Bill’s Best Bets: Wayne Hancock at Cactus, ’33 ‘King Kong’ on big screen, honoring Johnny Ray, Jojo Siwa at USA, LCU women in playoffs

No doubt the highly ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders were happy to leave Mississippi and return home for three games vs. West Virginia University this weekend at Dan Law Field at Rip Griffin Park, 2901 Drive of Champions.

Barring time changes for weather reasons, those three baseball games are set to begin at 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. Warm weather just may assure sellouts.

Also, Chip Polk’s “Sweet Sixteen” is on stage at 3 p.m. each Saturday through April at the Ragtown Theater near Post.

Read on for this weekend’s Best Bets. I had included an NCAA Division II Women’s basketball tournament before learning most fans cannot attend.

Wayne Hancock

It was about 15 years ago when I first experienced a concert by Wayne “The Train” Hancock. That was when he was touring in support of debut recording “Thunderstorms and Neon Signs.”

He knocked me for a loop then, and he’s just gotten better … without ever worrying about the competing Nashville country sound.

Hancock will headline at 7:30 p.m. on Friday at the Cactus Theater, 1812 Buddy Holly Ave.

All reserved seats are just $12 in advance and $15 on the day of the show. Limited balcony box seats are $24 in advance and $30 on the day of the show, with no additional charge for concessions if ticket stubs are shown in advance.

Take note: Listed Cactus ticket prices are “base prices;” varied fees and tax always will be added to base prices at time of purchase. Tickets also can be purchased in advance by using a link at cactustheater.com.

All sales are final. The Cactus Theater does not permit exchanges, refunds or credit for future shows in exchange for unused tickets. The theater’s box office is staffed at 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, unless Monday is a major holiday.

Call the Cactus at 762-3233.

More information also is available at online site www.cactustheater.com.

Hancock has been described as “the undisputed king of Juke Joint Swing – that alchemist’s dream of honky tonk, Western Swing, blues, Texas rockabilly and Big Band music. His music can be traditional, but it is hardcore with a swing.”

Or as Hancock himself said, “Man, I’m like a stab wound in the fabric of country music in Nashville. See that blood stain slowly spreading? That’s me.”

Hank Williams III said, “The only other guy who has more Hank Williams in him than me is Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock. Very few people can be real purists, but Wayne is a purist all the way.”

His web site states: “While ‘The Train’ is indeed a throwback, the funny thing is, the more retro he gets, the fresher he sounds. His songs about the Everyday and Everyman, with their driving pulse and live-in-the-moment vibe, have a character and passion that go beyond a particular time.”

‘King Kong’

With the possible exception of the profane and violent charms of “The Gentlemen,” Lubbock cinemas have not entertained many noteworthy films thus far in 2020. A much better weekend option would be to focus instead on a 1933 classic that remains as creepy and entertaining today – if not more so – as it was when it first opened on screens more than 85 years ago.

I refer to the original “King Kong,” of which the late film critic Roger Ebert wrote, “There is something ageless and primeval about ‘King Kong’ that still works.”

The film opened to rave reviews when it opened at theaters in New York City, including 6,200-capacity Radio City Music Hall, on March 2, 1933. The Chicago Tribune called it “one of the most original, thrilling and mammoth novelties to emerge from a movie studio.”

Filmed in gorgeous black-and-white, “King Kong” will be screened two times – at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. – on Sunday at Cinemark’s Movies 16.

Regular admission prices are in effect: $5.25 (plus tax) for all ages for the Sunday bargain matinees being shown no later than 4 p.m.

Co-directed and co-produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, the film costars Canadian actress Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. The latter portrays the filmmaker who sets the story into motion, explaining he’s heard rumors about a giant ape-like creature and obtained a map to never-explored Skull Island – then promises Wray’s beautiful but down-and-out character, Ann Darrow, the “adventure of a lifetime” if she will join his cast and board his ship.

That adventure includes a surprising friendship with a giant ape.

Following many violent encounters, Kong is captured, sedated with gas bombs and taken to New York City, where he escapes from public exhibition and searches for Darrow.

With a still memorable music score by Max Steiner, the original “King Kong” may be best remembered for its groundbreaking special effects, such as stop-motion animation, matte paintings, rear projection and use of miniatures, all conceived well before the digital age.

