The 35 Biggest Moments in Modern Dallas History
We had the bright idea of not just chronicling these important moments, but getting the people who made the moments happen to write about them. This proved to be a Herculean task, but our efforts paid off. What other city magazine in America could get no fewer than seven billionaires to contribute to such an undertaking?
Pony-Gate Scandal Hobbles SMU
By Dale Hansen
On November 12, 1986, Dale Hansen and his producer, John Sparks, aired a 40-minute special report on ABC Channel 8 revealing that SMU was paying its football players. Despite being on probation, the university had continued giving some of its players thousand-dollar signing bonuses, rent-free apartments, and $750-per-month allowances in some cases. The report led to the cancellation of the school’s 1987 season, the first “death penalty” ever handed down by the NCAA to a major university. In many ways SMU is still trying to recover—even off the field.
I was just sitting in the office, like in one of those old mystery novels: “It was a day, like any other day.” And I got this phone call from a woman at SMU who worked in the athletic department. She said, “Dale, I’ve got a story for you.”
Her tip led us to David Stanley, a kid who had a drug problem and had basically been kicked off the football team. He was trying to sell his story. He tried to sell it to us, and we said, “You know, we don’t pay.” So my biggest concern at that point was, here’s a kid with an agenda. He wanted money. So we had to convince this kid to give us the story without a check attached. And he finally did.
That led to the interview at SMU that has been seen a thousand times. Producer John Sparks and I sat down with Henry Lee Parker, the SMU recruiting coordinator; Bobby Collins, the head coach; and Bob Hitch, SMU’s athletic director. I was concerned they would eventually say we had lied to them about the purpose of the interview—and they did. So I told our photographer, “Push the camera straight down, but leave the recorder on.” It would make them think it was off, which it wasn’t. The picture’s off, but the sound isn’t. It was never going to be used on the air, but I thought we needed the protection, and we did.
I said, “Before we begin, are there any ground rules here? Is there any misunderstanding of what this interview’s about? Because we have some serious questions about your football program.”
Hitch said, “Hell, Dale, ask whatever you want.”
We did. And months later, when Hitch complained to the Times Herald that we had lied to him about the purpose of the interview, I told the Herald reporter to call Hitch back and tell him I have a recording of our conversation before the interview started and see if he really wants to say that. He didn’t, and Hitch never complained about it again.
Anyway, at the interview, I had an envelope that Stanley said he’d gotten cash in. It was given to him by Parker, the recruiter. It was handwritten on SMU stationery, and it said HLP in the corner, for Henry Lee Parker. But Parker denied it.
When I reached into my pocket and pulled out the envelope—and I hate this every time I see it—I said, “This is hard to do.” I don’t think Mike Wallace would have reached in his pocket and said, “This is hard to do.” But there it was: the smoking gun.
There was a certain empathy I had for Bobby Collins. I had worked with him. I’d worked with Henry Lee Parker. I’d worked with Bob Hitch. They’d always been generous with their time. So I had a certain empathy for the situation that they were about to find themselves in.
The interview wasn’t that contentious. It was along the lines of Henry Lee Parker saying, “No, Dale. That’s not me. I never sent this kid anything.”
But they all knew this wasn’t good. And at one point, Collins stormed out of the interview. I looked over at Hitch, and I asked him, “What is his problem?” And Hitch looked at me and said, “That’s a man who has just seen his entire career flash before his eyes.” That somehow flew right over our heads. I sat there, and I did not pick up on the basic admission. Days went by, and we were sitting in the edit room one night, and I said, “Oh, my gawd! Guys! Guys! Here it is!”
When the word got out that we were working on a story, we started to get a lot of pressure. People in the highest management levels of Belo, which owns the station, had some strong SMU connections. There was some concern that we couldn’t trust our own attorneys because of their SMU connections, so we hired a Washington law firm—a completely independent law firm—to oversee the investigation. We wanted everyone to know how thoroughly we had investigated this and how seriously we took the issue. By then we knew how damaging this was going to be. We were naming names; we were ending careers.
So it came to the broadcast—8:30, 9 o’clock of the night the story aired. And the whole newsroom was on edge. Management was having this big meeting across the street. They said, “We want you to call Henry Lee Parker. We want you to ask him again about his initials on the envelope.”
Here’s the thing: to the satisfaction of the FBI, we had proven that without question Henry Lee Parker had sent that envelope with something in it to David Stanley. David Stanley passed a lie detector test saying it was money, but we had no hard evidence. All Parker had to say to me was, “Dale! I’m glad you called. Thanks for jogging my memory. We sent him a schedule for the upcoming fall.” We would have had to start over.
