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The Party Boys

Once upon a time, Dallas was a small town with a dull nightlife. That was before these seven wild and crazy entrepreneurs changed the booze and restaurant business forever. Meet the men who put the life in Dallas nightlife.
By D Magazine |

Once upon a time, Dallas was a small town with a dull nightlife. That was before these seven wild and crazy entrepreneurs changed the booze and restaurant business forever. Recently we ran across a 1982 Dallas Times Herald photograph of the bar czars posed in front of the Dallas skyline. So we put out a call for a reunion photo.

During the past two decades, these men have been friends, enemies, partners, and everything in between. They’re all older, a few are richer, and most are wiser. Without their influence, Dallas would still be a disco dud.

1. SHANNON WAYNE. This Dallas blue blood set out to “annihilate the fern bar scene” in 1980 with his high-tech, high-energy hang 8.0. Wynne went on to do his “O-thing” with Tango, The Rio Room, Rocco, Mexico, and Nostromo, to name a few. The rich and famous flocked to his chic clubs, and it wasn’t unusual to find “millionaires sailing bottles of Dom to each other.” Today Wynne runs Flying Fish, Flying Saucer, and 8.0 in Fort Worth.

SALAD DAYS: The original Herald photo

2. TOM GARRISON. In 1973, Garrison took over a tiny drugstore with a leaking roof and “rats the size of puppy dogs” and turned it into the Stoneleigh P, which is still a happening spot (see the cover story, p. 54). He partnered with Gene Street and Phil Cobb at J. Alfred’s, the first Black-Eyed Pea, and the Old Church but split to open 18 other restaurants, even investing in Le Texan in Monaco. Once quoted as saying that “remaining in Dallas was only slightly more appealing than glaucoma,” Garrison is still behind the bar at the P.

3. TOM STEPHENSON. In the last 25 years, Stephenson has owned four restaurant/bars, been married twice, been a millionaire, ghostwritten three books, been broke, and launched the Greenville Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The former Missouri football great opened the Lakewood Yacht Club, Greenville Avenue Country Club, and the Lakewood Polo and Hunt Club, and now runs a worldwide hunting and fishing guide service. Today he’s “not totally broke” and part owner of Little Havana restaurant on Greenville Avenue.

4. SCOTT FICKING. While Shannon Wynne was trying to kill fern bars, Fickling was building them: San Francisco Rose, St. Martin’s, and Balboa Cafe (with Street) are but a handful. Fickling sold his local joints and moved to Denver, where he owns Cheesy Jane’s, a ’50s-style hamburger joint. When Fickling opened the Rose, he mixed antique furniture with sofas, and, when money got tight, he took the dining room table from his house and stuck it in the restaurant. The table, the Rose, and St. Martin’s are still going strong.

5. GENE STREET. Street and partners Phil Cobb and Tom Garrison raised $16,000 and opened J. Alfred’s, a small neighborhood bar on Oak Lawn Avenue, in 1971. Since then he has driven himself from the barroom to the boardroom: today he reigns as chairman of the board of Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc., with revenues approaching $250 million. His name is attached to an endless list of restaurants—Black-Eyed Pea, Dixie House, Good Eats, El Chico, Cool River, III Forks—but chicken-fried steak has been his stock and trade. (The recipe comes from his mom.)

Pete (left) and Tony (right)

6&7. PETE LUCAS and TONY MANTZURANIS . Tony and Pete. Pete and Tony. The two cousins have been inseparable since Tony opened the gone but not forgotten Little Gus’ on Greenville Avenue, the original “cheeseburger cheeseburger” luncheonette frequented by an eclectic mix of artists, trial lawyers, judges, politicians, journalists, musicians, and carpenters. Both come from foodie families and eventually the whole “fam damily” ended up working at Little Gus’. In 1979, they began serving dinner with a menu chock full of family recipes—flaming saganaki, baked Greek chicken, potato balls—but shut down in 1991 when, according to Tony, “We had to fess up to the fact that between us we had seven kids to raise.” Today Pete and Tony run Casey’s Lawn Equipment and L&M Land Management.