Pulse of the CITY

Thanks for the (bad) memories

Dallas-based Taylor Publishing sells yearbooks to 7,800 schools. Is that too many?

REMEMBER THE END OF YOUR HIGH school senior year? Giddy energy spread through lockered hallways as yearbooks passed from friend to friend, each set of hands scribbling what would be, for some, the final words they’d exchange for years. But more and more kids these days are graduating with no such memories. The grinch who’s been stealing this teenage tradition of Americana: Dallas-based Taylor Publishing, the nation’s second-largest producer of student annuals. The company, which peddles ils books to some 7,800 schools, is warring with industry leader Jostens Inc., me class-ring hawkers.

Since at least 1994, Taylor has struggled to meet its deadlines. That year, nearly 1,000 schools didn’t receive their yearbooks until summer break.

In Dallas, private schools such as Greenhill, St. Mark’s, and Episcopal School of Dallas, as well as Carter, Skyline, and Hillcrest public high schools, are just a few that have been burned.

In 19%, St. Mark’s students received their yearbooks just in the nick of time- die day of the prom, where they are unveiled. But the memory books were so shoddily bound, with pages falling out, that the student editors and the faculty advisor reluctantly decided to send them back to be redone, which meant no yearbooks until the summer.

Even during the good years in between, almost 10 percent of Taylor-supplied schools had to take advantage of the company’s offer to mail the late books home- free of charge, of course, but after students scattered. Taylor, which has been producing yearbooks for 60 years, has given just about every excuse, blaming its tardiness on everything from floods to irresponsible students and software glitches.

In its fight with Jostens, Taylor recently lost a key battle in federal court. In January, a judge in Sherman overturned a $36 million jury verdict that sided with Taylor, which had accused its Minnesota-based competitor of being mean-spirited, monopolist anti-trust violators.

U.S. District Judge Paul Brown’s ruling-coming just months after a layoff of more than two dozen managers at Taylor-cited “quality and delivery problems,” not Jostens’ predatory pricing, as the cause of Taylor’s business woes. Jostens, however, is no teacher’s pet. Several schools complained in the antitrust lawsuit that Jostens reps gave low-ball estimates to win their business, bad-mouthing their Taylor counterparts all the while, then submitted final bills for as much as $15,000 more.

As this May’s D-day approaches, the Classes of ’99 worry: Will their yearbooks get to school on time?

“You can’t make that guarantee until you’re at the shipping dock,” says Steve Kreider, Taylor’s administrative VP. “You go into every yearbook season intending that they all are going to be delivered. Everything indicates that that’s going to happen.” Kreider couldn’t provide any specifics about late yearbooks. “’The gentleman who would know that.” he said, referring to Taylor’s longtime production control manager, “is no longer working here.”

Alison Plenge, the 18-year-old editor of Greenhill’s Cavalcade, is one of the students caught in the crossfire. She says that she and the other student editors have met all their deadlines this year, but Taylor consistently has been late returning page proofs, which has her worried.

“They treat us like we’re just teenagers,” she says. “I don’t know how professional they are.” Indeed, Greenhill met with Jostens in March to discuss switching teams. If Plenge’s yearbook doesn’t arrive while she and her friends are still in school, “we would be, like, so mad,” she says. “It would give me a sense of letting down the entire school.”-DM.

Teen Tune

New song by Dallas band gets “felicitous” TV boost.

The Old 97% longtime Dallas favorites and alt-country darlings, are flirting with big-time success in the boot-steps of the Dixie Chicks. Fight Songs, their second major-label release, hit stores in late April and is generating buzz locally and nationally. A positive Spin magazine review, MTV coverage, and a video of the sin- or a Heart Attack),” bode well for the mostly Dallas-based foursome. (Rhett Milter, the band’s lead singer, primary songwriter, and former St. Mark’s classmate of the moviemaking Wilson brothers, now lives in Los Angeles.) The greatest boost is the placement of the band’s song “19” in promotions for the WB teen series Felicity. Singer Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait” in advertisements for Dawson’s Creek sent her album This Fire skyrocketing up music charts after months of stagnant sales.

Felicity producers are longtime fans of the band, according to Jody Roth of Elektra Entertainment. “Once they found out thai the Old 97’s had a song called ’19,’ it was a no-brainer for them,” Roth says. “The title character is 19 years old, so the song was a natural fit.”-MO.


■KTCK, the bastion of testosterone sports opinion, has a new guy’s-guy personality on board: WFAA-TV sports anchor Dale Hansen. KTCK program director Bruce Gilbert says Hansen won’t have a problem appealing to The Ticket’s audience. “He’s fiery and opinionated,” says Gilbert. Hansen voices some hesitation. “I’d probably feel better if I were 28 and not 50,” he says. But radio may be the sports anchor’s future. He says his goal is to do five more years at Channel 8. “It’s a very young audience at the Ticket,” Hansen says. “It kind of sounds like a frat party sometimes. But I always wanted to be in a fraternity, and I guess now I sort of am.”

Guests at the Crescent were startled this spring by the site of lovely ladies being escorted from the premises in handcuffs. Seems the Dallas vice squad took over the $ 1,800-a-night Presidential Suite, posed as out-of-town businessmen, and arrested seven call girls and two male “procurers.”

