Best & Worst 2008

It was a year of big themes, 12 months that stood out not so much for any one event as they did for how different we felt in January than we do right now. In January ’08, anything was possible, credit was easy to access, and our city’s elephants all seemed safe. Now: not so much. How did we get here? Read on and remember.

Worst Month for the Pocketbook

photography courtesy of Newscom

In retrospect, we should have seen that 2008 would bring with it a perfect financial storm. The signs were there as far back as January. Rising taxes struck hard at the lower, middle, and upper classes when Texas instituted a $5-per-patron strip club tax. (It was overturned in March, but by then, the budgetary damage had been done. Just look at our Quicken statement for proof.) … Taxes were sure to rise in the Park Cities as a study was completed saying the cities must find a way to reduce the amount of sewage in their pipeline (not a euphemism) by one-third, or face overflows. “It’s not an easy, black-and-white solution,” said University Park committee member Dick Davis, whose quote and name offered fourth-graders across the city hours of entertainment. … As always, the first sign of a sagging economy was in the crime blotter: a “pre-operative transvestite” was the suspect in a Plano bank robbery, which is odd because, c’mon, Plano; and robbers hit two 7-Elevens on Garland Road, taking “an undisclosed amount of cash, a few cartons of cigarettes, and a bag of chips,” because taking a Big Bite seems absurd, no matter the current financial state of our city. … In response to these trying times, some tried to tighten our laws, which is why Dwaine Caraway went on Dr. Phil’s talk show to tout his no-sagging-pants campaign with the following inarguable point: “Number one, Dr. Phil, we must respect all females, and the fact that someone is showing

Nick Badovinus.
photography by Nancy Nichols

their raw, dirty butt.” … And at least one 22-year-old Rockwall man tried to build a nuclear reactor in his garage. (Authorities let him go, probably because he still lived with his parents. No. Seriously. Not a joke.) …  Some Dallas bigwigs were unfazed by the economic ill winds. Superstar local chef Nick Badovinus left the nurturing, béchamel-filled bosom of Henderson Avenue restaurateur Tristan Simon to start his own restaurant. But, perhaps not having the money to hire an advisor, he named his new creation Neighborhood Services. … And when things went south during an all-night drinking binge with a few off-duty police officers, local country recording artist Steve Holy reminded a 911 operator, several times, “I’m a recording artist,” because that’s really when you want to play the “do you know who I am?” card.





“‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ is going on right now, and I don’t celebrate that s—. I’m black.”
—Dallas Mavericks small forward Josh Howard
illustration by Darren Thompson


Best Month for Change

Mark Cuban.
photography courtesy of Newscom

The best thing to do after an economic crisis is to call for change, and that’s exactly what February did. As the month opened, we found that the amphitheater in Fair Park formerly known as Coca-Cola Starplex (and then Starplex, and then Smirnoff Music Centre) was changing to Center, best-known as home of the Merge 93.3 Big Joke comedy jam. (Howie Mandel is so funny!) … The Texas Rangers, reacting quickly to the need for change, named Hall of Fame pitcher and American Standard heating and air conditioning pitchman Nolan Ryan as team president, ensuring that young Rangers GM Jon Daniels Googled the phrase “résumé updating tips.” … Cell phone use was banned in school zones, a law that has led to exactly no one changing his behavior. … A group of women changed the way they pick up men, eschewing coquettish flirtation in favor of robbing men soon after offering them sexual favors, causing one such victim at the W hotel to be caught, literally, with his pants down. … Some even changed the way they use their cars. “Carsonists” began torching automobiles all over Dallas, apparently as part of their pitch for a new action film about a group of plucky teens who must burn a car a day lest their family be harmed. (“It’s Crank meets Speed meets Backdraft.”) … And one man boldly stood against change, as small forward/eternal optimist Devean George held up the Jason Kidd trade (which would later be finalized), explaining that he only feels comfortable stealing a paycheck from someone as rich as Mavs owner Mark Cuban.


