Remembering Darryl Beeson

Darryl Beeson with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. (Jim White photos)
Darryl Beeson with Ravenswood founder Joel Peterson. (Jim White photos)

Many of us in and around the restaurant business have vivid stories to tell about Darryl Beeson. He was an easy going and friendly guy. Besides wine, he loved jokes. Almost every conversation started with one. Good or bad, you always laughed at Darryl’s jokes. Darryl Beeson died late yesterday after complications from a car accident. He was only 54. Details on Darryl’s funeral are still pending.

Savor Dallas co-founder Jim White had a long personal and professional history with Darryl. Below, Jim remembers Darryl Beeson.

UPDATE: Memorial service for Darryl Beeson is Friday February 5 at 3:30 p.m. at Restland in Dallas.

Darryl Beeson’s Class–and a class act.
by Jim White

The first time I ever met Darryl Beeson he seemed very professorial.  Maybe it was his tweed jacket, vest, bow tie, horn rimmed glasses and Adolphe Menjou mustache.  Or, perhaps it was his thorough awareness of “things” and his tendency to conduct “mini-seminars” on them.  He could talk about everything from sports and current events to broadcasting or social-scene gossip.  But it was his encyclopedic knowledge of wine that impressed me as I got to know him.  He was producing Jody Dean’s midday talk show in the winter of 1994 when I returned to Dallas to become KRLD’s morning news anchor.  I was also charged with developing a “Restaurant Show.”  Something operations director Michael Spears had been quite keen on while we were still in Chicago plotting our return to Big D.  Darryl was to be my producer for the program, slated to start in the spring of 1995.  I was quite intimidated by the prospect of hosting a program devoted to cooking and wine.  I did very little of the former, although I could hold my own with the latter.  But since Spears knew I had a love of these things and travel, cultivated by radio stints in San Francisco, numerous forays to Europe, and about a year of being in the dining circle of a Chicago restaurant critic, he insisted I could do it.  It was Darryl who helped smooth what seemed like a rocky road ahead to me.  And a damn steep learning curve–it was a daunting assignment just getting to know who the players were in the Dallas and Texas restaurant biz after several years out of town.

Darryl was the sommelier at the beautiful French Room in the Adolphus Hotel at the time and was moonlighting part-time at Newsradio 1080.  He seemed to know everyone in town.  And, boy did he do a great job of making a fine wine program come alive.  He was a service master and had a natural talent for regaling his wine customers with stories and anecdotes about the widest range of wines, vineyards, and winery personalities I have ever heard.  Always upbeat.  Always entertaining.  He was a showman with a tastevin.  When he moved his “act” to the Mansion on Turtle Creek–kind of a Jay Leno moves to prime time, but with better results transition–he also became increasingly adept at keeping the staff on their toes about VIP customers who were joining them in the storied dining room.  After checking the guest list one evening and seeing “Francis Ford requests special wine,” he asked a fresh-faced hostess,  “Do you mean Francis Ford Coppola?”

Darryl’s job on the “KRLD Restaurant Show with Jim White” was producer and “Wine Guy.” He handled both roles with panache.  More “absent minded professor” as a producer–sometimes keeping program rundowns and guest phone numbers on crumpled notebook paper, the backs of napkins, or matchbook covers.  He still managed to get outstanding guests like Julia Child and Wolfgang Puck booked and on the air.  When wine royalty like Robert Mondavi and his wife Margrit were in-studio the proverbial red carpet was always apparent.  He catered lunch for Fess Parker’s appearance with us and made sure we had the theme from Davy Crockett to play during the show.  He loved his time to shine on the air during his “Wine Guy” segments, which often featured luminaries like Robert Parker, Hugh Johnson, or Clive Coates.  His efforts helped us get a nomination for a James Beard Award in 1999 as “Best Radio Show on Food.”

In almost nine years of working together on the radio show and online projects, Darryl introduced me to so many wonderful and talented people (many of whom became friends):   wine legend Tony LaBarba,  favorite son restaurateur Matt Martinez, Jr., cheese maker extraordinaire Paula Lambert, Gus Kasitgris, who founded the El Centro culinary program, culinarian Renie Steves, a chef you may have heard of, Dean Fearing, and the list goes on.  Darryl even helped me orchestrate a most unorthodox proposal to my dearly beloved Vicki at the French Room with a cigar band for a ring and a bottle of Thunderbird for the toast.  It worked!  (But I had to deliver the real goods before any vows were exchanged).

Through ups and downs, “technical difficulties”, and road shows from divergent destinations like the State Fair of Texas, a cruise ship in Alaska and Dijon, France, trusted producer and friend Darryl was always there to hold down the fort, and keep those guests coming.  He often told me he was content to play the “second banana” role on the program (in the spirit of Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon).  Somehow he turned it into Bananas Foster (or Beeson).

For the last several years Darryl taught a rigorously academic wine program, and I’m told, before his untimely departure,  he was ready to return to teaching these classes and a weekly commute between Dallas and Houston to conduct them.  Always the professor.  Always the people person.  A gentle soul and a gifted spirit.  The wine service in Heaven is now 5-star.  Look out, Mr. LaBarba and Mr. Mondavi.  Darryl’s coming with a bottle of ’59 Lafite and a joke he wants to tell you.

Jim White
Founder, Savor Dallas

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