Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush and a slew of Hollywood stars gathered Monday night at the Alamo to celebrate next week’s premiere of a blockbuster five-part miniseries on the Texas Revolution, and a partnership to save the nearly 300-year-old shrine.
“I wish I could put it in words; it’s indescribable to me,” said Bill Paxton, a Fort Worth native who plays Texas hero Sam Houston, referring to being back at the Alamo for the first time in 40 years. The last time Paxton, a Fort Worth native, was here, he was all of 10, on vacation with his family. “We stayed at the Menger Hotel,” he recalled.
The “Texas Honors” ceremony was held one week before the series, “Texas Rising,” premieres at 8 p.m. May 25 on the History television network. The miniseries is about events following the 1836 Battle of the Alamo.
Bush said the network is helping promote the Alamo Endowment, which is stepping up efforts to raise funds for structural preservation and construction of a new museum and visitor center to house precious artifacts, including more than 200 donated by rock musician Phil Collins. He called on all Texans to “come to our aid and support.”
“These Texas treasures are now sitting in storage, waiting for us to take action,” Bush told a crowd of about 200 invited guests in Alamo Plaza, which was closed for the event, though some 150 people stood on the perimeter to see the ceremony and a preview of the miniseries.
Network officials said they soon will announce a donation to the endowment, a nonprofit chaired by Bush, who took office this year at the Texas General Land Office, which oversees the Alamo.
Dirk Hoogstra, History’s executive vice president and general manager, promised a series, the biggest ever undertaken by the network, that “will make all of you proud.”
“It’s all heart, it’s all there,” Hoogstra said. “I could not have been more thrilled with this production.”
Brendan Fraser, one of the stars who plays an early Texas Ranger, said it “really feels good” to make a contribution to the Shrine of Texas Liberty.
Also attending the event were cast members Kris Kristofferson (Andrew Jackson), Ray Liotta(Lorca, a fictional character who survives the Battle of the Alamo), Olivier Martinez (Mexican General Santa Anna) and Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Emily West — “The Yellow Rose of Texas”).
With them on the red carpet before the ceremony were Collins, an artifact collector and Alamo benefactor, and Jose Feliciano, who, along with Kristofferson, contributed music to the series’ soundtrack.
People who lined Alamo Street on the west end of the plaza strained for a glimpse of the Hollywood stars. But the luminaries were sequestered in a press tent, out of public view.
The ceremony honored four high-achieving Texans with “Texas Honors” plaques, including Shanna Peeples, an Amarillo high school English teacher recently named the national teacher of the year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Also honored were Laredo resident Sara Martinez Tucker, president emeritus of the National Math & Science Initiative; retired Navy SEAL and “Lone Survivor” author Marcus Luttrell of Houston; and former “Top Chef” winner Paul Qui of Austin.
Tucker, described in comments by Paxton as a tireless advocate for equal educational opportunities for youth, said she hoped the miniseries would sound a beckon call for all Texans to “fight for our children” and put an end to bigotry and low expectations.
“In my home, it was not ‘if’ you go to college, but ‘when’ you go to college,” she said.
Peeples said she was amazed to be at the Alamo with stars in her eyes — literally.
“This is way more glamorous than an English teacher is used to,” Peeples said, “The stuff you dream about when you’re a little girl. Bill Paxton — how cool is that? Ray Liotta, Kris Kristofferson…amazing!”
“Amazing” also was a word used by “Texas Rising” actor Christopher McDonald — but to describe the Alamo.
“It gives me chills to think what these guys went through,” said the actor, who also plays an early Texas Ranger. “It feels authentic being here, makes it much more real for us.”
It was Liotta’s first time at the Alamo, and first time playing a cowboy. He said he was thrilled to be part of such a fundraising event. His character, Lorca, is left for dead in a smoldering mass grave at the Alamo. However, he survives to seek vengeance for the slaughter.
“It’s a great show,” Liotta said of the series, adding he also was thrilled to help with the real Alamo. “Such a great cause.”
Bush, who seated a new Alamo Endowment board in March, has called the collaboration with History “an important step in ensuring that the Alamo’s legacy lives on.” Preservationists have said more funds are needed to protect and preserve the Alamo’s two oldest structures with techniques such as mortar injections, stone reconstruction and installation of drainage systems and moisture barriers.
The Land Office and the city of San Antonio also are working to improve the area around the iconic Alamo church and Long Barrack. Last month, the state agency and city announced they will jointly craft a master plan during the next year for the state-owned complex and the city plaza.
The planning process will explore possible options for improvements, such as more gardens and greenery; new public art; closure of the plaza to traffic; reconstruction of mission-era and 1836 structures; and purchase of buildings on the plaza’s west end for use as a visitor center.