Unfortunately, no Academy Awards were given for Best Visual Effects until 1938.

Numerous prehistoric creatures native to Skull Island were brought to life via time-demanding, stop-motion animation by visual effects pioneer Willis O’Brien and assistant animator Buzz Gibson. The iconic fight between Kong and a Tyrannosaurus demanded seven weeks to animate.

(Trivia: O’Brien would prove to be Ray Harryhausen’s mentor.)

Skull Island’s backdrop, for example, was painted on glass by matte painters Henry Hillinck, Mario Larrinaga and Byron C. Crabbe , then rear projected with bird effects behind the real ship and actors.

The animation crew’s biggest challenge throughout the eight-month shooting schedule was making the interaction between humans and creatures appear believable.

In 1991, the Library of Congress called the film “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 1975, “King Kong” was named one of the 50 best American films by the American Film Institute.

“King Kong” often has been compared to the story of “Beauty and the Beast,” but take note that some later protested it as racist, calling it specifically a cautionary tale about interracial (not interspecies) romance.

Dino De Laurentiis produced a new “King Kong” in 1976. Probably the best remake, however, was the “King Kong” made by Peter Jackson, following his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, in 1975.

Undoubtedly, the original is most effective on the wide screen.

Sunday’s special event screenings include insights from Turner Classic Movies.

Celebrating the late Johnny Ray

Much loved and respected local drummer Johnny Ray died at his home on Jan. 6.

Two tributes have taken place thus far, and a third – called A Celebration of the Life of Johnny Ray – will be held from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday at Blue Light Live, 1806 Buddy Holly Ave.

A minimum $5 donation is requested at the door.

And, as Ray was so fond of animals, and specifically cats, a donation jar for the Lubbock Animal Shelter can be found Saturday inside the Blue Light.

Saturday’s celebration will be hosted by Alan Crossland; the emcee is Chelsea Holloway.

“Come celebrate the life of our great friend and drummer, Johnny Ray, said  Blue Light Live officials. “Musicians, bring your instruments! Full backline provided. It looks like a lot of people will be coming into Lubbock for this event. It should be a fun reunion from the old days.”

Those who have confirmed appearances thus far include Asparagus Nightmares, John Sprott, Cash Taylor, Brad Bogle, Kyle Abernathie, J.T. Pat, Joy Harris, Graham Warwick and more.

The following is from a biography listed online at a funeral home site:

John Pearl “Johnny” Ray III died Monday, Jan. 6. He was born in El Paso on Aug. 22, 1961. A graduate of Monterey High School (class of 1979), he spent his life in Lubbock, aside from a few years in Key West, Fla.

Johnny Ray’s business card described him as a “pretty darn good drummer” and “all around swell guy.” Known to some as “Uncle Johnny,” he laughingly referred to himself as “master of the universe.”

His musical talent, primarily as a drummer, found him playing with “just about every band in Lubbock and Key West.” He produced recordings for such band as Asparagus Nightmares, Red Ball Jets and Caffeine Carl and the Coffee Beans.

Ray rarely missed a Jam Night at Lubbock nightclubs.

The musician’s apartment complex neighbors rallied around Johnny’s efforts to care for stray cats, resulting in many being spayed or neutered, and all being well fed and housed in “cat houses,” which he created from plastic storage bins.

Souvenir posters from Saturday’s show are $5. Once costs are met, remaining proceeds also will be donated to the Lubbock Animal Shelter.

Nickelodeon’s JoJo Siwa D.R.E.A.M. tour

And for younger pop/dance followers.

Nickelodeon star and YouTube personality Joelle Joanie “JoJo” Siwa, 16, will headline a concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the United Supermarkets Arena, 1701 Indiana Ave.

The Belles will open the show.

Reserved seats (including service charges) are $80.25, $58.25 and $47.25. Tickets can be purchased at any Select-A-Seat outlet or by calling 770-2000.

Siwa will donate $1 for every ticket sold to Dancers Against Cancer (DAC). This foundation strives to create an alliance in the dance community by providing financial support and inspiration to dance educators, choreographers, dancers and their family members who have been impacted by cancer. Visit online site www.imadanceragainstcancer.org for more information on Dancers Against Cancer.