I had a little cubicle downstairs. My producer, John Sparks, was right over my shoulder. I called Henry Lee Parker. I can almost recite the conversation twenty-some years later. I said, “Henry, this is Dale Hansen. We’re going to go with the story tonight, but before we do, I’m going to ask you again: did you ever send David Stanley anything? Did you send him anything in that envelope?”
And he said, “Nope. Nope. I told you before: I never sent him anything.”
I got off the phone and said, “They’re sticking to this story.” It’s amazing in hindsight. The Washington lawyer just sat there and said, “They still say they sent him nothing? You told him about the lie detector? You told him about the FBI agent?” And I said, “Yeah, yeah, I did. He knows all of it.”
The lawyer and Sparks went back across the street where the meeting with management was going on. But somewhere around 9:30, John came running in, saying, “It’s a go! It’s a go!”
When we got off the air after the special, we were all high-fiving and hugging—but not in celebration. It was relief, just relief after all the tension and the pressure and the build-up.
Then the threats started. I got a huge box delivered to my office. I opened it up, and there was a huge dead bird with a mangled neck. Stuck to its chest was a note that said, “You’re next.”
After that, the story just kept growing. A former SMU player told me a year or so later that we’d missed the bigger story. It was gambling, he said. He told me this story: SMU is playing Rice, and one of the big-money boosters comes down to the sideline and tells Bobby Collins, “I need another touchdown.” The score’s like 40 to 7. But he needs another touchdown. So they put Eric Dickerson back in the game. We’re sitting there going, “What the heck? It’s 40 to 7, and now you bring Eric Dickerson back?” And—boom—off he goes. The coaches said afterward, “We did that because we realized he has a chance to set a rushing record, and we wanted to help his Heisman chances.” But, in fact, they put him back in to cover the spread.
I told this story on the radio, and Gil Brandt, the former Cowboys director of player personnel, was at the station that day. Brandt stormed into the studio and started screaming at me: “What the hell?! You irresponsible piece of shit! There’s no truth to that!” He pulled his cellphone out, punched out some numbers, and said, “Here! Talk to him!”
I said, “Who is it?”
Brandt said, “It’s Eric Dickerson.”
So I said, “Hey, Eric. I heard this booster came down onto the sideline and told Bobby Collins to put you back in the game so he could cover the spread. True?”
And he says, “Yeah, that’s true.”
I said, “Here, tell Gil.”
That SMU story changed how I see sports. When I was working in Nebraska, before I came to Dallas, I would go to the Nebraska games wearing a Nebraska sweater and red pants. I was jumping up and down. My photographer used to get madder than hell at me because I’d be jumping up and down, and the camera would shake. I used to genuinely root for the home team. Now I’m cynical about most sports. I had a former Husker player from the early ’70s walk up to me during all this and he said, “You know we were paid at Nebraska, right?”
That story—the good and the bad—God, it was so incredibly exhilarating. I doubt very seriously I’ll ever feel that again. But I hated it. I hated the fact that this story had to be told. And I am incredibly proud that we were the ones who did it and even prouder of the way we did it.
Dale Hansen is the sports anchor for Channel 8.
The Dallas District Attorney's Office Creates the Conviction Integrity Unit
By Craig Watkins
Thanks to Errol Morris’ documentary The Thin Blue Line and a growing number of wrongly convicted men exonerated by DNA evidence, Dallas County long had a reputation as a place where justice was quick but not always just. Fresh off a historic win that made him the county’s (and state’s) first black district attorney, Craig Watkins made a move to erase that reputation, and the practices that had led to it, by creating the office’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2007.
When I was campaigning, and even before that, when I was a defense attorney, I’d seen all these issues of claims of innocence. When I was campaigning for office—in fact, maybe a month before the election—a story came out about this guy who was going to be freed for a crime he didn’t commit. They did a little blurb in the newspaper. A guy from the newspaper called me, and I was like, “You know, I told you so. I told you all this stuff was going on.” He just started laughing, laughing it off, blew me off.
And then I came into office and started looking at the files, and looking at all the claims that we had gotten before I’d gotten here that were denied. There were like 400 files that had requested this DNA deal that were denied. So we started looking at those files and saw there was legitimacy to these claims, outside of the scientific part. We looked at the facts of the case and all that. We thought, there is some legitimacy to all this. To first assistant district attorney Terri Moore’s credit, she came in and said that we need to go ahead and put something in place to systematically look at this. I said, “Yeah, you’re right. We need to formulate some ideas.”
