The Ramsey Effect
A murder kills an industry.
THE STILL-UNSOLVED HOMICIDE OF JONBENET Ramsey apparently is claiming a second victim-child beauty pageants. In May 1996. as many as 450 entrants, age 12 and under, competed in Dallas for the Miss North Texas American Princess, Sweetheart, and Pre-Teen titles, according to pageant director George Scarborough.
Eight months later, in December 1996, the 6-year-old pageant veteran was found strangled in the basement of the Ramseys’ Boulder, Colo., residence. Intense media interest in the child pageant industry ensued, stories spotlighting the exploitation of little girls by greedy promoters, as well as stage moms bent on making Barbies of their babies.
As a result, this year fewer than 125 pre-teen girls have entered the upcoming competition at the Hyatt Regency. “The perception.” says Scarborough, who lost $100,000 on his 1997 Dallas pageant, “is that you’re a bad parent if you enter your daughter in a pageant.”
Three for the Road
Irving friends set out to break a 48-state record.
Last year. Jay Lowe and Ted Jacobs of Irving motored their Geo Metro into the Guinness Book of World Records by driving through all 48 contiguous states on a mere 164 gallons of gas. Hardly had the friends finished congratulating one another, however, when a team including Phil Berg, a senior editor at Car & Driver magazine, established a different sort of mark. Berg and his group sped around all 48 states in just 114 hours.
Now Lowe and Jacobs and a third friend, Mike McCaleb, are poised to challenge Berg’s record.
They’ve reconsulted their maps and believe they’ve found an itinerary that shaves the route from about 7,300 miles to around 6,500.
“It’s weird-looking, a great big snake wrapping around the country,” says Jacobs.
“We are going to have the record,” says Lowe. “We’re going to have the shortest recorded drive around the country.”
Phil Berg is doubtful. “I don’t think you could hit all 48 states in less than 7,300 miles,” he says.
The Irving trio is scheduled to begin at the point where California, Oregon, and Nevada are joined on May 20.
A Site for Sore Heads
ITS ROOTS REACH BACK TO “BOBwahred,” an e-mail forum where for years Dallas writers, artists, and other chronically aggrieved individuals have posted “playful yet honest and unadulterated expressions of their views,” as freelance journalist Brad Bailey puts it.
Now comes “The Dredge” at
The Dredge’s eclectic content has ranged so far from links to other sites (including one exclusively devoted to serial killers) to a nice photo of a sports trophy to an engaging animation of the Internet’s renowned Dancing Baby.
Bailey says that local contributors will post their musings and rants as time and inclination dictate, but they’ll probably speak anonymously to protect their day jobs.
If the unsigned palaver palls, try
Judge Price makes brief appearances in Austin.
Tom Price certainly seemed to be Moving up by moving down to Austin in 1996 when voters promoted the Dallas County judge to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Trouble is, court colleagues complain. Price won’t stay put.
Out-of-town judges usually rent apartments in Austin for their six-year terms, but Price has established no secondary residence in the capital. Instead, he commutes the 200-plus miles up and down 1-35. “I don’t go down the halls every day and take roll,” says Michael McCormick, the appellate court’s presiding judge, “but I know he is in Dallas a lot.”
According to Texas Lawyer magazine, several of Price’s fellow judges believe he should spend more time taking care of business. Some estimate that Price was in Austin only about 30 days in 1997. He also has a reputation for showing up late to (he court’s Monday morning meetings.
Price seems to be keeping up with his workload. He authored five deciding opinions last year, fewer than most of the other judges, but not bad for a rookie.
Undisclosed health problems could be one reason the 52-year-old Price returns to Dallas so often, says McCormick, who seems nevertheless annoyed that the newest member of the court is so seldom seen in Austin. “It’s a full-time job,” says McCormick. “There’s plenty of work here for those who want something to do every day.”
Judge Price, who shuns the press, did not return telephone calls.
The Pasha of Pawn Shop Row
Aka the loan arranger.
BEFORE PAWN SHOPS HAD stock exchange symbols, the most renowned of such establishments locally was Honest Joe’s at 2524 Elm St., owned and operated by Brooklyn refugee Rubin Goldstein.
This castle of clutter with its creaking wood floors was the place to shop for anyone in need of a snow shovel, a stuffed alligator, bongo drums, a cavalry helmet, a kitchen sink, an autographed picture of the Cisco Kid, or a slightly used wooden leg.
Deep Ellum was lined with such establishments from the Depression until the 1950s, in an era when the street was populated by such Damon Runyonesque characters as Sign Painter, who did much of the damage shown in this 1959 photo in return for Mogen David money, and Open the Door Richard, a 400-pound operator of a floating crap game. Goldstein’s favorite sign, YCDBSOYA, stood for “You can’t do business sitting on your Afghanistan.” Another warned: “We are very rude but we sell cheap.”
More than a few unsuspecting motorists froze at the wheel when Goldstein pulled up behind them in traffic in his pickup with an inoperable 50-caliber machine gun mounted on the roof. The business was finally killed by the construction of the freeway overhead, and. according to Honest Joe, “easy credit.”
ON MY MIND
A year into “972,” we have the single most effective social gauge to sweep the city since LBJ divided Dallas into North and Far North. Nothing says “outside the loop” quite like 972.
Who’s on the line? My caller ID flashes 10 digits, the first three 972, and I have my answer: No one.
I can remember when we were left to our own, far-less-reliable devices to determine someone’s station in life. The crown on his watch. The logo on her bag.
Numbers offer better clues. Glimpse another’s prefix (520, 521, 528) or ZIP code (75205) and you know, really, all you need to know. (For a while, anyway.)
My only problem with this particular numbers game: Those inside the loop who recite their numbers beginning with the obvious (214). As if we didn’t know.
And for our second prize winners…
Houston can’t give it away.
Last October, a two-page ad in TIME magazine featured a scratch-off box where 33 lucky readers were to find free first-class trips to Houston, each including a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with a Bayou City luminary. Among the ad’s unique enticements to scratch and see who you’d won: a game of one-on-one with Hakeem Olajuwan, an evening of theater with playwright Edward Albee, and a gymnastics session with Mary Lou Retton.
It wasn’t enough.
Several weeks and $600,000 later, exactly one of Time’s estimated 4 million readers, an Indiana school teacher, had come forth to claim his prize, a day with the astronauts at the Johnson Space Center.
Garlton Stowers’ latest tale of murder and retribution.
His cast of book subjects has ranged from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to professional football star Marcus Allen and local socialite Joy Aylor, currently doing hard time for having her ex-husband’s girlfriend killed. Now local author and D contributor Carlton Stowers has published his 30th book, To the Last Breath, the story of three determined women-a cop, a prosecutor, and a stricken mother-who bring a child-killing father to justice in Alvin.
The story is selling well. “People really know Carlton’s reputation for great writing,” says Donna Cressman, owner of Maxwell Books in DeSoto, where To the Last Breath has sold 80 copies so far.
In September, Reader’s Digest plans to issue a condensed version of the book in a new series it calls, “Today’s Best Non-Fiction.”
Enthusiasm for visiting Houston hasn’t much improved since. A second-chance drawing for the 32 unclaimed fantasy vacations netted an anemic 1,200 responses by December, and just 32.000 in all by March, when the trips finally were given away.
Sweepstakes experts say such a low response to a national drawing is unheard of. The city of Houston, however, is undeterred.
“This wasn’t done as a sweepstakes,1’ explained a defensive Debbie Siegfried of Houston Image, a city-subsidized marketing firm that dreamed up the contest. “It was a public relations opportunity, and it was an excellent investment.”