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Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center

Most of the time, the White House is no joke. But an off-beat new exhibit opening at the George W. Bush Presidential Center reveals the pranks, quips, and humorous happenings that have lightened the mood in the Oval Office throughout history. Liberty & Laughter: The Lighter Side of the White House opens Thursday, March 3 and runs through December 31 at the museum on the SMU campus in Dallas.

The special exhibit promises entertaining first-family anecdotes, interactive multimedia, and amusing artifacts that will unveil presidential pranks and inside jokes, “while awards to the wittiest, quippiest, most mischievous president and first lady will grace the pursuit of happiness walk,” says a press release.

“‘Liberty & Laughter’ shows the importance of humor in a democracy,” says museum director Brig. Gen. Patrick X. Mordente in the release. “We are free to express our thoughts about our leaders in many ways — sometimes as cartoon caricatures. This exhibit reminds us that our presidents are real people with a sense of humor that helped them in their important job of leading our country.”

(To be clear, the exhibit covers more than “Dubya’s” White House, although God bless ’em if the word “strategery” appears somewhere.)

Among the jocular historical documents, photographs, and artifacts on display will be:

  • First lady correspondence with actors and personalities like Mary Tyler Moore and Marge Simpson.
  • President Ronald Reagan’s joke notecards.
  • President Bill Clinton’s sunglasses from The Arsenio Hall Show, and one of his many saxophones.
  • A hand-written humorous verse President Franklin D. Roosevelt composed to the three press associations.

“Visitors will experience humor through cartoons and caricatures, learn the savvy ways presidents have added levity to debates and interactions with the press, and laugh their way through a presidential talent show,” the release says. “A lively mirth-matching quiz will adorn one gallery while another will offer the chance to copycat famous presidential impersonators.”

Throughout the exhibit, organizers say, there will be reminders from the likes of President George Washington, who once said, “It is assuredly better to go laughing than crying thro’ the rough journey of life.”

More information and tickets, which include access to the museum’s permanent exhibit, are available here.

A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.

Photo courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center
A new exhibit explores the lighter side of the White House.
Courtesy of Whataburger

Whataburger ‘sleighs’ the season with new ugly sweater and more holiday gear

Winter Whataburger Land

The holiday season is upon us. And you know what that means in the Lone Star State: decking the halls, visits with Santa, dashing through no snow, and — oh, yeah — the annual release of some of the cheesiest Christmas garb in all of Texas.

That’s right, it’s time to “sleigh” the season by beefing up your wardrobe with some Whataburger finery. The San Antonio-based burger chain has plenty of new and classic holiday offerings Whataburger fans will relish this year and for Yuletides to come.

If it’s an ugly holiday sweater you’re craving, the fast-food company’s new design — featuring a snowy Christmas Eve scene at Whataburger, complete with Santa and his reindeer — is sure to jingle your bells. Make it a combo by adding the matching beanie and new holiday socks to stay cozy during the most wonderful time of the year.

Also new this season: pajama sets in sizes for the whole family and bedecked with a diamond flying W design. After all, as Whataburger notes, “the jolly man on Christmas night loves families in orange and white.”

And the 2021 collectible ornament, a signature orange vintage pickup truck hauling — what else? — Whataburger fries will help make the season bright and perhaps a little salty.

The company will also gift fans with additional product drops throughout the season, including more pajama sets and beanies, though the online Whatastore, where all seasonal items can be purchased, already boasts an abundance of holiday wares, from the clever “All I want for Christmas is Whataburger” T-shirt and the classic Whataburger A-frame snow globe to 7-foot inflatable Santa and snowman yard decorations, and even Christmas-themed Whataburger table tents.

Of course, Whataburger-branded apparel and gifts are nothing new for the brand, which has long offered a meaty line for the fashion-forward fan, including a flurry of strangely appealing holiday wear.

Visit the Whatastore to get more info and to check out the full line of holiday offerings.

The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

Courtesy of Whataburger
The new holiday sweater will have you dreaming of a Whataburger Christmas.

The Masked Singer reveals San Antonio show as part of epic national tour

Costume drama

Alamo City will soon play host to a touring version of America’s favorite song-and-dance reality show.

The Masked Singer, the Fox series guessing-game competition that features costumed celebrities belting out their best (and sometimes worst) renditions of popular songs, will take to the stage at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio on July 12, 2022 as part of a national tour.

