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Project 7 - BBQ Variety Show at the Driskill Hotel

Gordon Wilkison

No Sound on Film | 1960s

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  •  The emcee in a cowboy hat speaks at the podium 
  •  The string band begins their show! 
 
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Not much is known about this footage shot by a local network news cameraman that includes scenes from a barbecue meal at the Driskill Hotel, complete with checkered tablecloths and after dinner musical entertainment in the form of an all-female string band in drag. Do you recognize this event or any of its attendees? Who is the emcee of the event? Do you remember this comedic string band? Help us figure out what is happening at the historic Driskill Hotel!
The Driskill Hotel was opened by cattle baron Jesse Lincoln Driskill in 1886 as a showpiece for the emerging capital city of Austin. A luxurious building with arched entryways and limestone features, the grand hotel was reminiscent of the palaces in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis. It quickly became the place to throw lavish Governor’s balls and host international dignitaries. Jesse Driskill was forced to sell the hotel in 1888 due to a severe drought that cost him his fortune. After years of being traded and sold, the Driskill’s fifth owner, Major George W. Littlefield, vowed the hotel would never close again and initiated a $60,000 renovation in 1895. 
 
President Lyndon Baines Johnson had his first date with his future wife, Lady Bird, in the downstairs dining room of the Driskill in 1934. This marked the beginning of the Johnsons’ lifelong love for the hotel. In the 1950s, the Johnsons rented suites at the Driskill to serve as the offices of their news station, KTBC. It was also the site of Lyndon’s campaign headquarters, where they awaited election results for both the vice-presidential and presidential elections, and the couple frequented their own presidential suite during his presidency.
 
After a planned rennovation falling through, the Driskill Hotel faced demolition in 1969. The Heritage Society of Austin strived to get the building recognized as a historic landmark and succeeded. A series of fundraising campaigns amounting to over $700,000 allowed for the hotel to reopen in 1972, and it has been in operation since that time. Known as one of the most haunted hotels in the country, ghostly spirits have been reported roaming the old hallways, including Jesse Driskill himself!