The Nebraska-born Siwa, on her D.R.E.A.M. tour, is a dancer, singer, actress and YouTube personality.

Her D.R.E.A.M. tour is produced by Nickelodeon and sponsored by Hairdorables. The tour is considered one of the year’s hottest. The first leg of her tour ranked at No. 5 on the Hot Tours Chart, as reported by Billboard. Eighty of Siwa’s 96 shows sold out as the tour touched down in seven countries on three continents.

Siwa appeared for two seasons on “Dance Moms” with her mother, Jessalynn Siwa. JoJo Siwa also is known for her singles “Boomerang” and “Kid in a Candy Store.”The teenager also posts daily videos of her personal day-to-day life on her YouTube channels, called “JoJo Siwa TV” and “It’s JoJo Siwa.”

Her fans are called Siwanatorz.

Opening act The Belles is a rising mother-daughter duo.

Playing country music, The Belles are mother Jaymie Jones and her daughter Kelli. They took their music from Omaha, Neb., to Nashville.

The duo has released an EP called “Nobody Knows Me Better.”

NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament, South Central Region

This Best Bet originally included: Those hoping to watch exciting basketball this weekend in their own back yard should head to the Rip Griffin Center on the LCU campus, 5601 19th St.

That is precisely where Lubbock Christian University’s Lady Chaps – this year’s Lone Star Conference Champion – will host the opening NCAA Women’s Division II South Central Regional tournament on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

A rewrite proved necessary, however – because fans now cannot attend.

Jason Martens, chairman of the women’s NCAA Division II basketball committee, visited the site. An official decision announced late Wednesday afternoon declared doors will be closed to paying fans for all seven games in the tournament.

Blame the growing concern over the coronavirus.

This decision would eliminate any possible home-court advantage for the Lady Chaps.

At the Rip Griffin Center, attendance now is limited to names on pass lists turned in by the eight participating teams’ travel parties.

Each person included in the travel party – players, coaches, athletic director, etc. – can designate six names for the team’s pass list.

Example: If a team has as many as 20 people in its travel group, it can designate 120 – 20 times 6 – names for the team’s tournament pass list. Thus, there may be fewer than 250 people in the stands for each game.

Capacity is 1,950 at the Rip Griffin Center, which opened in 2000.

Many of those who planned to travel to Lubbock for the tournament may need to also cancel hotel reservations.

(Division I conference basketball tournaments, including the Big 12 Tournament, also will be played without fans in the stands. And the annual NCAA Basketball Tournament known as March Madness will also be played without fans.)

Five Lone Star Conference teams, including the top-seeded LCU Lady Chaps, were invited to participate at the women’s tournament this weekend in Lubbock. Joining them are three teams from Colorado and Utah.

The five LSC teams are No. 1 seed LCU, No. 2 seed Texas A&M University-Commerce, No. 3 seed West Texas A&M University, No. 7 seed Eastern New Mexico University and No. 8 seed Angelo State University.

Also participating: No. 4 seed Colorado Mesa University (from Grand Junction, Colo.), No. 5 seed Westminster College from Salt Lake City, Utah), and No. 6 seed Western Colorado University (from Gunnison, Colo.).

Tournament opening day games on Friday are:

  • Game 1, noon, Western Colorado University vs. West Texas A&M University.
  • Game 2, 2:30 p.m., Eastern New Mexico University vs. Texas A&M University-Commerce.
  • Game 3, 6 p.m., Lubbock Christian University Lady Chaps vs. Angelo State University.
  • Game 4, 8:30 p.m., Westminster College-Utah vs. Colorado Mesa University.

Continuing at the Rip Griffin Center on Saturday:

  • Game 5, 5 p.m., Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner.
  • Game 6, 7:30 p.m., Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner.

Game 7, the South Central Region’s tournament championship game – pitting Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner – will tip off on the same court at 7 p.m. on Monday.

Eight-team regionals, such as the one in Lubbock, are being played this weekend at eight campus sites.

Winners of these eight regional tournaments will advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, with those games played in Birmingham, Ala.