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Pop star Phil Collins shows passion for all things Alamo

Phil Collins, shown on the set of John Wayne's "The Alamo" in Brackettville last year Phil Collins, shown on the set of John Wayne's "The Alamo" in Brackettville last year HC
Phil Collins knows Texas history, maybe even better than most Texans. Ever since he was a child watching Fess Parker's portrayal of Davy Crockett, the English pop singer has been fascinated by the Alamo and the Texas Revolution.

Over the years, it has developed into an impressive collection of artifacts connected to that historic battle and the broader fight for Texas independence.

Collins has given readers a look at his collection in his new book "The Alamo and Beyond: A Collector's Journey" (State House Press).

Collins will be in Houston on Wednesday for a private reception and book signing. Houston Chronicle copy editor and Bayou City History blogger J.R. Gonzales posed questions to Collins via e-mail ahead of his visit. Here are excerpts:

Q: After all the research, books and films that have been done on the Alamo, what is left to learn about it? Are there any mysteries or questions regarding the Alamo that you would like to see answered?
A: There are still as many questions as answers frankly. ... There are many Mexican firsthand accounts but they have been hailed as "unreliable." There is no doubt that the story we all grew up with has been romanticized and somewhat sanitized. I resent the views that clearly show racism and also show blatant heroism. Like all battles, it was terrifying for the soldiers on both sides of the walls.

I'm not a "modernist," but certain things have to be "owned" up to - the attempted escapes by the defenders, overlooked in many books ... plus the over-the-top bloodlust by some Mexican soldiers afterwards. Davy may not have died as we'd like to think. Fact. He was human.

Q: Is there a particular artifact you're currently looking for?
A: I'm always looking for something that "was there." These artifacts are out there and being taken care of by families with connections. One day they'll surface.

I'm happy ... I have time. It's not my goal to have the "biggest collection in the world." Far from it. This really is a private occupation of mine. ...

Q: Why does the story of the Alamo continue to hold interest, even for those not from Texas?
A: There were "big stars" at the Alamo! Bowie, Crockett! It is a huge political event because it, and the events at Goliad and San Jacinto, changed the look of a map of America.

America would be a very different place if Texas had remained Mexican.

Oil ... produce ... land mass etc.

But even for those unaware of that find there's the over-romanticized story of the fight for liberty, etc.

Too deep a question to answer here, but if more people get interested in it, then they'll eventually ask themselves the questions.

Q: What can parents and teachers do today to foster a similar passion for history in children?
A: Somehow make it come alive I guess. The movies did that for me, but now kids want something else. My own little guys are interested in the Alamo and Goliad, and San Jacinto, but that enthusiasm comes from my encouragement and watching the movies with them.

They can name the people involved. I'm proud of that.

Mathew, 7, has moved on to Napoleon! He's bitten and will come back to it all after football has taken a back seat.

Q: Do you feel that because people know you as a musician you have to work harder to prove that you're serious about this subject?
A: Without a doubt. If a musician dares to get out of the box he's been put in, people get confused. They want people where they can find them!

I am fortunate in some respects as I've always been known as someone who "moves around" and tries different things. But generally, we are supposed to stay where we're put.

Q: Who do you find more passionate, Alamo buffs or Genesis fans?
A: Hard to choose. Genesis fans are a religious group! But likewise, Alamo historians can be that way, too.

Not much to choose between them I reckon!

© Chron, by J.R. Gonzales

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