3 faces OF FALL

Meet Anita Middleton, Melissa Reiff and Phyllis Watson, three women who have traveled different career paths but find that they have one thing in common: They believe that style is a state of mind more than the ANITA latest fashion to roll off the runway. Style, they say, isn’t something that can be bought or worn on your back. Either you have it or you don’t.

But fashion, they insist, is a part of life that plays an integral role in each of their lives, whether it’s in front of TV cameras, in art studios or at a children’s soccer game. Fashion and style may not be synony-mous, but taken together, they make a winning combination. And there’s one thing we’re sure PHYLLIS about: Anita, Melissa and Phyllis all have it. 1 Anita MIDDLETON

MANY OF US are puzzled by the yin and yang of our lives. Destiny, we feel, is a mystery, often propelled by unknown- and sometimes uncooperative factors. Art gallery owner Anita Middleton doesn’t have that problem. Soft-spoken and precise, she can, without a moment’s hesitation, identify the guiding force in her life: art-in every imaginable form.

Her universe is whole and directed. Yin is buying artwork. Yang is selling artwork. And the glue that holds everything together is husband Terry Adams and young daughter Natalie.

But owning an art gallery wasn’t at the top of the list for Anita when she broke into the business world at age 18. Her first stop was in the apparel business. Following her older sister Linda’s lead, Anita modeled for a short time. She credits her sister for instilling in her a life-long interest in fashion. But Anita’s modeling tenure was cut short by sensitivity rather than by ability. “It was humiliating,” Anita, now 34, says of those days. “You were never really treated as a person.”

Anita continued in the apparel industry, however, this time as a buyer for fashion retailers. Eventually, Anita made her way into the fabrication and styling of a line.

But Anita wound up selling ad space rather than clothes. D founder Wick Allison persuaded her to join the team of the newly created Texas Homes. Anita soon found herself as the ad director of the statewide publication.

While on an advertising sales call, Anita met Terry Adams, an orthodontist who was just starting out in Dallas. Terry, a confirmed art aficionado, was involved in an art show at a nearby gallery. The lunch appointment ran rather long, Anita remembers. Something obviously clicked, however, and Terry promptly returned to his office and announced that he had found the next Mrs. Adams.

During their ensuing romance, Anita discovered her complete love of art-and destiny. But she tries to keep it in perspective. “Terry’s the real authority on art,” she’ll tell you as she moves through the gallery, speaking in a soft voice that is frequently punctuated with words like “absolutely” and “certainly.” A visitor to the gallery will sense that Anita feels like a visitor herself who is seeing for the first time the many subtleties that mark each artist’s work.

Despite a burgeoning dentistry practice and an involvement with a ranch in New Mexico, Terry remains very much involved in the gallery, and together the couple has developed one of the most successful shops in town. “It’s a very exciting period right now,” says Anita.”We live in a very pluralistic art world. So much-all forms of realism, abstract expressionisn and neo-expression-ism-is going on.”

It’s clear that Anita loves the challenge of staying on top, but she views her work like the romantic she is: “What I do is very much like matchmaking. I put the right piece of art with the right person.” If probed, however, Anita will confess to a slight heartache when a particularly cherished piece leaves the gallery. But, she says, with bittersweet resolve: “I’m in the business of selling artwork, as well as collecting it.”

THE DAYS ARE long, beginning before the sun rises. Anita rolls out of bed religiously at 5:30. Depending on the day, she either slips out of the house to work out at The Exchange Club, a downtown gym, where, she says, “they take exercise very seriously” or puts on her running shoes and jogs through her Oak Lawn neighborhood. After her daily regimen, it’s back to the Terrace House to get four-year-old Natalie up for the day.

Anita often lays out coordinated outfits for her daughter, only to be told that “it just won’t work, mom.” Natalie, it seems, has inherited her mother’s fashion independence. “Natalie,” Anita says, “will wear her little blue shoes with her red dress. She has very definite ideas about fashion.”

