Media Life: Outlaw country’s Billy Joe Shaver OK’d to Party in the Park

Foresthill Bridge filming could get international exposure; Hitchcock film fest has classic example of portraying a small community on the big screen
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Party in the Park has dodged a bullet. Outlaw country music legend Billy Joe Shaver’s appearance at the June 18 music fest in North Auburn had been in question last week because of some serious trouble he was having with the law in Texas. But those legal questions are no longer on the table and he’s expected to show up on schedule – the only strings attached vibrating sweetly on the necks of his band’s guitars. A Waco, Texas grand jury cleared Shaver of an aggravated assault charge just after last week’s Media Life column appeared. Shaver had shot a man in the face outside a bar three years ago. The man lived, the bullet lodged in his neck. And Shaver faced from two to 20 years in prison if he had been convicted. Shaver, contending the shooting was in self-defense, won an acquittal and walked away smiling from the courtroom with a big legal weight lifted off his shoulders. The trial got plenty of national attention, particularly when Shaver’s buddies Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall showed up at the courthouse. Shaver told the media after his a acquittal that he’d like patch up any bad feelings with the man he shot and even expressed hope that 52-year-old Billy Bryant Coker would give him back his bullet. Long before the date of the trial was known, Party in the Park had booked Shaver and his band as headliners for the annual June 19 event at North Auburn’s Regional Park. With the outcome of the trial in doubt, so was Shaver’s ability to travel to California from his Waco home for the gig. Worst-case scenario would have seen him sitting in a Lone Star State jail cell. GUITAR IN GOOD HANDS If anything, the new round of notoriety in court has made the public more aware of Shaver and his music, said Scott Holbrook, one of the key Party in the Park organizers. Shaver’s a Texas Country Music Hall of Fame inductee and Grammy nominee. While he hasn’t achieved widespread commercial success, his songs have been recorded by the likes of Bob Dylan, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley and Todd Snider. Holbrook said he’d long been aware of Shaver’s reputation as a songwriter’s songwriter and had a chance to catch the 70-year-old West Texas music legend at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The demand was growing for a country act so Holbrook signed him on for the 10th annual Party in the Park. Holbrook’s also excited about Adam Carter, a 15-year-old wunderkind from South Carolina who has been Shaver’s lead guitar player since December. Reviews from some of Shaver’s shows indicate the possibility of Auburn seeing the next Stevie Ray Vaughn, he said. BRIDGE IN FOCUS No word when and if it will appear on TV but extreme athletics star Joby Ogwyn was at the Foresthill Bridge last month to make and film several BASE jumps off the 740-foot-high span. Ogwyn, the Santa Barbara native known for being the youngest American to scale Mt. Everest, shot footage for his show “The Adventurist,” which airs throughout the world on the Discovery Channel’s family of networks. Beverly Lewis, director of the Placer-Lake Tahoe Film Office, said the visit and a flurry of others in the county during March bodes well for the local economy. A total of nine permits were issued in a matter of days – including a Paramount film production in Tahoe and elaborate snowmobile and pyrotechnic stunts for the new MTV series “The Dudesons.” SEARED ON THE SILVER SCREEN In theory, the best thing that can happen to a city like Auburn is for a film production company to shoot on location – and then have that movie turn into a classic. “Phenomenon” in Old Town and environs in 1995 came close but one of the better examples will be on view this weekend at the State Theater’s Alfred Hitchcock festival in Auburn. Friday's showing will be “Shadow of a Doubt,” which was filmed in Santa Rosa in 1942. On-location footage runs rampant throughout the classic suspense yarn. The tragedy is that many of the buildings have been lost since then, including several structures torn down after a 1969 earthquake. Tickets are still available for the lineup of six classic “Hitch” films and individual admissions can be bought at the door. “Shadow of a Doubt” is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The festival runs through Sunday evening, with “Psycho” wrapping things up with 7 p.m. showing. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0232 or