Tickets for the San Antonio show go on sale to the public Wednesday, November 3 at 7 pm through the Tobin Center website. VIP packages are available now through VIPNation.com and include meet-and-greet opportunities with the cast, exclusive merch, and photo opportunities.

Fans of the TV show can expect much of the same zaniness during the live performance, which will include some recognizable characters from the TV series brought to life onstage alongside “surprise celebrity guests,” according to a release.

Celebrity guest hosts from the TV show, who will be announced closer to performance dates, will join one “local celebrity” at every show, with that VIP performing in a top-secret disguise.

The San Antonio audience will then try to decipher clues to guess the local celebrity’s identity until the he or she is unmasked at the end of the night’s festivities, with producers promising “an incredible production of song, dance, and craziness that only The Masked Singer could deliver.”

The tour is presented by Right Angle Entertainment — which has made a killing touring with live versions of popular TV series, including Price is Right Live — and producers Guy Phillips and Mark Swanhart, the minds behind Dancing with the Stars: Live!, The Bachelor Live on Stage, and the Simone Biles-led Gold Over America Tour, which canceled its San Antonio engagement this fall.

With the following The Masked Singer show has amassed (it’s currently the No. 1 primetime series, averaging 7.9 million viewers across multiple platforms), it was likely only a matter of time before these producers took the show on the road.

The Masked Singer national tour kicks off in St. Louis on May 28, 2022. In addition to the San Antonio engagement on July 12, the tour will also make Texas stops in Austin on July 13, Sugar Land on July 14, and Grand Prairie on July 15.

New comedy club from San Antonio all-stars brings the laughs to Alamo City

Funny Business

A new San Antonio business from two local entertainers is giving comedy lovers plenty of reasons to laugh out loud.

Upstage Comedy Lounge, located at 4441 Walzem Rd., is billed as a “fresh look and location for live entertainment,” that will feature comedy shows every weekend, nationally touring comedians, an open-mic night every Wednesday, event-rental space, and, yes, even those dang funny defensive-driving classes.

Owned by DJ Double K and comedian B Smitty, the new San Antonio comedy club will host its soft opening events Friday, September 10, featuring headlining stand-up comedian Raul Sanchez and Josh Cabaza, and Saturday, September 11, featuring headlining comedian Clifton Simmons and Glo Armmer.

Both shows start at 8 pm, and tickets ranging from single seats to four-top tables and preferred seating areas are available online.

Check out other upcoming performances on the Upstage calendar here.

And in accordance with the notion that you can’t run a successful comedy club unless patrons have the chance to snort drinks out of their noses mid-guffaw, Upstage offers plenty of sips and bites befitting a funny factory.

Signature drinks include the rum-based Punchline, the bourbon-forward Sour Puss, and the tequila-fueled Take My Wife, and grace the beverage menu alongside margaritas, mimosas, spirits, beer, and soft drinks. Nibbles include a smattering of wings, fries, and nachos.

As they say at Upstage, “Traffic tickets aren’t funny. However, getting them dismissed can be hilarious.” And San Antonio speed demons in search of a car insurance discount and ticket dismissal will delight in Upstage’s Driving Safety course hosted by B Smitty, which includes free lunch and free comedy tickets, and is also available in a virtual version.

For more info about Upstage Comedy Lounge and upcoming performances, follow the club on Instagram.

New 10-acre paintball park blasts into San Antonio suburb

Got ya!

In a bid to develop more contact-free activities, EVO Entertainment may have hit a bullseye. The Texas-based movie chain announced it is adding a 10-acre paintball and airsoft park to its Schertz location.

Set to open in November, the new course is a direct response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for more activities that take place outdoors and allow people to socially distance from one another.

“With the limitations we continue to face during the pandemic, we thought this was the perfect opportunity to get creative and offer something we’ve never done before,” said EVO Entertainment Group CEO Mitch Roberts. “With the addition of our non-contact paintball and airsoft course, we can now offer our guests a new option for outdoor entertainment while still safely practicing social distancing.”

The new course is divided into two sections: The Forests and The Fields. The Forests section is made up of three woodsball courses. This type of course creates a more "natural" environment for players, so they can shoot from behind trees and logs, etc.

The Fields section includes two speedball courses, which give both teams a similar course — ie, a level playing "field." Each expanse is also populated with bunkers and other hidey-holes to help players spring the ultimate paintball attack.

Players will be required to undergo a health and safety check before taking part, notes a release, and EVO will sanitize equipment after each use.