Anita, who at times resembles Victoria Principal (with her hair up) or Jackie Onassis (hair down), prefers clean lines and simple patterns for her own wardrobe. “Less is best,” she says. “I’m a black-and-white person basically, although I am turning on to hot colors.” Dressing is really an illusion, believes Anita, who likes to add height to her appearance. “I don’t have height,” says the the 5-foot-5 redhead, “so I need to create the illusion. I love form to my clothes, an architectural look.” Anita creates that look through narrow tailored skirts and an absence of frills or lace.

“I’m affected by color and proportion and form. I look at everything and am very aware of my environment.” Anita admits that she takes an occasional glance at national fashion magazines, but finds that she “interprets” fashion trends to suit her particular tastes. She says that she’s never bought a complete outfit and, although she doesn’t spend a lot of time dressing, every morning is a creative exercise. “As you get older,” she says, “you want to simplify. I don’t want fashion to dominate my life.”

WHAT DOES DOMINATE Anita’s life is clear, and it’s about three feet tall. Natalie runs through the gallery, around corners and up stairs with the energy that only a four-year-old can muster. Anita will tell you with a grin that Natalie learned to walk in the gallery. And at home, says Anita, Natalie will often mimic her art-dealer mother, picking up the phone and notepad and saying with her “grown-up” voice into the receiver, “So, you want to buy the Paul Rotterdam?”

One trip to Adams-Middleton will tell a visitor that Spanish artists are important to the gallery. Anita frequently makes trips abroad for purchases and negotiations and firmly believes that the Spanish contribution to art cannot be overlooked. This devotion to Spain is brought home in the form of Elvira, a Spanish-speaking housekeeper Anita and Terry specifically hired to look after Natalie while they worked “so that Natalie could become bi-lingual.” It’s working. On a recent vacation in Mexico, Natalie made fast friends with several of the guests at the resort, merrily chatting away in Spanish. Anita is sure that Natalie will be her interpreter on future visits to Europe.

As for the future, Anita’s secret desire is really no secret at all: She simply wants to run one of the finest art galleries in the world. And in the meantime, she’s content: “I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life-due to the man I met.”

2 Melissa REIFF

WHEN TOW-HEADED Melissa Reiff arrives on the scene, it’s as if an infusion of enthusiasm has just been delivered. She almost bounces along, and within minutes, you’ll be swept up in her energy, never knowing quite what hit you.

Until you get to know Melissa, you might misplace her Southern Belle charm and think she’s the Theta sorority president or the pep squad leader. But instead, the 30-year-old blonde, in a slightly throaty voice, will tell you about her children, five-year-old Jacob and baby Ellen. She’s just gotten back from the soccer field, where she’s dropped off Jacob and the three other kids in the carpool and is on her way to the World Trade Center showroom, La Papillon, where she works promoting several novelty and gift lines. After her appointment with the specialty store buyer, she’ll rush back to the house to meet husband Ron and prepare their favorite hors d’oeuvres for a dinner party that night.

If it sounds hectic, it is. And Melissa wouldn’t have it any other way. “I have a lot of energy. I like a lot on my mind. I get restless. I need to be doing more. I want to give everything 100 percent of my attention and sometimes I get frustrated when I can’t give it that much.”

There are few complaints about a lack of attention in the Reiff household. Melissa usually has all the bases covered, with the phone in one hand and the spatula in the other. Working out of her home most of the time allows Melissa to keep an eye on the kids and still make the important calls to specialty-store buyers. Five-year-old Jacob understands not to interrupt his mother when she’s on the phone and that during market weeks, his mother has gone to “appointments.” Housekeeper Sandra fills in during those times, says Melissa, giving her a break from cooking with “the absolute best enchiladas.”

MELISSA, WHO SAYS that she’s always had an eye for fashion, met with somewhat of a culture shock when she left her home of Independence, Missouri, for the campus of Arizona State after graduating high school in the early Seventies. Long jean skirts and blousy shirts were the rage at the time, and Melissa soon found herself immersed in the free-wheeling atmosphere of the college town. “We used to sit outside for hours, basking in the hot sun with aluminum shields,” she says. “My hair went completely white.”

Melissa’s mother wondered what happened to the cheerleader daughter that she had put on the plane a semester before. “On my first visit home,” says Melissa, “I walked off the plane about 20 pounds overweight in an old jean skirt, with this ’baked-potato’ skin, and I thought my mother was going to cry.”

