A Fresh Voice for a Stale Page
Eight things you should know about the new editorial page editor of the News.
READERS WHO HAVE BECOME ACCUSTOMED to the plodding editorials of the Dallas Morning News have been getting a jolt with their caffeine most mornings since the arrival of Keven Ann Willey, the new editorial page editor. Long known for its moderate stance couched in sleep-inducing language, the editorial page has taken on a sharper tone and a decided edge. The newspaper’s centrist philosophy has not been affected, although Willey’s willingness to take stands is seen by most political observers as a welcome change from the paper’s recent tradition of posting both the pro and con sides of controversies.
A former political reporter and recent editorial page editor of the Arizona Republic, Willey herself has only been involved in one controversy that we could dig up: she and her newspaper appeared to be trying to buy forgiveness from Texas A&M when she sent a letter of apology and a $10,000 check for an editorial cartoon called "Texas Bonfire Traditions," which depicted the Branch Davidian compound, a KKK cross burning, and the fallen timbers at A&M. The cartoon ran, presumably, before Willey knew she was up for a job at Texas’ leading newspaper.
Here’s everything else we know about her:
1. She used to hate the name. Willey is named Keven after a Keven who lived down the street from her growing up in Washington, D.C. Her schoolmates taunted young Willey, and, as a result of the gender confusion the name created, at least once Willey was stuck in a boys P.E. class.
2. "Ann" was a late addition. When she was promoted at the Republic from political columnist to editorial page editor, she added the "Ann" to her byline so there’d be no confusion.
3. She’s a natural blonde. Willey says she has the baby pictures to prove it.
4. She has no enemies. Really. We called quite a number of people who used to work with and against the woman in Phoenix. We even called one guy who had moved to Ketchum, Idaho. Willey turns out to be almost universally loved and admired. That’s about the harshest criticism we can hit her with. One writer who used to work at the "alternative" Phoenix New Times appraised her thusly: "When she began her rise at the Republic as a political reporter, most of the ink-stained wretches in the Capitol press room were smitten with her. Lots of lecherous legislators felt similarly. This didn’t hurt her sourcing. When she became the big-shot editorial page editor, a lot of what passes for the intelligentsia in Phoenix thought her to be an ingénue. They kept waiting for her to get in over her head and flounder. It just never happened."
5. She drives a white 1966 MG. The car actually belongs to her Belgian husband George. But Willey sometimes drives it to work. She says she feels a bit silly parking the tiny thing next to the huge Suburban that belongs to Bob Mong, president and editor of the News.
6. She bought a townhouse in the Farmer’s Market area, downtown. Thanks to the short commute, she doesn’t actually spend much time in the MG.
7. She’s 44. But she turns 45 this month.
8. She’s already made the News better. When we dropped in to see Willey in her office in December, she had sitting on her coffee table several framed copies of the guidelines that the Pulitzer board gives for editorial writing, which she intended to hang around the News’ offices. She’s sincere about this. She begins every Monday staff meeting with what she calls a mini-seminar on good writing. Imagine Rena Pederson sitting through that. But the results are obvious. Just a few weeks after Willey took over, the News’ editorials have become clearer, tighter, more direct. She inherited an editorial page just starting to show signs of life. The call for the bishop’s resignation (see "The Bishop vs. the News" on p. 10) appeared shortly before her start date.
784,905 Average Paid circulation for Sunday editions of the News as of September 2002, down slightly from two years ago.
Personal Ad of the Month:
A Tale of True Love is Stuck in the Second Act
IT WAS BRIEF AND MENTIONED UNDERWEAR: "T. Aguilera Neimans lingerie. Call Bob Allen emergency." We imagined a love story for the ages. When we called and asked for Bob, we were not disappointed.
Fifteen years ago, Bob met Tina at a bar called the Quiet Man on Knox Street. He was 50. She was 40 and from Nicaragua. Tina worked in the lingerie department at Neiman Marcus downtown. Bob and Tina went together, off and on, and thought about marriage.
