It seems Disney's "It's a Small World" doesn't take top honors in the earworm contest. Ever since I learned Cheech Marin was coming to town, I've been singing the lyrics from Cheech & Chong's "Basketball Jones" over and over in my head. "Basketball Jones, I got a Basketball Jones..." It's so catchy, there's no wonder George Harrison asked to take part.
But as much as I want to lay claim that Marin belongs to my generation, I just as quickly realize he belongs to everybody. From early stints on Sesame Street to recent appearances on Jane the Virgin and everything in between – Nash Bridges, Tin Cup, From Dusk 'Til Dawn, The Lion King – the singer, comedian, author, actor, director and avid Chicano art collector has become a cultural icon.
So for this, the 30th anniversary of the Houston Art Car Parade (Saturday, April 8), organizer the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art is bringing in the big guns and has named Marin grand marshal. It comes with perks, too. He was given a choice of art cars for leading the parade and he settled on one from Saint Arnold Brewing Company. Apparently the brewery's sales team drives art cars around town.
So which one did he pick? It's a brightly colored 1959 Cadillac convertible, with fish scales morphing into diamonds and feathers, painted by Robynn Sanders Hale.
"Isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t you pick that one?" asks Marin. "I’m a grand marshal of the people. I picked the car that people would like." When we told him there was stiff competition among the entries, he was quick with a plan.
"We’ll wave harder," says Marin. "I can’t wait to do this. It sounds like a lot of fun, waving to people." He's even looking for just the right hat, as is befitting a grand marshal.
It's a big weekend, with lots of moving parts surrounding the art cars (more on that later), with Marin also in town to celebrate the release of his new memoir, Cheech Is Not My Real Name…But Don’t Call Me Chong!
Marin says it's great to be back among his peers. "I just can’t wait to get back to Houston. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I love the ambience, the people, the food. I love the way people like to party and have a good time."
And on that subject, here's the 411 on this year's art car festivities. "Oh baby, oo-oo-ooo."
Main Street Drag
All over Houston
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 6, free
"It takes the parade out to the people. Schools and nursing homes and centers," says Jonathan Beitler, spokesperson for the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. "We have six different parade routes, about ten cars in each route. We’ll have some on the east side, Spring Branch, up north." He says it's a bigger deal than usual because they get a lot of requests.
Discovery Green, Avenida Houston
6 to 10 p.m. April 6, free
This one's the opposite of a parade. The cars are parked around Discovery Green and Avenida Houston and people can walk around and get better looks at both the interiors and the exteriors. "We provide an array of opportunities for people to interact with the artists and see the cars up close," says Beitler. "Certainly the Sneak Peek is one of the highlighted events."
The Legendary Art Car Ball
Hermann Square at City Hall, 900 Smith
7 to 11 p.m. April 7, $30 to $35
There's plenty of people-watching at this popular event, with lots of alt-costumes and live music. Plus, Kam Franklin of The Suffers will host this year's bash. "You can wander throughout the cars," says Beitler. "They're illuminated in the evening." He says this is where you'll see more colorful lights and other add-ons not visible during the day.
The Starting Line Party
Smith and Pease, downtown
11 a.m. April 8, free
This is the epicenter of art car commotion and a great place to meet artists, do some dancing and scout for the best spot to watch the parade.
The VIPit Experience
Hermann Square at City Hall, 900 Smith
Noon to 5 p.m., April 8, $150 to $4500
Those in the know are jockeying for tickets to this primo viewing spot, with bleacher suites, complimentary adult beverages and tasty gourmet fare.
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The 30th Annual Houston Art Car Parade
2 to 4 p.m., April 8, free
"We have 250 entries and we have 101 of them that have never been in the parade before. There will definitely be new and exciting cars to see," says Beitler. "We have more schools than ever before that have entered this year. We have 32 schools and youth groups."
The Houston Art Car Parade Awards Ceremony
Smither Park, 2441 Munger
Noon to 2 p.m. April 9, free
Beitler tells us that the awards ceremony offers a great way to interact with the art-car artists. He says there are 13 different categories, ranging from standard art cars to contraptions that no longer resemble a vehicle. There's even a category for best political statement. "We’re anticipating some very interesting entries this year due to our political climate," says Beitler. "We try not to deny any entries, but one of our stipulations is to make sure it’s family friendly. Ninety-nine percent of them abide by that."