “Veronica Mars” used to be set in Austin. But we haven’t thought about that lately at all. Until now.

Kristen Bell plays the title character in “Veronica Mars.” The film version of the ’90s television series opened in March, 2014. CREDIT: ROBERT VOETS

Fans of the the CW’s criminally short-lived teen detective series “Veronica Mars” are well aware that the show took place in the radically divided Neptune, Calif., a town where all that separated the elite socialites from the seedy criminals was a murky gray line of questionable morality.

But, as Entertainment Weekly has revealed, the show wasn’t always set in California. In fact, “Veronica Mars” wasn’t even originally imagined as a TV show. At first, it was going to be a Young Adult novel set right here in Austin at Westlake High School, and the titular character later became Veronica’s dad, Keith.

First things first: If you haven’t already seen “Veronica Mars,” you’re missing out. The plot centered around Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell), a high school student who moonlighted as a private eye for her father Keith. Keith was a former sheriff who opened up his own detective agency when he failed to get re-elected after he accused a Neptune socialite of murdering his own daughter (and Veronica’s best friend).

Related: This year’s ATX Television Festival is scheduled for June. Here’s what’s scheduled so far.

“Veronica Mars” was full of noir, camp, crime, quippy teens and lots of high school mysteries to solve. It also went to some pretty dark places in its examinations of class, race, wealth, sex and morality. The show was cancelled after three seasons, but a crowd-funded film was released in 2014 after a fourth season pilot was ordered by a network but never aired. Since the film’s release, series creator Rob Thomas has partnered with Austin author Jennifer Graham to write two books continuing the story of the plucky sleuth.

Rob Thomas on the red carpet for the movie Veronica Mars in Austin, Texas on March 7, 2014. (Thao Nguyen/FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Anyway, Thomas originally intended for the story to be told as a young adult novel. He started a draft, “Untitled Teen Detective,” in 1996. That draft was shared with Entertainment Weekly this week for its “Hollywood’s Greatest Untold Stories” issue.

From the archives: Fresh from filming ‘Veronica Mars,’ Rob Thomas returns triumphant

Thomas set “Untitled Teen Detective” in Austin. His story revolved around Keith Mars, teenage detective. Keith became a detective after his father quit a promising career with the Austin Police Department to open up a private investigation agency. Like in the TV show, there is no mother figure in the picture. Also like in the show, the titular young detective starts out by catching the parents of his wealthy Westlake High School classmates in after-hours trysts at seedy motels.


Another Texas twist: Keith pines for a popular girl who’s said to be dating a University of Texas football player.

But perhaps the biggest Austin element to the “Veronica Mars”-that-almost-was is a still-unsolved mystery that’s only hinted at. In the original draft, Keith discovers that the reason his dad left the police force is because he knowingly sent the wrong men to Death Row for involvement in Austin’s “Chocolate Shop Murders case,” a name which bears a striking resemblance to the real-life, still-unsolved Austin yogurt shop murders from 1991.

Years later, when Thomas took ideas from the draft into a spec script he sold to UPN (now The CW), Keith Mars became the disgraced law enforcement father figure, the main character became Veronica, and the main plot centered on a different kid of murder.

All of the Texas setting came natural to Thomas. He grew up in Texas, graduating from San Marcos High school in 1983. His father was a vice-principal at Westlake until the early 1990s, and Thomas attended Texas Christian University on a football scholarship before transferring to UT and graduating in 1987. Thomas was working as a high school teacher at John H. Reagan High School in Austin when he wrote the first draft of “Untitled Teen Detective,” and many characters in “Veronica Mars” were named for Austinites he met or musicians he played with. The music of several Austin bands also played in the show.

From the archives: ‘Veronica Mars’ film has many Austin music moments

Alas, the Texas version of “Veronica Mars” is not the version that made it to the small screen. Maybe someday, if Netflix reboots the series (one can only hope) a mystery might take Veronica all the way to Austin.

This vintage map shows how Texans see America (probably)


You don’t have to ask anybody from Texas where they’re from— they’ll tell you right away. (If they don’t tell you within a few minutes of meeting that they’re from Texas, then are they really Texan?) State pride is infectious and unapologetic. But if you needed any more proof of how much Texans love their state, you need to check out “The Texan’s Map of the United States (of Texas).”