Star-Telegram exec editor Jim Witt invited the news staff to a free morning screening of True Crime, in which Clint Eastwood plays a reporter who saves a guy from death row. “Best of all,” Witt’s memo said, “you get to count it as part of your workday (just look at it as on-the-job-training).” Better ignore that part in the movie about Clint sleeping with the editor’s wife.

■ Sen. Royce West’s appointment as chair of the state Higher Education Committee sent a signal that his pet project-building a four-year university in South Dallas- met GOP approval. Big winner: University of North Texas, which craved a foothold in Dallas. UNT leaped to piggy-back on West’s dream and may offer classes as early as this fall in leased space. Big loser: UT-Arlirtgton passed and lost not only a presence in the Dallas market, but big points in the legislative funding wars.

Two titans clash

Music mega-stores battle for dominance

Virgin Records in Grapevine Mills Mall and Tower Records, recently opened in Oak Lawn, call themselves the “biggest and best.” We asked Michael Malouf, a buyer for Dallas-based rock & roll catalog Vrooni, to come up with a challenging list and shop both stores.

DECOR: Virgin Records is huge and sophisticated-looking, with natural wood bins and banks of monitors playing music videos from Sneaker Pimps to the Beatles. Tower has a warehouse decor, with “unfortunate” fluorescent lighting. No videos. Johnny Cash on the speakers.

SOUND: Virgin has hundreds of listening stations throughout the store; Tower has about 20.

CONVENIENCE: Tower has a self-help computer to find titles, but it’s not tied in to the inventory; you have to search the bin to know if it’s in stock. (If not, you can special order.) Virgin sales staff can look up titles on their computer and tell if they have it or not.

STOCK; In addition to CDs and casselles, both stores sell videos, books, magazines, laser dises, and T-shirts. Tower has a roped-off section of “adult” videos. But Virgin has its own history written by Dr. Strangelove creator Terry Southern.

VARIETY: Both Virgin and Tower had decent selections of Celtic, including Bothy Band, Maddy Prior, and Planxty. Tower had a broad selection of Ry Cooder titles: Virgin, almost none. Tower had organizer tabs for each one of Neil Young’s million albums. Rust never sleeps.

PRICE: Comparable, meaning too expensive; new CDs are around $16.99.

DEPTH: Liquid Liquid was a shortlived but brilliant New York band in the ’80s. Tower had their one album on order. Virgin had one copy. (Not anymore.) Tower had Frank Zappa’s Just Another Band From LA. Virgin had the English import 30th anniversary Procol Harum set and a CD by a band called Prunella Scales. But Virgin was out of every title by the Beau Hunks, Tower had two. but both were tributes to Raymond Scott (40’s jazz composer whose pieces were later used in Looney Tunes). Alas, neither store had Sweet Potato Tubers. -M.M.

Fanatics in Yoda Masks Descend on Piano

See the new movie, collect the stiff, spend the money

After losing his job as a network engineer for GE a year ago, Piano resident Ben Stevens, 32, decided to use his newfound free time to pursue a boyhood fascination with Star Wars, creating media events throughout the state in honor of the sci-fi movie series.

This month, Stevens brings galactic flair to Piano, coinciding with the release of The Phantom Menace, George Lucas’ latest installment. The Sci-Fi Trilogy Celebration takes over the Piano Convention Center May 21-23,

Tickets for weekend events range from $5 to $70 and up. Fans can pay more for photo-ops and dinner with celebrities like actors Kenny Baker (“R2D2”), Billy Dee Williams (“Landro Calrissian”), Peter Mayhew (“Chewbacca”), and Jeremy Bulloch (“Boba-Fett”).

As fans from as far away as Japan arrive in Piano wielding light sabers, Stevens admits the decision to move up the release of the movie to May 19 threw a kink in his plans, but he’s philosophical. He organized the event two years ago, guessing from Internet scuttlebutt that director Lucas would release the movie sometime in May.

Apple Computers and Starbucks are among the many sponsors. “It’s incredible how this show has taken off,” Stevens says. The Force? Or cold, hard cash?-S.D.

Yesterday: The Death of Cheap Beer Night

Feud between Rangers and Indians erupted into brawl.

This season marks the 25th anniversary of the weirdest night in Texas Rangers baseball history: the last cheap beer promotion in a major league ballpark. Texas and Cleveland players got into a brawl in an Arlington game when Lenny Randle, the Rangers’ second baseman, dragged a bunt down the first base line and whacked Indians pitcher Milt Wilcox with a forearm shot along the way. The visitors blamed Rangers Manager Billy Martin and promised to get even back home.

Indians radio broadcaster Joe Tait called on Cleveland fans to come out in droves for the June 4,1974 encounter at Municipal Field. Lured by a special 10-cent beer promotion, 23,000 fans responded. By the second inning, when a female fan stepped atop the Indians dugout to bare her breasts, it was clear this was to be no ordinary evening. Hundreds of fans ran through the outfield between innings, including a couple without clothing.

Somehow the game went on, but inebriated fans took potshots at the Rangers with rocks, bottles, and golf balls. During a tense moment in the bottom of the ninth, with Cleveland threatening to break a 5-5 tie, two fans ran to Jeff Burroughs in right field and tried to take his glove and hat as souvenirs. When Burroughs resisted, more fans joined the attack, which prompted a charge of bat-wielding ballplayers from the Rangers dugout.

Incredibly, there were no major injuries.Texas won by forfeit. But the fallout remains. Baseball brass banned cheap beer promotions forever.-T.P.


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