Esther’s Follies has been in the business of entertaining audiences for 40 years. The history and legacy of Esther’s is finally arriving in a fascinating book, written by local author Jesse Sublett.
I sat down with Jesse to talk about the book, his process as a writer, and all the crazy stories and pictures he has gathered as the author of this colorful coffee-table book.
Interview with Jesse Sublett, Author of Upcoming Esther’s Book
Laura: How did you get involved with writing this book?
Jesse: I’m kind of an Austin history nut, and I’ve been around long enough that I’m very invested in the scene and the community. Michael and Shannon and I have run in the same creative community since the 1970’s and they feel like family to me.
Laura: When did you see Esther’s for the first time?
Jesse: My band the Skunks played there in 1978. It seems to be a lost bit of history. I haven’t been able to find a calendar listing for it. The funny thing is, Michael and Shannon have no recollection which is funny! (laughs) I thought they were cool, but I was pretty narrow focused about music back then, but now I appreciate it so much more. It’s just so brilliant. I didn’t consider how much work and sweat and toil, and most importantly, how this would have ever happened, that they would last more than a year. It says how determined they were, and that Austin is a special place, that they have succeeded and become an institution.
Laura: What’s been the best part of writing the book?
Jesse: It’s all good really. Writing it is the hard part! (smiles) I love talking to the people. The people are really fun to talk to, and there’s no end to the stories. The hardest part is figuring out what stories to leave out.
So much of the show goes by so fast. Your brain cannot retain every joke, so when you hear it again you go, “Oh yeah, I forgot that part”! When I watch the tapes, it’s funny all over again.
And Ray’s work is just really awesome. I’ve been cautioned, “Now don’t give away Ray’s secrets.” I don’t know his secrets, and I don’t want to know his secrets! I love the mystery of it. I have ideas, but they’re probably wrong. The closer I look at it, the more impressed I am, the more I enjoy it.
Laura: What have you been thinking as you have been collecting all the stories and pictures?
Jesse: I’ll tell you one thing. The women; Shannon and Linda and Jeannie, they look so beautiful. They’re not just pretty, they have this heavy vibe going on that’s really magical, it’s like old Hollywood photos, they are screen goddesses.
Laura: Any final thoughts on the book?
Jesse: I am the biggest fan, and I am so impressed by the current cast and in awe of the people who started the show with Shannon and Michael 40 years ago. Past and present, they are really exceptional individuals. Some of the people are just very rare birds, exceedingly talented no matter how you look at them.
About the author
Laura Mathis is a past Esther’s Follies performer who graced the stage from 2003- 2006 with her Canadian charms and willingness to wear any type of costume to get a laugh. Laura enjoyed levitating with Ray Anderson, belting out tunes with Shannon Sedwick, and having a bull whip snapped in her face by Rob Williams (not so enjoyable but she lived to tell the tale). Laura has studied and performed at the famed Second City in Chicago and lives in Austin with her husband and 4 -year-old twins.