The mother of Erykah Badu interviews, Andrew Litton leaves the DSO, Laura Miller’s new house, and more

Home Girl

On the phone from her East Dallas hang, Erykah Badu talks about why she has chosen to stay in her hometown after hitting it big back in 1997 and how she found inspiration for her album Worldwide Underground, which is up for four Grammy awards this month. But Badu is much more than a gifted musician. She’s also an attentive mother. And her 6-year-old son Seven keeps interrupting. “I like being home,” Badu says. “I’m familiar with the air. It keeps me near my family and friends. It makes me strong. And it makes me feel real good inside—Seven, I wouldn’t sit there. I would sit somewhere else, okay?—it makes me feel good to be able to go back to the elementary schools and high schools that I and my friends went to and to be able to talk to the kids and the teachers and say some things that I would have wanted people to say to me, to give me an extra push. Seven is running around eating a raw vegan wiener. Are you not going to let me cook that? Are you just going to eat it like that? Huh? Or are you just walking around with it to hold it? Okay, go ahead.” The Grammys are February 8 on CBS. Mommy’s gonna need a baby sitter. —Tim Rogers


PASS THE BATON: As music director emeritus, Litton will conduct two to three concerts a year for the DSO.

Bowing Out
Enough with the gossip. Andrew Litton announces he’s leaving the DSO.
by Chris Shull

Orchestra musicians love to bitch. After years of lessons and rehearsals, they develop a pretty good understanding of how Beethoven should sound. Then a well-paid conductor dares to tell them otherwise. So it was with Andrew Litton, who announced on December 3, 2003, that he will not return for his 13th season leading the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, when his contract expires May 31, 2006.

There had been grumbling about Litton for some time—that his interpretations never delved deep enough, that he was all flash and no substance, that his enthusiasms on the podium were distracting. But the bitching began in earnest a couple of seasons ago.

“It’s not like the orchestra collectively one day said, ‘Gee, we’re tired of this guy,” says Thomas Booth, a trumpet player. “An orchestra stops listening after a certain period of time. They are hearing the same comments about the same pieces. Things become a bit too comfortable.”

Indifference led to easy gossip. There was the oft-repeated rumor about how Litton’s tenure had grown so long. “I heard his contract was not going to be renewed the last time but that his family chipped in a huge amount of money to the Dallas Symphony,” says a freelance musician who has played with the DSO.

All this about a still-young conductor (Litton is 44) who was welcomed in 1994 as relief from the cool, precise performances elicited by the aristocratic Eduardo Mata. The glamour of the recently opened Meyerson Symphony Center was a perfect fit for the dynamic Litton, who filled up the seats, filled out the orchestra’s sound, recorded 23 CDs, and led tours to Carnegie Hall (four times) and Europe (three times). What’s more, because money is tight these days at the DSO, the maestro did the whole last European tour gratis.

As for the rumor that his daddy’s money kept him in a job, DSO media relations director Kim Gifford says, “That is absolutely not true. George and Norma Litton have given a total of $500 in the last 10 years—not enough to buy a contract.”

The last rumor to circulate—that the DSO was looking to oust Litton before his contract expired—ultimately forced the announcement. The maestro, in fact, read the rumor on FrontBurner, D Magazine’s blog. “I made this decision four months ago,” Litton says. “When the rumors started floating, it seemed like a good idea…to put an end to the speculation.”

Litton has two and a half more seasons to bask in his considerable accomplishments before becoming DSO music director emeritus. He will then devote energy to his positions as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sommerfest concerts, principal conductor of the Bergen Philharmonic in Norway, and conductor laureate of Britain’s Bournemouth Symphony.

“I am not going to be yesterday’s stinky fish,” Litton says. “I’m leaving on time.”

Photo: Kim Ritzenthaler/Dallas Morning News


There’s no real reason to run this photo except that it makes us laugh and love Donnie Nelson even more. We showed up at the new Gilley’s to take a picture of the place (see Hot Spot on p. 118). People are going there after Mavericks games, in part because Donnie and his dad, Don Nelson, are investors and sometimes hang out there after they’ve fulfilled their coaching duties. So when we got to Gilley’s, there was Donnie, and he was all like, “You want me to get on the mechanical bull?” We said, “Ride ’em, cowboy.” Next thing we knew, Donnie climbed up on that bull, and he was really into it—as you can see from the way he imperiled his Dick Motta. So God bless Donnie. And here’s hoping that when Dad hangs up his hat in Hawaii, Junior stays right here, in the saddle.

Photo: Kevin Hunter Marple


Laura Miller Moves to the Big House

When Steve Wolens announced that he would not seek a 13th term in the state Legislature, he said, “This is a good time for me to focus on my family.” One of the first items on his family-centric agenda, apparently, was to get his clan into the house they’ve owned for more than a year but couldn’t live in because it lies outside his 103rd district. He and his wife, Mayor Laura Miller, have put their Oak Cliff house on the market. (Wolens had asked Will Hartnett if he would mind carving out a little of his 114th district. Hartnett, a Republican, did mind.)

The First Couple bought their house in Old Preston Hollow in November 2002, after Miller wrote an “I want your house” letter to the owner, Tomima Edmark, inventor of the TopsyTail hair-management device. Miller said their new neighborhood reminds her of Oak Cliff, and we imagine her new neighbors have already forgiven her for it.

Cozy Kessler Park English Tudor. 3/2.5. 2,919 square feet. Built in 1928 on a serene, half-acre lot with pond, waterfall, tiered gardens, studio/maid’s quarters with bath, and functional historic log cabin (electricity, fireplace). Appraised value: $491,880. Asking price: $1.075 million.


Old Preston Hollow mansion. 5/3. 8,170 square feet. Built in 1952 on 2.08 acres. Pool, servants’ quarters. The First Couple hired posh builder John Sebastian to remodel. Appraised value: $2.996 million. Sales price (2002): c. $4.5 million.

Photo: Meredith White


Rose Stivers

In 1939, a waitress named Rose Elizabeth Slovacek Stivers was working in a little diner on Greenville Avenue when she decided to buy the place. She renamed it Rose’s Bluebonnet Sandwich Shop, and a Dallas institution was born. Eating at Rose’s was an experience in itself. The front door was usually locked, and customers had to enter through a rickety rear gate off the back alley. Mickey Mantle regularly pushed that gate. So did Don Henley. They, like everyone else, came for the wonderful burgers, because that’s all Rose served.

Rose avoided being photographed. She preferred that her diner’s address not be published. And when D Magazine gave her a “Best Burger” nod awhile back, she sent our food critic a sweet letter asking that we never write about her again. She said the publicity and all the new customers were going to kill her.

Rose died December 1, 2003, two days shy of her 89th birthday. Her obituary ran on the front page of the Dallas Morning News Metro section, without a photograph. And Rose’s Bluebonnet Sandwich Shop closed not long after.

With her family’s help, we tracked down this circa 1940 picture of Rose in her diner. We’ll miss them both. —T.S.

Photo: Courtesy of  the Stiver Family


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