Music Man

He plays Elvis tunes from the ’50s. He writes lyrics like “All the penguins I have become friends with have taken off their suits and ties.” He fills all-ages clubs and Deep Ellum bars as easily as he fills North Dallas coffee shops. His name is Johnny Lloyd Rollins, and he’s been compared to Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, and, of course, a young version of the King. But there’s no mistaking the British pop influence in his music either. “I’m a huge Depeche Mode fan,” says the recent California transplant. That’s just it. You can’t pin him down. He’s singing the blues one minute and rock the next. And he’s sexy. Sexy times two. To hear and see for yourself, check out www.myspace.com/johnnylloydrollins. —JENNY BLOCKX


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Chop House Divided
A breakup at Bob’s Steak and Chop House has meat-eaters needlessly worried.

FINANCIAL STEAK: Bob Sambol splits his empire.
Thirteen years ago, Bob Sambol and Dale Wamstad were struggling with Bob and Del’s Chop House on Lemmon Avenue. In May 1993, Wamstad, the moneyman, decided to take his act north to Addison. He offered to sell the joint to Sambol. “I had no money,” Sambol says. So he made a deal: Wamstad gave him 12 months to come up with $150,000.

Eleven and a half months later, Sambol was sitting long-faced at the bar when loyal customer Bill Lenox, who’d made his dough in the garment district, sat down beside him. “My family was down to eating franks and beans,” Sambol says. Lenox took one look at Sambol’s proposal and made a deal with him the next day. Together they built Bob’s Steak and Chop House into a restaurant now turning over more than $7 million a year. The twosome also produced sibling restaurants in Plano, Denver, and San Francisco.

Then the filet hit the fan. The pair disagreed on expansion plans and other business decisions. In September 2005, they decided to split up. Lenox took the successful Plano location and the royalties from the San Francisco franchise. Sambol kept Lemmon Avenue and Denver. “I’m happy staying put,” Sambol says. “I love working the floor every night.”

On the other hand, Lenox, who is also the second-largest investor in Consilient Restaurants, looks forward to rolling out Bob’s in different locations. He bought intellectual property rights and has partnered with Cool River founder Steve Hartnett on a deal that would put the first Bob-less Bob’s on Main Street in Grapevine.

The man with the money always looks like the bad guy in breakups, but the twosome insist the divorce was amicable. “We own the theme, the high-quality recipes, which we insist on continuing, the décor—everything that makes Bob’s such a unique dining experience,” Lenox says. “The only thing we don’t own is Bob.” —NANCY NICHOLS

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Our Image Abroad: The Wall Street Journal recently ran a front-page story titled “Dallas Revisited: Still Struggling After ’80s Bust, Downtown Tries to Woo Families.” The story contained this particularly condescending jab: “Dallas Power & Light’s 158 apartments are 81 percent occupied and have become a home for some city celebrities, including three Dallas Mavericks cheerleaders.” As if Dallas is so backwater that having done a Herkie on an NBA hardwood elevates one to celebrity status. Please. After all, Chuck Norris lives here. Doesn’t he?

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Snap Judgment

THUMBS UP: Action Jaxon is a disc jockey on The Beat 97.9 FM. In December, he lived in and broadcasted from the Family Gateway Center. This is the fourth year Jaxon has raised money for the homeless, the fourth year he’s fulfilled his vow: Jaxon, né Paul Bullard, was homeless once himself and swore that if he ever made it in radio, he’d take time to do good on the air. He has.

THUMBS DOWN: The 10 o’clock newscast on NBC Channel 5 won the sweeps period that ended November 30 (with CBS Channel 11 coming in second and ABC Channel 8 finishing a distant third). But Channel 5 won the ratings war with whorish tactics. One night, they teased to a story about “shocking e-mails detailing an attack with a needle on a woman in a Garland parking lot.” But there was no attack. The story turned out to be about a hoax e-mail.

THUMBS DOWN: At press time, the Morning News has written zilch about the scam at the Denton Central Appraisal District. Thanks to a Denton County weekly, the News Connection, and its 15-part series, the public now knows of, among other things, the zero-dollar land value of a county official’s home; a Lewisville city councilman’s conflict of interest; and certified appraisal records that were altered after the Connection began its investigation, a practice that’s illegal.

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Past Due
Jocelyn White goes shopping —for someone to save her Designing Texas Catalog.

As 2004 came to a close, business seemed good for longtime Dallas media personality Jocelyn White. She had just launched a catalog and accompanying web site in November to complement her successful television show, Designing Texas. But in January, when a potential investor perused the catalog company’s books, the numbers didn’t add up. The catalog—just two months and one issue old—was suffering.

Independent jewelry makers, clothiers, and home décor designers whose products were featured in the catalog suddenly stopped receiving payments for their sales. Vendors who were owed anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars say White offered no explanation and that phone calls from collections agents and lawyers went unreturned. Word spread that White had bought new cars and was remodeling her home with spoils from the catalog. And at least one vendor filed a small claims suit against the company.

“I feel for the vendors,” White says. “But I feel sorry for myself, too.” White says she didn’t have oversight of the catalog’s finances. And the rumors about her lavish lifestyle are just that—rumors. She says she hasn’t remodeled her rented home and, in fact, never took a single paycheck from the catalog. “It’s unfortunate that the vendors have decided to come after me personally, because a personal attack will not get them their money back.”

