25th Anniversary Issue
Current 25: After a wild start, lean years, the ‘Current’ grows up ... but not too much
(and a guide to all our 25th Anniversary stories)
Published: June 1, 2011
Whenever I really like someone — the kind of like that translates into shared cups of tea and old Flight of the Conchords episodes — I’m liable to raid my paper archives and show off my few remaining copies of Choice. Consider it my first news endeavor: a monthly fanzine assembled with electric adolescent fury and lots of glue sticks chronicling a slice of the North Texas punk scene from 1986 to 1988.
While I was learning how to weave together band interviews, crass cartoons, and questionable teenage poetry, a couple of alternative weekly prospectors were flooding a downtown Broadway Avenue basement with light, humor, and sweat as they started pumping out a weekly alternative newspaper that would over the years make just enough friends to be fun while getting thrown out of enough establishments to maintain its muckraking cred.
Original owners Linda Matys O’Connell and her husband Geoff launched on the wings provided by a gaggle of high-profile attorneys, including Gerry Goldstein, Pat Maloney, and Phil Hardberger, who themselves were responding to the O’Connells’ promises to take on tort reform. In some cases the very writers who would struggle to fill the pages week after week were putting personal money in, as well, all to offer the city something a little more colorful than the transcription service that too frequently defined the daily journalism of the time. When the premier issue hit the streets of San Antonio on April 3, 1986, with an illustration of prominent Council critic C.A. Stubbs wringing the neck of the Tower of the Americas like a gargantuan Col. Sanders dispatching another unlucky cluck, the paper was described as “an idea whose time has come.”
“At the time, San Antonio was the most interesting city that didn’t have an alternative newsweekly,” Geoff O’Connell told former Current editor Lisa Sorg. The couple wanted to “give the cultural community a focal point,” he said, “and to connect to the community as opposed to being a generic left-of-center paper.”
A “Sandinista Watch” opened up the first issue’s news section. Staff writer Reed Harp (seen blowing through town recently, possibly on his way back to Mexico) satirized the Cameron County Sheriff’s stockpiling of Uzis and M-16s as President Ronald Reagan painted Nicaragua as a “privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just two days drive from Harlingen.” It would seem the Current has always been good at lambasting inane fear mongering.
Contributing writer Steven Kellman (the only first-generation contributor still riding the wave with us) remembered those heady days for the unusual direction he got from the the O’Connells. “They said I could write as much as I wanted about whatever I saw that weekend.” Thankfully, his pick turned out to be Ran, now considered Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece. He stretched out with more than 2,000 words. This was indeed something different.
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