Worst Month for Hillary Supporters

Hillary Clinton at Herrera’s.
photography courtesy of “Dallas Morning News”

March came in like a lion, but the roar and oversized mane were supplied by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who made a stop at Herrera’s Tex-Mex restaurant to campaign. (And order the No. 1 Mexican Special, with a side of Nos. 2 through 5, for Bill’s takeout.) … Perhaps feeling logy from eating Bill’s leftovers, Clinton took a whipping in Dallas during the primaries. Barack Obama took 61 percent of the Dallas County Democratic vote, while Hillary received only 38 percent. … Even more unfortunately, one tiny fraction of a percentage of that 38 percent was the vote of precinct chair Sandra Crenshaw, who went code red that night and allegedly told voters she was taking their votes for Obama home to “correct them.” … The wheels continued to come off in March when Southwest Airlines was fined $10 million for not grounding jets with cracks in them, which seems to be a reasonable request for any airline besides Oceanic. … The one lone bright spot turned out to be a false alarm: Dallas Mavericks players were ecstatic when they learned that owner/blogger Mark Cuban announced he’d banned bloggers from the team’s locker room—until they realized Cuban exempted himself from the ban. … But no one had as rough a month as the young woman flying from Lubbock to Dallas who was forced by airport security to remove her nipple rings. The woman’s name was withheld to protect her standing as Dallas County Sheriff.


Best Month for Multiple Personality Disorders No It’s Not

Avery Johnson.
photography courtesy of Newscom

April was the month of having it both ways—which is about six fewer ways than Herschel Walker has it, apparently. The former running back told Nightline that he suffered from multiple personalities and he’d once played Russian roulette with a loaded gun—although not while on the field, Last Boy Scout-style. … In need of a personality replacement, Avery “Li’l General” Johnson was fired by Mark Cuban for cause. (“Because I hate him.”) … Stop us if you’ve heard this story before: a Crowley man wants to start a record label, so he steals his girlfriend’s mom’s checkbook and tries to cash a check made out to himself for $360 billion. The bank didn’t cash it, of course, owing to the fact that the check had 10 zeros and they needed that money to buy some rock-solid sub-prime mortgage-backed securities. … And if megalomania is one of your favorite personalities, there’s always a good Dale Hansen story, like the time Hansen, upset that Jerry Jones had signed troublemaker Adam “Pacman” Jones, suggested that Jerry Jones next sign Osama Bin Laden. The problem: Afghanistan wanted a first- and third-rounder, and the draft chart says that’s simply a bad deal. … In the ultimate personality switch, NBC replaced the much-loved meteorologist Rebecca Miller with Jennifer “No Not That One” Lopez. This gave rise to the new power news team of Mike Snyder, Jane McGarry, and J-Lo—aka, JaM-ifer. …  Transferring their personalities back to Texas, Laura Bush confirmed the Bushes would live in Dallas after their stint in the White House ends. “So what’s changed since we left?” she asked. “Is Deep Ellum still rockin’?”



“I just had a bad two weeks, a bad couple of years, a bad life, ya know what I mean?”
—Phyllis Dawn Harvey, aka “The Tattoo Bandit”


Best Month for Irony and His Cousin, Offbeat

illustration courtesy of Newscom

Lacking an easy definition of irony, May provided its own when noted ambulance-chasing lawyer Brian Loncar’s Bentley was smashed into by a fire-rescue truck. Then the New Yorker sued Loncar for terribly ripping off one of its cartoons. … Bernardino Garcia-Cordova of Garland wanted to bring a 7-pound, elaborately painted statue of Jesus home from Laredo. Of course he did: it was constructed entirely of cocaine. May pointed out this wasn’t necessarily ironic, but might be if it had been a statue of Michael Irvin. … Joe Barron, a minister at Plano’s Prestonwood Baptist Church, resigned after he was arrested in Bryan attempting to meet up with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl. Irony says, “That’s more like it.” … And sometimes, the only proof needed that the month was full of offbeat vibes is the newspaper headline: “Naked Mom Argues with Son, Accidentally Shoots Finger.” … Which is only slightly more offbeat than the man who was found drunk and walking around a DFW Airport runway because he claimed that’s where Air Force One dropped him off. What, like you can prove he was lying?