From Raremaps.com.

The map, which one antique map website traces back to 1949, imagines a United States where Texas takes up most of the country, stretching from the Mexican border all the way to the Pacific coastline and up to the Canadian border and the Appalachian region. According to Raremaps.com, it was designed by Texas sketch artist Frank Oliver as a way to advertise the Texoak Flooring Company in Crockett.

“Everything depicted hereon is the gospel truth!” a disclaimer on the map reads. “Attested to by a group of impartial Texans! All skeptics may appeal to his eminence, the king of Texas.”

Oh, and the scale? “One Texas inch = 1,000 miles.”

Some highlights from the map:

  • Austin is only known as the capital city, but San Antonio is home to “the world’s largest Army aviation center” and The Alamo, “where history began.” (Due to the map’s insane amount of scale, San Antonio is also located in West Texas right next to Big Bend National Park, for some reason.)
  • Fort Worth is known as “where men are men and the West begins,” while neighboring city Dallas is home to “the world’s best-dressed and most beautiful women.”
  • Crockett, home of the Texoak Flooring Company, is highlighted in the map as “the heart of the world’s largest pine and oak timberland.”

And as for the rest of the country? Anything north of Texas is an “Indian reservation, consisting mostly of land called ‘Oklahoma.'” The Great Lakes are merely “duck ponds” and”Texas reservoirs.” And that big patch of land northeast of the Appalachians and above the Mason-Dixon Line? All “Damnyankeeland.”

More: Here’s 181 things we love about Texas

And here I was thinking that Texas’ geography could be boiled down to this map from Richard Linklater’s “Bernie”:


Take a look at the map below.

From Raremaps.com.

Texans’ Google searches since the election heavy on secession and SCOTUS

Ever since President Trump took office, Americans have been rapidly Googling the answers to several things. Steve Bannon. The Electoral College. What Donald Trump meant when he tweeted “Easy D.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Thursday, July 28, 2016, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally Thursday, July 28, 2016, in Davenport, Iowa. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

But for Texans, it seems, the things they Googled the most since November 8 (as of February 1) were both topical and typical.

Estately put together a map of the U.S. based off of what each state has Googled the most since the election. Some are pretty funny, like “Jeb Bush guac bowl” in Illinois and “dabbing Paul Ryan” in Massachusetts.

Others were more closely tied to the election, with phrases like “wall” and “border” popping up on many states’ lists. But the eyes of Texas were upon two Google searches more than any other: “Can Texas secede?” and  “Who will Trump nominate for Supreme Court.”


Texans’ interest in Trump’s Supreme court pick is understandable. Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett made then-candidate Trump’s short list of 11 potential candidates for the U.S. Supreme Court back in May. Trump eventually nominated federal appeals judge Neil Gorsuch to the post. Gorsuch has since decried the president’s tweets about a Seattle judge’s ruling in the immigration ban case.


The most Texas tidbits from this Anna Nicole Smith profile

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of Texas native Anna Nicole Smith, who captured the heart of America with her beautiful looks and the rags-to-riches tale of a dirt-poor small-town girl turned superstar.

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12: Anna Nicole Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show on February 12, 2004 during Olympus 2004 Fashion Week, in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)
NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 12: Anna Nicole Smith walks the runway at the Heatherette fashion show on February 12, 2004 during Olympus 2004 Fashion Week, in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Buzzfeed published a profile detailing the late American icon’s rise to fame and the subsequent destruction of her image, her life and her health. Here are a few Texas highlights from the profile on Smith, who was born in Houston and raised in Mexia.

“…the high-fashion look didn’t count for much in Mexia, or even in Dallas or Houston, and Vickie Lynn needed a body that would help her survive the world she lived in, and maybe even escape it.”

Born Vickie Lynn Hogan, the model’s 6-foot figure and stunning looks were too much for the small town (Mexia’s population was only about 6,000 in the 1960s, when Smith was born). So she left Mexia when she was 18, a single mother recently divorced from her allegedly abusive husband, and she headed to Houston.

“Though inescapably connected with a commodity drawn up from deep in the ground, Houston belongs to the ocean.”

The profile details a part of the Lone Star State many Texans know well: “Dry farmland” giving way to “pink skies and sudden downpours” all-too-common on the land along the Gulf Coast.

