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In ‘First-Class Dallas,’ Do High Rollers Really Wear 10-Gallon Hats?

A few thoughts on the Carbone story in Vanity Fair
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Let’s have a little rainy day fun with two recent descriptions of Dallas. You’re probably WFH today, which means you’ve got nothing better to do.

Our first morsel comes courtesy of Vanity Fair and a writer named Nate Freeman. Freeman, from what I can tell, is a New York City guy. He used to write a gossip column for Artnet. I’m sure he knows a lot about gossip and art. I remain less convinced that he’s familiar with Dallas.

An alert FrontBurnervian pointed me to a Freeman profile of Mario Carbone in the September issue of Vanity Fair that includes a couple of scenes in Dallas, where Carbone recently opened Carbone (not to be confused with Carbone’s). Here’s how Freeman describes the opening night at the Design District restaurant, where workers were scrambling to get the place ready:

“[Carbone] seems a bit on edge. Investors were hoping that the Carbone essence could be successfully uncorked for the 10-gallon-hatted high rollers in Big D: AT&T executives, Cowboys and Mavericks, old-money art collectors with Twombly-dotted mansions.”

First, there aren’t any old-money art collectors in Dallas because there isn’t any old money here. Rachofsky, Rose, Hoffman? No. Hunt and Crow? Older but still not close.

Then let’s talk about these “10-gallon-hatted high rollers.” I wasn’t there the night of the Carbone opening, but I feel comfortable saying that not a single guest wore a cowboy hat. Simply not going to happen. Maybe in Fort Worth. Not in Dallas. And if the description isn’t meant to be read literally, then it’s even more off-base, because high rollers in Texas don’t wear 10-gallon hats. That’s meaningless. Maybe you’d describe rich people as wearing “5X beaver felt cowboy hats,” but, again, that would be ridiculous if you were describing any social function in Dallas other than the Cattle Baron’s Ball.

So Nate Freeman can pound sand along with every editor at Vanity Fair who worked on that story. (But read it. It’s a good story.)

The second morsel comes from Mayor Eric Johnson’s weekly email newsletter, which is called “I Am in Charge Here, Dammit.” (It’s not actually called that.) You can sign up for it here. Today’s installment begins thusly:

“When this city commits to doing something, it should also commit to doing it in a first-class way. That’s the philosophy that has driven this administration. Because that’s the philosophy that will help Dallas—the premier city in the American southwest—meet its full potential. And there is so much vital work going on right now to ensure Dallas is a truly first-class city.”

I have a couple of thoughts about this. The first is: “American southwest” is redundant, “Southwest” should be uppercased, and Dallas isn’t the premier city in the Southwest because Texas isn’t in the Southwest. Phoenix is the premier city in the Southwest. Only someone from New York City would put Texas in the Southwest. Our mayor grew up in West Dallas; he should know better.

Question: is Dallas even the premier city in Texas? I love it. I’ve lived here for 45 years. But a debate between lovers of Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio would be a lively one. Related questions: can you claim to be the premier city in even the state if it takes a well-connected Dallas property owner eight months to secure a permit simply to tear down a defunct carwash? (This actually happened.) What if 60 percent of your traffic lights are decades old and outmoded? (They are.)

More questions: did we give up on “world class”? I know that descriptor is overused, and it oftentimes reveals our insecurity, but are we aiming now for first class? If so, I’d like to file a formal complaint. “World class” was a bit silly and over the top in a way we could embrace with a wink. It became an inside joke. If we are going to start classing ourselves in other ways than “world,” then I say we go for “Imperial.” Just think for a second about living in an Imperial-class city.

In summation, let’s all agree to be careful with how we use words. And remember the key to staying alive when it’s raining like mad: turn around, don’t drown. Or, you know, just stay home.

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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