Best Month to Be on the Move

Lisa Garza.
photography courtesy of Food Network

Maybe it’s the warm weather. Maybe it’s the start of summer. Maybe it’s just us searching for a generic topic to tie this month together. But it sure seems like folks were in motion in June, best evidenced by AT&T announcing it was moving its headquarters from San Antonio to Dallas. This set Park Cities real-estate agents scurrying to land AT&T bigwigs in need of prime locations, and, owing to said influx of corporate suits, area strip clubs changed their alert status to DEFCON 2. … Also movin’ on up was Dallas chef Lisa Garza, who began her long run on The Next Food Network Star, and who starred in the dreams of young men who fantasize about women who look exactly like Bajoran Starfleet officer Ro Laren from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Not that we’re in that group. Far as you know. …  Dallas fire chief Eddie Burns apprehended a suspected arsonist at a Popeye’s, which brings to mind the obvious question: how can you move that fast after downing those sweet buttery biscuits and a large red beans and rice? … And it almost cost you money to move your car through Highland Park, which considered, but ultimately rejected, an idea that would have turned Mockingbird Lane into a tollway. … And perhaps a tollway would have slowed down Dallas County prosecutor Thomas Gatlin, who decided, after a few drinks, that maybe he should redecorate the front wall of a house with his car.


Worst Month for Restaurants

Jonas Brothers.
photography courtesy of Getty

It wasn’t a good month for the food service industry. Forgive our sense of nostalgia for dishes we used to order in high school to seem worldly in front of our dates, but when Bennigan’s closed its doors, we wept for the Monte Cristo sandwich. … Kitchen 1924’s shuttering in Lakewood left a huge hole for diners who want sophisticated fare combined with the option of walking home if over-served. … Which could be the reason a car ended up plowing through the front wall of the Dubliner on Greenville Avenue. Or maybe the driver ordered a half and half and got a black and tan. … And when Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson announced she was leaving Shinsei, our city’s kitchens got 8 percent less hot. … That didn’t dampen the fighting spirit of all restaurant employees, as a Pizza Patron staffer thwarted a robbery—by another employee’s father. … If the perp was thrown in the Dallas County slammer, he could end up on the Discovery Channel, as Sheriff Lupe Valdez allowed a film crew from the cable network to film inside the county jail. Don’t see how that could backfire on her. … It was revealed that the Jonas Brothers are moving to Westlake. Why does that make us angry? Not because of their music. Because it forces us to type this: OMG!


Worst Month For Non-Hispanic-Named Streets

Folks were all worked up that other folks wanted to rename Industrial Boulevard after Cesar Chavez. So some folks were happy, some sad when the City Council recommended that Industrial be changed to Riverfront. … But then the folks who were happy got mad and the folks who were mad got happy when it was recommended that Ross Avenue instead be named after Cesar Chavez. … On her blog, former DART board member Joyce Foreman suggested her own renaming, calling City Councilman Dwaine Caraway Mayor Tom “Leppert’s head negro watcher.” Spoiler alert: the name didn’t stick.  … The Dallas Cowboys appeared on HBO’s Hard Knocks, the behind-the-scenes weekly documentary that revealed coach Wade Phillips’ utter pig-squealing glee at seeing Pacman Jones catch and hold six punted footballs. … Former Mavs bench boss Don Nelson won a $6.3 million arbitration against former employer Mark Cuban. Taking the win graciously was Nelson’s lawyer, who—no joke—said, “It was not so much a defeat of Cuban as it was an ass-whipping.” … A giant stash of porn was found in a storage unit near Love Field, giving those searching for band names and fantasy football monikers infinite possibilities.


Global Warming is a “total crock
of s—.”
—GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, at a lunch in Arlington
photography courtesy of Newscom

Best Month Ever

Casey Thompson.
photography by Bode Helm

September kicked off with a belch when the State Fair of Texas announced its Big Tex Choice Awards, giving top honors to chicken-fried bacon. Its creator was awarded an angioplasty and a free preview DVD of the P90x workout. … The month got a little classier when new Dallas Theater Center director Kevin Moriarty made his debut with a production of The Who’s Tommy, to glowing reviews. For his efforts, Moriarty was awarded a cheek peck from John Reoch and cutting sidelong glances from everyone he beat out for the gig. … New Dallas Stars troublemaker Sean Avery had the courage to wear a suit with short pants, so he got a prime seat at New York City’s Fashion Week and a rom-com movie deal about his summer internship at Vogue. … Farmers Branch mayor Tim O’Hare worried that his city was in danger of turning into Oak Cliff. Two groups were upset about O’Hare’s characterization of Oak Cliff: Oak Cliff and everyone. … And that’s when the month got freaky. American Airlines lost a corpse (better than finding one), Sheriff Lupe Valdez quizzed her employees on homophobia (sample question: “Does this gun look gay on me?”), SMU had a lesbian basketball team sex scandal (too confusing and hot to explain), chef Casey Thompson left for San Francisco (too confusing and hot to explain), and two Lewisville students spent 16 hours in jail after a prank during a football game in which they dressed as a banana chasing a gorilla across the field (two words: Our. Heroes.).