Then Bob married a girl from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco. He kept up with Tina through mutual friends from the Quiet Man. He learned that she got married but that it only lasted a month or two. Then, a few months ago, Bob had a heart attack, and his wife kicked him out of the house. Bob also has an artificial leg and arm, and he has a hearing aid, but the leg and the arm are nearly brand-new. He doesn’t look 65, he says. He looks more like 55 or 50.
So Bob decided to return to Dallas. His sister still lives here. Bob wouldn’t call her "family," though, you know? Because his sister doesn’t like him.
Bob loves his wife, who still lives in California, but he figured if he could find Tina, she would help him. Two things have made his search difficult. First, Tina’s old apartment has been torn down. Second, his mobility’s limited because Bob’s wife’s daughter stole his pickup truck.
Now Bob has himself an apartment. "I plan on staying there until my wife comes back or I get a hold of Tina," he says. "That’s the only thing I can do."
We wish him luck. —T.R.
The New Gossip
While Carol Sonnenberg was the executive director of the Mike Modano Foundation, she amassed an enviable e-mail address book of athletes, socialites, and power players in Dallas. Don’t believe us? Well, we’ve got an e-mail to prove it. In one of her first moves as the head of her own company, Sonnenberg sent an e-mail announcing her private concierge services. Not so private after all. She CC’ed about 100 people, commoners and celebrities alike. Does anyone have anything funny to forward to Darryl Sydor?
Crocodile Done Deed
Miranda and Juancho are expecting. Maybe. The endangered Orinoco crocodiles (Crocodylus intermedius) at the Dallas World Aquarium are the only breeding pair in North America, which means that there’s a lot riding on Miranda. More than just Juancho, that is. Keepers have a close eye on Miranda’s weak appetite, which is an indicator of pregnancy. Experts say when Miranda gets cravings for pickles, they’ll know for sure, probably sometime this month.
From Croc to Chocs
Not only is Dallas blessed with having one of only 10 Neuhaus Boutiques in the country, but we are also the only ones to have the ultimate chocoholic’s fix: the new tiramisu truffle. At other stores, even celebrities had to add their names to waiting lists. But as of press time, the Neuhaus Boutique at The Shops at Willow Bend had the $44-per-pound confection in stock.
Over the years, Dallas’ favorite troubadour Rhett Miller has gone through many changes. First he was a celebrated solo artist, then he was the celebrated front man of the y’alternative band the Old 97’s, and now he’s back to being a celebrated solo artist with the recent release The Instigator. Miller can add "model" to his musical résumé, as evidenced by the December issue of GQ. The magazine featured a special music/fashion advertising section that includes Miller with guitar, decked out in Tommy Hilfiger.
UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE MONTH
"Monetary policy is a lot like vodka. You say it’s not working and it sneaks up on you."
—Robert McTeer, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank
QUESTION & ANSWER
JAKE BILLINGSLEY did not quite outwit, outplay, or outlast the other contestants on Survivor: Thailand. He was voted out by his five tribesmen on night number 33 of the show, which wrapped up in December. He is 61 years old and lives in McKinney with his wife Jeni.
D Magazine: How does it feel that for the rest of your life, you’ll always be known as the naked gay guy?
Woman on Top
MATTIE ROBERTS stands out in a crowd. The host of TXCN’s Monday Mornings With Mattie is invariably the shiniest thing in the room. Her nails and hair are perfectly done. Her personality is bright, and those teeth are whiter than an Englishman’s backside. On MMWM, the 35-year-old "lifestyle diva" gets makeup tips from drag queens, talks politics with Jim Lehrer, and pots petunias with naked members of the Men’s Garden Club of Dallas. But don’t let the fluffy stuff fool you. Roberts graduated cum laude from Boston University with a degree in comparative religion. She’s a black belt in aikido and knows how to shoot a gun. She uses words like "erudite." She is the rarest of all creatures, a true Renaissance woman, with very white teeth. As she says, "I was put on this planet to host a TV show." —Kristie Ramirez
What Ever Happened to…
According to some hairstylists, the former councilmember is doing fabulous.
IF YOU HEARD THAT FORMER DALLAS CITY Councilman, now ex-convict Paul Fielding is dabbling in the cosmetics and hair salon business, you probably didn’t hear it from Paul Fielding. Fielding hung up on a D Magazine reporter who called to catch up on his status, but his shyness hasn’t stopped others in the tonsorial arts from talking about him.
