By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — British native Matthew Wells, in town this week to do stories for the BBC on the Spaceport and the lawsuit to bring Geronimo’s remains home, summed it up very well, I thought.
“Quite a good news patch you have right now!” Wells opined.
And he didn’t know the half of it, I thought, just a tiny percentage, in fact.
I reflected on our nice little news patch during a busy week that included tracking down comments on the impact of having the 2010 HGTV Dream House in New Mexico.
John G. Hadley, president-elect of Builders Association Industry of Southern New Mexico, told me he thought it would help draw attention to New Mexico’s lead (of several thousand years, before current “trend-setters”) in adobe and green building, to say nothing of helping to put us on the map (correctly, in the U.S.) with millions of HGTV viewers.
“At this point, anything positive would help. I moved here six years ago from New Jersey and when I tried to fly out here, I was told to go over to the international desk,” he quipped.
A few hours later, I was reflecting how prominently we are on the map, in some circles at least, as I went to the set of “Refuge” to interview actress Linda Hamilton. Director and cowriter of the film is long-time Las Crucen Mark Medoff, who has twice taken plays from Las Cruces to Broadway. “Children of a Lesser God,” as most of us know, won a Tony Award and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Mark. Marlee Matlin won a best actress Oscar for her role in the film. Medoff has gone on to bring several of his original movies —and premiere many plays and even an opera — here and helped found NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.
I recognized several seasoned pros on the set, along with students, and a crossover star: internationally-renowned artist Stephen Hansen, whose whimsical works are in the Smithsonian and in galleries, embassies and other prestigious sites throughout the world. Stephen is art director for the film.
I’m used to explaining that stars are nothing new in our territory. Recent blockbusters like the “Transformers” flicks and the latest Indiana Jones saga were filmed here and not too long ago, Academy Award-winners Charlese Theron and Kim Basinger were hanging out on the Downtown Mall, shooting “The Burning Plain.”
And I just learned that Oscar-nominated director Guillermo Arriaga is slated to appear at the Mesilla Valley Film Society’s early public screening of “Burning Plain” slated for Sept. 12 here, a week before the national opening. If you want to see it in less-privileged places, like New York or Los Angeles, you’ll just have to wait a week, ahem.
And while we’re talking star power — the celestial kind — we have some interesting connections there, too, that date back long before X-Prize and Spaceport America.
Most of the giants of the space age have worked in or visited our territory and several of them made their homes here. Frank Borman, once a Picacho Hills neighbor of mine, was commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon in1968. Harrison Schmitt, who grew up in Silver City, took a lunar lander to the moon’s surface in 1972.
And I was lucky enough to do several fun interviews with late, great Mesilla resident Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered what was proclaimed the ninth planet in our solar system. (Many of us reject the recent, misguided “dwarf” planet reclassification and continue to proudly wear our “PLUTO’S A PLANET, DAMMIT!” T-shirts to show our support.)
And again, this is just the tip of the White Sands dune. I reflected recently on how many renowned and fascinating people I’ve had a chance to have a natter and a chinwag with here. It’s a motley crew of stars of stage, screen, politics, religion, literature, music, science and more that includes such names as Elton John, Vince Gill, Elie Wiesel, Alice “The Color Purple” Walker, Gloria Steinem and Gloria Estefan ...
Often, they were people I never had a chance to meet, or met only briefly, in more crowded, boring places like New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, Santa Fe and Portland, Ore. Here, they tend to relax and take time to chat with students, residents, visitors, and, yes, journalists.
People here are sweet and kind as a rule. And, having grown up with astronauts for neighbors and the occasional superstars hanging out, there is a pervasive, multicultural, graceful and egalitarian graciousness extended to all human beings, regardless of race, creed, color, or level of fame.
And I thought, once again, about a prediction when I left many of the less exciting mega-metropolises I’ve lived in to more here: “Las Cruces is the place where the great souls of the planet will come to pitch their tents, circle their wagons and make their last American stand.”
Quite a good news patch, indeed.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org