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History

How Playboy Made Its Mark in Dallas

| 3 days ago

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner passed away on September 27, 2017. He was 91 years old. I combed through the D Magazine archives the following day and discovered, in the January 1977 issue, on page 11, a story exploring whether Dallas would be getting a Playboy Club. The publishing brand’s first franchised nightclub had opened in downtown Chicago in 1960, and, according to the article, real estate developer Lenny Licht was awaiting approval to bring the club to Dallas. This was a big operation for Playboy. At its peak, there were clubs in 23 American cities, as well as in Canada, Japan, and Jamaica.

Licht eventually received the green light. This would be the first, and only, location in Texas.

The Dallas Playboy Club opened in 1977 on the second floor of Expressway Tower, at North Central Expressway and what is now SMU Boulevard, in the same building that housed the Dallas Cowboys headquarters. It was a celebrity-studded, members-only playground. And the cocktail waitresses—known as Playboy Bunnies—were a main draw. The women, in satin suits with fluffy white tails and rabbit ears perched atop their maintained locks, were the embodiment of Hugh Hefner’s vision of beauty and charm.

I reached out to a handful of the Bunnies the day after Hef passed away, to hear their stories of what it was like to work within his empire, and more specifically, in the Dallas club. Would their encounters be similar to those in “A Bunny’s Tale,” Gloria Steinem’s 1963 essay for Show magazine in which the journalist worked in the Manhattan club under the alias Marie Catherine Ochs, and exposed what she considered to be a dark foible of the sexual revolution? Would these women feel similarly about their experiences? Would their stories be even more salacious? Not quite.

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Music

The Old 97’s Celebrate 25 Years

| 1 month ago

If you want a concise history of the Old 97’s quarter-century run, which they celebrate this month, listen to the song that kicks off the band’s 2014 album, Most Messed Up. As the music reaches back to rowdy sets at the long-dead Deep Ellum dive Naomi’s, it tells the tale of a group that’s “been doin’ it longer than you’ve been alive/20 good years of about 25.” It’s all there in just a shade under six minutes—the truth about being in a band for more than two decades, about being in this particular band.

“Most of this stuff should be kept confidential,” Rhett Miller sings, probably referring to the “oceans and oceans” of alcohol, “mountains of weed, a handful of pills.” “Aw, but who even gives half a fuck anymore? You should know the truth, it’s both a blast and a bore.”

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Politics & Government

Why Was Dwaine Caraway Trying to Protect the Robert E. Lee Statue?

| 1 month ago

A co-working FrontBurnervian who lives in the 75219 ZIP code brought in a postcard that she received in the mail at home. It’s an invitation to donate to a group called Return Lee to Lee Park. The name troubles me. Because Lee Park is now called Oak Lawn Park. So, really, the group should call itself Return Lee to Oak Lawn Park. Or maybe Rename Oak Lawn Park and Then Return Lee to It. Anyway, neither the postcard nor the website identifies who is behind the effort, but judging from this lawsuit and this video, it’s a guy named Warren Johnson (pictured above). If you are tempted to dismiss this whole thing as the pursuit of a loon and assume nothing will come of it — don’t. The Robert E. Lee statue has been safely squirreled away, and there’s talk of spending nearly $250k to remove the statue’s plinth and store it “archivally,” making it possible to restore the whole thing.

You know which member of the City Council was most vocal in protecting the statue and the Confederate monument near City Hall? Dwaine Caraway. Does it seem strange to you that a black guy from District 4 would do anything to protect a Confederate monument and a statue of Robert E. Lee? Of course not. Because that guy was crooked. Jim Schutze has written about all this, here before Caraway was busted by the feds and then here afterward. So I have two questions for the statue people: 1) which one of you paid Dwaine Caraway? And 2) do you get a refund now that he’s going to prison?

UPDATE (8/20/18) Through an attorney, Warren Johnson sends along the following statement: “I am aware of the article published in D Magazine on August 14, 2018, which implies a connection between Return Lee to Lee Park and Dwaine Caraway. There has never been, nor is there currently, any connection between myself or Return Lee to Lee Park and Dwaine Caraway. Soon after the removal of the Robert E. Lee and Young Soldier sculpture, I submitted my concerns to each Dallas City Council member by email. Neither Caraway nor anyone from his office responded. As explained at www.ReturnLeetoLeePark.org, we are a nonprofit organization seeking the return of the sculpture to its home through the exercise of our Constitutional right to petition our representatives and assemble peacefully.” 