A transfer to SMU put Melissa back into the more familiar tailored looks she had grown up with. But, says Melissa, don’t confuse that with the “dress-for-success” look that had hit the country. In fact, Melissa’s first job out of college required her to do extensive traveling around the country promoting “Success Unlimited,” motivational seminars in the vein of Dale Carnegie. Instead of the skirt/jacket uniform with cute little bow ties that seemed de rigueur at the time for aspiring executive women, Melissa wore “lots of pants, blazers and dresses.” Says she of the time: “I didn’t do a lot of thinking about ’The Look’ I wanted. The job was a lot of responsibility. I did it for two years, and I didn’t realize that it was that much responsibility. I know I couldn’t do it now.”

Nevertheless, Melissa’s independent fashion outlook didn’t fold under the strain of the job or subsequent marriage and motherhood (Jacob was born the month of their first anniversary). Even though she says that she now feels a somewhat “looser” attitude about dressing, she still looks to the aesthetic value of clothes: “Whatever I choose has to be flattering on me. I always take into consideration where I’m going to wear it, whether it’s for work, evening or for a fun evening at home. In the Preston Hollow area, there are a lot of parties. Everybody sort of rotates throwing them. I love to cook and I love to entertain.” Melissa’s favorite dish is veal scallopini.

But repping several novelty lines and raising two kids leaves little time for browsing through fashion magazines or going to fashion shows. On selling trips, Melissa tries to look in the stores she visits. “I try to walk through all the floors. I’m always in the major malls.” But Melissa doesn’t waste any time when she does shop. “If I see something that catches my eye. I don’t go home and stew over it. I buy it then and there.”

Sales personnel have a hard time selling Melissa on the “complete” outfit, however. “I want to look around more to make sure I know what I want to do. I can’t afford to buy a lot of the trendy fashion because I don’t have the opportunity to wear it as much, so I really go for more of the sophisticated, tailored look.” But Melissa doesn’t totally disregard seasonal styles. “Learn to coordinate things,” she says. “Learn to have fun with it.” Melissa has the most fun shopping for her kids. “If you’re smart and creative,” she says, “the kids can look really well-groomed and neat and you don’t have to spend a fortune. I love to shop for my kids. When I do have time to shop, it’s usually for my kids.”

Melissa’s sun-drenched, baby-fine hair affords her a versatility many women envy. With slight effort, she can go tousled and teased, slicked back and moussed or just straight. Each creates an entirely different look, from a casual day at home to an elegant evening on the town. But despite the ever-changing variables of hairstyles and fashion trends, there’s one constant that Melissa won’t compromise: Her wardrobe has to work for her as much as she works during the day. Clothes, to be successful, have to be flexible enough to go from home to office.

There’s no confusion for Melissa, however, as to where one career starts and the other stops: From 5 until 9 p.m., it is strictly time for Jacob and Ellen. After the children are tucked in for the night, Melissa often settles in to do paperwork, sometimes working until midnight (“I love to stay up late.”) But she and Ron, who have known each other for more than 19 years, still make it a point to discuss each other’s day before the evening’s over. “We keep our lives together that way,” she says. “It’s so easy to grow apart.”

3 Phyllis WATSON

ON THE WAY to the United Nations as an aspiring Russian translator, Phyllis Watson met a puppet. The rest, as they say, is history. The puppet was a prop used tor a college cable-TV program sponsored by Western Illinois University. Phyllis made her first bow before TV cameras as host of the college-sponsored children’s show, a job she landed by luck more than anything else, she says.

In college, Phyllis didn’t know what she wanted in a career, but she did know that she had speaking ability, was a good cheerleader and wanted to speak Russian. (She had followed her older brother’s lead in learning the language.) But since there weren’t many Russian cheerleaders in demand, she knew she had to figure out a new direction. A college counselor put her on the right track when he encouraged her to meet with other students who worked at the college cable TV station.

“I walked into the studio and there were a bunch of cameras and a guy who had this puppet. The counselor was there and he told me to talk to the puppet, to just make something up. So the puppet and I started talking about a birthday party. While I was talking to the puppet, it was being taped as an audition.” The die had been cast. Phyllis had been bitten by the TV bug. A transfer to Northwestern University and broadcast journalism courses followed.