Buzzfeed writes:

“It’s a port city, and like all port cities, it is a place of transformation: a place where the skyline can change seemingly overnight, where fortunes can be won and lost in an instant, and where the people who kept you down all your life can’t keep you down anymore, because you can become whatever you say you are — or at least whatever the city will pay you to be.”

In Houston, Smith — still going by Vickie Lynn — found jobs at Walmart and Red Lobster in the mid-1980s.

“Houston was the implant capital of America…”

Now here’s a “today I learned…” story you can tell your friends about.

Silicone breast implants were invented in 1961 by two surgeons from Baylor University, and according to Buzzfeed, they were one of Houston’s hottest commodities in the 1980s, “almost as synonymous with Texas-sized dreams and desires as the lasso was.”

However, Houston also later became “the implant-related lawsuit capital of the world” in the early 1990s, as women sued manufacturers for faulty implants.

She became Anna Nicole Smith while dancing at a Houston strip club

After realizing Walmart and Red Lobster couldn’t pay the bills, Smith took a job dancing at the Executive Suite, a strip club near Houston Intercontinental Airport.

Buzzfeed reports the businessmen who frequented the club didn’t much care for Smith’s body, as she was “both too big and too small for the business of seduction.”

So Smith saved her money to get breast implants and buy herself the body of Anna Nicole Smith, saying goodbye to Vickie Lynn and landing a job at Rick’s, the “legendary Houston strip club that some claimed had singlehandedly popularized the silicone implant,” Buzzfeed writes.

She met J. Howard Marshall while dancing at Rick’s in 1988. Marshall, an elderly man who had gotten rich on the East Texas oil boom of the early 20th century, would later become Smith’s husband.

Read the rest of the profile, which goes into detail about Smith’s professional life, her personal relationships and her ties to her Texas family. 


UT got in formation for ‘Ellen’ with these Beyoncé costumes

When Ellen Degeneres announced late Monday afternoon on Twitter that her crew would be showing up to the University of Texas on Tuesday, everyone was wondering what antics the talk-show host would create.

Turns out, her crew’s visit had to do with Beyoncé and the Grammys. DeGeneres promised tickets to the music awards show to the best Beyoncé-clad students at the Main Mall.


Obviously, many students obliged, with costumes ranging from the “Single Ladies” era up until Beyoncé’s recent pregnancy announcement.

This costume won:

And here’s a sampling of some of the best Beyoncé costumes we could find from UT on social media Tuesday:

See more Beyoncé photos in our gallery

More:  UT students get all Beyonce’d up for ‘Ellen’ TV crew



Historic photo of Jesse James on auction block in New Braunfels

Burley Auction Gallery will auction off a historic photo of Jesse James on Saturday.
Burley Auction Gallery will auction off a historic photo of Jesse James on Saturday.

If you have a thing for outlaws and up to a million dollars to spare, there’s a photo of Jesse James sitting alongside his future killer Robert Ford waiting for you in New Braunfels this weekend.

The rare tintype photo will be a part of an auction Saturday at Burley Auction Gallery, starting at 10 a.m.

James and his gang of outlaws committed crimes across the American Midwest during the mid-1800s. Ultimately, he was shot in the back of the head by Ford, a member of the gang, who wanted to collect the sizable bounty on James.

Experts have verified this photo to be Jesse James, right, and his eventual killer, Robert Ford.
Experts have verified this photo to be Jesse James, right, and his eventual killer, Robert Ford.

The picture comes from Sandra Mills of Spokane, Washington, who said she received it from her grandmother, who kept the rare picture wrapped in a handkerchief in a dresser drawer. The photo has been authenticated by celebrated forensic artist and analyst Lois Gibson, who works for the Houston police department.

Also backing the authenticity of the photo is historian and author Freda Cruse Hardison, who has linked Mills’ great-great grandmother to the wife of Frank James, brother of Jesse.

The historic photograph has a wide-ranging estimated sales price — from $50,000 to $1 million. The auction features hundreds of other vintage items from the estate of Tommy & Sara Jane Howell, San Antonio collectors of antiques, advertising and German beer steins.

Also on the auction block are a variety of antique guns, Texas lawman memorabilia and a rare 624 horsepower 2011 Shelby GT350 R signed by Carroll Shelby.

