We like to poke fun at Dallas’ perennial striving to be “world class.” It’s a symptom of a kind of self-regarding, aspirational character that is not unique to Dallas, but which does manifest itself in this city in a particular way. Most newer, up-and-coming cities share a sense of wanting to prove their worth. But Dallas’ history has shaped this sensibility in its own way. Entrepreneurialism is the city’s birth right; social status is engrained as one of its highest civic values. But our scars, too, have contributed to the particular substance of our striving, self-conscious attempts to be regarded as great.
As we spent considerable ink exploring last year during the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the scars left by those terrible events affected Dallas in a particular way. Not every city could have been branded a “city of hate;” that was the result of the particular cultural and political soup that was simmering here at the time. But also, not every city would have internalized that reputation – and its shame and sense of remorse – with quite the same measure of wounded-ness. Those wounds have taken decades to get over, and they have also contributed to the desire and drive to make Dallas a great city.
In the days following the Ebola breakout, I couldn’t help but think about the assassination.Full Story
This week we’ve got the first (and only) double feature of our series celebrating the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine. Together they recount the scandalous lives of wealthy Fort Worth socialites Priscilla and T. Cullen Davis. One night in 1976, someone entered the mansion of the estranged couple and killed Priscilla’s 12-year-old daughter and live-in lover, as well as wounded two others, including Priscilla herself. Each of the surviving eyewitnesses said Cullen was the perpetrator.
The trial was just about to begin at the time Tom Stephenson’s March 1977 story was published. Ultimately, Cullen was acquitted of the murder of his stepdaughter, but that wasn’t the end of his legal troubles. An FBI sting operation resulted in incriminating tapes in which Cullen was heard arranging to have the presiding judge and witnesses in his murder trial killed. But his defense attorney again managed to argue that Cullen had been framed, and he got off.
The story of the multimillionaire who once famously hosted a screening of Deep Throat in a Winnebago at the Colonial golf tournament then took an odd turn.Full Story
It’s fitting that we’re posting this story during the annual run of the State Fair of Texas, since it concerns the later years of George Dahl, the architect who deserves much of the credit for the acclaimed Art Deco buildings at Fair Park. Unfortunately, the article doesn’t focus on the legacy of Dahl’s work but instead the unhappy family saga that consumed much of the final decade-plus of his life.
The facts, as presented in David Bauer’s article in the April 1979 issue of D Magazine (one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published), are that Dahl’s daughter Gloria and her husband, Ted Akin, filed for guardianship of the then-83-year-old Dahl in April 1978. They said they’d done it because of their concerns about Dahl’s failing mental competency in business matters. Dahl believed they were motivated by greed, looking to take control of the millions of dollars in the trust that had been established in the name of his late wife, Lillie, of which Dahl himself was the sole trustee. They also were seeking to prevent him from marrying Joan Renfro, a much-younger woman whom they suspected of being only after Dahl’s money.Full Story
A streetcar system blanketing the city. Crowded downtown streets. A Trinity River Project without a toll road. Frog town. The cafes of Deep Ellum in the era of Blind Lemon Jefferson. Mayors who were Swiss abolitionists and former socialist utopians. Dallas was WAY hipper a hundred years or so ago. So that’s my suggestion for any and all conversation about where this city should head: let’s just try to make it more like it was.
What sparked this random, useless thought? Well, there’s more depressing news today about failed plans here, here, and here. But then I saw this post about Lake Cliff Park in Oak Cliff, which, in the brochure that dates to 1906, looks a lot cooler than anything that’s in Dallas today (seriously, it had the world’s largest roller skating rink). So let’s start there: bring back Lake Cliff Park as Dallas’ Coney Island. Anyway. Blah. Of course there was also the rampant racism, oligarchical governance, and all that other fun stuff. But, from an urban planning and land use perspective, this city had it figured out (oh, except for, you know, not paving the streets of or extending sanitation to West Dallas or Little Mexico — but come on, I’m trying to be nostalgic here). So what’s the biggest difference between yesterday’s Dallas and today? You know it: highways. Had to get that in there. Gratuitous. I know. Okay, I’m going back to trying to write about this.Full Story
To take you behind the curtain a bit, we just put the finishing touches on the September installment of the magazine, which — to give you the smallest glimmer of a preview — is a special 40th anniversary issue. So we’ve taken our foot off the pedal a little bit, and for that I apologize. Anyway, as an olive branch shaped like someone who didn’t know how to keep the black bars of a YouTube compilation, here is a 15-minute collection of the best fights on Dallas involving J.R. Ewing. I love you.Full Story
Paula Bosse has an interesting piece on her blog, Flashback: Dallas. You’ll notice certain parallels between current events and what was going on 75 years ago. Here’s how Bosse’s story begins:
In the summer of 1940, a group called The Children’s Evacuation Committee of Texas was organized to bring child refugees to Dallas, even if it meant sending a ship across the Atlantic Ocean to get them. Its chairman was local businessman George Edgley, a transplanted Briton who owned a music shop and performed around town as an actor and musician.
