The Art of a Nasher Deal
Downtown business interests tremble-but bite their tongues.
RAY NASHER OWNS A WORLD-CLASS sculpture collection. But it may be that the real artwork is the intricate deal-making necessary to make the Nasher Sculpture Garden a reality. The most recent sticking point: Harwood Street.
Late last fail, during a meeting with downtown business interests, assistant city manager Mary Suhm dropped a bombshell. “She said, ’We’re going to close Harwood,’ recalls one city official, astonished to hear of the plan. “The attitude was, ’Nasher really, really wants it done.’” He wanted to link the Dallas Museum of Art with his project across the street. It was presented as a potential deal-breaker: no closing, no sculpture garden.
The business community went ballistic-quietly. Many who exulted last year when Nasher committed to the garden quickly realized the tremendous negative impact closing the street could have, not only on their day-to-day commerce but also on long-term property values.
“We had some serious concerns about closing Harwood,” says Mike Lafitte, managing partner of Trammell Crow Co., which represents a majority of business owners on the street. “It was not an option from the property owners’ perspective.”
Says another “In some shape or form. Mr. Nasher needs to be made happy, but not at the expense of slitting our throats.”
But in the back of their minds was the fear that Nasher would hold the sculpture garden hostage to the closing of Harwood.
“It’s the biggest football in this city in a long time,” says one downtown property owner, “and if Nasher doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll take his football and go home.”
The cool response from the building owners sent Suhm back to her planners, who gave Nasher a number of options to consider, including narrowing the street to one lane and building a traffic tunnel under the street. She spent “hours and hours” discussing the alternatives with Nasher. (He did not return D’s phone calls.) Nasher mulled, and just after the new year, Suhm held another meeting with the downtown building owners to present Nasher’s compromise: narrow Harwood from four to two lanes, from Woodall Rogers to Flora Street, and close it to traffic at certain times of the day.
“It’s a compromise that everyone can live with,” says Veletta Forsythe Lill, city councilwoman; the Nasher Garden is in her district. And it was cheaper than tunneling.
The change will allow pedestrians to cross from the Dallas Museum of Art to the garden, providing the “connectivity” Nasher has insisted upon.
But not everybody is pleased.
“The response from the property owners is clearly mixed,” says one property manager, “Obviously everybody is very enthusiastic about the sculpture garden. But I have heard several property owners, those more directly affected, who are extremely concerned about the hours of operation.”
Traffic counts must be done, and then the plan must go through several committees before it reaches the Council.
“I’ve seen it, I like it, I hope it works for everybody,” says John Sughrue of Brook Partners. “The line has been drawn in the sand. You’re either for it or against it. The downtown business community realizes the garden is a net plus in a big way.”
“[Nasher] will bleed us for all he can,” says a city official,” but he does do fabulous projects.”
■ AFTER WORD GOT OUT THAT DALLAS communications guru Merrie Spaeth, media relations director for the Reagan White House, coached Ken Starr prior to his testimony before the House Judiciary Com mittee, she was inundated with requests for interviews by the media. Now, she carries a video of Starr as a teaching tool.
“I’m showing Ken’s tapes to CEOs all over the world to show it’s worth learning these techniques,” Spaeth says. “They affect how people listen to you.” Before his testimony, Starr was “this sex policeman,” the obsessed Inspector Javert. “What they had heard did not match what they saw,” Spaeth says. “What they saw was generally this nice, nerdy guy. He teaches the power of television. Our hardest sell to CEOs is that they need television techniques.” Yeah, but look where those techniques got Clinton.
PILING ON: AS IMPEACHMENT FEVER heated up. SMU faxed a news release to the press offering professors such as John Attanasio (law dean), Dennis Simon (presidential history), and Robin Lovin (theology dean), who would be available to speak on the issues, No jokes about Lovin’s name, pleas
WFAA-TV WILL BE PRODUCING MORE local shows for prime time in 1999, says new director of program development Jamie Aitken. Former exec producer of Good Morning Texas, Aitken was promot-
ed last August but kept it quiet until the end of the year to gel a new team in place. (D?na Conte Schulz is now EP of GMT.)
Each network affiliate has prime time hours avaitable for local programming. WFAA has often bought movies for those more profitable time slots, “leaving their own brand on the table,” says Aitken. This year, look for specials wrapped around Dale Hansen (sports), weatherman Troy Dungan (tornadoes), and perhaps movie critic Gary Cogill (the Oscars). Does this mean we don’t have to watch those “Family First” specials anymore?
■ A YEAR AGO. BOB BENNETT, one of the silent owners of The Met, told people he wanted a publishing empire. In addi tion to owning CSC/Lexington Media, which publishes a string of college sports magazines, Bennett started In- Line Skater, bought Texas Business, and launched the glossy Spirits & Cocktails.
But Bennett’s media empire quickly crumbled. He closed Spirits & Cocktails after two issues. “The ad revenue wasn’t coming in,” he says. “The big companies want to see you in business for a few years before they place a lot of money with you.” The third issue of Texas Business under his ownership was prepared but never released. By the end of the year he had sold all the magazines. His only remaining publishing asset is his ownership in The Met.
■ FOR A WHILE AFTER THE DEATH OF S&C, it looked 1 ike editor Tim Rogers (who also writes the “Mr. Funny Guy” column for The Met) might be going to the Dallas Observer. Unfortunately for the Observer, which desperately needs someone with a sense of humor, they disagreed on money. For now, Rogers is continuing his column for The Met and freelancing.
