Tuesday, April 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024
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DCAD seemingly makes up tax laws as it goes; Harry Winston opens a Highland Park storefront on the strength of one savvy saleswoman; and down with Metroplex. PLUS: Who knew Lindsay Lohan’s kid sister could sing?
Photography by Manny Rodriguez

A Girl’s Best Friend

You might be tempted to attribute the new Harry Winston storefront in Highland Park Village, opening this month, to the rise in discretionary income in that part of town resulting from this summer’s oil and gas prices. If so, you would be (mostly) wrong. Harry Winston is here for a better reason: ROZALYN ST. PÉ COLOMBO. Nineteen years ago, Colombo imagined a future filled with cross-examinations rather than sales calls, but right before law school, she left New Orleans and took a summer job at Harry Winston in New York City. She never left. Colombo learned the business from both Richard and Ronald Winston and eventually became the youngest woman to earn a seat behind a desk at the famed jeweler’s Grand Salon on 5th Avenue. Then, in 2001, she went on a blind date with Robert Colombo of Sfuzzi and (now) Trece fame. The couple wed and moved to Dallas in September 2003. But Harry Winston didn’t want to lose Colombo, so she opened a small office here and set about befriending people through Cattle Baron’s and TACA. Based solely on her success here, Harry Winston opted to open its new store. Just how great a saleswoman is she? Profile subjects in these pages don’t normally get to see their photographs, let alone choose them, prior to publication. Somehow—we’re still puzzled—Colombo did both. Here’s the one she sold us on. —LAURA KOSTELNY

HANG UP: Ashely Tatum Casson wants her artists treated fairly.
Photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Fightin’ Mad About DCAD
Is the Appraisal District taxing art galleries and their artists at whim?

This past July, Ashley Tatum Casson, director of Gerald Peters Gallery, got a phone call from a disgruntled artist. He had received a letter from the Dallas Central Appraisal District informing him he owed large amounts of personal business property taxes on the value of his consigned art at the gallery. Funny. Neither the artist nor Casson had heard of this personal business property tax for consigned art. Nor had anyone else at Gerald Peters, open 20 years, ever had to deal with it.

Casson phoned DCAD but never got an answer. So she called around and learned each of her artists had received a letter, and each letter demanded the same amount of money, though each artist had a different number of paintings at the gallery. So the artists protested DCAD’s demands, and, in response, some were taxed only on the materials used to make the work. But others were still taxed on the value of their pieces. It was a mess.

DCAD spokeswoman Cheryl Jordan tells D the agency taxes the consigned at every gallery in town because it is an inventory—like anything sold at a clothing boutique or gift shop. Jordan says the agency has always done this. Hardly, art dealers say.

“What you pay depends on who you get at the [DCAD] office that day,” says Cris Worley, director of Pan American Art Gallery. The problem with taxing art is that it’s impossible to determine the worth until the sale is made. Some pieces may sit in a gallery for three years and never sell. Yet the artists are forced to pay a tax on the estimated value of their pieces. The IRS long ago discovered it was impossible to stamp a value on art. It only taxes artists on the materials they use.

This DCAD tax could force artists to deal in another city. “New York City has never heard of or dealt with such a preposterous tax ordeal,” Casson says. Even worse, some DCAD employees apparently need a class in art education. One recent afternoon, a DCAD official showed up on Gerald Peters’ doorstep, camera in hand, and wanted to take inventory pictures. He thought he was at the Dallas Museum of Art. “I told him not to come back until he knew the difference between a gallery and a museum,” Casson says. —RYAN MENDENHALL

Photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Still Alive at 25

Lower Greenville is death for fashion boutiques. Yet 25 years after opening its doors, HD’s Clothing Company still flourishes there. This month, Harry DeMarco and his wife Vicki celebrate their store’s silver anniversary. The men’s and women’s lines are still trendy, skewing in each case more Euro hipster than urban hip-hop. “I have a big appetite for what’s new and fresh,” Harry says. He visits Paris five times a year. In 1983, Harry traveled two hours outside Milan to buy 48 pairs of Diesel jeans, five years before they were distributed in the U.S. That gave this local boutique a national reputation. What helps it today is that DeMarco knows 95 percent of his clients by name. Then again, he should: some of them are 60 now. “Our customer is hip in the mind. It has nothing to do with age,” DeMarco says. Who says a 25-year-old isn’t cool? —Stephanie Quadri



THUMBS UP: Local label Small Guy Music has released a double-disc compilation of Texas artists called Operation Rock the Troops. It’s a great concept. For every album you buy, another is sent to a troop in Iraq. Even if you don’t want the album—and you should if you’re a fan of Deep Blue Something, Strangleweed, or Seven Story Drop—you can make a donation of $5 to JC Modeling Group, the firm working in association with Small Guy, and the disc will still arrive in a troop’s hands. In this case, patriotism trumps capitalism.

THUMBS DOWN: For five years, Café Express has said it is working with the government to provide permanent residency status for its many immigrant workers, under the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act of 2000. For five years Café Express has lied, according to a lawsuit filed recently in Dallas County district court. Café Express missed the April 30, 2001, filing deadline for the Alien Labor Certification Application. Yet the company continued to take money from the workers’ paychecks, saying it needed to pay for legal fees. A lawyer for the workers wants to file a class-action suit. The workers now have no way to gain permanent residency. You make us sad, Café Express. Bad form.

Photography by Jeremy Sharp

Welcome to America
A lawyer steals from his clients—and rocks an immigrant community.

For years, the small but vibrant Congolese community in Dallas has turned to a man named Paul Ngoyi for legal help. Ngoyi himself emigrated from Congo. The lawyer spoke his people’s language and was a familiar face in an unfamiliar land.

“We shouldn’t have trusted him,” says Willy Banga, a former client. He’s not alone. Many former clients now say Ngoyi stole from them. This isn’t small-time cheating either. Ngoyi kept entire settlements for himself, pocketed entire life insurance payouts.

Banga lives in Fort Worth with his wife Veronica, and a few years ago her brother died. He had a $65,000 life insurance policy. Victoria was next of kin. The Bangas turned to Ngoyi to oversee the payment process. But the Bangas allege that when two insurance checks arrived, Ngoyi took them to the bank, forged Veronica’s signature, and made off with the cash.

For the past two years, the Bangas have battled Ngoyi to get their money back—to no avail. Ngoyi has postponed hearings. Asked judges for leniency. And in August, he filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection. The court dismissed the case because Ngoyi failed to provide a plan to pay back his creditors. His office line was disconnected around the same time the State Bar of Texas disbarred him for failing to pay dues. (D couldn’t reach him.)

Banga is amazed. “What did he do with all the money?” he asks. Other Congolese who’ve been cheated by Ngoyi are asking the same question. —PAUL KIX

Photography by Joshua Martin

Grape Expectations
The strange tale of how Steve Spalding broke a world record.

This story starts, as most great ones do, with Regis Philbin. Steve Spalding was watching Live with Regis in 1999 as some dude caught 32 grapes with his mouth in a minute. Everyone was impressed. The guy set a new world record. Spalding, owner of a travel agency in Coppell, thought he could do that. In college, his drinking buddies used to drop food to Spalding from the third floor of their dorm window, or chuck it at him from 40 yards away. Spalding caught everything. So one day he summoned his brother and, with grapes flying everywhere, broke Regis’ guy’s record first time out: 43 grapes in a minute. Once he’d recorded it with a home camera, Spalding had the world record. In the years since, Spalding’s bested himself many times (he’s up to 67 grapes in a minute), appeared on The Tonight Show, snuck into the World Trade Center in Dallas to catch a grape dropped from 150 feet up, and caught another dropped from the 22nd story of the Sahara Hotel in Vegas. This month, Steve the Grape Guy, as he’s now known, goes international: the Australian Grape Growers Association has invited him to perform. Let’s hope he doesn’t miss a grape from 20 stories up. “It hurts like hell,” Spalding says. —P.K.