Worst Month To Be a Dallas Cowboy

photography courtesy of Getty

Just when we were ready to purchase our Super Bowl tickets, the wheels came off the Dallas Cowboys bandwagon. It began when Adam “Stop Calling Me Pacman” Jones punched his bodyguard and was suspended by the league. He then caught six footballs and made Wade Phillips yelp with excitement. …  Soon after, proving the Cowboys secondary can’t cover anything, free safety Ken Hamlin had the rims and tires stolen from his 2008 Escalade. He almost foiled the robbery, but Hamlin was fooled by a double move. He told police later that he thought he had help over the top from fellow safety Pat Watkins. … And in an homage to former Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks who’ve also appeared on an episode of Married … With Children, Larry Brown sold his 1992 Super Bowl ring for $23,000. …  And we’re sure that many Cowboys players picked up a copy of Kim Gatlin’s Good Christian Bitches, a Park Cities-set roman a clef (Tank Johnson’s words, not ours) about her life as a socialite divorcee who happy hours at Al Biernat’s. … Speaking of office hangouts, the owner of the swingers club in Duncanville known as The Cherry Pit was found guilty of 10 counts of operating a sexually oriented business out of his home without a license, and at least four counts of members not near hot enough to be naked.

Worst Month To Be Baptist and Gay

We closed the year (sorry, deadlines—you want timely, talk to the Internet) in scandalous fashion. First, First Baptist Church of Dallas drew protesters for Dr. Robert Jeffress’ sermon “Why Gay Is Not O.K.” Signs denouncing him said things like “I’m Gay and It’s O.K.,” but not things like “Oh, Snap.” … Mark Cuban was accused of insider trading for selling stocks before they did something or other we don’t fully understand. … Finally, Plano’s Martini Park closed, which makes us sad and happy. Because we loved that cougar den, but since it encapsulated the best and worst of our city, it does make for a perfect ending to this story, doesn’t it?


For a larger version, click here.
photography courtesy of Newscom


Animal News!
An Elephant Never Forgets: The Year in Animals


In January, Babe, a 40-year-old elephant, died at the Dallas Zoo, leaving the zoo with two remaining elephants: KeKe and Jenny. Charles “Bananas” Foster, a spokesman for the zoo, said, “We are all saddened by Babe’s passing and are helping the remaining elephants through this time of grief. What? No, I can’t imagine how Lily Tomlin, star of underrated workplace comedy Nine to Five, would ever possibly be involved.”


A Fort Worth man accidentally picked up the wrong suitcase at DFW Airport, which happened to contain a 10-month-old cat that had unhappily traveled all the way from Florida. Totally true, by the way, and not just a really long euphemism for the goings-on at Duncanville’s The Cherry Pit. 


An Irving postal carrier left an injured Chihuahua on the doorstep of Mayor Herbert Gears to protest the city’s lax animal control regulations. A studio exec immediately bought the rights to the story and rushed Beverly Hills Chihuahua II: Texas Two-Step into production.


The Dallas City Council passed a new, tougher animal control ordinance, which includes limits on the number of dogs people can own and mandatory spaying and neutering, among other regulations. In favor: animal control advocates. Opposed: breeders, animal rights’ groups, and dogs that are single and ready to mingle.


The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation banned pedicures in which tiny fish—chin chin and garra rufas—eat the dead skin off your feet, a peculiar treatment available at a spa in Frisco. The TDLR cited Rule 432 Subsection 32 of the state code, better known as the “white folks have too much damn money” provision.


A man with a baseball bat sprung a cat from the Dallas Animal Shelter. This was the first in a two-state, 72-hour crime spree, which saw the man make off with two golden retriever/chow mix puppies, a hamster, three goldfish, and a cockatoo named Franco.


Another elephant, KeKe, 39, died at the Dallas Zoo in May. Following the death of KeKe, the zoo decided to move its lone remaining elephant, Jenny, to a wildlife refuge in Mexico. This led to two developments: Concerned Citizens for Jenny formed to protest Jenny’s move, and Lily Tomlin, star of underrated workplace comedy Nine to Five, came to Dallas to make an impassioned plea on the elephant’s behalf. (Jenny ended up staying put.) Spokesman Charles “Bananas” Foster said, “Well, I’ll be damned.”