The group was formed in response to the heavily publicized plight of English children living under the constant threat of attack during World War II. The situation was of great international concern, and plans were drawn up to evacuate the children to safety.
The 4000 block of Miramar Avenue looks pretty normal — if “normal” can ever appropriately be used to describe a row of homes in Highland Park. It sits just off Lakeside Drive, with easy access to sickeningly picturesque Lakeside Park and Exall Lake. It’s a block away from Beverly Drive and Dallas Country Club as well.
The homes are a mix of traditional and modern designs, most valued in the $3 million-$4 million range. On the corner, technically on Lakeside, sits the 60th most expensive home in Dallas. At 4004 Miramar, you’ll find one of D Home‘s 10 Most Beautiful Homes in Dallas for 2014. Across from that, at 4005, is a fairly unremarkable (by Highland Park standards) that’s valued at more than $3.1 million, with $2.5 million of that assessed for the land alone.
That lot looked very different 50 years ago.Full Story
Two buildings downtown that have sat vacant for decades are set for major redevelopments. Yesterday, the Dallas Business Journal broke news that the historic Dallas High School has finally found a developer, and what’s encouraging is that it’s South Side on Lamar developer Jack Mathews. Mathews has a strong track record with regards to turning around historic properties. Dallas High School has sat on preservation lists for years, and with its odd lot – adjacent to I-345 and Dart – it was clear it would take a creative developer (plus a rebounding downtown residential market) to make the property work. Mathews hasn’t said what he’ll do with the building, but it’s reasonable to expect some mix of residential and commercial.
The other historic property long considered in-danger is the 508 Park, the four story art deco (or, “Zig Zag Moderne,” if you want to nit-pick architectural styles) that was famously the place where legendary bluesman Robert Johnson made half of his recordings.Full Story
As I’m sure many of you know, the drive along Interstate 35 between Dallas and Austin isn’t particularly scenic. It suffers from a serious dearth of character, which is why many a motorist in now long-past days looked forward to passing the small town of Carl’s Corner, with its truck stop unmistakably adorned by 10-foot-tall frogs.
The man behind the truck stop and the town was Carl Cornelius, who was memorably profiled by Mike Shropshire in the November 2006 issue of D Magazine. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published.Full Story
I doubt there are many — if any — of our regular FrontBurner readers who aren’t familiar with what occurred in West, Texas, in April 2013. The fire and subsequent explosion of West Fertilizer Co. left physical and emotional scars on the tiny community that most of us know only as a highway rest stop at which we pick up kolaches while driving between Dallas and Austin.
For our own Zac Crain, what happened there was far more personal because West is his hometown. In writing about the aftermath of the tragedy in the July 2013 issue of D Magazine — one of the 40 greatest stories we’ve ever published — Zac painted a portrait of a town that refused to dwell on its losses. I asked Zac for his take on what’s happened since his article was published:Full Story
While I understand that the tragedy is going to play heavily into our local tourism, there are a couple of details here that really stood out to me. For instance, coupling a giant image of the President’s head with the Dallas Conventions & Visitors Bureau-derived slogan.Full Story
There are values that Americans have and different political parties have different values, but the thing that we all have in common is a concern for people less fortunate and a sense of fairness. What all three [Roosevelts] did, and particularly the two Presidents, was perceive that there was huge income disparity and that the rich were essentially controlling the mechanics of government, and that that was anti-democratic. It wasn’t what the Constitution and it wasn’t what the Declaration was about, and they were trying to find a level playing field in which the ordinary working guy could be on the same footing as the rich and the powerful. Now, that’s never going to happen in the long run, but they did their best in their day and time to make sure that that was at least more level. Eleanor was right there, fighting with them.Full Story
I’ve never really understood Dallas’ bid for a maritime museum. We’re a land locked city on an unnavigable river whose mid-19th century forays into aquatic transportation were abandoned with the arrival of the railroad. And yet, the idea of dedicating a museum to the maritime has been floating around for some time, most recently popping up in one of the fancy schmancy architectural plans that reimagined how to connect downtown to Dallas scant waterfront.
Well now it looks like dreams of the maritime museum are receding further to the horizon. The gambit centered on the acquisition of the USS Dallas submarine, which was supposed to be decommissioned this year, but now won’t be available until at least 2016. Without the centerpiece display, members of the museum’s board, which includes some prominent politicos, have turned their eyes to acquiring the former presidential yacht. But why stop there? Since Dallas is bent on honoring histories that have nothing to do with its own history (c.f. the bronze bulls), why not try to build our own space center, open a museum of Appalachian culture, or buy enough pieces of the Berlin Wall to reassemble a mile or so it somewhere downtown? Actually, I may like that last idea.Full Story
Have you heard anyone refer to the Stoneleigh Hotel on Maple Avenue as Le Méridien Dallas? I haven’t, thankfully. Just like when the Melrose Hotel on Oak Lawn was rechristened with a corporate name — in that case, the Warwick — local tradition has remained important enough that ownership had to maintain the historic moniker.