Burley Auction Gallery has been in business since 2005, specializing in Western Americana and Texana items. Last January, Burley auctioned off items from the collection of Eddie Wilson, owner of Threadgill’s and past owner of the Armadillo World Headquarters.

Texas-based restaurant chain Bombshells is expanding, says it’s not a ‘breastaurant’

Bombshells, a military-themed restaurant chain based in Houston, intends to expand from its four Texas locations to nearly 100 locations across the country, according to the New York Post.

Image courtesy Bombshell's
Image courtesy Bombshell’s

The “breastaurant” business, which includes restaurants like Twin Peaks and Hooters where the all-female waitstaff are often scantily clad, has been booming over the last several years. But the management team behind Bombshells told the New York Post the chain “is not a so-called ‘breastaurant,'” despite the uniforms and the fact that “staff is encouraged to sidle up to customers or that they have to sign an employment contract that allows the restaurant to say what lipstick colors are acceptable and require them to wear their hair down,” the Post reported.

Bombshells is owned by RCI Hospitality, a group which operates more than 40 gentleman’s clubs and other adult-friendly nightclubs across the country. The CEO of the group told analysts on a call in December that the chain’s recent success came in part due to the election of Donald Trump, saying, “I think overall the election is turning out to be very, very positive for us so far.”

According to Business Insider, the CEO also said the company is excited about the nomination of Andy Puzder as Trump’s labor secretary. Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s parent company, was controversial in part due to to the burger restaurants’ frequent use of sexuality in advertising campaigns.

A plea to Central Texans from a Czech girl: Please stop referring to sausage-filled pastries as ‘kolaches’

OK, Central Texas, we need to talk about kolaches.

130914 CALDWELL, TEXAS: A selection of just-judged entries in the kolache baking competition are pictured at Caldwell's annual Kolache Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013. The streets were crowded with entertainment and vendors. Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.
CALDWELL, TEXAS: A selection of just-judged entries in the kolache baking competition are pictured at Caldwell’s annual Kolache Festival on Saturday, September 14, 2013. The streets were crowded with entertainment and vendors. Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.

Before we get started, take a peek at my last name. It’s as Czech as they come. The name Pšencík is actually a nickname for a peasant (I know, I know). It comes from the Czech word meaning “wheat.” I grew up in the heart of the “Texas Czech Belt.” So, trust me, I know a thing or two about doughy Bohemian pastries.

Texas is a pretty heavily Czech region, with immigrants from Bohemia settling in the Texas Czech Belt in the early 1800s. They brought with them one of the best pastries known to mankind, and even now kolaches are a pretty big deal around these parts. A “kolach” (that’s the singular form of the word, though colloquially people use “kolache” as singular and “kolaches” as plural, so that’s how I’m referring to it here) is a round or square-ish pastry made with sweet yeast dough and filled with fruit or cheese.

Notice I said fruit or cheese — not meat. The traditional kolache fillings include things like plums, prunes, poppy seeds, apricots and just plain farmer’s cheese, due to the availability of those tasty flavors in poor immigrant families in the 19th century. Later, those fillings were expanded to include cream cheese, blueberries, pineapples, nuts, cottage cheese, cherries…you name the fruit or cheese, and you could put it in a kolache. Notice, again, I haven’t mentioned meat.

At some point over the course of history, somebody started taking that sweet yeast dough and stuffing it with sausage, sometimes with cheese and jalapeno. Don’t get me wrong, these little pastries are delicious. But they are not kolaches, although many people refer to them as such. Kolache, for those of Czech descent, contain only fruit or cheese, never meat.

A little Czech lesson: Those sausage-filled pastries you’ve been calling kolaches for years actually were never brought over from the motherland. They’re called klobasniky, and they were invented by Czech families settled in Texas (The Village Bakery in West, Texas takes credit for the delicious treat). You may have heard of one of these delights referred to as a “pig in the blanket,” which is what I grew up calling them, although pigs in a blanket can include hot dogs wrapped in croissant rolls, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly Czech. Slight difference there.

So now that we’ve had a little history lesson, I call upon you, people of Central Texas, to stop referring to these meat-filled delicacies as kolaches, and call them by their rightful name: Klobasniky, or klobasnek in the singular. The Czech community will thank you.