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History

Tales from the Dallas History Archives: The Dallas Eagles of the Texas League

| 2 months ago

As we make our way through the hot North Texas summer, many of us look to beloved pastimes in order to endure the heat and have some fun—whether it’s going out for a snow cone, taking a swim in a local community pool, or catching a baseball game.

Baseball has had a long history in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Today, baseball in North Texas is synonymous with the Texas Rangers of Major League Baseball, but that franchise didn’t officially begin until 1972, when the Washington Senators baseball team was renamed and relocated to Arlington.

From 1948 through 1958 (decades before “Texas Rangers baseball” was a part of the local lexicon), if someone lived in Dallas and their neighbor asked them, “Did you go to the ball game yesterday?” chances are they meant a game played by the Dallas Eagles, owned by East Texas oilman Dick Burnett. The Eagles were part of the Texas League, a Minor League Baseball circuit that began in 1888. The home of the Dallas Eagles was Burnett Field, a ballpark once located at Jefferson and Colorado boulevards.

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History

A Look Back at Dallas’ 1978 ‘Texas Gay Conference’

| 3 months ago

Dallas may host its parade in the relatively temperate month of September, but it’s Pride Month here too, as evidenced by the rainbow skyline we enjoyed a few weeks back.

So here’s a timely find from UNT Special Collections, which is digitizing old TV news clips from Channel 5, with a special shout-out to the sharp eye that recognized an uncredited Harvey Milk being interviewed at the “Texas Gay Conference V” at Dallas’ Royal Coach Inn on June 10, 1978.

The California politician and gay civil rights activist, who would be assassinated later that year, imagines a world where LGBT men and women at a conference in Dallas won’t have to hide their faces from TV news cameras. America’s highest ideals demand equal rights for LGBT people, Milk says. It’s the country where anyone can make it.

“In this country, if gay people can make it, then it’s putting a green light that the system works, that you’re wanted,” Milk says. “And also it tells all those other people—the minorities, the disenfranchised, the poor… ‘Hey, if a gay person can make it, I can make it.’ And it tells people to get into the system and work within the system instead of being shoved aside.”

The first clip below is what aired on Dallas television in 1978. The second is B-roll, including more of the Milk interview. From the second clip, this quote’s a keeper: “Young gay people (should know) that there’s hope that they can become doctors and lawyers and politicians, God forbid, and businesspeople.” Credit to UNT Special Collections, the Resource Center LGBT Collection, and KXAS-TV.

[News Clip: Gay (Rights conference)] on The Portal to Texas History.

[News Clip: Gay (Rights conference)] on The Portal to Texas History.

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History

When Union Station Was the Most Interesting Place in Dallas

| 4 months ago

In February 1952, Salvdaor Dalí was in Dallas to lecture at SMU’s McFarlin Auditorium, where the extravagantly mustachioed Spanish surrealist observed that “Texans dream in Technicolor, whereas New Yorkers dream only in black and white.” According to the Dallas Morning News account, Dalí also revealed the key to his new art (“it’s mysticism”) and speculated in characteristically humble fashion that his “first name, Salvador, may imply that it is his role to be ‘savior’ of modern art.”

There is at least one extant photo of Dalí’s visit to Dallas, a particularly fitting image of the man “who made the drooping watch famous,” as the paper put it. It was taken at Union Station. There the artist found himself drawn to a slanted door. “A Dalí-ian door,” he said—exclaimed, in the words of the photographer—and posed for a photo.

A slanted door on the ramp at Union Station caught the fancy of Salvador Dali who exclaimed: “A Dali-ian door!” Photo from the Hayes Collection courtesy of the Dallas Public Library Dallas History & Archives Division.
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History

SMU Aiming for State Approval to House Local Archaeological Artifacts

| 4 months ago

Archaeology is an exciting topic. There’s the digging, the unearthing of evidence, and the exercise of imagination in reconstructing life on Earth hundreds and thousands of years ago, often based on fragmentary information. Currently there’s a sort of synchronicity occurring around the topic among the Dallas’ academic, cultural, and scientific institutions.

At the beginning of the year, the Nasher Sculpture Center mounted an exhibition titled “First Sculpture: Handaxe to Figure Stone.” The show was comprised of stone artifacts, some dating back more than 2 million years. Director Jeremy Strick said public response to the show was marked by “high visitation, significant repeat visitation, as well as an unusually high number of visitors who had traveled to Dallas expressly to see the exhibition.” One feature of the show that proved especially important, he said, was the ability of visitors to handle several of the objects. “Comments from visitors reflected both a fascination with the objects presented and ideas broached by the show, and an appreciation for the installation.”