Though an exact date has yet to be announced, EVO says the new 10-acre attraction should be open in late November.

Photo courtesy of Mardi Gras Galveston

Follow the beads to these Mardi Gras beats, bashes, and balcony parties in Galveston

Let the good times roll

It's that time of year when tourists descend upon Galveston — no, not for spring break — but to go crazy during the two weekends that make up Mardi Gras Galveston. While some gatherings are private, there are plenty of events where bead-bearing folk can respectfully get their party on.

If you'd rather forego the Mardi Gras crowds in New Orleans this year but still want to take part in parties and parades, point your car toward the popular Texas beach town. In a few hours, the good times will be rolling.

The parades
Expect myriad Mardi Gras parades, mostly going down in the Strand District. The weekend of February 22-24, there will be the George P. Mitchell Mardi Gras Award Parade (7 pm February 22), the 8th Annual Zaniest Golf Cart Parade (1 pm February 23), the Krewe D'iHeartMedia Art Car Parade (3 pm February 23), and the Fiesta Gras Parade (1 pm February 24).

The following weekend, there's the Danny Weber Memorial Fire Truck Parade (7 pm March 1), the Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler Parade (3:30 pm March 2), and the Krewe d'Esprit Rosaire Parade (11 am March 2) on Seawall Boulevard.

The entertainment
This weekend's Main Stage headliners are Texas country artist Pat Green (6 pm February 23) and Baton Rouge funk band Zaemon (10 pm February 23). Coming from Roma, Texas, Norteno band Duelo (2:30 pm February 24) will handle the music for Fiesta Gras.

Next weekend, Lone Star country stars Jason Cassidy (10:30 pm March 1) and Drew Womack (8:30 pm March 1) will headline a "Salute to Texas" show.

And, for the EDM-loving kids, there's also Electric Mardi Gras, where DJs will be keeping things loud on the Electric Stage at the intersection of 21st and Mechanic. The two big draws this year are Phoenix's Grey the Mute (9 pm February 23) and Austin's Buck Rodgers (11 pm February 23).

The balcony parties
Savvy locals know that half the fun is observing the events from the numerous balcony parties that'll also be going down. The Mardi Gras! Headquarters Balcony Party will be happening all through Mardi Gras at the Dargan & Tobyn Building. A Mardi Gras Mask-Making Party (5:30 pm February 21) will kick things off at the Galveston Arts Center.

The King's Court Balcony Party will be on both weekends at Trolley Station, while the Queen's Court Balcony Party will also be happening at the Trumpets Building. And fans of all things '80s might want to check out the 2019 Krewe of Thalasar '80s Mardi Gras Ball (5 pm February 22) at the Trumpets Building.

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For more information on Mardi Gras Galveston parties, visit the official site.

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San Antonio Missions hit home run with new owners, plus more top stories

Hot Headlines

Editor’s note: It’s that time again — time to check in with our top stories. Here are five articles that captured our collective attention over the past seven days.

1. San Antonio's minor league baseball team scores new owners, including Texas sports legends. San Antonio's minor league baseball team is back to being locally owned — by some big names.

2. H-E-B unveils new line of merchandise for super fans, available exclusively at this store. Kerrville was chosen to launch the company's new line of H-E-B-branded merchandise, in celebration of its 117th anniversary and in honor of its first store.

3. San Antonio market continues to see prices going up and sales going down. San Antonio home sales dropped 19 percent from October 2021.

4. San Antonio Rodeo wrangles even more musical acts for star-studded 2023. Turnpike Troubadours joined the already impressive lineup for the 2023 San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo.

5. San Antonio children's theater adapts timeless children's book for the holidays. Magik Theatre celebrates The Velveteen Rabbit as a Christmas story, with inclusive special performances.

Steven Spielberg opens up personal history in The Fabelmans

Movie Review

For over 40 years, director Steven Spielberg has been delivering some of the most popular blockbuster movies of all time as well as a bevy of Oscar-quality dramas, a combination that’s unique to him. For his latest, The Fabelmans, he’s decided to go more personal than ever, telling a thinly-veiled version of his own childhood.

Sammy (played mostly by Gabriel LaBelle) is one of four children – and the only son – of Mitzi (Michelle Williams), a concert pianist, and Burt Fabelman (Paul Dano), a computer engineer. From an early age, Sammy is enthralled by the art of filmmaking, first remaking a train crash sequence from The Greatest Show on Earth, and gradually moving on to more adventurous stories.