So we sat down, and I guess we talked about it and talked about how we were going to do it, for about a week. And then the time came for us to implement it, and to be honest with you, I was a little, you know, taken aback or leery or kind of on edge about doing it that early on in our administration. Because we did it—I don’t think it was even six months in. I was still dealing with the difficulties of being elected, people questioning my competence. And here I am, this first black DA, being an advocate for letting folks out of jail. So I was thinking about it from that perspective.
What convinced me to go forward was Terri Moore: “This is something that needs to be done. It’s not just Dallas County. I saw the same thing in Tarrant County.” She had dealt with a lot of defense attorneys from a lot of different areas, and she was like, “We’ve got to do this.” I was saying, “Terri, but politically, what does that mean for the success of this office? Are the citizens of Dallas County ready for something like this? We’ve got to look at it long-term. Change has to come, but we don’t want to do it too quickly. We have to be very careful in how we do it.” At the end of the day, we decided to go ahead and go forward with it.
Looking back on it, I kind of question why that decision was so difficult for me, when, you know, I had always put myself out to be an agent of change and progress. Here we were, at that moment for me to act upon what I pretty much had wanted to do my whole life, and I was afraid to do it. I really regret that, at this point. I’m still trying to make up for it, the fact that I had doubts and I was afraid.
Craig Watkins is the Dallas County district attorney.
Club Clearview Rocks Deep Ellum
By Jeffrey Yarbrough
The old Clearview window warehouse in Deep Ellum was the site of some of the first outlaw parties in the neighborhood, powered by generators, music, and nonsanctioned beer sales. So it was ironic that the club that went on to carry its name became one of the legitimizing forces that helped spark Deep Ellum’s heydays in the late 1980s and 1990s. With four distinct rooms (and even more distinct clientele), Club Clearview served as a melting pot and microcosm of Dallas, pulling every corner of the city into a world where hippies, yuppies, and everyone in between was welcome.
I have always felt that partying is an art unto itself, and downtown’s Deep Ellum abandoned warehouse district is a place where I knew I wanted to make my mark.
My goal was to have a place that openly served a crowd with mixed backgrounds, mixed opinions, and mixed practices, encouraging diversity in a close-minded time. We envisioned a place where guests knew that—regardless of their standards of living and outward appearances—they could come in and have a good time.
The genesis of Club Clearview was raw youthful energy and inspiration: meshing art, music, and people from every direction. This 10,000-square-foot, seven-room multienvironment club drew a diverse and colorful patronage. Here, rock stars and real estate salesmen, punks and hippies, and persons of every pigment, priority, and sexual preference mixed and matched in one big, laid-back, post-Impressionistic party. This was a true first for Dallas.
“It was about real people,” says my partner Jeff Swaney. “This was not some disco on steroids. It was fun because of the people.”
The progression that led to the opening of Club Clearview in 1985 is a tale worth the telling. Swaney, along with our yuppie buddies Steve Clohessy, Mark Cuban, and others, got bored with their corporate jobs and Dallas nightlife and started throwing outlaw warehouse parties. I was working for Women’s Wear Daily at the time and would produce fashion shows with them. We’d find empty warehouses in the Deep Ellum area, set up electric generators, hire a DJ and dancers, and sell beer. At the end of the night, the police would raid the parties and we’d leave, high on the successes of each great and memorable event. Having an absolute blast and making a decent profit, we decided to go legit.
Because Swaney threw one of his first parties in the old Clearview warehouse, it seemed a natural place to start the club.
At Clearview we could have any type of event we wanted. I liked that customers knew to expect the unexpected. Doing an after-party for Pink Floyd or Oliver Stone was a normal thing for us. Musicians, producers, and designers all knew Clearview was a place they could do whatever they wanted and not be judged—or turned away. It opened the door for a creative community to emerge and thrive. How inspirational it was for me to see a British chef on a Triumph sharing a beer and discussing politics with a star from L.A., like chef Mark Schmidt and actor Thomas Haden Church.
Early on, Club Clearview catered to local artists by providing them a place to showcase their talents. It also helped birth local acts like Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, the Dixie Chicks, and Vanilla Ice. National acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Ministry, and Chris Isaak also frequented the stage.
My goal was to have a place known throughout America for being different. That challenge led a slew of other entrepreneurs to Deep Ellum to do their own thing. Clearview helped the city get stimulated for change.
Club Clearview was the spot for weddings, wakes, and wild charity events such as the bachelor-bachelorette Multiple Sclerosis Pre-Party night with national recording artist Sara Hickman and 20 other high-profile singles, like myself. Signs of success were eminent, such as a personal ad in the alternative newspaper in which a woman described herself as, “Corporate by day, Clearview by night.”
