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Bill Paxton, a Fort Worth original, remembered with laughter and tears

Bill Paxton's childhood friends reflect on the memories of their youth

Longtime friends and local celebrities gathered Thursday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for a private tribute to actor Bill Paxton.
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Longtime friends and local celebrities gathered Thursday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for a private tribute to actor Bill Paxton.

Brent Hyder, a longtime friend of Bill Paxton, began a celebration of the Fort Worth actor’s life Thursday night by welcoming everyone to the memorial.

But then he quickly corrected himself: “This is a tribute to the life of Bill Paxton.”

And that’s exactly what the private event at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth turned out to be: a tear-stained farewell to a hometown boy made good, from the people who knew him best.

Friends like Hyder, Tommy Roberts and director/producer Tom Huckabee recalled Paxton’s life, from his days at Arlington Heights High School to his time at the heights of Hollywood.

Fort Worth actress and Broadway legend Betty Buckley performed a rendition of “Amazing Grace,” and described Paxton as “the definitive Texas boy...[he] reminds me of the best things of who we are as Texans and as Fort Worthians.”

The evening also drew the likes of musician Randy Travis, actor Barry Tubb, author Joe Lansdale, restaurateur Angus Wynne, and businessman Steve Murrin, who all watched Paxton’s memorable turn in the James Cameron-directed music video for “Reach” by Martini Ranch, the new-wave-era music duo. There was also a 13-minute tribute produced by Cameron, who also worked with Paxton on such films as “Aliens” and “Titanic.” (The 40-minute version of the video was originally scheduled to be shown.)

Paxton, who died Feb. 25 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles from a stroke suffered 11 days after undergoing surgery to fix an aortic aneurysm and replace his bicuspid aortic valve, was remembered as a man who never forgot his roots.

Hyder recalled their days goofing around at Shady Oaks Country Club, Huckabee told of their efforts to make low-budget movies in Fort Worth, and Tubb had a distinct memory of first meeting him at an audition shortly after moving to L.A. from small Texas town of Snyder to be an actor. Tubb, who went on to be in “Top Gun” and the “Friday Night Lights” TV series, said he remembered thinking, “If everybody in Hollywood was like Bill Paxton, everything’s going to be all right.”

“He was ever so nice, but he wasn’t the kind of person who drew a lot of attention to himself,” said Houston Kauffman, one of many of Paxton’s childhood friends who came to The Modern on Thursday evening. “It should be an inspiration to a lot of young kids that a guy who was just part of the crowd, and just enjoyed being friends with everybody, could go on and excel the way that he did.

“We’re more proud of him for how he handled his fame, than for his fame itself.”

In addition to Buckley’s performance, there was music from singer Corey Donovan and violinist Chloe Trevor (“Over the Rainbow”) and Hyder (Annie Lennox’s “Into the West,” Chopin’s “Nocturne in G Minor,” and accompanying singer Donovan on the standard “Smile”).

This was the first of a handful of celebrations of Paxton’s life and career taking place this week in DFW. He will be honored at 7 p.m. Friday as part of the Dallas International Film Festival’s Dallas Film Society Honors gala dinner at the ballroom at The Highland, 5300 E. Mockingbird Lane, Dallas.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the festival is screening the 1992 drama “One False Move,” starring Paxton, at the Landmark Magnolia theater in Dallas, and that will be followed by a conversation with friends and family members. For more information, go to diff2017.dallasfilm.org

Cary Darling: 817-390-7571, @carydar

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