Pulse

Up-and-coming starlet Cheyenne Kimball, why cameras at traffic lights will endanger your safety, the truth behind the immigration rally, and more.

The Chanteuse

That guitar’s no prop: singer Cheyenne Kimball, a 15-year-old pop-star wannabe from Frisco, started strumming at 8. By 12, she’d won a televised competition called America’s Most Talented Kid, and now MTV has anointed her its latest reality-show princess. Cheyenne, which premieres May 31, tracks her trek from Frisco to LA, from innocence to infamy. MTV VP Jesse Ignjatovic calls it a “coming-of-age story” about a girl who’s “very young but with an amazing head on her shoulders.” In a squeaky-clean take on The Osbournes, she’s joined by her go-get-’em stage mom Shannon, personal-trainer dad Brent, and sister Brittany, who happily quits a dental-assistant gig to become Cheyenne’s valet. The troupe settles into a Burbank pad, provided by MTV, of course, where they’ll dish the drama as a prelude to the July release of Cheyenne’s debut CD. “I’ve been doing this eight years,” she says. “That’s half my life.” —TERESA GUBBINS

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Give or Take 200,000 Protesters

There is no question that the April 9 immigration rally downtown was a big deal, a seminal event for Hispanics in Dallas and around the country. But the number of protesters that has been fixed in the public’s consciousness—500,000—is a curious one. Initially, Chief David Kunkle said the DPD would not give a crowd estimate. He knew any figure they gave would later be scrutinized (happy to oblige). But the media were desperate for an official count, so the DPD called city engineer Lloyd Denman. Using an aerial photo and some math, he put the number of people on the official march route at 300,000, tops. The DPD consulted with DART, took into account protesters who came to City Hall via other routes, and offered up a range: 350,000 to 500,000. Reports the next day cited that range; subsequent reports have consistently cited the larger number.

“It’s an inexact science at best,” Kunkle says. “That’s the reason we went with a range. Whether 300,000 is a better number, I certainly wouldn’t argue that point.”

Whatever the accurate figure, the full impact of the march itself hasn’t yet been felt. That would be hard to overestimate.

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SAY CHEESE: This is K.D. (in the foreground), who owns the shop, and K.G., who manages it, smiling all the way to the bank.

The $10,000 Mouthpiece
Dallas rappers Big Tuck and K.D. want to make your teeth bad (in a good way).

For the uninitiated: this is a grill. It’s a mouthpiece of sorts, made from a plastic mold of your teeth, encrusted with diamonds, gold, anything and everything bling bling. It’s worn at the club or whenever you need to establish your superior station in life. Grillz—and, yes, the plural ends with “z”—went mainstream last winter when Paul Wall and Nelly, rappers from, respectively, Houston and St. Louis, had a No. 1 single with a song of the same name.

Now grill shops are everywhere, even at Six Flags Mall, in Arlington. There you will find a shop called K.D. and Tuck’s Master Grillz and Jewelry. K.D. and Tuck are local rappers with national reputations. Their store has become, in a little less than a year, a lucrative side business. The Mavericks’ Marquis Daniels has four sets. “Tuck’s my boy,” he says, “so he hooked me up.”

Two things you should know before buying: some grillz at K.D. and Tuck’s shop cost as much as $10,000. The cheapest are about $200.

Secondly, grillz make you lisp. And they present certain saliva-management challenges. But judging from the Paul Wall and Nelly video, chicks dig that. —PAUL KIX

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

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An Entertaining Threesome
What to read and watch in June

1 Something That Lasts. Sigh. Recently in these pages, we talked about two Dallas lawyers who moonlight as novelists. And now, yes, there is a third. It makes us feel lazy just reporting it; moonlighting as novelists is what we’re supposed to do. In any case, the most recent work hits shelves this month and comes from Dallas trial lawyer James David Jordan. It’s a family saga called Something That Lasts that—and this is the worst part—is tough to put down. Double sigh.

2 The Lycanthrope. It’s a werewolf movie, directed and produced by two Dallas guys, Tony Quinn and Matt Thompson. The film hits the festival circuit in June and it’s around this time that the soundtrack hits stores. Thompson, a former member of the Dallas group Quickserv Johnny, contributes three songs. Kirk Tatom is also on the album, formerly of Deep Blue Something. So is Zayra Alvarez, the Spanish-speaking star from Dallas whose singles have topped the charts in Latin America. This may be a rare case of a soundtrack outlasting its film.

3 Heroes of World Class: The Story of the Von Erichs & The Rise and Fall of World Class Championship Wrestling. The visionary father. The sculpted, baby-faced brothers. The fame. The deaths. It’s here in Brian Harrison’s documentary, the whole story of Dallas’ notorious wrestling family, which is released on DVD this month. Go to www.rightherepictures.com to relive it all.

Photos: Book: Courtesy of B&B Media Group; Movie: Courtesy of 50-50 Films; Von Erichs: Courtesy of Righthere Pictures

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Snap Judgments

THUMBS UP: Few gadflies work harder at digging up dirt than Allen Gwinn. He runs DallasISD.com, a repository of all things shady at the Dallas Independent School District. Gwinn discovered that School Board President Lois Parrott lied under oath regarding a school redistricting plan. Gwinn caught board member Ron Price lying in a speech he delivered to the graduating class of Woodrow Wilson High School. He got it all by tirelessly filing open records requests with the district. And he’s got the video on his site to prove it. As D went to press, school board elections were just around the corner. Whoever wins, you can bet Gwinn will be watching.