And though the nights always came to a close, not everyone returned home the person they were before. Lonely singles became longtime couples and crazy one-time antics became lasting reputations. I would know. Commonly referred to as “the nightclub guy,” I met my own sweetheart of 17 years after seeing the beautiful blonde the night I was auctioned off for the Multiple Sclerosis event at Clearview—a night I started as a fun-loving bachelor.
Jeffrey Yarbrough is a former owner of Club Clearview. He is the CEO of Big Ink, a public relations and marketing firm.
Electronic Data Systems Moves to Plano
By Ross Perot
If Electronic Data Systems had simply concerned itself with finding a new headquarters when the company began outgrowing its former homebase in the late 1970s, North Texas would look much different today. But because it took into account the fact that its move north into Plano might spur other companies to take a similar step, it made way for the explosive growth of Frisco, McKinney, Allen, and, of course, Plano over the last two decades, thanks to the relocations of corporations such as Frito-Lay and JCPenney. It all began in 1985, when EDS moved into the carefully planned Legacy development.
the relocation of electronic data Systems from Forest Lane to Plano in 1985 was initially driven by the company’s growth in the late 1970s and the corresponding need to attract and hire numerous highly skilled people. Our ability to expand the facilities at Forest Lane was limited, and with the majority of our employees living north of LBJ Freeway, we knew that attracting new talent there would also be challenging. So we started looking for a larger location closer to the talent pool at the time, and that led us to Plano.
At the same time, we realized a larger vision: that a location like Plano had the ability to attract other corporations like EDS to North Texas from around the country. So we expanded our objectives and searched for the location that eventually became the vast Legacy development in Plano.
Our move shifted into high gear after a comprehensive study confirmed that the majority of EDS’ employees lived in the northern suburbs and commuted via an overburdened Central Expressway and a Dallas North Tollway that ended at Belt Line Road, offering little help to our employees’ lengthy commutes.
We were also working through the challenges of obtaining zoning variances from Dallas due to various concerns from the surrounding neighborhoods regarding any expansion.
As we developed and refined the planning process, we began purchasing land in anticipation of the move. We searched for and found a person to manage the project for us: Robbie Robinson, a former Navy Seabee officer and an expert at massive projects like this. Robinson and his team carefully managed what was an enormous project on many levels to create one of the most impressive corporate office parks in the country and an exceptional EDS campus.
One of Robinson’s first objectives was to work with the Dallas neighborhood residents to address their concerns and issues, as well as ours, and reach an amicable scenario for us to leave the Forest Lane location. In 1982, for almost the entire year, Robinson and the team held 220 meetings with resident groups and individuals in the neighborhood, who were important constituents to us. In general terms these discussions resulted in retaining the commercial zoning while changing the remaining Forest Lane property to high-end residential zoning. This would provide a quality development while minimizing traffic issues. IT received strong support from the local community and passed the Dallas City Council unanimously.
EDS eventually assembled 2,665 acres (4 square miles) of real estate immediately south of State Highway 121, adjacent to the west side of Preston Road, and as far south as the future Spring Creek Parkway. With the support of the city of Plano, the planning team developed three zoning categories to provide the flexibility to attract a variety of businesses, retail and residential. The 300-acre center part of the site (roughly the same size as downtown Dallas between the freeways) was urban center zoning for high-rise offices, hotels, retail, and dense residential. The remainder of the site was divided between regional office and corporate campus zoning.
The regional office zoning allowed a range of site sizes for smaller corporate offices, office warehouses, and multifamily residential. The corporate campus zoning was designed for the large corporate sites such as the future EDS location. This allowed corporations and businesses flexibility to provide for their current needs and the ability to expand as they grew. It also allowed employees to live, work, and relax at a variety of restaurants and shops all within a reasonable walk. EDS opted for a 367-acre site in the middle of the development adjacent to the urban center.
Equally important to the development of the zoning were the utility, road network, and landscaping concepts. Companies demand reliable utilities, so all utilities would be underground and the most critical ones, such as electricity and communications, would be encased in concrete and redundant. Roads would handle rush-hour traffic volumes and have wide medians and setbacks to make the driving experience as pleasant as possible. The landscaping would be plentiful, attractive, and require minimal maintenance.
The development was named Legacy. One of the oldest cemeteries in North Texas is located in the center of the development. In addition, buffalo once roamed this high ground (the highest in Collin County), as did herds of cattle moving north on the Shawnee Trail. The name Legacy commemorates this heritage.
