Dallas Times Herald
AUSTIN – The 8th annual – and last, according to the creator – Willie Nelson, July 4th picnic drew more than 50,000 fans who survived the sweltering heat of the Texas Hill Country last week.
There were the usual number of drunks, exhibitionists and scores of Texas and Dixie flags. Tents and huge colorful umbrellas dotted the rolling fairway where the fans sprawled out to catch several of country music’s biggest stars, and of course, the main attraction — Willie Nelson.
Nelson, basking in the triumph of a seemingly successful movie debut and the announcement that his name will be carried on a new line of designer jeans,Â said the picnic had gotten just a bit out of hand.
“It just takes a lot of time. It takes six months to put together and it takes another six months to get over it.”
The night before the last picnic on his country club overlooking scenic Lake Travis, Warner Brothers premiered “Honeysuckle Rose,” Nelson’s first starring movie performance. Earlier he had played a small part in Robert Redford’s successful “Electric Horseman.”
Hundreds of reporters and Hollywood types converged at a local theater to watch the screening. The gala was complete with celebrities and several shiny limousines. But in his typical unassuming laid-back tradition, Nelson chose not to use a chauffer and drove himself and his wife, Connie, in a silver Mercedes.
Nelson, in the presence of Dyan Cannon and Slim Pickens, comes off well in the movie. But then again he played the role of a country star bandleader who travels the country in a bus with a handful of renegade musicians. There is plenty of singing and plenty of carousing — activities Nelson is not unaccustomed to in real life.
“I don’t think I ever really get nervous about it (filming the movie), but then I was never asked to do anything that hard. I just kind of go where they point me, really,” said Nelson.
Ms. Cannon, who did a splendid job of singing a few country songs herself, said she was impressed with Nelson, although she admitted she did not even know who Willie Nelson was before she hired on to co-star in the movie.
“Willie has a basic honesty,” she said. “The screen just doesn’t lie. It captured that about Willie.”
Nelson said he had two more movies to do in the next year, including one with Kris Kristofferson, but indicated music would continue to be his first livelihood.
“Honeysuckle Rose,” actulaly will do much for Nelson’s music career, make him start creating again.
Part of Nelson’s contract with Warner Brothers called for him to write several songs for the movie. Time went by and Nelson had not written any songs. But then, during a flight with director Jerry Schatzberg shortly before filming began in Austin last year, the director reminded Nelson of his obligations.
Nelson pulled out his plane ticket and a pencil and wrote the movie’s biggest song, “On the Road Again.”
[LL:Â pictures were from Janis, of Texas, and were not of the '80 picnic; they were from Dripping Springs 1973]