THE PARTY’S OVER. THE KIDDIES ARE COMING. And thanks to them, soon it’ll be all over for those already-waning golden days when The Village was the hot place to be, singles-wise, Sexual Revolution-wise, or, some might say, just plain irresponsible and out-of-control-wise.
Since the early Seventies, The Village, that singles-only megacomplex crammed in between Skillman and Greenville and Lovers Lane and Northwest Highway, has been the unofficial Texas Headquarters for That Sort of Thing. Surrounded by meet markets, in its party-hearty heyday The Village catered to the steady influx of young hedonists flowing into the promising city from the hundreds of burgs and hamlets surrounding Big D. On weeknights, residents would all go piling into nightclubs with trendy, meaningless names, schooling thicker than fish at old H. P. Cassidy’s and every bit as likely to rise and take the first bait you threw ’em, so you could reel them in on the flimsiest of lines.
All a person wanting for “company” had to do was just gaff-hook two or three when they fell flopping out the doors of all the Ichabod’s and Packards and Daddy’s Moneys, ad infinitum. You didn’t even need to go into the clubs; you could just go down to the singles-crammed Tom Thumb at Lovers Lane of an evening and take home some “groceries.” The Village and environs were the young liberated single’s oyster, and all you needed were some designer jeans, gold chains, and pocket change to be its tipsy and gorgeous little pearl.
Remember? Back when the only AIDS was stenciled on the side of a dumpster and stood for “American Industrial Disposal Service”? And Herpes was some Greek god or other? And anyone who talked too loud about “commitment” was looked at as if they were in deep need of it, institutionally?
But those little unpleasantries of the Weighty Eighties-and, more to the point, the mass media’s gleeful coverage of them- kind of put the quietus on The Village lifestyle.
But it didn’t get killed for sure until this summer. As recently as August, people like Mandy Butterworth. a twenty-two-year-old nanny, were moving to The Village “because my old apartment wasn’t a happening kind of place, and I got tired of the kids. Kids was one of the discussions we had before we decided to move here. There was a baby where we used to live, and you could hear it crying all the time. I get enough kids in the daytime.”
Kyle King, on the other hand, has just moved out of The Village. Finally, after many carefree years, he’s gotten married. There’s some slight wistfulness in his voice as he recalls the good old days. “It definitely is a swinging singles kind of place. Those pool parties.. .you can do pretty good there, too. It was all pretty hot around there as little as seven months ago, and I wouldn’t know about nothìn’ after that, of course, because that’s when I got engaged.”
And King has seen the handwriting on the wall. “I imagine the kids’ll make it pretty rough on the guys who stay.”
Yes, the kids are coming. This past September, the federal government came along and hammered in the nail that will ultimately finish off the happy hedonist lifestyle. A bill was approved and signed into law that will ban adults-only apartment complexes except those catering to the elderly. The Dallas area has about 1,500 apartment complexes, and half to two-thirds exclude children, according to local industry estimates. Under the anti-discrimination measures, families with children younger than eighteen cannot be denied housing.
Dick Covert, who is executive vice-president of the Apartment Association of Greater Dallas and as such would be more than happy to PR and soft-pedal the situation if there was any hope at all, went on the record as saying, “It will put an end to all-adult apartment complexes. Realistically, they will just have to start taking families. We think there are families that are going to move into one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, causing overcrowding and deterioration.”
Opponents-particularly officials in the apartment industry-say the new open-housing law will result in higher rents because of increased wear and tear at the hands of younger members of those families. Proponents of the legislation say it’ll help make it easier for families to find affordable housing. Says Dorothy Masterson, director of the Dallas Tenants’ Association. “All we have ever been in favor of is freedom of choice. Just as they shouldn’t be excluded because of color of skin, they shouldn’t be excluded because they have children.”
Obviously, nobody wants to say that families should be denied housing so that mindlessly rutting singles can have a private wonderland of endless parties and instant gratification and carefree-well, we don’t want to say it too loud. Seriously, without getting too sociological about all this, there’s no doubt that a way of life is ending, ground down under the tennis-shoed march of progress. So before the singles-only scene goes the way of intelligent political campaigning, we thought we’d take a last nostalgic look at the colorful folkways and mores of The Village people.
“I CAN SEE PARENTS BANGING ON PEOPLE’S doors saying, ’My kids are trying to sleep, keep it down or I’ll call a cop,’” says Village tenant Jane Getty. As she complains, Jane is sitting with her friend, Leslie Milonovich, under a banner stretched across the volleyball net over the pool at The Bend in The Village. “Bon Voyage, Jean and Dinger! I R A College Gradeeeat!” the banner says. It’s a moving away party, and Jane’s the hostess.