■ MICHAEL REY, who’s been flying over Dallas as KVTL’s helicopter traffic reporter for 11 years, has been grounded. At 38- with his only TV experience on the Cowboys’ post-game show-Rey is now news anchor on TXCN, Belo’s regional 24-hour cable news channel. The model for TXCN is to hire green but ambitious (read: cheap) reporters who want to make a name for themselves, “Til be on from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.,” Rey says. “It’s a long schedule but a great learning opportunity.” Remember what CNN did for Catherine Crier.
■ Is CAMERON HARPER DAMAGED GOODS? First, Channel 11 ’s anchorman announced he was homesick and was moving back to Phoenix at the end of fall sweeps. Then came the news that he had changed his mind and wanted to stay. Will viewers forgive and forget he really doesn’t like il here that much? Jim Holland, VP of news, isn’t worried. He says that Harper did “exceptionally well” in focus group testing against long-term anchors in this market. “It made sense for us to talk some more,” Holland says. Harper signed another long-term contract Will anyone care? Channel 11 ’s newscasts are fourth in the ratings. But 11’s switch to CBS is still new to viewers. Says Harper, “Come back in five or six years and see where we stand.”
■JENNY BURG, EDITOR OF DALLAS’ WHERE magazine, has been hired at Texas Lawyer to create “lawyer lifestyle” regional sections that appear once a month. That begs a question: Do lawyers have a life?
“Our approach might be to get a big-time lawyer and one of their top corporate clients and go out to lunch with them and talk,” says Joe Calve, publisher and editor of TL. The section will debut in Houston this month, and if it looks good, he’ll bring it to Dallas. For Burg, the jump from a magazine for tourists to the legal profession isn’t as big as it seems. She has a law degree.
CALVE ALSO PLANS TO LAUNCH ANOTHER weekly publication, tentatively called Texas Legal Pro. To appear in March, it will he geared toward law firms’ support staff. “They often have purchasing power,” Calve says. How about ads for cemeteries? These are the people who know where all the bodies are buried.
STUDENTS FROM GREENHILL, HILLCREST, and other high schools are the writers for Generation Y, a new quarterly by the publishers of Dallas Family, ’it’s founded on the idea that kids look al problems they see and try to tell people what’s going on from their perspective,” says Elisa Bock, a Hill-crest senior. Bock co-authored a story in the February issue about families and siblings. We’re glad to hear she’s been accepted to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. And we hope that Generation Y is more than an excuse for Ann Sentilles, associate publisher, to show off her daughter Della, whose story in the first issue was “Inside My Head: What it feels like to he 14.”
Surf to Avoid Dirty Restaurants
Health inspection ratings available on the Web.
It’s Friday night and you feel like some Chinese at Cathy’s Wok in Piano. If you take a moment to log on and type in www.ci.plano.tx.us, you might think twice. Cathy’s Wok scored a grade of “D” (poor) in its most recent health inspection. Other Piano restaurants that earned a “D” rating (“A” is best, “F’ is “fail, possible closing”) include Akbar, Darbar Pakistani & Indian Grill, Romano’s Macaroni Grill on Park Blvd., and La Madeleine’s location on West 15th.
Garland and Richardson also post restaurant inspection scores (www.ci.richardson.tx.us and www.ci.garland.tx.us). Both cities give number ratings that correspond to school grades: 90-100 is excellent, 60-69 marginal, below 59 failing.
One caveat: The rating might be several months old, and the restaurant could have remedied its problems.
If you want restaurant ratings in the City of Dallas, belter plan ahead. Though Margie Earl, Environmental and Health Services seclion manager, says putting the informa- tion online is in the works, curious diners now must either submit requests in writing or visit City Hall.
No Black Robes for “Publicity Paul”
The real reason Coggins declines federal judgeship.
U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins’ withdrawal of his bid for the federal bench had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with personality. Coggins is known for his non-stop, nation-hopping schedule and his way with a sound bite. (The Dallas Observer once dubbed him “Publicity Paul” in a cover story that Coggins turned into a joke on editor Julie Lyons at the Dallas Bar Association’s annual media luncheon. He flashed a slide of the cover on a screen with the name of the tabloid changed to Dallas Enquirer.) Last fall, the White House called to remind Coggins that he hadn’t sent in all the forms needed to get the process on the road. Though the nomination was an honor, Coggins realized he wasn’t yet ready for me almost monastic life of a federal judge. (Federal judges rarely talk to the press about their cases, or anything else for that matter.)
“My playing days aren’t over,” Coggins says. “I’m not ready to be a referee.” Aahh, another perfect sound bite.
When Dallas graphic artist Madalyn Eastus discovered she had lupus 10 years ago, just as she was finishing graduate school, she had to reinvent herself. “Lupus is unpredictable, exhausting,” says Eastus, 38. “It’s not like the made-for-TV movie with Valerie Bertinelli where everyone thinks you’re a hero.”
Confined for much of the day to bed, Eastus began using child’s construction paper, “weaving” it into paper images of quilts and other textiles. “It took really simple children’s materials and pushed them to the edge of what they could be,” Eastus says. She created handmade books that sold in galleries in Sante Fe and Washington, D.C. for $200.
Three years ago, Eastus took the concept to a paper engineer at a book packager that publishes unusual books like pop-ups. That led to the release this winter of Woof (Abrams, $18.95), a small book of images like “Amish quilt” that changes with every flip of the page, held together by friction, not glue.
Her greyhound, Lulu, came up with the name. “Abrams kept referring to it as ’that damn book’ because it had no title,” Eastus says. “We were joking about having to find a name when Lulu jumped on the table and barked.” Of course!Textiles have a “woof,”
Engaged to marry Dallas portrait photographer John Derry-berry, Eastus is working on her next project, a sequel called, logically, Warp.