Tuesday, July 5, 2022 Jul 5, 2022
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A woman who plays corpses on TV crime shows, Tracy Rowlett has a few questions for our new police chief, how to thwart terrorists, The List, and so much more.
By D Magazine |

Playing Dead

Raegan Leigh Payne, a graduate of Dallas’ Woodrow Wilson High who now lives in Los Angeles, is dying to make it as an actress. Almost literally.

In an effort to expand her résumé and help hubby Matt Strange with the rent on their downtown LA loft, the outgoing, blue-eyed, 26-year-old blonde plays dead people, homicide victims like those you see nightly on the endless barrage of TV cop dramas. Since moving to Hollywood in January, she’s yet to utter a single line of dialogue on-camera. Still, her work has been, well, to die for.
Catch that recent episode of CSI: Miami where the diabolical killer tried to set his victim on fire as she sat slumped behind the wheel of her car? When investigators arrived at the crime scene, that was a made-up, motionless Payne you saw through the shattered windshield. Or maybe you saw that creepy episode of Cold Case wherein a crying 3-year-old sat in a pool of his murdered mother’s blood? That was Payne, a ravaged and gory mess, lying on the apartment floor.

“I really felt bad for the little boy,” she says. “They kept shooting and re-shooting, and he got really tired and was telling his mother he wanted to go home. He finally started crying and held his arms out to her. That turned out to be the shot they used.” But it’s a living, she says. “It’s a little like playing Halloween and getting paid for it.”

For the producers and directors of such shows, the work generally done by fledgling actors like Payne is no laughing matter. There are casting calls, a good deal of time spent in makeup, and direction—just like for those who portray the living. For instance, when Payne played the murdered mother, a former LA homicide detective, hired by the show as a consultant, spent half an hour arranging her body into a realistic position. That was after the makeup people had covered her with “blood,” a sticky concoction of Karo Syrup and food coloring.

“It’s pretty awful,” Payne says. “By the time the shot is done, your clothes are sticking to you, you’ve got it in your hair. Then you’ve got all that time spent holding your breath while the camera’s rolling.” And, of course, there’s the glassy-eyed death stare to perfect. But, hey, it pays union scale.

To be fair, Payne has had roles that were less macabre. She’s also had turns as a “demonatrix” on Charmed, a teen dancer on American Dreams, and a cheerleader on an episode of Las Vegas. She’s tuning her craft at LA’s famed Groundlings School. And, to hedge her bets, she’s also written a stage play and a couple of screenplays.

All this from a former member of the Lone Star Comedy Troupe and a veteran of stage performances such as To Kill a Mockingbird and Godspell with the Garland Civic Theatre.

For a dead person, she’s come a long way. —Carlton Stowers



A Few Questions from Tracy Rowlett

David Kunkle takes over as Dallas’ new police chief on June 28. We sat down in his Arlington office as he was packing up to leave his post as deputy city manager and head east on I-30.

ROWLETT: What reservations do you have about taking over as police chief?
KUNKLE: I really like the house I’ve just built and moved into in Arlington. I like the fact that I’m just a mile and a half from work, and I have a very comfortable lifestyle. 

ROWLETT: I’ve heard that one of the police associations warned you not to demote any of its high-ranking officers. Was that said or implied?
KUNKLE: It was the Latino Peace Officers, and it was said in the context of: we have struggled for all these advances, and we don’t want anybody to come in and take that away. My response is that people will be held accountable based on their performance.

ROWLETT: So race is not going to matter to you?
KUNKLE: We have to have diversity throughout the organization and at the top command level. But just because someone is white or black or Hispanic, he won’t get a free ride.

ROWLETT: I was told weeks before you were named chief that you would get the job because of a personal relationship you have with Ted Benavides. Any truth to that?
No. My contacts with Benavides have all been entirely professional.

ROWLETT: Did you feel betrayed by his retiring?
KUNKLE: No. I didn’t know it was going to happen when it did, but I thought it was going to happen sooner rather than later.

ROWLETT: Were you hurt or angry because the Dallas Morning News wrote a negative editorial about your appointment just a day after you were named to the job?
KUNKLE: I was a little surprised. I would have expected the editorial staff to give me some opportunities to prove myself. I met with the paper’s editorial board the morning of the editorial, and I thought that interview went well.