White says she has resisted filing for bankruptcy and is now courting a buyer for her Designing Texas Catalog, who will assume the debt. Any bad publicity, she worries, could scuttle the deal. —JESSICA JONES

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Shame Shame Shame

This is America. If you want to drive a gas-guzzling SUV, then that’s a right Halliburton has earned for you. But, gosh darn it, you’ve still got to park like a good neighbor. When the spots are marked “compact vehicle only,” keep driving. We’re talking to you, Jack Killough. Or perhaps it was your wife Nancy who parked your Ford Expedition across two compact spots at Mockingbird Station the other night. Or maybe it was one of your daughters. If so, shame on you! Teach your wife and/or daughters to park better! And Troy Schaap, of Longview, Texas, don’t think we didn’t see your GMC Yukon similarly hogging compact spots that same night. Shame on you, too!

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Dallas Icons Deconstructed: The El Fenix Cheese Enchilada

Ever since Mike Martinez Sr. began putting chili con carne atop soft tacos in 1918, family-owned El Fenix has been serving Mexican food to the Dallas masses. Herewith, the numbers behind the most legendary menu item: the Wednesday cheese enchilada special. —J.J.

Over 50: years the special has been running

97: the price, in cents, of the special in 1972 (With such a long history, no one can remember the price when it first began.)

499: the price, in cents, of the special now

1.5 million: number of enchiladas sold annually

22,000-33,000: pounds of cheddar cheese ordered each month from Wisconsin’s Finest

“Don’t want to know”: calories in cheese enchilada plate, according to vice president of marketing and Mike Sr.’s granddaughter, Susan Martinez

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Double Dribble
Mark Cuban—yawn—overreacts to criticism.

After the Dallas Mavericks’ opening night, double-overtime win against Phoenix, TNT analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley were not impressed. Specifically, they said the Mavs couldn’t play defense. Mark Cuban responded by calling them idiots on his blog (www.blogmaverick.com). With a broken apostrophe key, he typed: “There is a reason why Kenny and Charles havent gotten head coaching jobs. There is more to running a team these days then [sic] thinking you know what you are talking about.”

The next day, Smith fired back: “Why do we have to be idiots?” he asked. Barkley added, “[Cuban will] live to be 1,000, and he’ll never know more than us two about basketball. If he knew that, he wouldn’t have put that little soft cake team together.”

In response, Cuban blogged: “Comparing your basketball IQ to mine isnt quite apples to apples given that Im not the coach. Im willing to compare the basketball knowledge of [other coaches] to the two of you anytime. My guess, you guys are on the short end of the stick.”

Smith retorted the following day: “In terms of basketball, I don’t think there’s anything that Charles and myself haven’t seen or heard or haven’t been a part of in an NBA basketball game. ... I don’t think you can say the same.”

Finally, Cuban presented the olive branch: “Im not mad at the TNT team. I actually really like Kenny and Charles. ... I just dont like the way they do their jobs.” —PAUL KIX

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The Cycle of Life
A commodities trader ditches his job for a more meaningful, foot-powered existence.

COOL RIDER:  Donovan Dawson has bike dreams.

If you’ve driven around Uptown on a recent Sunday evening, you might have noticed an unusual number of bicyclists on the streets. The man at the helm of a weekly pedaling posse is Donovan Dawson. The self-proclaimed “cycle pimp” is taking his tenderness for two-wheelers and channeling it into Uptown Cycles, a West Village bike shop scheduled to open this spring. In addition to the standard spectrum of cycles, the store will offer custom and vintage bikes, as well as rentals and repairs. It will be a different kind of shop for bike lovers and a different kind of venture for Dawson, a former commodities trader.

“The type of business I was in was very volatile,” says Dawson, whose outlook changed after 9/11. “There was a value shift in my priorities in life.”

Now Dawson is trying to do more than just business. With weekly “bike parties,” he’s attempting to enlighten Dallasites on the mobile convenience, financial savings, health perks, and environmental benefits of bicycling. The leisurely rides even include stops at local hotspots that offer the crew special deals and free food.

“I want to take something that is perceived as a child’s toy and make it to where adults can see it as a social tool,” Dawson says. —J.J.

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Blinding Them With Science—And Lasers

It’s tempting to think of the projector as antiquated, like the typewriter or the 8-track. But the sleek machine that will soon light up the planetarium at the Science Place ain’t your daddy’s projector. The Digistar 3 will replace the planetarium’s 33-year-old Minolta M8 star projector.

“That little projector did its job very well,” says the Science Place’s Paul Vinson. “But Minolta didn’t even support it anymore. When it broke, we had to re-tool it ourselves.”

The Science Place will be the first planetarium in the world to feature the 3-watt laster projector in the Digistar 3, a completely digital, 19-computer, fiber-optic system. The 3-watt laser bolsters the resolution of the 24-foot dome to a near-photographic-quality, 16 million-pixel resolution.

“We can now explore any realm of science,” Vinson says. “We can do life sciences and the human body, or we can show you the Dallas sky tonight, the actual 3-D matrix of the stars.” How romantic. —MICHAEL DARLING