THUMBS DOWN: Perry Homes doesn’t seem to care much for the concept of “context-sensitive design.” The builder put up 11 two-story, zero-lot-line, cookie-cutter monstrosities near the corner of Mockingbird and Skillman. The development, called Winton Place, is completely out of character for the quaint neighborhood. Or maybe this thumbs down should go to the new homeowners who snatched up all $480,000-plus homes just minutes after ground was broken. We hope they enjoy the view. Directly across the street sit a CVS, a KFC, and the Hillside Veterinary Clinic whose staff regularly takes the dogs out to poop.

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

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Busted!
The ugly truth about the new red-light cameras.

They are sprouting up everywhere. Denton, Frisco, Duncanville, Richardson, Plano, Rowlett, and Garland all have them. Dallas is next. The city gets its first red-light cameras in August. Run a light, and you’ll get a picture of your license plate in the mail, along with a $75 fine. The rationale: the cameras make intersections safer.

Poppycock.

Here’s the real poop on the eyes in sky:

1 The cameras are really just cash cows. Washington, D.C., for example, has cameras at 45 intersections. In 2004, at $75 a pop, those cameras generated nearly $5 million for the city’s general fund. In San Diego, where the fines are higher, a single camera brought the city $6.8 million in only 18 months. Garland last year netted about $785,000.

Dallas passed an ordinance making it only a civil offense carrying a $75 fine if a camera nabs you. If a cop catches you, it’s a criminal matter, and you’re hit with a $285 ticket that you’re more likely to fight. But $75? And it won’t raise your insurance rates? You’re already writing the check.

2 The contractors that operate the cameras are running a racket. They earn a percentage of revenue generated by their cameras. So cameras get installed at profitable intersections, not necessarily dangerous ones. In one case, in Maryland, a yellow light was even shortened to generate more revenue.

Redflex Traffic Solutions handles many of the local burbs, but Dallas-based ACS is the largest red-camera contractor in the country. It is the odds-on favorite to win the Dallas project this month. In cities where it operates, ACS has given millions to politicians who’ve given business to the company. Locally, it has contributed to the Lege (Royce West, Dan Branch, James McCall), the County Commissioners Court (Margaret Keliher, Mike Cantrell, John Wiley Price, Ken Mayfield), and the City Council (Elba Garcia). In fact, Councilman Bill Blaydes, who serves on the transportation and environment committee,worked at ACS years ago.

There’s also the matter of the National Campaign to Stop Red Light Running. The safety advocacy organization works hard to promote red-light cameras. It was founded by ACS.

None of which is illegal. But bribing people is. ACS stands accused of doing just that to win a $90 million contract in Edmonton, Alberta.

3 The cameras actually cause crashes. A study by the Washington Post found that accidents at camera-equipped intersections increased at a rate equal to or greater than unmonitored intersections because people hit the brakes to avoid the ticket. The Virginia Transportation Research Council found that while cameras decreased collisions resulting from people running red lights, they significantly increased collisions overall. And the Texas Transportation Institute found that most camera violations occur within the first second after a light turns red, while most T-bone collisions—the deadly sort of crash that advocates claim cameras prevent—occur five or more seconds after a light changes. The TTI came to one more interesting conclusion: lengthening yellow lights dramatically reduces red-light running.

But longer yellows don’t make money. —TIM ROGERS

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BOSS MAN: “We go wherever you go,” says Maj. Gen. Paul W. Essex, who oversees military retail stores in 34 countries.

General Store
How a Dallas military company rules—and serves—the world.

A: Red Bull.

Q: What’s the most popular item sold in military convenience stores in Iraq and Afghanistan?

The people who know this run AAFES (Army & Air Force Exchange Service), the giant military discounter that we’ll bet you didn’t know has been headquartered in Dallas since 1967. Managed by the Department of Defense but run like a private company, the consumer colossus provides merchandise for military personnel globally. With revenues of $8.7 billion last year, it ranked 83rd on the list of the world’s top 250 retailers.

The boss of the consumer colossus is Maj. Gen. Paul W. Essex (that’s two stars), an Air Force pilot who celebrates his one-year anniversary at the post this month. He oversees more than 45,000 “associates” at PXs (the military version of retail stores) in 34 countries around the world.

A recent popular program allows friends and families of personnel stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan to buy phone cards or gift certificates set up for combat zone convenience. That means a soldier in Baghdad can receive a prepaid card, allowing him or her to phone home. Or to go to a PX and grab a new shirt, an iPod, or, most likely, a Red Bull. —ROD DAVIS

Photo by Elizabeth Lavin

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HPV back in the day

It Takes a Village

Highland Park Village this month celebrates its 75th anniversary. The National Historic Landmark is recognized as the first shopping center in America. If you’re thinking about a present, don’t go cubic zirconia.

Photo Courtesy of Dallas Historical Society

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Cheap Dirt

Forbes recently released its ranking of the most expensive ZIP Codes for 2006, based on median home price. Out of the 500 ranked, 75225 was the only Texas ZIP to make the cut, at No. 285. So if you live in Preston Hollow or University Park, and if you paid less than $776,720 for your house, thanks a lot. Your shack is dragging us down.

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