But what’s this? Jane and Leslie are not exactly enchanted by the fountain of youth that is The Village. You see, they’re getting old. “You’re talking to a coupla dinosaurs, pal. The Village is nice, and it’s clean, but just don’t ever live by the pool. They still have their dumb little parties, just like we used to. But I just don’t feel like I have anything in common with these people anymore. It’s like going back to a college party. Who wants to party with nineteen-year-olds? And if I don’t like it with the nineteen-year-olds, just think what it’ll be like when they start letting kids in.” Jane still lives in The Village, but she fights some embarrassment over it. “I started telling people I live ’on Amesbury’ rather than ’I live in The Village,’ because it had that reputation. I’m hoping to get out by next spring.”
Leslie has moved on to other, more grownup lifestyle modalities. So have most of the others standing around the grill, on which very settled and adult-looking hotdogs and hamburgers sizzle suburbanly.
The party is a reunion, a nostalgia fest for this bunch of former Villagoids who once upon a time lived and partied there together. As our field researcher listens, they reveal the collective wisdom of The Village elders. They talk about the good old days when a group of about thirty of them referred to themselves as Chuck’s Breakfast Club, because of the fact that most Sunday mornings they’d show up hungover and unwashed at the apartment of Chuck DeSchryver. Chuck, a CPA who himself is feeling the weight of old age and is looking to move out. looks back through the mists of time and remembers. “The guys’d bring screwdrivers, the girls’d bring mimosas and food, and we’d all be drunk and dancing by noon. But you can only live like that for so long, you know.”
Jane and Leslie nod in agreement, their faces reflecting the hard-won wisdom of age and a certain stoicism, an uncomplaining acceptance of the mantle of maturity. As befits her years, Jane tells about the oldest guy she knows in The Village, a doctor whom she considers somewhat irresponsible. “He’s a doctor, and yet I see him drinking over at the Surf Club and I think, ’Boy, I sure wouldn’t want him cutting on me.’“
Of course there is not a soul at the party who is past thirty. Jane is a washed-up, over-the-hill twenty-six. The good old days they’re all talking about were not quite three years ago. And the senile old surgeon? He’s thirty-five. But our researcher, in good anthropologist’s fashion, remains an impartial observer. He knows that telling people that youth is wasted on the young is wasted on the young. Anyway, arguing might mean the end of the free beer.
Of which, in The Village, there is plenty. The place knows how to treat its residents, guests, and crashers. Seems like every weekend, one of the complexes-your quasi-separate Glens and your Parks and your Greens and your Gates, etc.-is hosting some little shindig in the clubhouse to thank all the tenants for living there, and any freeloaders and interlopers for being so kind as to drop by. The grazing at a joint bash for The Green and The Park was what the doctor ordered: barbecued brisket, beans, and all the beer you could drink out of five kegs.
But our intrepid observer finds that changes have already come to The Village, unsettling its social equilibrium even before the government put an end to the singles’ Eden. The Village has been in the past nothing if not egalitarian-15,000 people all living in about the same kind of cheap place for about the same kind of cheap rent.
But then Lincoln Property Company went and built The Lakes. And now, Snobbery has reared its head.
Admittedly, of all the bikini-paved thirty-six pools in The Village, The Lakes has the finest. Four waterfalls, hot tubs, cold tubs, and all overlooking a lake. The landscaping is parklike, with creeks and valleys and shires. And the apartments are okay, loo. But they’ve put a $l,000-a-month price tag on some of them. And when your thing costs more than your neighbor’s thing, it’s Snob City. At the clubhouse, no beer. Only wine and cheese. Instead of the expected barbecue, we found a strange native foodstuff, a weird thing that looked like a pie but was actually made out of eggs and broccoli, and this white Jello with some kind of fish in it. But despite the strange food, our knowledge of this exotic tribe grew when a lawyer for Lincoln Properties started talking out of school, telling about some suits he’d handled on behalf of The Village. The best yarn concerned the free spirit who spread potting soil six inches deep throughout his apartment, leaving only his bed uncovered, then hung up some growlights, and, when they found him, was living happily in a thriving marijuana garden.
Then we spotted another Village denizen: over by the baby grand piano stood pompous upscalia, the most stereotyped Dallas MBA God has yet made. His worked-out, President’s Health Club body is muscle-bound tightly into a white shirt so starched it crackles when he moves, which is seldom.
And it’s all topped off with a regimental tie and one of those nerdy, serious, bespectacled heads that are so fashionable on young men’s necks these days. He leans over the piano to better display his biceps and glares around the room with a look that suggests, “Perhaps you do not know who I am and what bank I work for, but I am so important and popular and rich that in fact 1 seldom give the time of day to anyone less than a CEO, so, won’t someone please come talk to me?”
The guy leaves, and his vacuum is suddenly filled with the more wined of the bunch, who stand around the piano singing every song Merle Haggard never knew. It sounds like the playlist from Studebaker’s filtered through KMEZ.
The frenzy builds, and before long we see full-tilt hand-jiving and chants of hi de hi de hi and ho de ho de ho, and we realize we’ve stumbled into an exotic native ritual so bizarre, so demented, that it is unbearable to the unintoxicated mind. Luckily we find an escape route to serious anesthesia: plastic bag wine. Ah, these clever natives. We find that our friends Mick Stott and Kathy Selby are already trying to wedge themselves under the spout. They too find the spectacle revolting. And they live here.
