Join us on Thursday, June 2nd at 6 pm with author Neal Spelce. Neal and Cari will talk about Neal's new book:
WITH THE BARK OFF: A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media“Neal Spelce is one of those rare people who can’t make a move without stepping into history, which is why his memoir is so fascinating and rewarding. He was on the scene when Lyndon Johnson got a very public enema, when he shouted ‘Yee-haw’ in the Taj Mahal, and finally when he was laid to rest on the Pedernales. In1966, Spelce was also the newsman who alerted the world, under fire and in real time, to the then-unimaginable horrors of a mass shooting. All that, and he also consulted on Ann Richards’ wardrobe at the 1988 Democratic convention, and may very well be the only living soul to know the meaning of the word ‘Thermostrockimortimer.’”
Happy Hour 6 pm - 6:30 pm
The conversation begins at 6:30 pm, followed by Q&A
Please register at the "Tickets" button above. You'll see the option to register for in-person or online events.
The tickets are $19 per person (+taxes) for the in-person event and include admission and light refreshments. Wine & beer will be available for purchase.
There is no charge if you are attending via zoom. Registration is required to receive the zoom link. You will be sent a link to connect to the Zoom event. It will come from: firstname.lastname@example.org Sometimes emails from Eventbrite end up in the spam or a "promotions" folder.
Should you not have your Zoom link on the day of the event, please text:
1-339-234-0625 for help.
With The Bark Off: A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media by Neal Spelce
published in the March 10, 2022 issue of West Austin News
My life has intersected with Neal Spelce’s for over 50 years. On Aug. 1, 1966, I stood by him in the aftermath of the shooting at UT, listening as he was broadcasting. In the late 1970s, Neal and I had become friendly competitors in the advertising business. He was also a force in the Chamber of Commerce circles, had a lot to do with recruiting some of Austin’s major high tech companies, prepped speakers like Ann Richards and John McCain for the national spotlight, and arranged major events such as the opening of the LBJ Library and the funerals for both President Lyndon Johnson and Mrs. Johnson. Now, he has written a book about it all. With The Bark Off reveals the details about many of his life’s stories.
Photo by Joe Lee
That title is apropos, because Neal keeps it down-to-earth and highly entertaining all the way through. On another level, for those of us who have been around town for a while, this book is a history of Austin, with behind-the-scenes tales galore.
By the way, for anyone who thinks that Neal must have been the product of an upper-class upbringing and that he had an Ivy League education, uh, no. As the book relates, most of his youth, he and his brother Bennett were raised by their mother Fannie Lou -- a nurse who largely had to fend for the three of them by herself. (She later became known for her paintings, which reside in many important collections.) They moved from a small town in Arkansas to Raymondville to Tulsa to Berkeley, back to Arkansas, and then to Corpus Christi, where Neal finished high school at 16. In 1952, he came to the University of Texas, where on his first night in Austin, he walked from the campus to the State Capitol, wandered through the rotunda to marvel at the interior, and then headed out from there to admire the lights of downtown Austin.
Time and again in this riveting book, Neal harkens back to this sense of wonder and his instant ability to grasp the moment. In one telling passage, he says, “I’ve always believed that the hallmark a of a good journalist is curiosity, and moving to many new places and being exposed to many new things made me a curious person.”
That grasp of the moment is evident throughout the book – and through Neal’s words, the reader becomes the fly on the wall. And if you think the bark isn’t really off, I suggest reading what Neal heard Vice President Johnson call Nehru to another world leader in May 1961. That trip to Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Greece was exciting for a 25-year-old. Neal even got to hear Edith Piaf sing in an Athens nightclub.
When he was the news anchor for KEYE-TV in 1998, Neal was thinking that there might be a historical father/son presidency in the offing. With some of that Spelce magic working for him, Neal managed to set up an interview with the two Bushes in a boat while they were fishing.
Neal’s journey through life has had many paths. The “ascendancy” of LBJ and the attention it brought to Austin. The assassination and the Johnson presidential years. The sniper rampage at UT that brought Neal’s reporting to national attention. The 1972 Civil Rights Symposium shortly before Johnson’s death, where he famously took a nitroglycerin tablet to quell the pains in his chest. Then there are Neal’s days in the advertising and public relations business. By the way, the negotiation that Neal worked with a furious Darrell Royal for a man named Marriott is jaw-dropping.
The adventures go on and on, with fascinating details scattered all along the way, up to current times, when Neal has had a broadcast journalism studio named for him in UT’s Moody College of Communication.
He says that he has tried to shine a little light on the oft-told tales about President Johnsen and other luminaries around town. After reading his book, I agree that many corners have been brightened -- and then some. I highly recommend it for old-timers and newcomers to Austin alike.
Neal Spelce’s autobiography is an entertaining read, especially for Austinites.
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With the Bark Off is available in hard cover, ebook and audiobook at amazon.com, and at all major booksellers.
Bulk orders or Signed Limited First Edition copies may be ordered through nealspelce.com
Click the link below for a printable version of this Post:
With the Bark Off Book Review in West Austin News
Download PDF • 1.48MB
About Forrest Preece
Forrest is a longtime Austinite who was witness to 1966 UT Tower Shooting. A renown columnist of the long-running newspaper, West Austin News Preece is a former advertising executive, an organizer for the UT Tower Memorial, as well as a board member and patron for numerous civic and community organizations.
Excellent History Feature on Neal Spelce in the February 5, 2022 Austin American Statesman, interview with Michael Barnes.
From the San Marcos Daily Record:
Renowned Texas newsman and author Neal Spelce will highlight the LBJ Museum’s Spring Lecture.
The museum recently announced its feature speaker for its annual lecture, which is set to take place Wednesday, Feb. 23. The event will open with a reception at 6 p.m. followed by the lecture at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, the museum said.
“Our lecture will be February 23rd and will feature renowned Texas newsman and author of With the Bark Off: A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media, Neal Spelce, he should be wonderful,” Wayne Kraemer, LBJ Museum Board of Directors President, said during the museum’s 15th anniversary gala on Jan. 22.
As an award-winning political journalist, Spelce covered presidents from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. The museum, however, said his most famous association was with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Spelce’s book “With the Bark Off, A Journalist’s Memories of LBJ and a Life in the News Media,” highlights his experiences with LBJ and other moments from his career in journalism.
During his 60-year-career, Spelce worked in radio, television, journalism, marketing, advertising, public relations, broadcast program syndication, public speaking and consulting. Spelce served as Senior Advisor to U.S. Sen. John McCain during his 2008 presidential campaign. Additionally, Spelce served as a communications consultant to Texas Gov. Ann Richards and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo.
Spelce was also CEO of a company that created, produced, and syndicated An American Moment with Charles Kuralt and An American Moment with James Earl Jones — internationally-acclaimed TV news programs that were featured in more than 100 U.S. markets.
Spelce has received top award for radio news reporting from the national Society of Professional Journalists and the National Headliners Club’s highest award for “consistently outstanding television news coverage in the United States.” The museum said he’s been “cited for his bravery, and for saving countless lives, while reporting under fire, and in real-time,” the University of Texas tower shooting that left 15 people dead and wounded 31 others.
Spelce holds three communications degrees from the University of Texas at Austin. He was named an Outstanding Alumnus of UT’s Moody College of Communication. Spelce was also honored when the college of communication permanently named The Neal Spelce Broadcast Journalism Studio in his honor.
The LBJ Museum said its spring lecture is free and open to the public. The museum, however, is asking that all attendees sign up for the event either by calling the museum at 512-353-3300, emailing email@example.com or visiting the museum’s website at https://lbjmuseum.com/events/