Lightnin' Hopkins may finally get his marker

Spaced City

Lightnin' Hopkins May Get His Marker
Local seeks to honor bluesman

By Chris Gray


Lightnin' Hopkins

The Houston Press has written in the past about what a travesty it is that there is no official marker honoring perhaps the most famous and influential musician ever to call Houston home, country-blues icon Sam "Lightnin'" Hopkins. Along the way, we've mentioned that we're hardly the only ones who feel that way either.

Now Houstonian R. Eric Davis has taken the next step and filed the necessary paperwork with the Harris County Historical Commission to erect a Texas State Historical Marker on the property in Third Ward. Known as the "King of Dowling Street," Hopkins is buried in Forest Park Cemetery, across I-45 from the neighborhood where he spent most of his time in Houston.

An Illinois native who moved to Houston in 1993, Davis and his daughter went to Forest Park last August to find Hopkins's grave and originally, he says, "couldn't do it." After getting some "very specific" instructions, they eventually did. Having been there ourselves, we can say firsthand that it's pretty easy to miss.

"We were stunned," Davis says. "We found his headstone and it's this 12x18-inch slab of granite. I was taken aback that this was the only memorial this guy has, for all that he did."

Davis went home and researched the process to obtain a historical marker, and drafted a proposal he filed with the historical commission. He expects to hear an answer soon, and says the commission has "pretty much assured me it's going to happen."

If the historical commission does approve Davis's proposal, it goes before the Texas State Historical Commission in Austin. One of the requirements, ironically, is that petitioners are responsible for raising their own funds to pay for the markers as no public moneys are budgeted for such things. (Ahh, Texas.)

Davis estimates he's raised about ten percent of the approximately $1,700 necessary to pay for a Hopkins marker. He's set up an account at Bank of America and is asking people to help him come up with the rest — donations can be deposited at any BoA branch nationwide — by February 1 so the memorial can be installed by next fall.

Here is the account information:

Lightnin' Hopkins Marker Fund

Acct. No. 5860 1320 5659

We encourage our readers to give whatever they can spare to finally help make this a reality. We asked local blues scholar Dr. Roger Wood, who has beaten the drum for a public Hopkins memorial a time or two himself, to comment on Davis's efforts, and here's what he sent back: "I am familiar with the work that Eric Davis has done to bring this project to fruition, and I am impressed and grateful.

"The absence of a historical marker commemorating Lightnin' Hopkins is something that many of us have long complained about, sometimes cynically — evidence, we perhaps have assumed, of the distorted priorities of our civic leaders, etc.

"Meanwhile, Eric singlehandedly chose to research the tedious process for establishing historical markers, compile the necessary research and paperwork and shepherd the proposal through the multiple steps required by the county and state bureaucracy. He has handled every detail, as far as I can tell, with impeccable professionalism.

"Now it's up to the rest of us to finish the job by raising the money that the state requires to pay for the marker. I will be making a contribution to the cause, and I encourage others to do so too.

"Eric has done Houston a big favor by initiating this effort and bringing it this far. Those of us who care about its cultural history — and dig the blues — should support it."

Hear hear.


Houston Man Says He Wrote Dog Movie
Someone actually taking blame for Beverly Hills Chihuahua

By Chris Vogel

If you ask Houstonian Zenon Yracheta, he'll tell you that he's the one to blame for that, shall we say, underwhelming Hollywood movie about a Chihuahua in Beverly Hills, aptly titled Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

And to take a swing at proving it, he's filed a lawsuit in Houston federal court against The Walt Disney Company and a slew of its affiliates connected to the release and distribution of the film.

Yracheta, according to his attorney, Kurt Arbuckle, is a twentysomething Hispanic guy who boards dogs for a living here in town. In 2004, he claims, he decided to try to get into the movie business, so he put pen to paper and wrote and copyrighted a story he called "The Three Chihuahuas." Two years later, Yracheta claims, he hired someone to help him turn the story into a movie script, which he also copyrighted. Yracheta then started pitching the idea all over Hollywood, he claims, including to someone at ABC, an affiliate of Disney.

Nothing came of it, but in ­October 2008, Yracheta went to the movies and saw Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

"And halfway through it," Arbuckle tells Hair Balls, "he said, 'This is my movie!'"

According to the lawsuit, "the similarity extends from the plot itself to include similarities in characters, dialogue, scenes and props."

Disney spokesman Jonathan Friedland tells Hair Balls that the company has not had time yet to examine the recently filed lawsuit and therefore cannot comment on Yracheta's claims.

Says Arbuckle, "We've looked into this pretty thoroughly. Nobody's just going to take his script and make it directly into a movie; they're going to try to make it look like they didn't copy it, but it's pretty clear to me that there are a lot of things in there that are so detailed that it's just unlikely that somebody would create a script that's got those same things in it and did not see our script and wasn't copying from it."

Yracheta does not list an exact sum for which he is suing. He claims that the movie has grossed somewhere between $93 million and $135 million, and is seeking the profits made by those who allegedly infringed upon his copyrighted material.

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