“Biggest bunch of snobheads I ever met in my life,” says Kathy, not one to mince words. ’They’re plain snotty. You walk by the pool and they just glare at you. You nod or wave at them, and they just turn their heads the other way. Weirdest place I ever lived. It’s like they don’t know that these are, after all, just some ’partments.”
OF THE ROUGHLY 15,000 RESIDENTS OF the 8,000 ’partments that constitute The Village, 52 percent are male, 48 percent are female, and there’s no category for “other.” The average salary is about $25,000 a year, and the average age ranges between twenty-five and thirty-four. That’s about all Lincoln Properties will tell you- and probably about all that it officially knows. But that doesn’t answer the $64,000 question that a true scientist longs to crack: “Are these people really getting down???”
That’s hard to say. In the course of my travels, not one Villagoid was willing to admit it’s the swingingest place on earth.
You might get an occasional, “Yeah, I guess I do okay,” but more often, our subjects pointed the finger at other complexes in The Village: “No, we’re really quite normal over here in The Bend, but in the North Glen East Cliffs Bluffs Phase XXVI, well, you know what? They drink Ty-D-bol and mate with skunks.”
Perhaps typical of Villagoids is a guy we’re going to call Roger Rabbit. The name is apropos. From talking with his friends, we knew that Roger was the real thing, a hardy-hormoned, midnight-rambling, back-door ladies’ man. But confronted with what the press now calls lifestyle questions, RR fibbed, minimized, prevaricated, and obfuscated, refusing to give us the salacious sleaze that we just knew was there.
RR: “I don’t go to the Village Country Club much. Haven’t been there in years.”
Fact: Not unless the doors are open.
RR; “I don’t even go to a lot of bars.”
Fact: Only if they don’t serve alcohol.
RR: “As far as meeting people in bars, I just don’t see that happening,”
Fact: He is particularly fond of strippers who make their home in The Village. He likes tattoos. He has opaqued his bedroom windows with black paint and has put red lightbulbs in all the fixtures.
RR: ’About six or seven years ago, I might have datéd two or three or four at the same time, but not anymore.”
Fact: His friends say that when it comes to women, Roger deals only in round numbers-twenty, thirty, etc.
There seem to be basically two kinds of people in The Village, according to the sage Roger: “Those who just came here, the corporate relocation types, students, and so forth. They’re the majority. After a year or two, they move on. And then you got people who are basically just kind of off-base. The story is it’s a singles place. The fact is, it’s a.. .it’s a damn weirdo-hole.”
VILLAGE COUNTRY CLUB, POOLSIDE. A peaceful, sunsoaked scene out of an idyllic, ZPG, America-in-Decline Utopia. It’s vintage Village: tucked in among the bronzed and scantily clad Aphrodites and Adonises bronzing themselves further is just enough of a smattering of frowsy fatfolk in blousy swimwear suits to make us feel right at home. All is calm.
Some women are solitary, silent, watching: either afraid some young pumped-up horndog is going to try to mess with them, or afraid that one won’t. Some of the young horndogs are solitary, also, reclining in pool-side chaise longues and pretending to listen to Walkmen while ogling the women through dark sunglasses. Secret Service style.
Other men and women who have mastered the scene now bill and coo and spoon, whatever that is, together on air mattresses. Two who have just met each other rest their arms on the side of the pool as they float in the water and make innocuous chit-chat that has nothing to do with what they’re thinking.
“I’m from Big Spríng,” she says. “I used to live there with my ex-boyfriend.”
“I was in Big Spring once,” he says, trying to carry the conversational ball, ears pricked at the prefix, “ex.” Just when it looks like maybe they’ll get past the prelims, a glimpse of the impending future intrudes. About ten years ago, four people like these two got together and bred, then divorced. And now the products of these two unions are visiting a couple of single dads who live in The Village for precisely the qualities of life that their offspring now shatter.
These two cookie-grabbers jump up and down on the high-diving board just to hear it clatter. And it does, and the sound drowns out all hope of even conversing, much less eavesdropping.
Then one of them jumps off the rear of the low diving board into a nearby live oak, grabs a branch in midair, and lets it carry him down to the concrete-a mission that, if it had failed, would have resulted in fat fees for lawyers. Our thoughts drift to the kid riding his Big Wheel off the high board into-surprise!-a drained pool!
But the lovely daydream ends in a drenching when the other little tow-headed monster does a “can-opener” dive that shoots a wall of chlorinated water all over everyone. Then the kid swims to the side of the pool and uses the man who’s been to Big Spring as a human ladder. The kid is too old to be even half-cute, and the the man looks very irritated until the kid’s embarrassed father brings over a Budweiser as a peace offering.
Ah well. It’s the end of an era.