Watch Miley Cyrus and Pentatonix join Dolly Parton for an epic version of ‘Jolene’

You’ve probably heard countless covers of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” — but you’ve never heard it like this before.

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

Miley Cyrus is a judge on this season of NBC’s “The Voice,” and during Tuesday night’s results episode she brought out her godmother and longtime family friend Dolly Parton and Texas a capella group Pentatonix for a slightly up-tempo, a capella version of Parton’s classic song that can only be described as “chilling.”

It’s not the first time Parton and Pentatonix have teamed up on the song. They got together for an excellent a capella rendition of the song back in September.

RELATED: Dolly Parton gets back to basics with ‘Pure & Simple’ tour and album

And it’s not the first time Cyrus has covered her godmother’s song, either. This backyard performance from a few years ago is absolutely beautiful.








Midland Little Woodrow’s reviews tattoo policy in wake of social media stir

3:17 p.m. UPDATE, Nov. 30:

The Midland Little Woodrow’s will allow face and visible neck tattoos after all.

Penn & Tell Us, the marketing agency that works with Little Woodrow’s, issued the following statement Wednesday:

“Little Woodrow’s does not have an issue with tattoos as evidenced by the fact that we had no restrictions on tattoos of any kind except at two of our sixteen locations. At those locations, we implemented a policy where we requested that neck and/or facial tattoos not be openly displayed. After further review, we have rescinded this policy. We continue to focus on providing a safe and comfortable environment for all our guests. The company regularly reviews and modifies its policies when it is deemed reasonable to do so.”



A Midland restaurant is drawing heat on social media for its tattoo policy after a patron said he was denied service because of a face tattoo.

Joeseff Rivera outside the Midland Little Woodrow's Nov. 8.
Joeseff Rivera outside the Midland Little Woodrow’s Nov. 8.

The Little Woodrow’s in Midland, which just opened Nov. 6, has a “No shoes, no shirt, no service” policy like every other restaurant, but a sign on the door of the bar and restaurant also states: “Dress code enforced.”

That dress code, one man found out, extends to visible tattoos on the neck and tattoos on the face, as reported by Odessa’s CBS 7.

In a Facebook video posted Nov. 8, Midland Little Woodrow’s would-be patron Joeseff Rivera filmed himself in front of the restaurant, taking issue with the bouncer’s tattoos as well, implying a double standard.

“I just came to Little Woodrow’s, and they wouldn’t let me in to spend my money because I have a tattoo on my face,” Rivera says in the video as he points to a small tattoo below his left eye. “Yet, the man working the door has tattoos on his arms, but they won’t let me in.”


The description in the video reads, in part: “I’m a Level 2 Security Officer,just wanting to spend money and have a Good time with my sister.”

Many angry opponents of the tattoo policy took to the Little Woodrow’s Midland Facebook page to write bad reviews of the bar.

“I dont feel its right to be judged over a tattoo at this place my cusion and i went to this place sat night and we were dressed nice not even thugged out and just bc u could see a bit of my cousins tattoo on his neck we were told we couldnt go in bc of that so i was just wondering are yall racial profiling bc from what i see yall have a bartender that is all tatted up yall act like yall are a formal f—ing restaruant its a f—ing bar,” one review reads.

Another reviewer, a member of a motorcycle group, wrote that the store’s tattoo policy would deter him and his motorcycle group from eating there.

“Our gain their loss… Good Luck…It looks like it is a Love it or Hate it Place…” he wrote.

The restaurant currently has a 2.9/5 star rating from Facebook reviews. A recent photo on the page posted Nov. 15 features the store’s regional manager preparing for an interview with CBS 7. In the photo, his tattoo sleeve is visible, which again made commenters angry.

In a statement provided to CBS 7 by Philip Brinson, Little Woodrow’s attorney, it was emphasized the dress code policy was not meant to turn people away.

“We don’t like to refuse service to anyone but if somebody comes in and is not dressed appropriately we will ask them to either change it up a little bit or in this case with tattoos cover it up,” Brinson said. “We do not prohibit anyone from having tattoos and entering the establishment. We prefer that there be no face or neck tattoos.”

Little Woodrow’s has locations across Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Midland and three locations in Austin. According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, all locations have the same policy banning face and visible neck tattoos.