I understand why these hotel operators feel the need to place established brands on their acquisitions. They want to reassure out-of-town visitors who’ve stayed at their other properties, but who are unfamiliar with Dallas, that they will receive the same quality of experience they’ve had in other cities. It’s the same reason that McDonald’s continues to do big business — familiarity counts for a lot with consumers. Why risk eating at a mom-and-pop burger joint that may not be any good when McDonald’s is right down the street and you know precisely what you’re going to get, as mediocre as it might be?
So there’s financial sense in enticing guests to book a room at Le Méridien Dallas, The Stoneleigh (the property’s mouthful of an official name). But I don’t have to like it, and neither should you. It dilutes and degrades the sense of place that the hotel built over the decades — even after its major renovation in the mid-Aughts — to paint it as just another link in a chain. Good for business, bad for the soul.
I feel this loss even more painfully after re-reading A.C. Greene’s November 1977 story about the prevalence of recently separated and divorced men living at the Stoneleigh. It’s one of the 40 greatest stories ever published in D Magazine.Full Story
I sort of remember Bill Clements vs. Mark White in 1986, but the first Texas gubernatorial election to which I paid any measurable attention was state treasurer Ann Richards’ victory over West Texas oilman Clayton Williams in 1990. The GOP wasn’t yet the wholly dominant party in our state, but neither did the Democrats still hold the iron grip they’d maintained politically since Reconstruction.
My memory of the election centers on Williams’ TV ad in which he explained his plan to put drug offenders to work busting rocks in hard-labor boot camps rather than lounging around in luxurious prison cells. Behind him is shown a group of college students who were dressed up as convicts, swinging pick axes and shovels. I was in junior high school and not terribly political at the time, but I remember thinking that this guy was laying on the tough-on-crime schtick a little thick.Full Story
Amy Cunningham was a young editor on the staff of D Magazine when her boss, then-editor Rowland Stiteler, came to her with a “dream assignment.” She was to go undercover at Billy Bob’s Texas, the “world’s largest honky tonk” in Fort Worth, which had opened earlier that year.
It was thrilling to tackle a story modeled after Gloria Steinem’s famous stint at the Playboy Club and almost as pleasurable to know that she wouldn’t have to show up at the D Magazine offices to do any other writing or editing for seven whole weeks. All she needed to do was land a job as a waitress and take notes on cocktail napkins.Full Story
Politico Magazine has a fascinating story on the rise of the Religious Right and its true origins. Contrary to popular belief, the movement’s genesis isn’t Roe v. Wade — it’s Green v. Connally. A year after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling that protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, the Southern Baptist Convention affirmed its commitment “to work(ing) for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
None other than W.A. Criswell, First Baptist Dallas’ pastor, Robert Jeffress’ mentor, and a former president of the Convention, said, “I have always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.”Full Story
Maybe the saddest fact about rereading Skip Hollandsworth’s February 1988 cover story about the series of tragedies that had befallen the Von Erichs is knowing now that the family’s heartbreak was far from over. At the time that Hollandsworth spent time with the famed professional wrestling clan they were still reeling from the deaths of sons David (from an intestinal disease in 1984) and Mike (suicide in 1987.) Kerry Von Erich was looking to stage a comeback after a motorcycle accident had kept him out of the ring for 16 months. Family patriarch Fritz Von Erich (aka Jack Adkisson) confessed that he was planning to get out of the business all together.Full Story
How she came to earn the distinction and how it changed her life.Full Story
Shortly after I was transferred from the notoriously low-end Mansfield Law Enforcement Center jail unit over here to the posh Seagoville Federal Correctional Institution, which I’m now privileged to call home, I met my new fellow prisoner Sam Hurd, the Dallas Cowboy who had run afoul of the law, or at least the most recent Dallas Cowboy to run afoul of the law — unless yet another one has been arrested in the last few months, which, come to think of it, is more likely than not.Full Story
I didn’t know anything of the case of Robert Edelman until reading the story from the May 1988 issue of D Magazine about his acrimonious divorce from his wife Linda and criminal conviction for having plotted to have her murdered. I finished the article by Sally Giddens with the impression that Edelman — though a certified asshole — had been a victim of a scheme hatched by Joseph James Young, the private investigator he’d hired to follow Linda and find out whether she had a boyfriend. It is a crazy story, and you should most definitely read the whole thing, since it’s one of our 40 greatest stories.
So I was pretty sure that Edelman got screwed, but then I found out what followed.Full Story