ROWLETT: All of these problems, and you are willing to take them on for a $20,000-per-year pay cut. Why?
KUNKLE: I decided early on that I would take the job regardless of the conditions, regardless of the pay, any political controversy, or whatever Ted’s career plans are. I think I have the temperament and the background and the values to do this job. And even the belief that the problems are so bad may create some motivation to do things differently. Let’s see.


ROOM AT THE INN: Monte Anderson wants to transform the historic Belmont.

He’ll Build It. But Will She Come?
A local developer does his best to bring Austin cool to Oak Cliff.
by Stacey Yervasi

Monte Anderson never intended to get into the hotel business. The developer had been buying land along Fort Worth Avenue in Oak Cliff, with plans to build townhomes and retail and office space. But he ignored the Travel Inn, an eyesore that bordered his property, on the corner of Sylvan and Fort Worth. Its dilapidated state masked its pedigree: the 48-year-old building, formerly known as the Belmont Motor Hotel, was designed by famed Dallas architect Charles Dilbeck.

Then Anderson had an epiphany of sorts. On a trip in September of last year to Austin, he stayed at the renowned Hotel San Jose. The renovated 1930s motor court has been praised by numerous travel and design magazines. The New York Times said that “no place better captures Austin’s eclectic soul.” Anderson saw what could be done with the old Belmont.

A month later, he bought the place. And ever since, he’s been pestering the owner of the San Jose, Liz Lambert, to join his project. It was under Lambert’s inspired eye that the San Jose had been transformed, in 1995, from a hangout for prostitutes into the coolest hotel in Austin—and a driving force behind the revitalization of the entire neighborhood.

It took some doing, but Anderson got a meeting with Lambert. “She finally decided to find out who had been hounding her with all these phone calls,” he says.

Their courtship has grown more intense lately, but after six months of wooing, Anderson still hasn’t closed the deal. Lambert’s creative and management teams have come to Dallas several times for site visits and negotiations. And as recently as late May, Lambert was in town for talks. She even allowed herself to be photographed with Anderson on the Belmont property—though she declined an interview. At press time, a deal seemed imminent, but both sides were playing coy.

Anderson says plans for the hotel will continue apace. Ambitious retail and residential designs on the hotel’s neighboring property should ensure local buzz even without Lambert’s direct influence. So for now, we can only hope that the Belmont will one day offer its guests the same $5 disposable swimsuits that the San Jose provides for unprepared guests. Stay tuned.

Photo: Brad Loper/Dallas Morning News


Big Timer
Kim Smith lines up the purr-fect role. So, why won’t she talk about it?
by Tim Rogers

She’s from Odessa. She was discovered in Dallas and was signed by the Clipse agency. (She lived here for several years but just moved to Florida.) She modeled for Victoria’s Secret and appeared on the cover of Maxim. This month, she has a role alongside Halle Berry in Catwoman. But 21-year-old Kim Smith is now too famous to talk to D Magazine. A Clipse official asked us to put our request in an e-mail. Here’s the exchange that followed:

D: With Catwoman coming out in July, I’d like to get Kim Smith on the phone for a 10-minute interview. Just to talk about her connection to Dallas and how she was discovered by Clipse and so forth. Tell everyone that she’s moving on to bigger and better things. Run a big pretty picture of her. That’s it. Please let me know if that would be possible.

Clipse: The publicity department at WB is already pushing for her next film, and we feel that at this time a cover story would be our only interest. GQ, Movieline, Cosmopolitan, Allure, and Maxim have shot her for covers releasing this summer. I hope that you understand.

D: I understand, sure. And you’ll understand when I tell you that because Kim Smith no longer lives in Dallas and that because our cover for July is already planned, we can’t put her on it. I’ll likely wind up writing something anyway. I’m sure the piece would benefit from a few minutes of her time. Shame.

Clipse: Make sure your facts are straight.

D: No worries. I’ll work hard to avoid the facts. That way I can’t get any wrong.

Clipse: Okay, brother …


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