Burt’s advancing career, which moves the family from New Jersey to Arizona to California, causes stress for various members of the family, most notably Sammy and Mitzi. Sammy must deal with anti-Semitic bullies, while Mitzi falls deeper into a mental health crisis. Sammy’s movies continually offer a respite for the family, though, giving him a creative outlet and the rest of them a chance to forget their troubles for a while.

Written by Spielberg – his first writing effort since 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence – and Tony Kushner, the film is heavy on emotions but presented in a way that those feelings don’t always translate. Spielberg is no stranger to depicting fraught family situations in his long career, but in showing ones from his own family, it feels like he pulled back, not wanting the scenes to be overwrought or schmaltzy.

The result is a story that isn’t as universal as some of his other films. As the film is told from Sammy’s perspective, it’s easy to get caught up in his pursuits and various discoveries as he gets older. The mindsets of the rest of the family are less clear, even though his parents and sisters are ever-present. Mitzi’s state of mind is a concern from the start, but it’s not always treated as such by other important characters.

Just as Sammy’s movies are an escape for his family, so too are they some of the best parts of the film. Sammy figuring out the process and secrets of filmmaking is informative and often thrilling, especially if you’re a cinephile. Spielberg has been considered a master for so long that watching him revisit the days when he was learning as he went is catnip for movie lovers.

In addition to being a dead ringer for a teenage Spielberg, LaBelle is a fantastic actor. It’s no easy feat to carry a movie on your shoulders, and LaBelle makes the assignment look easy. Williams’ performance will likely be more polarizing; she employs a very mannered speech pattern that works in some situations, but not all. The film also includes memorable short appearances by Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, and David Lynch.

Spielberg has provided the moviegoing public with such pleasure over the years that he deserves to have a movie that’s mostly for him. The initial viewing of The Fabelmans left this critic wanting, but perhaps it will gain more traction on a second screening.

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The Fabelmans is now playing in theaters.

Photo by Merie Weismuller Wallace/Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Gabriel LaBelle in The Fabelmans

New self-guided tour showcases iconic Fort Worth Stockyards' many Hollywood ties

Tinseltown in Cowtown

A new self-guided tour showcasing the Fort Worth Stockyards’ many star-studded appearances in cinema throughout the years recently debuted in time for the 16th annual Lone Star Film Festival, which took place earlier this month in the Stockyards for the first time.

Called Stars of the Stockyards, the eight-stop, go-at-your-own pace walking tour guides folks to famous film sites where celebrities have stepped foot in front of Hollywood cameras. Visitors to the Stockyards can access the PDF tour map on their smart phones via QR codes (no app required) posted throughout the district, namely at hotels and tour kiosks.

"The Stockyards is a historic and celebrated destination for many reasons, but one that may be lesser known is its popularity as a filming location for some of our favorite movies and TV series," said Ethan Cartwright, VP of marketing for Stockyards Heritage Development Co.

The tour and corresponding QR codes are a permanent addition to the district, he said.

Stops on the map include the iconic White Elephant Saloon, a hotbed for Hollywood performances including several by legendary actor and martial artist Chuck Norris in the longtime TV series, Walker, Texas Ranger when the watering hole was portrayed as the fictional CD Bar. The White Elephant was also graced by country music superstar Tim McGraw and Academy Award-winning actor Billy Bob Thornton for their appearances in Paramount Plus’ hit series 1883.

Also in 1883 and featured on the tour is Hookers Grill, hidden in the less flashy West side of Exchange Ave. The burger shack transformed into a gambling den in the show called The Texas House of Liquor & Sport. It’s the only building in the Stockyards that preserved the façade constructed by 1883’s production team. During operating hours, customers can order at the outdoor burger window and dine at patio tables within the two-story structure.

Cowtown Coliseum is marked on the map for its appearances in the 1983 film Tough Enough, where actor Dennis Quaid played an amateur boxer. It’s also the home of the final rodeo scene in the 1992 movie Pure Country starring country music legend George Strait.

Billy Bob’s Texas, the Stockyards Hotel, and even unassuming historic cattle pens also make the list on the tour, along with notations for the Texas Trail of Fame, which features more than 240 bronze markers honoring contributors for preserving and perpetuating the Western way of life.

Veteran actors Sam Elliot and Robert Duvall, both stars in the megahit TV series Yellowstone, are among the most recent Texas Trail of Fame inductees.

For more information and to get started on the tour, go here.