From there, it was the bright lights of TV news stations in Tulsa and Milwaukee before Phyllis headed south to Channel 8, where she currently presides over the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts with co-anchors John Criswell and Tracy Rowlett, respectively. Phyllis experienced more than a change of jobs when she left the chilly reaches of Milwaukee and her childhood home of Chicago. For starters, her heavy woolens were out and a new car was definitely in order. “I arrived here,” she says, “in a 1977 Toyota with no air-conditioning and a hole in the radiator.” Dale Hansen (Channel 8’s sportscaster) used to drive a ’77 Buick Skylark with its bumper dragging the ground, fastened with a hanger wire. “He’d put his old heap next to mine,” she says, “and laugh!” She now drives an air-conditioned Chrysler New Yorker, which she says, she drives with a vengeance.

Many will recognize Phyllis for her “Spirit of Texas” profiles that spotlight area individuals who surmount the odds to make a contribution to society and benefit others. The assignment, she says, is perfect for her. “I’m a sucker for people. To be successful in this business,” she says, “you’ve got to take time to be human.”

In this business, she says, there are a lot of compromises concerning an anchor’s “look.” Some news directors have strong opinions on what they want, others are less demanding. Phyllis has worked for both. Basically, she says, she sticks to bright colors and patterns that will broadcast well. “I found out that I can wear anything-except stripes-it just depends on what hue it is. Some blues look prettier than others. But the more neon, the brighter and more vivid they are, the better they look on the air. I stay away from the neutral tones, but I have to remind myself that not everything I wear has to do with work. I do like wearing black out sometimes.” Viewers usually only see Phyllis from the waist up, but she also has a passion for split skirts. And recently she’s discovered that she’s hat crazy. “I had never worn them before, but now I love them.”

DIVIDING WORKTIME from playtime is not as easy as Phyllis would like. “It’s something that I’m working on,” she says. “I used to work late and then take a lot of work home too.” Husband Jeff Gilliard is understanding about her heavy workload and makes the trips downtown to have dinner with Phyllis when she works late. Being married to a high-profile TV anchor isn’t always easy (more than once he’s been called Mr. Watson), but Jeff can put it in perspective, says Phyllis. At a recent gathering, she says, a guest had been talking with Jeff when she realized that Phyllis was his wife. “So you’re married to Phyllis Watson?” the guest asked. “No,” replied Jeff. “Phyllis is married to me.”

Although Jeff and Phyllis don’t see each other much during the week, they spend at least one day together, usually on Sunday. That day will usually see the couple biking around their Lake Highlands neighborhood or working in their garden.

PHYLLIS REFUSES to succumb to the glitz and gloss that runs rampant in the TV industry. “Many people make the assumption that if you’re in TV, you’re glamorous and stuck up. But if you don’t forget where you came from, you don’t get so big-headed that you think you’re better than anybody else because you aren’t-no matter how much money you make or what you do. You’re still just people. And if you’ve got a mother like mine, you’ll stay that way. Everyone said, ’Oh, wouldn’t you be nervous if you interviewed Ronald Reagan?’ I said, ’No. Ronnie is just the same as Phyllis. He just has a different position.’”

Many people think that Phyllis’ position asa news anchor is a 24-hour job and don’tthink twice about approaching her in public.Phyllis understands that her off-time isn’talways her own and isn’t often caught unprepared. Although once, says Phyllis, sheand Jeff were in a restaurant near their homeand she was dressed in an old T-shirt andjeans, with sunglasses on and no makeup.Just as she had taken a mouthful of deep-fried zucchini sticks, a woman approachedand asked: “Aren’t you that woman on TV?”Phyllis nodded through the zucchini, andJeff cracked up. Another time, she says, shehad just run to the grocery store to pick upsome cleanser, dashing out of the housein old cleaning clothes. As she was runningdown the soap aisle, a woman stopped her.”Aren’t you. . .” the shopper ventured.”No,” said Phyllis quickly as she continueddown the aisle, “but thank you just thesame.”


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.