PICTURE THIS: STELLA TENNANT-THE IT GIRL OF HIGH fashion-strolling down a runway before an audience of Dallas and Fort Worth society beneath a giant tent outside an American Airlines hangar, Chanel has transported its Paris fashion show to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for a black-tie benefit, And Tennant- pale, solemn, short-haired, not-Claudia-Schiffer Tennant-is the star of the evening. She may as well be k.d. lang for all the excitement she’s generating. Faces in the audience hold the kind of politely attentive but bored expression you see at the opera. Later it dawns on me: Flying in Stella Tennant for a fashion show midway between Dallas and Fort Worth is like serving ostrich medallions to an audience that wants nothing more than T-bone.
OK, I ADMIT IT. STELLA TENNANT WAS LOST ON ME, TOO. I WAS ONE of those women looking at the model of the moment, pretending to understand and appreciate her ethereal version of beauty when, in truth. I didn’t get it. I looked for clues in her carriage, her face, her boyish haircut, and finally decided my taste had adapted to the version of beauty we get in Dallas. I wanted T-bone.
Men will tell you Dallas has the most beautiful women in the world. Certainly, we’ve always had more than our fair share of beauty queens/Playmates/model-actresses/what-have-you. We raise and export them and they, in turn, become our ambassadors of image, venturing into the world, reflecting brightly on the rest of us back home. We look nothing like Angie Harmon, Bridget Hall or Stacy Sanches (I doubt even Sanches looks like Playboy’s version of Stacy Sanches). But because of their legacy, we try. And try. Dallas women always see themselves as works in progress. Stand in the middle of the cosmetics department at Neiman Marcus NorthPark if you don’t believe me. The NorthPark Neiman’s sells more cosmetics than any of the company’s 30 stores.
A social truism: There are those who have it and those who pursue it. In Dallas, many have it; most pursue it. Conventional wisdom suggests that with enough effort, anyone can look like Bridget Hall. I began to wonder how Dallas cultivated this reputation for having the most beautiful women in the world. Who was responsible for saddling the unBridget Halls of us with this reputation?
Some reputations are harder to trace than others. Women, who see this one as a burden, won’t even venture a guess. Men respond as if they suffer from an embarrassment of riches and try to link the reputation for beautiful women with the original Dallas millionaires (where money goes, beautiful women follow). Then it occurred to me that asking a Dallas man about living in a city with so many beautiful women is like asking about someone’s inherited wealth. How do you respond to what’s always been?
I found my answer on a rainy Monday night in October-the night, as it were, of the opening of NorthSouth.
If you don’t know about NorthSouth. by all means, don’t admit it. To do so would reveal more about your station in Dallas than you would ever consciously want to. The restaurant in the Quadrangle had Place to Be hammered all over it long before il opened. Glamour couple Larry North and Melanie Peskett-North at the helm. Hip neighborhood, Of-the-moment cuisine.
Another social truism: In Dallas, the moneyed attend charity galas and the Beautiful People attend restaurant openings. On that Monday in October, the weather was conspiring against the Beautiful People. Make that: Beautiful Women. In Dallas, men do little to advance the notion of Beautiful People. This occurred to me only as I walked into NorthSouth. My hair had been wet (and dry) five times that day; my original makeup was buried beneath two subsequent layers; my black skirt. J. Crew blazer and oversized shoulder bag identified my own station (“working stiff’). I was Miss Congeniality surrounded by a restaurant full of beauty pageant contenders. Everywhere I looked, I saw miniskirts and naveI-baring tops, body-hugging black Lycra with 3-inch heels. and shoulder bags large enough to hold a tube of lipstick and roll of breath mints. Il was a Monday night in October, and these women looked like Saturday night in the ’80s.
At last I had my answer.
Dallas has the most beautiful women in the world because Dallas women try harder than women any where else in the world.
"Heartbreak Hotel" captures a very different bar at the Stoneleigh Hotel and a very different Dallas in 1977.
By Matt Goodman
Restaurants & Bars
And don’t sleep on the “Wine-Dow,” a patio window through which you can order a glass to sip on al fresco.