Earlier this month, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science reopened the Being Human Hall. It had been one of the original halls that debuted when the museum opened in late 2012. In an effort to keep content “fresh and relevant,” the hall has undergone a complete transformation, said spokesperson Becky Mayad. “The content developed in the exhibit tells a broad human origins story from millions of years ago through present day.” When asked if the Being Human Hall might have room for local archaeology, Mayad responded: “While the focus is on paleoanthropology, we do see the Human Journey more broadly and may address more archaeological and anthropological topics as our programming develops.” For now, museum-goers can view casts of fossil skulls, hands, and feet of some of the earliest human ancestors. In addition, there are a dozen authentic stone tool artifacts on display, some more than 1 million years old.

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History

Remembering The Knox Street Pub, Dallas’ Home For Counterculture

| 4 months ago

When Sam Wilson acquired the leasehold rights to the old lounge at the corner of Knox and Travis streets on the outskirts of Highland Park in 1967, he took on the project as a lark. He knew nothing about the bar business, but he and his wife, Vi, loved food and drink and entertaining people. They decided to give it a whirl, and what a madcap adventure it turned out to be.

Wilson died at age 83 on April 18. A few weeks prior, he reflected on the decade in the early seventies that he owned the Knox Street Pub (not to be confused with another bar operating under the same name today in a different location). This was the period it became a magnet for artists, writers, actors, musicians, politicians, hippies, college students, and everyday philosophers—folks for which the city of Dallas offered few respites.

In those days, Dallas looked little like it does today in either physical appearance or social structure. Liberal thought tended to be drowned out by conservative ideology, and white culture overshadowed those of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. Far fewer people lived here, and it grew mostly by transplants arriving from smaller areas of Texas and surrounding states. Most natives thought of Dallas as a big hometown, not a sprawling urban center.

Few settings in Dallas provided a comfortable atmosphere for the expression of new ideas and opposing views. Those few people who came from the Northeast and other regions found a home at the Pub. Wilson’s open-minded philosophy set the stage for his bar to become a rare venue for local residents who embraced progressive political and philosophical thought. There seemed to be a place for everyone at the Pub.

Reporters approached Wilson over the years about sharing his thoughts on the iconic bar, but he demurred for decades. “I just didn’t want to look back,” Wilson said, weeks before his passing. “I enjoyed having been there and doing it, but I don’t talk about it much.” He finally agreed in his last years to sit down and talk about how it all started as a favor to a friend.

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History

Another Brief Update on One of Dallas’ Oldest Houses, Its New Home in the Cedars

| 5 months ago

You’ll recall that last month a historic house in the Cedars was moved to a new lot in the neighborhood, saved from the wrecking ball and set on a path toward a brighter, better preserved future. The two-story home was moved in four pieces, and is gradually being reassembled at the corner of Browder and Beaumont streets. It will be spruced up over the next year, good as old.

In the meantime, its new neighbors have been gathering on the street corner every now and then to watch as the blue house starts to take its old shape in a new place. Preservation brings people together. On Wednesday evening, workers craned most of the second story and plopped it on top. Here’s where we’re at as of Thursday morning:

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Controversy

Lawsuit Alleges That City Council Violated Free Speech with Confederate Street Vote

| 5 months ago

As Alex wrote earlier, any substantive decision about the future of Dallas’ Confederate monuments will have to wait for another day–likely allowing for a few more parades of historical and racial ignorance like the one the council was subjected to this morning during the open mic session of their meeting.

Not that the council didn’t take any action on Dallas’ links to its Confederate history today. Council members approved section 2 of the agenda item, which provided, “that streets with names linked to the Confederacy shall not be renamed.”

That’s it. So simple. If I’m reading that language correctly, it simply means that from here on out, if there is a street with a Confederate’s name on it, it can’t be changed. Which seems odd, and quite a reversal from last October, when the mayor’s Confederate Monument Task Force recommended the city change the names of a whole bunch of streets that honored less-than-honorable figures of the city’s Confederate past.

The new policy may not hold any weight, as council member Philip Kingston was quick to point out.

“Not only is this a bad idea, it is legally meaningless,” Kingston said. “We can’t bind future councils.”

Nonetheless, the provision passed. And a new citizens group called the Commemoration Committee to Honor Roy Williams and Marvin E. Crenshaw filed a suit yesterday in Federal Court in anticipation of today’s vote, alleging that the ban on renaming streets amounts to a restriction of freedom of speech.

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