That’s roughly the number of stolen metal offenses reported to the Dallas Police Department this year. A lot, if not almost all, of those metal thefts were copper thefts. Due to the demand for copper in China, it sold here this spring for as much $4 a pound, an all-time high. The number of offenses is up from 1,000 cases last year.

TREE HUGGER: Bryan Kilburn stands where a tree used to.
Photography by Dave Shafer

Stealing the Green Stuff
Who’s taking trees out of the Trinity Forest?

Somewhere in the 6,000 acres of the city’s Great Trinity Forest, some low-life is digging up a live oak or mulberry to sell to another low-life who wants to plant it in his front yard. It is an amazing feat, stealing a tree, carried out by low-tech entrepreneurs using shovels, or commercial-grade heists using expensive machines called tree augurs that scoop out massive, cone-shaped root balls and load the trees onto big trucks that cart them away, usually in daylight, with impunity. Thousands of trees have been purloined in recent years.

Bryan Kilburn is trying to stop that. He is the senior projects manager for the bond-financed Trinity River Corridor Project. A 15-footer normally sells for up to $1,500 in a suburban nursery. For the city, thievery adds up to a double loss: each tree not only means one that’s missing, but maybe one that needs replanting, plus maintenance and watering.

The problem is that neither Kilburn nor anyone else is assigned full-time to the area. The last time a tree-rustler was caught was two years ago—two guys with shovels trying to get away with a 15-foot oak, spotted by chance by a police helicopter. Kilburn says he comes across fresh-dug craters with some regularity. November through February, prime time for planting, are the busiest months.

There are no “tree police.” No sign there will be, either. The thievery is only aggravating the forest, Kilburn says. Not depleting it. Still, many of the tree thieves have to hack out truck-trails—most of the illegal takes are near the Roosevelt Heights and Rochester Park areas—leaving easy access for the forest’s other great enemy, illegal dumpers. Hard to say which crime is trashier. —ROD DAVIS

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE: The real Metroplex.
Photography by Kevin Hunter Marple

You Do Not Live in the Metroplex

We hear the word, and we want to plunge a sharp No. 2 Ticonderoga into each ear. We see it in print, and, like poor Oedipus, we want to pluck out our eyes. The word is “Metroplex.” (Aaark! Just typing it has forced us to gnaw off our left index finger.)

“Metroplex” is a hideous word, the invention of the North Texas Commission, in 1972, as a way to promote and brand the place where we live. In fact, the NTC intended the full name to be “the Southwest Metroplex.” Vomit. [gun shot]

Listen to us. You do not live in the Metroplex. Metroplex is a Transformer. He is the leader of the Giant Planet. His sidekick is named Drill Bit, and his weapon is a gargantuan battle ax named Sparkdrinker. He is so powerful, so fearsome, that he’s the only Transformer who can defeat Megatron single-handedly. But he is not the 8,991-square-mile, 12-county region you call home.

You live in North Texas. Or the DFW area, if you must. Or, assuming you don’t live in Fort Worth proper, simply Dallas.

You have been warned.

Photography by Chris Mulder

Shame, Shame, Shame   

We saw two window stickers the other day—one for Tech, the other for Ole Miss—and they set us to daydreaming. Remember that Tech-Ole Miss game in 2002? Tech won 42-28. Is Kliff Kingsbury still playing in the NFL? If we were Eli Manning and ran into Kingsbury, we’d say, “Wassup, Kliff? Remember when you beat me in Lubbock back in 2002? Yeah, I’m the quarterback of the New York Giants. Snap!” Anyway, those window stickers were on the back of a Dodge Grand Caravan, which public records show belongs to Pamela Gibson of Plano. We were on McKinney at Blackburn, a few minutes past noon. A cigarette butt flew from the window of Pamela Gibson’s Grand Caravan, and it shattered our gridiron reverie. Pamela Gibson drops back to pass … looking, looking … OOOHH! Shame blitzes up the middle and puts Gibson on her back! Shame on Gibson! Shame on her!