The rumor was that Fielding wasn’t paying restitution for past crimes. You may recall that he plead guilty to fraud and conspiracy charges in 1997, resigned his City Council seat, and was sentenced to 41 months in a Beaumont federal prison. In June 2000, Fielding was released to serve the rest of his term under home confinement. A U.S. District Court clerk confirmed that Fielding has been making regular payments against a portion of the original $890,000 verdict, though the clerk wouldn’t dish on the size of the payments. So much for that part of the rumor.
But to pay his fines, it does appear that Fielding has been working for Michaelmarcus Spa in Uptown and helping to run the spa’s makeup business, Michaelmarcus Cosmetics, from his home. While Michaelmarcus president Michael Shoemaker denied that Fielding is an employee of the company, co-founder Marcus Monson said that when he left the company in January 2001, Fielding was being paid about $280 a week.
Moreover, according to the Texas Secretary of State’s office, the Michaelmarcus Spa license is registered to MESPNF Inc. (an acronym for the names Michael Edwin Shoemaker and Paul Nathan Fielding) at the address of Fielding’s North Dallas home.
Before Fielding hung up, he refused to comment on his relationship to the spa or to Michael Shoemaker, who shares an address with Fielding. Shoemaker was similarly tight-lipped. "You’ll have to ask Paul about his personal life," he said. —Jessica Shapard
KELLY CLARKSON WATCH
We keep tabs on the American Idol so you don’t have to.
This month: MATCHING!
Our gal from Burleson showed she never went to finishing school when she talked with the randy music magazine Blender. Can you match their questions with her answers?
1. If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be?
2. Do you mosh?
3. What’s your biggest vice?
4. What about public toilets?
5. Underwear or no underwear?
a. It’s cool when you come home with bruises.
b. People could have, like, nasty butt.
c. I am commando girl. Why in the world would you want a little thing up your butt when you can go free?
d. I have the biggest butt. It’s just not right.
e. I’m sorry, what’s my what? I don’t even know what
ANSWERS: 1-d, 2-a, 3-e, 4-b, 5-c
ZaZa May Go Bye-Bye
The numbers don’t add up for a chic new hotel.
THE PRESS HAS FALLEN all over itself to praise ZaZa’s visionary developer, Charlie Givens, and the Beautiful People have been flocking to a series of grand-opening events at the "urban lifestyle hotel." But unless they’re dropping far bigger bucks than we saw there recently, Hotel ZaZa should enjoy its moment while it lasts.
We figure six months. Maybe nine. Why? The boutique hotel sector has suffered in recent years, and ZaZa in particular will almost certainly fall victim to economics. The Law of Small Numbers demands that such facilities command and sustain outsized "exclusive" pricing to succeed. With only 146 rooms and 13 suites—and giving it every benefit of financial and economic doubt (as the numbers show above)—ZaZa just can’t get there at its stated prices.
2003 NET REVENUE
|No. of Rooms||"Stated" Room Rate||Projected Revenue|
|Contributions from Restaurant,||$250,000|
|Bar & Retail (See #3 below)|
|TOTAL NET REVENUE||$8,026,143|
|Direct Costs (See #4 below)||($3,611,764)|
|Indirect Costs (See #5 below)||($3,500,000)|
|Debt Service, Interest (See #6 below)||($1,260,000)|
|POTENTIAL 2003 CASH SHORTFALL||($345,622)|
1. During the latter half of 2002, Dallas hotels have experienced occupancy rates of approximately 60%.
2. Does not take into account corporate rates, group rates, promotions, and other price reductions.
3. Public company financial statements show that most hotel restaurants are money-losing cost centers.
4. Comparably situated hotels exhibit direct costs amounting to 45% of revenues.
5. Based on comparably situated hotels, estimate includes expenses associated with management, advertising, marketing, taxes, and insurance.
6. Assumes facility-related debt of only $18 million (i.e., 60% of the claimed aggregate $30 million cost), with a blended interest rate of 7%. The analysis (unrealistically) does not assume principal repayment.