When it opened, Legacy offered a high-quality development, business-oriented zoning, reliable utilities, proximity to DFW airport and to Dallas, local government tax abatements, and the ability to attract and hire talented personnel. Corporations and businesses immediately started to relocate to Legacy. Frito-Lay’s headquarters was the first, followed by the move of JCPenney from New York City. A vibrant and attractive urban center was created, which is considered one of the more successful developments in the United States.
Meanwhile EDS, after an extensive selection process, chose an architect to design a complex of four data centers, a computer management center, three office buildings, and a headquarters building. These are of similar contemporary architecture to the Forest Lane site but on the inside were built to accommodate future technology. With the award of the General Motors data processing contract to EDS, four additional office/training buildings were built. The ability to expand rapidly to meet business needs was successful and is something that could not have happened at the Forest Lane location.
What is most important about Legacy is its positive impact on North Texas. It was, to a large extent, the economic engine for the North Dallas area. It initiated and has continued to help drive the explosive growth of Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney. These cities have set national growth records and achieved average per capita income records, best place to live designations, All American City awards, best place to retire designations, reduced residential taxes, and more. It has also helped attract high-quality employees, significant retail, restaurants, and hotels. All this has greatly benefited the entire area.
Ross Perot is the founder of Electronic Data Systems and Perot Systems.
Broadcast.com Goes Public
By Mark Cuban
Broadcast.com started as Audionet in 1995 with one server and an ISDN line. It grew quickly, becoming the industry leader in the then-new medium of webcasting. The company went public on July 18, 1998, turning more than 100 employees into millionaires (on paper, anyway) and founders Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner into billionaires. Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000 and became the face of Internet billionaires everywhere.
I use 718 as part of the tail number on my plane. I use it as “my number” whenever asked for one. July 18, 1998, Broadcast.com had our IPO on the NASDAQ stock market.
The stock was priced at $18. That meant that those fortunate enough to get stock as part of the initial offering paid $18. But these were the Internet boom years. The expectation was that the price was going up. We knew the price was going up. The market wanted the stock to go up.
I remember driving to the NASDAQ office—where they had the “wall” with all the symbols, logos, and trading prices—with Todd Wagner, our CFO, and others, all guessing where the stock would finally open up. What would the first trade of the stock be, and finally, where would it close at the end of the day? I know my memory isn’t perfect on this, but I think Todd guessed that we would open and close in the high 20s. I guessed that it would be $34 to $36.
We got to the NASDAQ office with the open of the market. Then waited. And waited. That was during a period when the order books were so crazed that it took time to sort out the buy and sell orders and figure out where the opening trade would be. Hours went by. They seemed like days. For all the confidence we had, there was the natural glimmer of doubt that something could go wrong. Finally, I think it was around 12:30, give or take an hour, the stock opened up.
Sixty-two dollars and seventy-five cents.
For the next 20 minutes or so, there was a lot of high-fiving, champagne corks popping, and cellphone calls in and out. I remember just leaning against the wall, talking to people, almost in total shock. I couldn’t help but do all the calculations in my head to try to figure out my paper net worth, and it was beyond belief.
Then the “oh, shit” moment hit.
People buying the stock weren’t buying it to be nice to me. They had very specific, and probably incredible, expectations of what the company would be doing and how it would perform both financially and as a stock. Going public wasn’t a reason to relax; it was as stressful a moment as I had ever experienced. I was now responsible to people whom I had never met. People were buying our stock as a foundation for their future. That was scary.
When the market finally closed, the stock had gotten as high as $74, before finally closing at $62.75.
There was no doubt that Todd and I had to get back to work the next day. We had to make it clear that the IPO wasn’t a reason to celebrate, but rather a reason to work harder for all of our new shareholders.
But that was tomorrow, and since the market was closed, and the business day was over, it was okay for us to enjoy the rest of the night. And we certainly did.
Our first stop was a Wall Street bar, by which time we had hooked up with some of our original investors who had turned $30,000 into $3 million. With CNN and CNBC on the monitors, every time they mentioned the IPO, we had to drink. It wasn’t pretty.
Getting up early to fly home the next morning wasn’t easy, but as bad as my hangover was, and as anxious as I was to get to work, flying back reading the articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times describing how the Broadcast.com IPO had the largest first-day jump of any IPO in the history of the stock market made my throbbing head feel a little better.
Mark Cuban is owner of the Dallas Mavericks and 2929 Entertainment and chairman of HDNet. This story first appeared on blogmaverick.com.
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