PLAYED OUT: Richard Rejino’s company was one of the biggest suppliers of sheet music to area schools.
Photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Sour Note
When music giant Brook Mays went under, it took one small company with it.

Brook mays music company had a good run. it began selling instruments in Dallas in 1901. But in July, citing poor holiday sales, the privately held company with 62 stores in eight states and annual sales of $150 million filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The going-out-of-business sale ends this month.

But lost in the headlines was another local company whose fortunes went south in the deal. Founded in 1989, Accent Printed Music, Inc. had 28 employees and sold sheet music inside 18 Brook Mays stores, most of them local. Accent leased space from Brook Mays, but it was a separate, independent company. Think of it as a small pilot fish, swimming alongside a giant shark, living off leftovers.

When Brook Mays filed for bankruptcy, it had about $3 million worth of Accent’s sheet music in its stores. It was all thrown into the going-out-of-business sale, with the proceeds going not to Accent, but to the investment group that is liquidating Brook Mays’ assets. So Accent, too, was forced to fold.

Richard Rejino, a pianist who studied at North Texas and Accent’s vice president, feels his company was dealt a great injustice. Calling his employees and telling them they no longer had jobs was maybe the worst of it. “But everyone was understanding,” he says. “They knew it happened to us, not because of us.”

He and a couple other Accent employees have found work with Pender’s Music Company, based in Denton. Accent was one of the biggest suppliers of sheet music to schools in the area, but he says the music won’t stop. When a tuba player in the marching band goes looking for sheet music to “Louie Louie” next year, other outfits will be there to sell it to him. “There will be a bump in the road,” Rejino says. “But the void will be filled.” —TIM ROGERS

Idiots, Nepotism, and Rumors
Media news of perhaps little consequence.

CBS Channel 11 Meteorologist Julie Bologna does not enjoy her weekends. That’s the only conclusion we can draw. The woman recently got up every Saturday and Sunday, for six months, at 3:30 in the morning, to write. While she was pregnant. The result is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Extreme Weather, a book she co-authored with South Carolina newspaperman Christopher Passante. It’s on shelves now and—bonus—comes with a DVD filled with Mother Nature’s fury. The book’s prose isn’t Proust, but the effort, Ms. Bologna, is duly noted.

Photography courtesy of YMC Records

Lindsay Lohan’s kid sister Ali wants in on the act now. In stores this month is her self-titled Christmas album, Lohan Holiday. Big sis makes an appearance, as does Amy Grant. The disc is produced by Dallas’ own YMC Records, which doesn’t ask for too much from the 12-year-old, just a steady voice over its well-laid tracks. A good gift for the That’s So Raven set. And you’ll tolerate at least a couple of listens-through.

Lifetime Network (“the battered woman channel”) staple Delta Burke celebrated her 50th birthday in Dallas recently, and Leslie Jordan popped in for the fete. You know Jordan as the diminutive and fey Beverly Leslie—Karen’s nemesis on Will & Grace—one of the few characters that continued to make us laugh by the end of the show’s painful run. Our spies overheard Jordan chatting about his upcoming project for HBO. Word is, he and Lily Tomlin are starring in a yet-to-be-titled show about real estate agents set here in Dallas, specifically Preston Hollow. Fingers crossed there’s a Carolyn Shamis-inspired character. And we can’t help but wonder if Jordan’s character is based at all on a certain super successful, super tiny Dallas agent. Sadly, HBO refused comment, as the show is still in the pilot phase.

For more news and dirt, visit our blog. FrontBurner www.frontbuner.dmagazine.com


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